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

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Category archive: How the mind works

Friday December 02 2016

Friday is the day here for cats and other creatures, so here, among other things, is a panda:

image

What this photo illustrates is the perennial problem of trying to chuck stuff out, which is that all too often, stuff is just too nice to chuck out.

I recall, a year or two after the Berlin Wall was dismantled, meeting an Eastern European lady, who complained about how the packages and pots and bottles in which produce was suddenly now sold was too good to chuck out.  Bloody capitalism.  Capitalist rubbish was better than what they had previously had as actual stuff.

In a modified form, I now suffer from this syndrome.  It has crept up on me more gradually, but throughout my lifetime, packaging has been getting ever better, probably because it is the sort of industry that politicians disapprove of, and have hence left to its own devices, an industry’s own devices invariably being better than any device devised by politicians.  The packaging industry, not having been “helped”, has thrived.

Beer bottles (the one in the picture still has beer in it so that will be consumed first), I have learned not to miss.  But even they are sometimes so artfully designed that it seems wrong to throw them away.

The coffee jar I will keep, because coffee jars are so structurally impressive.

But that panda has got to go.

Thursday December 01 2016

I have spent yesterday and today indoors, tidying up, or at least trying to.  Infrastructural Overload is a terrible thing.  This posting is about this tidying.  You have been warned.  Spoiler alert.  You risk being seriously bored – angered even - by the triviality of it all.

The turning point was setting a date by which a serious amount of tidying needs to be done.  The date in question is December 30th, when there will be a post-Christmas party and a talk in the evening, in the place now being tidied.  December is a long month, in the sense that the last Friday of November was on the 25th, which was when I last entertained here in a space-hungry way.  So the last Friday of December is five weeks later, rather than your more typical four.  The key decision was not to attempt any entertaining before Christmas, which gives me a nice long time, and in particular that precious blank (for me) time around Christmas, to get stuck into all the shite that needs de-shiting.

The basic problem is a lot of piles of unprocessed paper.  We are talking about an enormous in-tray in a small dwelling, which is not a good combination.  Today, the piles of paper are now mostly in the living room, on top of big planks on top of sofas, and the processing has begun.

I already have a small chair-load of superfluous paper, destined for the bins, and have made several discoveries.

I have discovered two vital books of instructions that I had thought gone for ever, one for my washing machine and the other for a recording device.  Very gratifying.

And, I have discovered that some magazine wraps themselves in biodegradable plastic.  I found several such unopened magazines from several years back, and the wrapping has biodegraded.  I had to vacuum bits of it off my hands.  I’ve often wondered what biodegradation looks like.  Now I know, a bit more than I did.

I anticipate a sense of liberation, of spiritual renewal, once a serious amount of tidying has been done.  This may be a delusion, but if so it is a delusion that is already having consequences, in the form of me doing tidying up.

Monday November 28 2016

Today I visited Tottenham, and I intend to return tomorrow, both expeditions having been prompted by these two weather forecasts:

imageimageimage

That I have already decided this evening where I will be going tomorrow, and that I already knew last night what I was going to do today, is typical of how I now do these expeditions.  Trying to work out, in the morning, where I’ll go that day, given that the day is turning out nice, tends not to work so well.  Being old and tired and physically lazy, I have to have an interesting and attractive destination in mind as soon as the day starts, in order to force me out the front door soon enough for the expedition to amount to something.

In this respect, I am turning into my Dad.  When I was a kid I used to tease my Dad about all the planning that would go into family expeditions, and he used to justify this with questions starting with the words “What if?” What if, we get into an accident?  What if, one of us gets sick?  What if, the trains are disrupted?  We need a plan capable of taking care of everything.  I used to think he was being over-cautious, and that we ought to just get started and deal with problems as and when they happened, which they mostly wouldn’t.

Well, as I get older, I become less good at adapting, by which I mean that I can change a plan in mid plan, but that it takes longer and is more stressful.

But more fundamentally, I now suspect that my Dad may have needed his plan just to get him going at all.  Without a plan to drive the expedition forward, with artificially created deadlines and reasonably enticing objectives, maybe he just wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy he needed to lead us forth into the world at all.  Like me, he knew that he would be happier if he did get stuck into an expedition, and would be depressed if all he did was sit at home doing this or that amusing but trivial thing.  So, he would devise plans to make himself do what he wanted to do.  My Dad’s plans were not as he sold them to me, mere precautions.  His plans were energisers.

