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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

Thursday July 24 2014

Every now and again I do a posting here, to fix some fact in my memory that I am having trouble fixing in my memory.  Like: the name of someone I really don’t want to insult any more by not remembering his name; and like: the difference between Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.

Well, this is another such posting, and this time it’s a building:

image image

There are two of my favourite photos of it, and when I chanced upon them in my photo-archives, I realised, again, that I can never remember the name of the thing, or rather Thing, for it is indeed a Thing, albeit not a very big Thing.

It is called the Palestra.  I sort of knew this already (scroll down to the picture of stupid propellers on a roof), in the sense that when I googled for “that big new building outside southwark tube” and found my way to it, I realised that although I had forgotten this name, I did once know it.

Though buildings like the Tate Modern and the reconstructed Globe Theater have done an admirable job of breathing new life and interest into Bankside, venturing south quickly brings the observer into gritty residential and industrial neighborhoods with little to recommend them to the passer-by. The borough’s latest architectural projects aim to extend the revitalization south from Bankside: among these are the planned extension of the Tate Modern, the construction of Southwark tube station, and distinctive building projects by the brightest stars of modern architecture. SMC Alsop’s Palestra, an office building completed in 2006, is one of these projects. Located on Blackfriars Road just across from the Southwark station, its dramatic glazing and cantilevered structure draw the eye and stand out starkly against its dreary surroundings.

Apologies for the American spelling there, which I am glad to see my word processor underlines with red squiggly lines.

And apologies to Southwark for that stuff about those “dreary” surroundings.  This is typical architect talk based on the idea that the only important thing about buildings is how they look in photos taken on Sunday, early in the morning, with no people outside them having a good time.

The photo of Palestra on the left, above, was taken from the platform of Waterloo East railway station, and those peculiar bobbles you can see reflected at the bottom there are the pods of The Wheel.  I really like how that looks.

So, Palestra.  This posting is entitled “Palestra”.  Palestra, Palestra, Palestra.

Thursday July 17 2014

The are two photos which I took last Monday.  The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street.  The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.

They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory.  But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:

image image

The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world.  It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.

Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject.  The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hut us down and burn us at the stake.  But, we refuse to talk about them.  We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look.  We will not see them.

Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:

image

Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about.

Really, really weird.

I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.

What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane.  The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on.  All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.

But those aerials are profane.  They don’t register.  They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer.  That sales pitch is profane.  Forget about it.  Don’t even think about it.

Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane.  And hence invisible.  Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves.  But they are not designed to be looked at.  They are a pure case of form following function.  Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers.  But they don’t because what is there for architects to add?  Nothing.  The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.

Well, I don’t know.  I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway.  Which is all part of why I have this blog.  At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong.  This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins.  This is, you might say, a profane blog.

Monday July 14 2014

I have just done a comment at Samizdata, on this (about the recently concluded football World Cup in which England did its usual rather badly (although it did at least get there)), saying this:

I agree with the first comment, about how, if individualism explains this, England (England perhaps more than Britain) ought to be winning tennis, golf, swimming etc., routinely.

I think much depends on what a country (to use collective shorthand) just considers important, for several years rather than just for a few weeks.  Like it or hate it (personally I hate it) Britain, definitely including England, put in a mighty effort (both individual and collective) to make a success (but damn the cost) of the 2012 Olympics, both as an event and by winning a ton of medals.

But from what I hear from football fans, English football takes winning the Premier League, and then doing well in European club competition, more seriously than doing well in the World Cup.  The feeling I get is that the winning England footballer is the one who makes the most money throughout his career.  A former Spurs manager recently talked about how some of his players would fake injury, and wanted his help to do this, to avoid being picked for England.  That would knacker them to no personal career purpose.

Plus, there is this huge split between regular English fans who support their clubs week in week out, and people like me who watch the World Cup but not a lot else.  That Germany Brazil game was the most memorable football game in years, for me.  For a proper fan, it would be some obscure promotion battle or an amazing away draw against a European club that got their team to the last sixteen of the Champions League, or whatever.  For a Man U supporter it would be that remarkable last ditch win against Bayern in the Champions League final.

