Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Katherine James on Cricinfo just said it didn't rain in Port Elizabeth on February 24th until after lunch
Alison Hendricks on Feline ephemera
A Cowardly Citizen on "In order to comply with Google's regulations ..."
Darren on The good done by the Apple Newton
Darren on Don't judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
Michael Jennings on The good done by the Apple Newton
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Tatyana on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Katherine James on A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
Katherine James on 3D printed baby in the womb
Most recent entries
- Cricinfo just said it didn’t rain in Port Elizabeth on February 24th until after lunch
- Christopher Seaman on conducting
- Under Blackfriars Bridge
- Feline ephemera
- The good done by the Apple Newton
- 3D printed baby in the womb
- A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
- Ashes Lag recovery continues
- A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
- “In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
- Blue wind
- Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
- Me trying to tell Norman Foster and Richard Rogers apart
- I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
- The Met swoops on the Adams Family
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Category archive: How the mind works
Christopher Seaman, in his book Inside Conducting (pp. 89-90):
If you truly love a work, you’re bound to feel emotionally involved while you’re conducting it, and if this doesn’t get across to the musicians you’ll get a cold performance. Some conductors need to use bigger gestures than others to communicate with an orchestra. It takes great aptitude and long experience to pour your heart out yet still maintain the necessary composure. Professional musicians don’t need a good conductor to be over-demonstrative in order to pick up his musical ideas and feelings. I sometimes tell students who thrash around ineffectively with paroxysms of emotion that they’re meant to be cooking the music, not eating it. (The French term for conductor is chef d’orchestre, but that’s a coincidence.) James Levine is reputed to have said, “My tears only hurt my ability to make the audience cry.” And Richard Strauss said to Rudolf Schwarz, “Don’t sweat – let the orchestra sweat. Don’t weep – let the public weep!”
I came across an approving reference to the bit about “cooking the music, not eating it” in a review of this book in the BBC Music Magazine, November 2013 issue.
I do like how you can chase these things up properly nowadays.
Taken by me, Thursday evening:
This was definitely the best picture I took during that little session, between leaving the meeting at the Rose and Crown and arriving at Blackfriars Tube on the other side of the river, but it always takes me a while to be able to see which are the best. I think it is because I need to forget entirely about which ones I had highest hopes for at the time.
Yesterday I did something that is often rather hard. I photographed some wind. Any idiot who can video (a category of idiot that does not really include me – although I hope to be changing that Real Soon Now) can video wind. You video trees swaying. Roof clutter swaying. Things being blown around. Whatever. But how do you photo the wind? Answer you photo its static dislocative (my word processor says that isn’t a word – it is now) effects. But these effects are rather rare. What you need is something like sails on boats, or some kind of urban substitute for sails on boats. Yesterday, when on my way to Victoria Station, I encountered just such a substitute.
Did you detect a whiff of verbosity in the first paragraph above? If so you would, I think, be right. This is because I was writing verbiage to go next to a big vertical picture, verbiage that needs to be enough to prevent the picture impinging upon the previous posting.
The first two paragraphs of the above verbiage did not suffice to accomplish this task. Hence these final five paragraphs.
And hence the fact that they are five paragraphs rather than one.
I was just making sure.
I can’t tell until I post it, whether this problem has been sorted, so I am now over-reacting.
A while back I did a posting about an acquaintance of mine, called Victor. He had been attending my Last Friday meetings, but I was forgetting that his name is Victor. So, I did a posting, with a picture of him next to a picture of a Handley Page Victor airplane, to make me remember that his name is Victor. It worked.
So now, I am doing another posting to solve another name problem I have long had, which is knowing the difference between trendy Brit Architect Norman Foster and trendy Brit Architect Richard Rogers.
So here they are. Norman Foster on the left, …:
I am well aware that these two men look quite different. But when looking at one, in a photo or on the telly, I am unable to imagine the other, or know which is the one I am looking at, Richard Rogers or Norman Foster.
Foster first. Ffffffff. Rogers on the right. Rrrrrrrr. And I’ve given this posting a title which will enable me to get back to it easily, if ever there is more confusion in the future.
If this doesn’t work, sterner measures may be needed, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Mick Hartley’s latest little clutch of photos illustrates one of the things I particularly like about his photography, which is his relish of colour. He even points spells this out in the title of his posting. I have nothing against black and white photography, especially in the decades when it was that or nothing, and neither does Mick Hartley. But there is something rather fetishistic and fake-arty about how black and white photography continues to be worshipped, long after colour photography became easy to do.
Often colour is deeply embedded in the story that the picture tells, as in this photo. This is not one of Hartley’s own, but he constantly picks up great photos done by others on his radar (this one being number nine of these twelve):
No prizes for seeing why I particularly like that one.