But maybe that’s just me.

Thursday November 24 2016

I took this photo …:

image

… yesterday.

This rather alarming message was displayed in the Waterloo Station concourse area, in rather large lettering, and you can see more of that if you click on the above horizontal visual slice.

All it was was part of an advert for the Top Gear replacement that Clarkson, Hammond and May are now doing for Amazon.  But photography sometimes does this.  But “this”, I mean that it can snatch messages out of the flux of everyday life – especially everyday advertising – and bestow upon them a portentousness that they don’t really radiate, when they are merely doing their job.  Now that adverts can change their screens, there can be one message, and then another, like a TV advert.  And the result is these snatches of text that can pack far more of a punch than they do in real life, so to speak.

Sunday November 20 2016

On the same day I took these views from Suicide Bridge, in March 2015, I also made my way to the receiving station at Swains Lane.

I then went on to explore nearby Waterlow Park.  Since it was only March, the trees in that park were unencumbered by leaves, and I was able to take pictures, from Waterlow Park, like this …:

image

… and this:

image

Very nice, I think.  So why didn’t I show any of these pictures here at the time?  It was, I think, indecision.  Which ones should I show?  Just the above two?  Or perhaps this one, which combines the two above scenes?:

image

But then again, so does this one:

image

Could I show lots?  What if they were too similar to each other?

I had got as far as collecting some of the best photos I took from Waterlow Park that day, in a special subdirectory, together with a few other shots of the park itself.  I probably then expanded the posting in my head, to include some thoughts about the history and origins of Waterlow Park, and about Waterlow himself, and about the general principle that nice public places can be established by private individuals.  But it all got too complicated. 

Only now am I remembering Waterlow Park.

Tuesday November 15 2016

A problem stated is often a problem solved.

Problem: There is too much dust in my home and I need to do lots of vacuuming.  Problem: But I like to listen to music, of the sort that can’t outgun a vacuum cleaner.  These two things don’t go together.  Solution: I don’t vacuum.  But, problem: I don’t vacuum.

Solution?  A device that I can be watching while vacuuming, to amuse myself and vacuum.  Answer?  Google glasses, to watch movies while vacuuming.  Too expensive.  Too stupid.

No.  Answer: Headphones and a portable music box in one of my pockets, while I vacuum.  Good.  Problem stated, problem solved.

I find a music box.  A small plasicated discus-like object that will perhaps be persuadable to play CDs.

But, it needs AA batteries.  I have an abundance of AAA batteries, but cannot immediately put my hands on any AA batteries.  I believe I have plenty of AA batteries, but the places where AA batteries are likely to be found are mostly all covered in thick layers of dust.

Ah, the twenty first century and its problems.  Well, at least the problem of sticking something up here every day however ridiculous is now solved, for today.

Wednesday November 09 2016

I’m half way through another photo-posting but it’s taking too long, so here in the meantime is a link to a Trump victory piece I did this morning, at stupid o’clock, a time of day I rather like the sound of.

I like a Rob Fisher comment at Samizdata, attached to this posting, about the anti-Trump Twitter-rage that is now in full broil:

It’s certainly hilarious on Twitter already. They’ve created a caricature monster in their heads and they believe it and they’re wetting the bed over it 140 characters at a time.

Next step for these bed wetters, scour America for hate criminals, who think that they’re entitled now that Trump has won.  And they’ll find a few.

What the bed-wetting scourers won’t understand is that they will have helped to cause such hate crimes.  If you say that a Trump victory is a victory for racism, and then Trump wins, you are telling the racists that they have won, and can now ramp up their racism, without any longer being punished.  I’m not just saying this for the sake of an amusing blog posting, This will actually happen.  It probably already is happening.

See also: Brexit.

LATER: A collector’s item.

Friday November 04 2016

The human eye comes with a brain attached, a brain which continuously works out what is actually there, as opposed to how things merely look.  But the camera is stupid.  It sees everything but understands nothing.  It does not cut out what doesn’t matter.