Sadly, I think politicians have a big influence on this.  The kind of power and money they command doesn’t make successful countries out here in the real world (Brazil, Argentina, etc.), quite the reverse.  But it can make national sporting effort more successful, if by that you mean more medals and trophies.  Angela Merkel is a big fan of her now triumphant football team.  I wonder what else she and Germany’s other politicians did to support them, other than her showing up for lots more of their games than she had to.

Sport.  War by other means.  Discuss.

That last point is one I definitely want to write about more in the nearish future.  How A-bombs and H-bombs have made all out war between Great Powers impossible, and caused an unprecedented outbreak of peace between Great Powers, and thus caused national rivalry to express itself in sport rather than war.  That kind of thing.

Saturday July 12 2014

Yes, here are yet more snaps I snapped on that boat trip.  This time they are not of people posing in groups, but of individuals, if not on their own, then photoed on their own by me.  Other people are strictly background:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

The point of these pictures, for me, is not who the people are, simply that I like the pictures.  But, for the record, the one’s whose names I know are: 1.1 Damien, 1.2 Noreen, 2.3 ASI Co-Supremo Madsen, 3.1 Mr Devil’s Kitchen, 3.3 ASI Junior Supremo Sam. If anyone knows others, please comment accordingly.

Once again there is a propaganda message here.  As well as adding up to a happy and companionable movement, these people include some very interesting separate, individual people, distinct characters.  What I like to think these pictures get across is how clever these people are, as well as good humoured and good fun.

The light in these pictures was not perfectly handled, nor was it in the previous batch of photos from this trip, of people posing in groups.  But photoshop (or whatever you personally use) is a wonderful thing, and great pictures can be extracted from very average ones these days with no great strain, the way only fictional spies used to be able to do.

Besides which, I really like 3.2, of the young woman next to the no smoking sign.  I think all that light and shadow makes her look really good.  Okay, it wouldn’t do as a portrait, and it certainly wouldn’t do as a passport photo, but as a picture in its own right, I like how it came out.  She looks intelligent, I think.  Not that she didn’t to begin with, but you get my point.

In general, I think it creates a far better photographic atmosphere to have lots of light splashing around everywhere, even if that sometimes makes for somewhat unsightly shadows and badly lit faces.  The point is not: these are great photos, artistically speaking (even though some of them are pretty good even from that point of view).  The point is: it was a great boat trip, and everyone had great time.

I also think that bridges, which I like for their own sake, make good backgrounds for head shots.

Tuesday July 08 2014

Here.  (Via here.)

PLUS, from the comments on the piece (first link above), from the writer of the piece himself:

Invoking Godwin’s Law is the type of thing Hitler would do.

Very true.

Monday July 07 2014

Not long ago my Computer Guru persuaded me to upgrade my version of OpenOffice to the latest version.  I then had to reset the default font for typing bog standard text into a bog standard word processing file in OpenOffice Writer, latest version.  It insited on using Times Roman 12 pt.  I wanted Verdana 13pt, and eventually I managed to persuade OpenOffice Writer to do this every time.  Then my computer got stuck and I had to switch it off, but when it came back on again, this resetting was forgotten, and I had to do it all over again.  I was back with bloody Times Roman bloody 12pt, again.  It was a small nightmare, again, to get it to do Verdana 13pt, again, without it having to be told, again.

At least there is an internet, to which questions of this sort can be put.  The answers are a maelstrom of gibberish, but at least you narrow the gibberish down a bit.  Main rule: beware any answer which includes the word “forum”.  Forums are full of wrong answers and answers to wrong answers along the lines of: I did all that but nothing happened.

The basic problem with computers is that because they can do more and more with each passing yeart, it is becoming harder and harder to persuade them to do the one simple thing that you personally want them to do.  You are surrounded by vast and growing explosion of things which the damn computer can do but which you don’t want it to do, which makes it almost impossible to find the one little set of buttons that, if pushed, will make it do the one little tiny thing that you do want it to do.  If there are only three available fonts to choose between, and changing that font setting is about all that can be changed, then it is relatively easy.  But the more complicated the programme gets, the more difficult it becomes to make it do “easy” things with it.