But it’s not just the photography aspect that I like. I also like that the anonymity angle is also covered. I more and more tend to prefer anonymity in the pictures I take myself of other photographers, and post here. Often it happens because the camera covers the face of the photographer I am photoing.
I went rootling through my archives for a snap of someone whose face is partially hidden, and found this snap, of which I am very proud. Here, the anonymity job, albeit only partially, is done by a big pair of sunglasses.
I also like the colours in that photo. Snobbery about blackness and whiteness, and especially about blackness, also extends to what colour cameras ought to be, doesn’t it?
I don’t know how it works for you, but when I am waiting for a bus, I can think of nothing except the bus. When will it arrive? I need to know in advance, or I might not realise it has come and then miss it, by reading a book and ignoring it, for instance. So, I squint obsessively into the distant place where the bus will first be visible.
When a bus does appear, the next question is: Is that the right bus? I need to know. But, my eyesight is terrible. I can just about see that it’s a bus. But what number bus? Is it a number that will suit me?
Last Tuesday evening, I was waiting for a bus to arrive to take me to Chateau Samizdata. For several long minutes, no bus appears, to replace the one I had just missed by about fifteen seconds. Finally, one does appear, emerging from Parliament Square and preparing itself to make its way up Victoria Street, about half away along which I was standing in wait. The usual paroxysm of infuriated uncertainty begins. Will it be a bus numbered in a way that suits me and my intended journey. The bus approaches with its inevitable and inevitably ridiculous slowness, waiting with an absurd deference to legality at the traffic lights next to New Scotland Yard, by which time I am finally able to discern that the number on the front is not the kind of number I want. The wrong numbered bus arrives, and continues up Victoria Street, with me not on it.
Then, another bus appears in the far distance, and that is when inspiration strikes. I realise that certainty regarding the suitability or unsuitability of the bus will come a whole lot sooner if I make use of my camera’s superior eyesight, compared to mine. So, I cranked up the zoom to its maximum, and took this photograph:
That won’t win any photo-of-the-year competitions, but I had my answer just about straight away, what with my camera being able to zero in on the destination and number on its little digital screen. Yes, a good bus. It was another minute or more before I would have been able to confirm this information with my mere eyes, and that was a minute during which infuriated uncertainty was replaced by contented anticipation.
So, another impact of digital photography. Bus stops, for me, are now slightly more fun and slightly less annoying.
This posting also explains why I so greatly appreciate those electronic bus stop signs that tell you exactly what buses are due, approximately when.
You were not slow. I am in the habit of arranging blog posts on a daily schedule, but fumbled the date and 19 became 9 so it appeared to be ancient when it was in fact early.
You must have seen it rather quickly, I’m flattered.
Actually what I saw quickly was the automatic email that I automatically got from Libertarian Home about the latest posting there. I clicked on it, read the Sermon, was impressed, shoved it up at Samizdata, then blogged about the process here. In among all that, I noticed that the posting was dated Feb 9th, and mentioned that I had been rather slow to notice it in the posting here, but not there. All this in the space of about an hour and a half.
The upshot of which is a posting that now declares itself to have arrived at Libertarian Home on Feb 19, but which has meanwhile already become the SQotD for Feb 18.
A while back, I wrote here, at the start of a posting about Manx Cats, this:
Inevitably, this blog, if it persists much longer, will become more and more concerned with the experience of getting old, ...
That posting was about the thing of “sort of” knowing stuff, as you get older. I “sort of” knew that Manx cats don’t have tales. You vaguely remember having once known something. That kind of thing.
This posting now is also about that aging process. Because, when the above email arrived, I should have realised that something bizarre was happening over at LH with regard to dates. I mean, if this Rob Waller Sermon had really been up for the last ten days, how come I had missed it all that time, even though I regularly visit LH? And how come I was only now receiving an automatic email about it?
I never consciously thought it through, but my “sort of” thought process was that either LH was confused or I was, and I just assumed without thinking about it that the confusion must be mine, on account of me having now entered the years of frequent and soon perpetual confusion, about everything. You are now reading prose written by a man who has started to forget, while in the bath, whether he has stood up and washed his private parts yet, or not yet, and who has hence started to do this either twice or not at all. Simon Gibbs, on the other hand, is a smart young guy. He has a smart young wife and a smart young home. He has a paid job and a life. That he might have got his blog posting dates in a muddle just did not occur to me.
However, when I copied and pasted it into my word processor, it started out looking like this:
How did that happen?
In my youth, I would have panicked, but with age comes experience, and faced with dramas like this, I now do nothing, and then do the sensible thing. Which in this case was to try reformatting in “Default Formatting”, which at once turned it into normal writing again.
Presumably, my copying had picked up on some weird Bonzo Dooh Dah Dog Band font of some kind. But how?