So, when a camera takes a picture like this ...:

image

… it shows the sign, but it also shows all the stupid lighting effects that are messing with the sign.

It also shows weird lighting effects above and beyond the sign, which perhaps you hadn’t noticed, until I told you to look for them.  Your brain may have cut that out, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the sign and you were concentrating on the sign.

But now do what I did next, when I realised what was really going on here.  Having acquired the photography habit, I have become visually stupid, which means that I now see more, almost like a camera does.

Feast your eyes on this:

image

I am not sure if the above photo was the best I took of this effect, or the below photo.  So I post both:

image

This was, I think, the single most remarkable thing I saw on my walk from Battersea Park station back to my home, last Wednesday afternoon.

From the above photos, you may be able to deduce what is causing this, but I’ll save you the bother of working it out.  Here is the next photo I took:

image

And here is another photo which makes everything even clearer, that I got from the internet:

image

It’s the curvature of the surface off which the sunlight is bouncing that does it.  That separates the blobs of light from each window into distinct columns, creating a parthenonic magnificence that would, with a flat wall of windows, have been just a big jumble.  That would have been pretty good, but what we actually see is something else again.  And yet, when I was photoing this, I was the only one paying attention to this amazing light show.  Everyone else just walked past it, like it wasn’t there.  This was because, thanks to their brains, it actually wasn’t there.

The internet ought to be able to correct such failures to notice.  But the strange thing is, if you google the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, all you get is a lot of stuff about dogs and cats.  No mention at all of this amazing special effect.  The modern world has its priorities badly skewed.

I have photoed similar lighting effects before, such as the one reported in this posting.  But that one is put completely in the shade by this one.

Categories below include Transport.  That’s because all this drama was to be seen on a manky old railway viaduct.  Which I actually think made it look better.  (All everyone else saw was a manky old railway viaduct.)

Sunday October 30 2016

No, I’m not talking about Cold Feet, I’m talking about my own cold feet, those things at the far ends of my legs.

Yesterday morning, I had a most unwelcome experience.  I had got up for a piss, and had then hung around out of bed that bit too long, and my feet got cold.  So far so regular.  I eventually went to bed, and still my feet were cold.  And then, despite the rest of me getting very warm, my feet refused to get any warmer, even after a short spell of sleep.  I woke up with cold feet.

So, the rest of my body seems to have lost the trick, some of the time anyway, of sharing warmth with my feet.  I actually had to get up again, and brew up a hot water bottle.  I am starting to understand why old people are often to be observed with their feet in big bowls of hot water.

I have yet to experience feeling nervous about committing to something, and then my feet getting cold immediately after this feeling strikes, but I am sure that this experience will be bestowing itself upon me very soon.  Getting old is, among other things, the process of learning that clutches of words that you had thought were merely clutches of words are actually cruelly accurate descriptions of genuine sensations, felt by you, as you get older.  Under the weather.  No stomach for it.  And, in due course, I am sure: cold feet.  There are plenty more.  But (which is another Getting Old thing) I cannot now remember them.

Photoed by me in Leake Street (where this cat was later to be seen), in July:

image

And what a very appropriate word it is, for the point I am about to make.  Which is that although this new Graffiti Style of painting has now upstaged the old My Kid Could Do That Modernism of an earlier era, the two styles both have in common that they are, among other things, trying to baffle you rather than inform you, unless you are part of an inside clique which gets it.

In his book, The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe wrote about this earlier sort of bafflement, the sort where you had to know what the theory was that was embodied in whatever random daub you were looking at in an Art gallery.  The new Graffiti style actually gives you words, literally.  But, you only know what they mean if you know what they mean.

But at least there is some real skill on show, in the form of how the words are presented.  They at least look pretty.  Your kid probably couldn’t do it, unless he’s one of the ones who does.

Monday October 17 2016

When you talk about an airplane being blown up, that usually means it has been exploded, destroyed, incinerated.  This airplane, however, has been blown up, yet it looks like this:

image

Details at 6k.  This posting here is basically a celebration, of the fact that I am now able to get to 6k, copy pictures from 6k, etc.