And now, with those sneer quotes, I have just discovered that they have to be reset as well.  This has to be done because if quotes are done the way the unmodified programme wants to do them, that buggers up links when I transfer the text to my various blogging locations.

That was a nightmare too, first time around.  Now, I must endure that nightmare, again.

The fact that there are now two – maybe several – versions of “Open Office Writer” (those sneer quotes are now working, it would appear) out there adds an extra dimension of shititude to this whole shitty shituation.

I still have to make the damn programme refrain from adding extra space between paragraphs.  I do spaces between paragraphs with an extra carriage return, because that too is how text needs to be when I transfer it to a blog.  Bugger bugger bugger.  The nightmares just keep coming.

If you are a geek who understands computer stuff but not people, then your response to all this will be: “Easy – you just to “^)3y6t65+££@{{{ +++ %*%&%**%% ==== XYZXYZXYZ” - what could be simpler?” Answer: Just about anything in the whole damn world would be simpler.

The real nightmare is that soon, all appliances will also be computers.  Whereas it now remains possible to simply switch, say, a vacuum cleaner, you know, on, soon that formerly simple process will become another nightmare of persuasion and internet interrogation, simply to get it to vacuum the way you want rather than the way you absolutely do not want.  People will be buying whole new machines, entirely because they can’t make the damn machine do what the machine is perfectly willing to do, provided only that you know which of seventy-nine buttons to push and what order to push them in.  Ditto kettles, washing machines, fridges, everything.

As I often warn readers, this blog will, as I get older, be, more and more, about the process of me getting old.

Don’t get me started on automatic supermarket checkout machines.

Sunday June 29 2014

Every once in a while I hear or read about someone who sees sound, as colour, different sorts of sounds as different colours.  (As you can tell from the links at the bottom of this, I just did this again, on purpose.) What the hell are these people talking about?  You don’t see sound, you hear it.

But, I have learned enough of the contrasting natures and nervous systems of different people to know that claims of this sort are probably true, in the sense that this is indeed what it feels like to those making such claims, even if the claims made no sense whatever to me.  (Here is another piece by me, about how different people differ, this time with respect to the notion that you (i.e. they) can decide what you (they) believe.  To me, what you believe is what you actually do believe, and you can no more change it with a mere decision than you can decide to grow another foot.  But other people clearly can change what they believe, in just this cavalier fashion.  What they actually, deep down, think is true doesn’t seem to matter to them.  To me: bewildering and bizarre.  To them: obvious and commonplace.)

So anyway, back to those bizarre and bewildering people who see sounds, different sounds as different colours.

I now understand these people much better.

Because, yesterday morning, for a fleeting instant, it happened to me.

Immediately after it happened, I hastily bashed some notes into a computer file describing what I had just experienced, and that is the file that I am now typing further and more considered thoughts into now.

What happened was that I awoke, to the sound of my alarm clock.  This alarm clock makes a high pitched beeping noise: beep, pause, beep, pause, beep, pause ...

And, I experienced this sound as ... white.

That is correct.  I saw the sound.  And the sound was just as white as the background colour of the file into which I am now typing, or the background colour of this blog posting as you are now looking at it. 

I never experience sounds a colours when fully conscious.  But it makes perfect sense to me that experiences I may only have during the weird moment when I am neither entirely awake nor entirely asleep, but am moving from the latter state to the former state, might be experiences that others may have much more frequently, even when fully awake.  Or, fully awake by their standards.

Yesterday morning, for that fleeting, bleeping instant, some sort of weird connection was being made between my ears and the bit of brain where colours get processed and reflected upon, a place where all incoming messages are interpreted as colours no matter what they were originally, a connection that doesn’t normally occur, or perhaps which continues to occur when I am fully awake, but so weakly compared to the connections made between my ears and and the sound processing part of my brain as to be undetectable.

All I have to believe, about those strange people who see sounds as colours all the time, is that they experience what I very briefly experienced yesterday morning, but much more strongly than I did and do.  This is not now hard for me to imagine, not hard at all.

