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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

Saturday October 14 2017

I got bogged down semi-working on a succession of postings that never got finished.  So here is a quota photo, picked out the archives pretty much at random:

image

There I was, trawling through a huge clutch of photos taken somewhere in Brittany, in June 2011, but not knowing where they were of.  Then that photo presented itself, and all was clarified.

Memo to self: always photo signs, maps, signposts, in fact anything that will later tell you what you were photoing and where.  I know, I know, cameras will give you map references, if you ask them nicely.  But I’m a twentieth century boy.  I like actual maps

Preferably with little signs on them that say: you are here.  Or in this particular case, vous êtes ici, which I don’t think the above maps do have.  Quel dommage.

I recently started a new directory called “You are here”, for all such map photos.

Sunday October 08 2017

Yes.  I ran it by Adriana plus her Plus One (Perry de H), at that feast I reported on yesterday, and it turns out that I’m not the only one who finds the phrase “self storage” …

image

… to be rather odd.  (That’s this.)

I know what self storage is.  It’s the name given to the process of ridding your self of some of the crap by which your self is currently surrounded and impeded, without actually chucking it away irrevocably.  In particular, when your self is in between locations, or when your self has moved from a big place to a smaller place, your stuff, or your excess stuff, needs to be stored somewhere.

But self storage, taken literally, sounds like you are parking your self in a warehouse and for the duration, your life will consist only of all the extraneous crap.

You become like a zombie or something.  I can understand people wanting to put their mere selves to one side while earning a living.  That might make a rather profitable business.  But while actually, you know, … trying to live … ?

Odd.

Friday October 06 2017

A couple of days ago, I photoed words, and I photoed the top of the Boomerang (although I would recommend scrolling down rather than following these links (a lot quicker (alas))).  But in among photoing all that, I also I photoed this ambiguous beast.  Ambiguous because originally, the beast looked a lot like this:

image

But then someone else, by adding some alternative eyes, turned the beast into this:

image

The original photo I took, from which both the above versions were cropped, looked like this:

image

You see, that’s the trouble with the Leake Street Tunnel.  Nobody owns it, other than a sort of conglomerate of politicians, and what that conglomerate has decided is that whereas all artists may paint in the Leake Street Tunnel, none of them can prevent further painting by further artists.  The only immortality achieved is virtual and digital.

Or, maybe it’s a bit more complicated.  And if you aren’t part of the club, and you just turn up and paint, you get your knees broken, or something.

Whatever.  The thing I really admire about the beast, as originally painted by Artist One, is the state of its teeth.  Check them out.  Thought has gone into them.  No wonder Artist Two was envious, and decided to appropriate them for his alternative beast.

Tuesday October 03 2017

To quote my own earlier words about David Hockney:

What I particularly like about him is that he doesn’t indulge in the usual artistic sport of epater-ing the bourgeoisie.  He is content to be bourgeoisie.

And as if to prove me right, in the same book I was referring to, I later encounter (pp. 105-106) this amazingly honest Hockney outburst:

The best form of living I’ve ever seen in Monet’s – a modest house at Giverny, but very good kitchen, two cooks, gardeners, a marvellous studio.  What a life!  All he did was look at his lily pond and his garden.  That’s fantastic.  He was there for forty-three years. ...

Two cooks!  Gardeners!  How rare it is to encounter such full-throated pleasure being taken in the idea of having servants to look after you!

You can feel the people who try to decide these things going off Hockney, and I’m guessing that this has been going on for some time.  I’m not saying that Adrian Searle, for instance, doesn’t mean the things he says in this Guardian piece about Hockney’s pictures over the years.  And I actually rather share some of Searle’s preferences as to which Hockney pictures are nice and which are not so nice.  Searle says they’ve got worse, basically.