For the last few days, right up until nearly now, my computer was unable or unwilling to access 6k.  Everything else: okay, but rather clunky.  6K: not.  I checked if this was 6k’s fault by trying to access 6k via my mobile, and that worked.  Ergo, it was me.  Strange, and rather frustrating, because I like 6k.  And now, for some equally bizarre reason, my computer did some sort of internet connection hiccup involving that thing where it says something about a testing process and says you have to check in again, with some password you never knew you had which you can actually ignore by just opening a new window, and once I reopened a new window, everything was suddenly back working properly.  And: 6k returned.

Dodgy connection?  Well, maybe, but I hadn’t touched any of the connections.  Why did this happen?  Don’t know.  And: don’t care, unless it happens again.  Then: it did happen again.  Fiddled about with connections.  TURNED COMPUTER OFF AND TURNED COMPUTER ON AGAIN.  Seems now to work.  Weird.

Also weird is what the Russians are about to be getting up to.  (The airplane above is Russian.) Some things never change.  The Russians are always doing one of two things: pretending to be weaker than they are, or pretending to be stronger than they are.  They seem to be in a stronger than they are phase just now.

Life is full of mysteries.  More so, as you get older.

Sunday October 16 2016

The other day (which is an expression that strikes me as very odd – I mean: either yesterday or the day before yesterday), I was sitting on my toilet and, not having brought a current book with, I took a look at one of the Rebus books, The Naming of the Dead.  All my already read Rebuses are gathered there.  Immediately I was hooked, and since then, I have continued reading.

The thing is, I have already read this book.  I have read all the Rebuses, except the latest, which hasn’t yet emerged in paperback.  But, I have absolutely no idea what will happen in the rest of The Naming of the Dead, apart from that it involves a serial killer on the loose, which I got from the blurb on the back.

This is one of those bonuses of getting old.  It’s not worth all the drawbacks of getting old, but it is a bonus.  You can reread books which depend for their effect on you not knowing what will happen next, because if you read the book about, I don’t know, five years ago, you probably don’t know what will happen next.

And when I have finished The Naming of the Dead, there will then be all the other Rebuses.  For me, one of the most important ingredients of contentment is to have a book on the go that I really am keen to read.

Saturday October 08 2016

Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.

See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street.  Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.

And see also, this ...:

imageimageimage

… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square.  A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.

I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.

I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery.  And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.

But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been.  Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.

Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV.  Yes, this explains a lot.

Monday October 03 2016

This photo was taken in 2008, in France.  I took it myself, and though I say it myself, I think it’s great.

There’s a particular sort of car you see in France which is old school in its styling, but so beautifully shiny that you suspect it may be a brand new reproduction rather than the genuine old article:

image

Those big buses behind don’t spoil it.  The flowers in front don’t spoil it.  This is my blog, and I decide about such things.

Alas, you can’t tell what sort of car this is, and hence get agoogling about whether it really is a real vintage car or merely a pretend one.  My bet would be: real.  Which only makes its shininess more shiny.

Yes, another quota photo, but this time I’m doing it in the small hours of the morning for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.

Friday September 30 2016

All regulars here (such people do exist) know that I love an alignment, of two London Big Things.

So.  Tower Bridge.  You see that in plenty of photos.  The Dome.  Ditto.  But how often do you see them in the same photo, right next to one another?  I just tried googling “Tower Bridge The Dome”.  Nothing.  All I got was pictures of each, separately, (mostly Tower Bridge), and lots of instructions about how to get from one to the other on foot, on the tube, etc.

So, take a look at this:

image

Just to be sure we know what we are talking about, here is a square of detail, from another closer-up shot of the same alignment:

image

In the middle there we see the top of the northern tower of Tower Bridge.  And just to its left, as we look, through a gap in the big Docklands towers, we see a clutch of cranes, yellow, red and grey.  Except, the yellow cranes are not cranes.  They are the spikes of the Dome, and the Dome is the white expanse below the cranes and the spikes.

It took me quite a few visits to the top of the Tate Modern Extension, from where these shots were taken, and quite a few looks at the photos that I had taken, to work out that this particular photo was there to be photoed.  I don’t claim that my photos are photo-perfection.  They merely prove that all you Real Photographers out there, who might want to improve on the bridge camera quality of my efforts, can now get up there and do just that.