A very quick skim-read of this wikipedia article about chromesthesia (which is the particular sort of synesthesia that turns sound into colour, as opposed to just something into something else) did to tell me that chromosthesia can happen particularly when you are waking up, but that could be wrong.

However, I did spot (at the other end of the chromesthesia link above) this:

However, all studies to date have reported that synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike match high pitched sounds to lighter or brighter colors and low pitched sounds to darker tones, indicating that there may be some common mechanism that underlies the associations present in normal adult brains.

So, I am not alone in associating a high pitched bleep with a very light colour, in my case the lightest colour of the lot. 

Tuesday June 24 2014

Here’s a piece entitled Google Glass:10 reasons Brits won’t buy it.  The basic argument is: it’s creepy, it’s uncool, it has various other more specific disadvantages.

I think that the writer of this piece, Robyn Vinter, makes the very common error of saying that a piece of kit won’t catch on because, in her opinion it is, in a general sort of way, not nice or not good.  I know it’s only a jokey piece, pandering to ignorant prejudice and general technophobia, but it contains a serious and wrong idea about how technology gets established in the wider world.

Technology doesn’t catch on because people like Robyn Vinter think that it’s cool.

Technology or software, or whatever, catches on because it solves a particular problem for a particular group of people, and they start using it.  People like Robyn Vinter then say: ooh, how very uncool you are.  And the people using the thing say: guess what Robyn Vinter, we don’t care what you think, we are finding it extremely useful, to do what we want to do.  If you don’t think we look cool, this is entirely your problem and absolutely not our problem at all.  Gradually other uses for the thing in question accumulate, and quite a few people use it for several different things and get really excited and try to use it for everything, because they now like it so much.  If enough uses are found, then the alleged uncoolness of the thing just gets overwhelmed by people using it, in public, in full view, and to hell with the coolists.  If the coolists still want to write articles about how uncool this thing is, even though thousands of their potential readers are now using it, then they are pushed aside and other writers willing to say that it’s cool after all are told to write that instead.

So the question is: will Google Glass be useful enough?  Basically, it would appear to be a screen that you can use while you are doing something else, to do computer stuff and regular stuff at the same time.  Sounds extremely useful to me, for ... various things that I now know not of.  But I am sure things will turn up that it is very useful for, even essential for.  Work, basically.  Not strutting about in the street.  No.  Getting worthwhile things done, more efficiently, faster.  That kind of thing.  We’ll soon see, anyway.

This guy is much more optimistic.  Better, he understands how Google Glass will or will not catch on.  What can it do?  Not enough, yet, seems to be his answer.  But that may change.  My guess is it will change.

See also, this piece by me from way back, about another sort of coolist with delusions of grandeur.

And see also these pictures of another useful thing being used in an allegedly very uncool way, namely people taking photos with tablets.  This tendency has in no way abated since I took those snaps.  Quite the opposite.

There is also a definite whiff, in Robyn Vinter’s piece, of the status anxiety I wrote about in this recent piece here, if not in Vinter herself then in the readers she is appealing to.  What if this gizmo makes us look and feel stupid?  What if it demotes us in the pecking order?  The answer is: if it does, it does.  That won’t stop it being used.

I will go on saying that the tower, as featured in all these photos that I recently photoed, ...:

image imageimage image

... should be called the Spray Can, until everyone is calling it the Spray Can.  Or the Spraycan, that’s optional.

Or until someone comes up with an (even) better name.

But meanwhile, what shall we call the ”Salesforce” Tower?

image

The new name should please the residents but piss off Salesforce, for renaming towers all over the damn place, and make them wish they hadn’t attempted this in London.  Salesfuck.  Something along those lines.  Not good enough, because too profane to be printed in regular newspapers.  Salesfarce?  Failsforce?  Close enough to Salesforce to make the connection.  But insulting.  To Salesforce.  The obvious thing would be to just carry on calling it the Heron Tower, but I don’t think that will punish these Salesfuckers nearly enough.  Their stupid name needs to be dragged audibly through the mud.