However, I suspect that Hockney’s real crime is that he started out looking like a radical homosexualist, but then when homosexuality settled back into being just part of the scenery of modern affluent, successful, happy life, Hockney was revealed as being not angry about modern, affluent, successful, happy life.  He just wanted that sort of life for himself, and for many decades now, he has had it.  He would have been angry only if denied such a life by anti-homosexualists.  But he wasn’t.  As soon as the world started happily tolerating Hockney’s not-so-private life and made his picture-making life affluent and successful, Hockney was content happily to tolerate the world and to revel in its visual pleasures, natural and electronic.  The Grand Canyon!  iPhones!  Bridlington!

Capitalism?  Commerce?  Hockney’s not angry about it.  He’s part of it. He produces it, he consumes it, he applies it to his work, he knows this, and he loves it.  And he has long surrounded himself with a small and happy team of assistants and cooks and bottle-washers of all the sorts that he needs, to enable him, Monet-style, to concentrate on his picture-making.  Hockney is the living embodiment of the glories of the division of labour.  Aka: social inequality.

I surmise that this is what really makes Searle’s readers (i.e. Guardian readers) angry about Hockney, not the claim that his pictures have got worse.  They’re angry about modern life, and they’re angry that David Hockney isn’t angry about modern life.

And I suspect that Hockney is, in the eyes of Those Who Try To Decide These Things, helping to take the Impressionists down with him.

Thursday September 28 2017

I am continuing to read Martin Gayford’s conversations with Hockney book, and it is proving to be most diverting.

Gayford begins the chapter he entitles “Seeing more clearly” with this intriguing anecdote about Picasso, which was related to him by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson:

Lucien Clergue, the photographer, knew Picasso incredibly well. The other day he said to me, ‘You know, Picasso saved my life.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, it was after a bullfight, in Aries.’ Lucien said he had been feeling fine, had lost a bit of weight but wasn’t worried. Out of the blue Picasso said to him, ‘You go instantly to a hospital.’ Lucien asked ‘Why?’ Picasso said ‘You’ve got something seriously wrong with you.’ Lucien was damned if he was going to do it, but Jacqueline
[Picasso’s wife] added, ‘When Pablo says that, for God’s sake go.’ So he went, and the doctors had him taken straight into the operating theatre. They said he had an extremely rare type of peritonitis, which is lethal. The bad thing about it is that it doesn’t manifest itself in pain, it just kills you. ...

Hockney’s reaction to this is to say, yes, this is because Picasso spent a huge amount of time looking at faces, really looking, the way you only do if you are someone who paints pictures of faces.  Picasso could therefore see signs that others wouldn’t.

I’m not the only one to have found this a very striking story.

If it’s right, it occurs to me that maybe face recognition software ought to be able to make similar diagnoses, if not now, then quite soon.  Excuse me while I try to discover if the www agrees.

Partially.  It seems that face recognition software can already spot rare genetic disorders.  Whether it can spot the onset of rare diseases in people previously unafflicted, I could not learn.  But I bet, if it doesn’t yet perform such tricks, that it soon will.

Tuesday September 26 2017

A day or two ago I got an email from someone or something selling greetings cards, claiming that my birthday, September 26th, is the most popular birthday there is.  Today, which is September 26th, the same email with only small adaptations bombarded me again.

The thing about modern individually targetted advertising - emails, adverts that pop up on your computer screen, that kind of thing – is that you don’t trust them.  For instance, what if some know-a-lot computer happens to know that my birthday is September 26th, as many such computers surely do, and thinks that it will get a rise out of me by typing September 26th into its mass-email about what date the most popular birthday is?

So I asked the www, parts of which I do somewhat trust, and according to this Daily Telegraph piece from December 2015, it’s true.  The Daily Telegraph these days is not what it was, but for what it is worth, here’s what they said:

A new analysis of 20 years of birth records by the Office for National Statistics shows a dramatic spike in the number of children born in late September, nine months after Christmas. …

Overall September 26 emerges as the most common birthday for people born in England and Wales over the last two decades.
It falls 39 weeks and two days after Christmas Day, meaning that a significant proportion of those born on that day will have been conceived on Christmas itself.

I don’t know how popular September 26th was as a birthday way back when I was biologically launched.  I’ve always thought of my parents as pretty straight-laced and careful about things like when to have children.  But, did they just get pissed on Christmas Day 1946 and start me up by mistake?  Maybe so.  (Maybe they got pissed carefully.)

Anyway, whatever, happy birthday me.

Sunday September 24 2017

Martin Gayford’s book A Bigger Message: Conversations With David Hockney, seems very promising.

Hockney is an interesting and likeable man, I think, although I imagine he turns a bit nasty if you in any way get between him and his work.  What I particularly like about him is that he doesn’t indulge in the usual artistic sport of epater-ing the bourgeoisie.  He is content to be bourgeoisie.

Here’s an early nugget from this book (from the Introduction, on page 10):

The savants of the eighteenth century were much exercised by the question of what a person blind from birth, whose sight was suddenly restored, would make of the visible world. Amazingly, the experiment was actually performed. In the 1720s, William Cheselden, a London surgeon, removed the cataracts from the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy. The latter gradually came to associate the objects he had known only through touch with what he now saw. One of the last puzzles he solved was that of pictures. It took two months, ‘to that time he consider’d them only as Party-coloured Planes, or surfaces diversified with Variety of paint’. And that of course is exactly what pictures are, but they fascinate us and help us understand and enjoy what we see.

When I’m done reading that book, I will be moving on to Gayford and Hockney’s more recent magnum opus, entitled A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen.

I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between photography and painting.  As has Hockney, it would seem.  The very fact that this title talks about “pictures” rather than merely “art” or “painting” is, to me, highly promising.

Monday August 21 2017

Yes, another link that’s been cluttering up my RAM, but which I absolutely don’t want to forget about.

I’m reading this, but I’m a really slow reader, and am also reading other things, like: books.  But, like I say, don’t want to forget about this.

Here.

This feels like one of those seminal ideas, to rank alongside the seminal idea that it contests the truth of.

I am hoping (he hasn’t confirmed it by email but we have spoken about it) that Rob Waller will be giving a talk chez moi, last Friday of November (24th), along the lines of: Will The Robots Take Our Jobs?  He doesn’t reckon so either.

Sunday August 13 2017

Luxury ‘thin house’ being built in three-metre gap between London buildings

And here is the picture under that headline:

image

What this story illustrates is that cities are not going to go away, merely because electronic communication is becoming ever easier.  People still crave physical proximity to wherever the action is that they most like.  Given the choice between living in a spacious home in the wrong place to a poky little box cupboard like the above, in the right place, then a lot of people choose the latter.

Besides which, why do I want “a spacious home”?  Then I’d have to look after the bloody thing.  I have a specious home.  It’s called London, and lots of other people look after it for me.

This Old School blogging is turning out a lot like regular blogging.

Although: I promise nothing.

The Plan began in my head as an exercise in cleansing my desktop of open windows, of the sort that are causing my computer to run out of memory, and to go back to behaving like a bad tempered human assistant rather than a new school computer, which is what it is when not overburdened with open windows.  “I thought you wanted me to do X.  Now you want me to focus on Y.  Give me time to change focus.  Or better still, stop doing this.  Grumble grumble.” That is what my computer would be saying, if it was the sort that ever said things.

What I will be doing is plonking down links to things , and then maybe, or maybe not, explaining a single figure percentage of the reason why these links interest me.  I will not say everything I have in mind to say about the things linked to, or indeed anything very substantial, merely something, or nothing.  Then, I will close the windows devoted to these links, and the idea is that the links from here will serve as substitutes for the open windows.  They probably won’t.  When I compile lists, I immediately forget everything on them, and when I do blog postings I immediately move on to something quite different.  So perhaps there will be no August 2017 Old School Blogging (2): This Interesting Little Subject.  But maybe there will.