In case you are wondering, yes I am still a libertarian.  Capitalism, hurrah!  But the thing is, when you complain about a business doing something really annoying, there’s quite a decent chance they may stop, or at least, if they persist, be commercially punished.  At the very least there is a decent chance you can make whoever did whatever it was squirm a little, and generally be made a bit of a prat of.  When you complain about the government, there is much less chance of any such good stuff happening.  No way will you get, e.g., refund.  Just another bill to clean up whatever the original mess was.

So, complaints against capitalism are rewarded, by capitalism.  Complaints against governments are not rewarded nearly so much, by governments or by anything else.

So guess which, in defiance of all sanity, you get more of.

That’s quite profound, I think.  (This is why I like tangenting.  See below.)

Saturday June 21 2014

I just came across this video, here, again, which has had many hits on Youtube. Like millions of others, I like it a lot.  It’s Louis C.K., complaining about people who complain about modern life and all its wondrous new gadgetry.  I was going to stick the video here, but it wouldn’t fit.  (Anyone know how to make it 500 wide instead of 560?  Maybe I should redesign my blog wider.) But follow that link and scroll down a bit to where it says: “- it’s very funny”; and then, in white on black at the top of the video: “+Everthing’s+Amazing+ +Nobody’s+Happy”.  And then click and enjoy.

Part of why improved gadgets don’t automatically make us happy is that everyone gets to have a go on them, but what really makes a lot of us happy is improved relative status.  New gadgets create a different world, in which we may as likely as not be demoted in status, below others who understand the new gadgets better.

There is also the particular genius of the gadgeteers to be considered, compared to our own ungenii.  New gadgets can make many of us feel like savages, out of our depth in a world of wonders, less capable (because utterly incapable of producing such a wondrous gadget), rather than more capable (through possessing the gadget).

In the article linked to, there is speculation that old people are more easily pleased, by things.  I certainly enjoy digital photography, as all regulars here will know, and you obviously enjoy that or you’d not be a regular.  I also enjoy typing verbiage into my magic machine and this magic blog.  Perhaps a reason why these things please me so much is that I am old, and had been waiting for such things to be possible for such a very, very long time.  For decades, I fretted about my inability to make pictures without fuss and write stuff without fuss, and show both to other people whenever I felt like it, again without fuss.  Now I can do these things.  Any envy I feel towards the people who contrived these wonder is dwarfed by the pleasure I get in doing these things, finally.  I know, I’ve been showing off my pictures and babbling away at various blogs for well over a decade.  But like I say, I’m old, and more than a decade is nothing to how long I spent waiting for these things to be possible, all the while not even knowing if they ever would be.  I had become used to knowing that these things might never happen, which means that I still can’t quite believe that they have happened, which means that they still make me happy.

Wednesday June 18 2014

I think that this …:

image

… is a spectacularly beautiful photograph.

It is the work of Mick Hartley, whose photos I admire more and more.

What I so especially like about this one is how the colour of the waterlily is contrasted with the black and bleak colouring of the big circular leaves.  Usually, in photos of this sort, those big leaves would be bright green.  But the indoor setting and the industrialised Kew Gardens ceiling turns the water in which the lilies float into something more like crude oil, giving the whole thing a very distinct atmosphere.

It brings to (my) mind those scenes in Schindler’s List where a little girl in bright red appears, in an otherwise black and white movie.

In general, colour is a big deal for Hartley.  From time to time, he features photos at his blog (by him or by others) where there is a big expanse of bright colour and a relatively drab small object or objects in the middle.  The opposite of the waterlily photo, in other words.  But maybe I just notice these particular photos because I particularly like them.

There was a time when self-consciously artistic photographers seemed deliberately to turn their backs on the huge opportunities offered by colour photography.  Digital cameras, which could do colour from the get go, and which have enabled regular people to revel in colour photography whatever the Black and White Photosnobs might be saying about colour photography, have put a damper on all that.  At first, posh photographers sneered at digital photographers partly because of all the colour.  But now, Real Photographers are, more and more, people who got started with photography because of cheap digital photography.

I’m absolutely not saying that I dislike black and white photography, or photography of very drab and monochrome colours (like when it’s nearly dark for instance).  I’m merely saying that bright colours are great also.  And these two things are especially diverting when combined in the same photo, as above.