I have already created another Word(clone) file entitled “August 2017 Old School Blogging (2)”, and have put those very words at the top of it, so as of now, it all looks quite promising.

Friday August 11 2017

Indeed:

image

I took all these statue photos yesterday, in a walk with GodDaughter 2 that I have already referred to, which started at the Shard (see below), Tower Bridge, and nearby places, and ended … well, quite a way downstream.

As often happens, my favourite photo of this subject was the first one I took.  But I also liked this next one, which neglects what seems to be the usual Big Things of The City background and adds only wall and water:

image

The explanation of the rather odd title of this posting is that what we have here is not so much a group of statues as a drama acted out by a group of statues.  Dr Salter (see below) is looking on at his small daughter, and at her cat.  But it is all taking place in his imagination, because the small daughter died tragically young.  It is all very well explained, with more pictures, here.  Follow that link, and you’ll even find a map of exactly where this all is.

The drama gets an extra layer of drama, because the original statue of Dr Salter was stolen, for its value as scrap metal.  I think I preferred the stolen one, but here is the replacement, with the addition of a young man with tattoos:

imageimage

The tattoos on the front of that guy were remarkable, and I regret now not asking him to let me photo them.  I know, I know, creepy.  But if he had said yes, I would have been delighted, and if he had said no that’s creepy, I’d have got over it.

Mrs (Ada) Salter also looks on, and these two headshots of her came out quite well too:

imageimage

While taking these photos, or maybe it was a bit later, I found myself musing aloud to GD2 (with her agreeing) that people seem greatly to prefer statues that are very clearly statues, made out of some sort of monochrome material such as stone or metal, rather than something more realistically coloured, a fact which has, from time to time, puzzled me.  Were the latter procedure to be followed, people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between statues and actual people, and this would freak them out.

A “realistic” painting or photo of a person is actually not realistic at all.  People are complicated in shape.  Paintings and photos are flat.  So, if you encounter a photo or a painting of a person, even if it’s life size, there is no possibility that you will be duped into introducing yourself to it or asking it for directions.  But if you encounter a genuinely realistic 3D statue of a person, only its deeply unnatural stillness would eventually tell you that this is not a real person.  And this would be awkward to be dealing with on a regular basis.

A giant statue of someone, realistically coloured, might be okay.  After all, miniature statues (go into any toy shop or gift shop to see what I mean) already are okay. Just as with a tiny but realistically coloured person statue, you could tell at once that a giant realistically coloured person statue was only a statue rather than a real person.

A giant cat statue, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  People might think: Woooaaarrrrgggghhh!!!  A giant cat!!!  Get me out of here now!

Saturday August 05 2017

Yes, there were quite a few photoers up there yesterday.  But not as many as I think I was expecting.  Amazing to relate, most of the people there seemed just to be experiencing the view while they were looking at it.  And talking to one another.  And having drinks.  I know, weird.

But there were a few normal people there, concentrating on taking photos, and here are some of the ones I photoed:

imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

In last night’s posting about this expedition, I mentioned the reflections I was getting from the windows.  I kind of think that this doesn’t matter with these particular photos, which is why I am showing them here so soon.  In the foreground there are photoers, and in the background there is what there was in the background, including reflections, and sometimes even some rather pretty reflections, and also a lot of architectural detail, top of the Shard style.  These photos therefore require no elaborate thought, or cropping, or preemptive cringe commentary saying: this is interesting because of what you can see out there or down there, despite the damn reflections which I’m really sorry about.

I chose the above photos because I thought they were nice photos.  I wasn’t bothered about what cameras were involved.  So, it is significant that eight out of nine of the photos feature mobile phones rather than old school, dedicated, specialised, digital cameras.  The only exception is 3.2.

I hear it everywhere I go.  The cameras on mobile phones get better and better.

Will my next camera also be a mobile phone?

Thursday August 03 2017

It’s no great surprise that, at the website of the hotel that now calls itself Park Tower Knightsbridge, they are keener to show you pictures of the hotel’s interiors and of the views to be seen from the hotel, than they are to show you what the hotel itself looks like to the outside world.

That being this:

image

That’s a photo of this building that I took five years ago, from Hyde Park, which is not a place I visit very often.  Personally, I am rather fond of this building.  But I am not the sort of person who would ever stay there.  I’m guessing that those who do stay there are not that fond of how it looks from the outside.

Park Tower Knightsbridge was designed by my favourite architect from the Concrete Monstrosity era.  Favourite in the sense that when it comes to your typical Concrete Monstrosity architect, I hate almost all of what they did.  With Richard Seifert, I just hate some of it, and rather like quite a lot of it.

Especially now that this style is in headlong retreat, and all the arguments about it concern whether this or that relic of the Concrete Monstrosity era should or should not be dismantled.  When this style was on the march, smashing everything in its path to rubble, I would gladly have said goodbye to Park Tower Knightsbridge (or whatever it started out being called), if that was what it would have taken to stop the Concrete Monstrosity style in its tracks.  But now, I favour the preservation of a decent proportion of London’s Concrete Monstrosities.  I suspect that they may turn out, in the longer run, like the medieval castles of old (definitely feared and hated when first built), in eventually being regarded as charmingly picturesque.

And, I especially like the Park Tower Knightsbridge, because of its striking concrete window surrounds, and its non-rectangularity.  See also No. 1 Croydon, which I think may be my absolute favourite Seifert.

Striking concrete window surrounds and non-rectangularity might also be why I like this next building, One Kemble Street, also designed by Richard Seifert, and already featured here in this posting, which includes a photo of how it looks when viewed from the upstairs bar of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

imageimageimage

I took these photos, within a few seconds of each other, minutes before taking this rather blurry photo of the ROH.

In addition to being a posting about how I am rather fond of these two Seifert buildings, it is also a rumination upon roof clutter.

Note how both these buildings have an abundance of roof clutter perched on their tops.  But note also how that clutter is so arranged as to be largely invisible to anyone standing anywhere at all near to the building.

If you image google either One Kemble Street or Park Tower Knightsbridge, what you mostly get are these close-up views, with all the roof clutter out of sight.  It’s like those who own these buildings care very much about the impression the buildings give to passers-by, and most especially to those who actually go into the building, but do not care about how the buildings look to the rest of London.  They probably figure that nobody really sees these buildings, except from nearby where you can’t miss them.  But from a distance, and now that the architectural fashion that gave birth to them has been replaced by other fashions, they just, to most eyes, fade into the general background architectural clutter which is London itself.  If there is clutter on top of them, well, that’s London for you.  London, like all big cities these days, abounds in roof clutter.

I don’t know.  I’m still trying to get my head around these thoughts.  Maybe it’s just convention.  On stage appearances matter, and offstage appearances do not.  When it comes to how things look, the side walls of these buildings count.  They’re on stage.  Their roofs do not count.  They’re off stage.

Monday July 31 2017

Today I followed England beating South Africa at the Oval, and listened to some of the BBC live radio commentary.  Today they did a prank on Boycott, telling him that the ICC was going to mess about with the classification of certain cricket matches in the past, declaring them no longer to have been first class, meaning that Boycott’s famous Headingley hundredth first class hundred was now only his ninety ninth first class hundred. Apartheid, etc.  Boycott believed it all, as did I, and was not a happy man, as was not I.  But they made it up.  Ha ha.  Boycs had to just shrug it off, but I bet he wasn’t best pleased.  As wasn’t I.

I don’t tune into Test Match Special to be told deliberate lies.  This kind of thing is only excusable if it’s the morning of April 1st.  There’s far too much of these kinds of lies maskerading as jokes on the telly.  Now, it seems to be spreading to the radio.  I mean, what next?  Made up cricket scores?  Anouncing that England have won when actually they lost?  Only kidding!  Gotcha!  Bollocks to that.