Sunday June 15 2014

Mick Hartley writes about England’s loss to Italy last night in their opening World Cup game:

Much football punditry has always seemed to me to be an effort to provide a plausible post-hoc storyline for what was to a considerable extent a matter of chance.  … as though the whole enterprise must be made sense of by virtue of the winning team being the team that deserved to win.

Very true.  (I’m guessing that, with luck (ho ho), this book will have a lot more to say about this tendency.) Actually, much of the appeal of football (to those to whom it appeals) is that the “best” team on the day often doesn’t win.  This means that the supporters of bad teams can live in constant hope of upsets.

This also explains why, at the early stages of a season, surprising teams are often at the top of the table.  Later, the law of averages asserts itself inexorably, and the best teams arrange themselves in logical order at the top, and the surprise early leaders sink back into the pack where they belong.

All of which makes something like the World Cup quite good fun.  All you have to do to win it is win five or six of your first six games.  All the best teams have to do not to win is lose one or two of their first six games.  One of the great moments of all World Cups is the one when a Much Fancied Team gets on its Early Plane Home.

What the pundits seem to have been saying about England is that, because the “expectation level” is low, they might do quite well.  The expectation level is low so it’s high, in other words.  My take on England is that they are a fairly bad team, who played fairly well against Italy, and lost, and that they will probably do fairly badly, but you never know, because there are only half a dozen games for each team to play.  I will video-record all of England’s games, such as they are, just in case.  I live in hope of a small series of upsets.

I also video-recorded the Spain Netherlands game, by far the most remarkable one so far.  Will Spain be this time around’s Much Fancied Team early departure home?

And I also videoed the first game, between Brazil and Croatia, with its truly dire opening ceremony.  This was a real collector’s item of awfulness.  What is it about these terrible opening ceremonies, with their meaningless costumes and absurd dance moves?  Witnessing them is like listening to someone talking in a language has only recently been invented - for aliens to speak in a movie, for instance - which consists of no actual words, only meaningless sounds.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London contained many things I disagreed with, and I continue to disagree with the entire principle of me and all other anti-Olympickers having to pay for the damn thing for the next thousand years.  But at least that ceremony contained stuff that meant something.  Although come to think of it, maybe the only people who understood it was us Brits, and for countless mllions elsewhere, that was also the gibbering of aliens.

Tuesday May 27 2014

I like to browse through Jonathan Gewirtz’s photos from time to time, and on my latest browse I came across this photo, of a brightly lit building in Urban Florida.  Miami?  Don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.

What particularly got my attention was the fact that Gewirtz included in the picture: his own shadow.

imageI have taken the liberty of reproducing this detail here.  “Copyright ©2011 Jonathan Gewirtz” is what it says just before saying “jonathangewirtz.com”, but I trust my little except does not break any rules.  (Rules often being the point of copyright violations, I’m guessing.  Maybe this particular copyright violation, on its own, would not be a problem, but once the line is crossed, by anyone ...) If Gewirtz wants this little piece of his work removed, he has only to say and it will be removed forthwith.

Okay, with that out of the way, the point that I want to make here is that I suspect that this thing of including your own shadow in pictures is a practice that has filtered upwards to the Real Photographers like Jonathan Gewirtz, from us digital amateurs.

Your own shadow in the picture often starts as a mistake, but then you think: well, okay, that’s my shadow, but what’s so wrong with that?  I was standing there, with the sun behind me.  I mean, did you think this wasn’t a photograph, and that someone standing there throwing a shadow into the picture wasn’t even there?  Did you think that God took the picture?  Cameras gobble up whatever they see in that moment, and in this moment, for instance, my shadow was part of what it saw.  Often, the shadow is all there is, and very amusing it is too.

The crux of the matter is, I think, who the picture is for and what the point of it is.  Is it for someone else, someone paying?  Is perhaps a happy couple being photographed on their wedding day?  In which case, they are the point, not the photographer.  Likewise if the point is to photo this dish of salad, or that house interior, or this beloved pet or that sports team, well, the Real Photographer is not being paid to insert himself into the scene, and he will be careful not to.