Coincidentally, later this evening I watched a rerun of Room 101, where one of the guests urged the oblivionising of the excuse of saying only joking.  The claim is that saying “only joking” makes everything that preceded this excuse, no matter what, alright.  I agreed with the Room 101 guest.  No, it doesn’t.  One of these days someone is going to have his head bashed in with a nearby implement following such behaviour, and it is going to be well-deserved.  Also, I trust, recorded for radio or better, television.

A much funnier bit of cricket radio, I thought, was yesterday, when they had father and son Surrey legends Micky and Alec Stewart on.  They’ve just named the Oval pavilion after Micky.  Plus, Micky Stewart recalled his days in the triumphant Surrey team of the nineteen fifties, which I recall vividly as a kid.  They prepared spinning pitches especially for Laker and Lock, apparently.  All the counties had pitches to suit their own bowlers, in those far off days.

Anyway, when the now distinctly elderly Micky was about to leave the commentary box, one of the commentators said: “You won’t be with us much longer.” i.e. much longer with them, in the box.  The commentator had in mind that the answer to the final question he was about to ask needed to be brief.  But before the commentator could clarify his rather unfortunate way of saying what he had been trying to say, and quick as a flash, Micky said: “I feel okay.” Much mirth, including in my kitchen.

“I feel okay” was certainly the meaning of what Micky Stewart said, but maybe those weren’t his exact words.  There are lots of other recordings of BBC cricket stuff, but I couldn’t find any recording of this exquisite exchange at the BBC cricket website.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, merely that I couldn’t find it.  I hope that such a recording does exist because this exchange deserves to outlive the man who supplied its lightning quick punch line.  Micky Stewart was making a joke about his own imminent death, not inflicting any cruelties or lies on anyone else.

Saturday July 29 2017

Digital photography has completely transformed graffiti, by making each item of graffiti easily photoable, before the next one comes along and superimposes itself upon this one.  All “artistic” graffiti can survive, in digital form.  It thus makes more sense than it did (and it doesn’t matter how much sense that was, merely that it increases) to do arty graffiti.

So now here comes the hypothesis, along approximately similar lines: that digital photography is making New York skyscrapers taller and thinner, by making the views that you see from them more valuable, because digitally photoable.  Well, that isn’t a surprise, because having written that, I summarised it into the title of this posting.

imageI found myself thinking this when I went from a report about how a tall thin New York skyscraper project has stalled (allegedly because one of the parties failed to realise how expensive New York construction cranes are), to a not-so-recent article about tall thin New York skyscrapers in general.

Key quote, from “Skyscraper Museum creator and director” Carol Willis:

“The unprecedented per-square-foot sales price – from $4,000 to as much as $11,000 for these exclusive condos with their trophy views – makes them very profitable for developers, even though they are also enormously expensive to build.”

I am not saying that I know how valuable “trophy views” are or were, nor that I know how much the ease of photoing them has increased that value.  I simply assert that this value, in New York, has increased, because of digital photography.  Do you think it hasn’t?  Do you think that digital photography has decreased that value?  Perhaps the latter, for some.  But for most people, surely not.

That being so, you would expect skyscrapers to get taller and thinner, to provide more views and better views than previously.

It makes sense that the impact of digital photography in the form of taller and thinner skyscrapers would happen in a city that offers great views in all directions, and views (see the graffiti thoughts above) that are constantly changing, like New York.

Nor, by the way, am I saying that this is the only reason why New York skyscrapers are getting taller and thinner.  I am sure there are a lot of other reasons, like: only tiny sites being available these day, zoning laws changing to allow greater tallness and thinness, technology ditto, a general rise in demand caused by New York being a good place to live, billionaires getting richer, and many other such imaginable reasons.  I merely assert that digital photography is one of these reasons.

Photo of 432 Park Avenue (designed by the Walkie Talkie guy) when it was under construction, here.