But if, on the other hand, you are a snapper who is just having a bit of fun, then why shouldn’t you, the snapper, also become your own snappee?

But the thing is, when Real Photographers are out having fun, the way Jonathan Gewirtz presumably is when taking photos in Miami or wherever, just because he likes to, they are liable to take their ingrained Real Photographer habits of self-effacement with them.  So, interesting that Gewirtz did not do this, at any rate not this time.

I’ll end with a slice out of one of these photos:

image

The crooked forefinger being mine.

Monday May 26 2014

Whenever I am hit by a question about modern life, I generally get better answers from my tiny band of readers than I do by merely googling.

Today’s question is: What are “chinos”?  I missed it when chinos first arrived, and since that moment of arrival, at which point presumably chinos were explained, nobody has taken the time to explain chinos to me.

What is the difference between chinos and long trousers.  According to this website:

Designed for the British and French military in the mid-19th century, chinos were originally called khakis and are made from a twill fabric usually in cotton.

A “twill” fabric?  What the hell is that?

So, I’m guessing that they stopped calling them “khakis” because they wanted to be allowed to change the colour, and khaki is a colour as well as a style of clothing.

Also, is there any connection with China?

It was like this for me at school.  I kept getting left behind by, you know, things, and then when I asked, people would laugh at me.  But if you don’t ask, how will you ever learn?

I think what the laughers were trying to prove to me was that I was not as clever as they thought I thought I was.  But cleverness is not knowing stuff already all the time.  It’s knowing that you don’t know it and knowing how to find it out, and understanding it once you have found out.  And the way to find things out is to ask.

“Laugher” doesn’t feel like a word, does it?  Laughter (larfter) yes, but laugher (larfer), not so much.  But according to google, laugher is a word.  However, my blogging software puts a squiggly red line under laugher, so it doesn’t think laugher is a word.  But then again, my blogging software puts a squiggly red line under “google”, and that’s definitely a word.

Friday May 23 2014

I don’t like my mobile phone, because I don’t use it enough to justify the expense.  Only the map app is of any real use to me.  I rarely use either the phone itself (i.e. for phoning) or the camera.

Or rather, I did hate it, until I read this, at David Thompson’s blog, about how much power it takes to charge up a mobile phone, and therefore how much it enlarges the carbon footprint and hence the self-hatred of an agonised mobile-phone-using Guardian writer:

How terrible should I feel, and what can I do?

A helpful commenter, apparently, responded thus:

Telephone chargers use pathetic small quantities of energy.

Is that true?  I had been assuming that my mobile uses a formidable large quantity of energy whenever I recharge it, and hence a formidable large quantity of money.  Which is why I have been hating it.  All that juice, just for a map and about three calls a month.  But if my phone only uses a pathetic small quantity of energy, and hence only a pathetic small quantity of money, then I am happy about it again.  I may even get to like it.  It’s a Google Nexus 4, by the way.

So, how much does it cost (to hell with my carbon footprint – let the trees around whatever power station I use gulp that in for their breakfast) for me to power my phone from empty of power, to full?  Answers gratefully received in the comments.  Educated guesses welcome.

Incidentally, a pet hate of mine is when I ask someone, who knows something quite accurately (that I want to know) and far more accurately than I do but who nevertheless refuses to guess, because he can’t be as accurate as he would like to be.  (It’s almost always a he – only human males are regularly this socially obtuse and lacking in empathy.) How much does this cost?  Don’t know.  Guess!  No, can’t, don’t know.  Rough figure?  Less than a quarter of a pee?  Oh no, definitely more than that.  More than ten quid?  Oh no, less than that, obviously.  (Obviously to him, in other words.) Right, so you do have a rough idea.  So, what is this rough idea?  Five pee?  Five quid?  What?  What?!?!  You get the idea.

I am not calling you an idiot, unless you do have an educated rough idea of what it costs to power up a mobile phone like mine, but refuse to part with it on the grounds of your answer being too vague to satisfy you, in which case I definitely am calling you an idiot.  If you know but can’t be bothered with telling me, or if you know but you now don’t like my tone, well, I can’t say I’m happy about that, but I perfectly understand.