I thought it must be that one called “Dingbats”, but it turns out it was “Open Symbol”, I think. How do the above hieroglyphics get called Open Symbol? (I was going to put higher oh gliffix, and now I have, but in the age of google and its “did you mean …?” feature) there is no excuse for such behaviour.)
Is there a rock band called the Dingbats? Of course there is! Is there a rock band called the Open Symbols? My googling says not. Shame.
I think that this piece by Megan McArdle, entitled Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators is good.
Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.
This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not - indeed, probably won’t - be the best anymore.
If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
That last pararaph certainly rings bells for me. Which is why I find that the cure for blogger’s block is the opposite of self-esteem. Self-esteem, as McArdle says, gets in the way. Self-abasement can get you going again. I’m a crap writer, so anything I do manage to put now won’t make me any worse. And hey, it may even cheer me up by making me better!
As for that thing about having it too easy in school, I recall Geoff Boycott saying the exact same thing about cricketers. The ones who were effortlessly good as kids, and who therefore didn’t have to scrap, later often came second best to others who did scrap when they were kids.
Of course, sportsmen don’t procrastinate, because they have a set timetable when they have to perform. Instead they just do badly.
And I also recall Malcolm Gladwell throwing older brothers into the mix, in one of his books. Ace basketballer Michael Jordan had an elder brother, who he had to scrap against when young. I think it was Jordan.
I wrote this just before going to bed, even though I have had the whole day to do something better.
Guided by the excellent advice of my mostly silently lurking commentariat ("Friday Night Smoke” in particular has a way of supplying extraordinarily welcome and pertinent comments, with gaps between them of several months), I got myself this wonderful new computer screen. The main feature of this new screen is that, thanks to that advice, and unlike my previous computer screen, it is IPS.
IPS (In-plane switching) is a screen technology used for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). It was designed to solve the main limitations of the twisted nematic field effect (TN) matrix LCDs in the late 1980s, such as relatively high response time, strong viewing angle dependence and low-quality color reproduction. In-plane switching involves arranging and switching the molecules of the liquid crystal (LC) layer between the glass substrates. This is done in a plane parallel to these glass plates.
My IPS screen is at its considerable best, no matter what direction I look at it from. Unlike the earlier screen, where I needed to be directly in front of it to get a good result.
But, my old computer screen, just like the new one, was on my desk, right in front of me. So, although my new computer screen was a great improvement, I did not get the full force of the improvement, massive though that improvement was.
But now, when I look at my television, and then back at my computer screen. My television is not at the same level as my eyes. It is higher up than that. Now, next to my super new computer screen, it seems like everything on my television is permanently in the dark:
At first I just wanted to take and show that one picture. But then I thought, what if I photo the television screen from right in front of it, higher up? So, I raised my camera above my head, using its tilting screen to go on seeing the picture, and here is what suddenly happened:
Suddenly Charlie Sheen, one of Two And A Half Men (before Charlie Sheen got fired and his character killed), is suddenly to be seen, as clear as day.
Actually, in the bit linked to, Charlie Sheen’s exit from the show is described thus:
Even though Sheen’s antics involving Two and a Half Men have been continuously reported in every news medium, it’ll be interesting to see how violently killing off one of the series’ focal characters will be received by its viewers. While it can be said that television viewers are extremely loyal, the overt decimation of Charlie Harper may leave a bad taste in the mouth of those looking to watch an actual comedy series.
The word “decimate” is now routinely misused, to the point where it has pretty much lost its original meaning, of one in ten Roman soldiers in a legion being executed, when that legion misbehaved. But I have never before heard of an individual being “decimated”, overtly or otherwise. But I digress.
The point is, now I want a new television screen. There is nothing “wrong” with the old screen. It works as advertised. I just don’t like it any more.
Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures. He chooses his favourite. I choose this one:
One of the speculations I offered in my recent talk about the impact of digital photography was that digital photography has greatly encouraged this kind of temporary art.
Recently I heard tell of some kind of performance art event where cameras were forbidden. My googling skills did not enable me to track down any report of such an event, but I am guessing that one of their motives was to avoid the creation of an object, which someone might later buy, and then (perhaps for a great deal more money) sell. And I further guess that the “artists” in question were being deliberately contrary, as artists typically like to be these days, and chose to do the daft, counter-intuitive thing. The obvious response to temporary art is to take pictures of it, to make it permanent. So, said the artists, let’s forbid that, and be different.
But most people who do something “creative” want some kind of record or product of their efforts, something to show for it. Literally, some thing, to show. And the fact that it is now so totally easy to create such things, such records, and communicate them far and wide to friends and family, real and virtual, must surely increase the attraction of doing such temporary art. Art, that is to say, that in the past would have been temporary, but which can now be made permanent. See also: painting, sand castles, ice sculptures.
As to what these particular people are communicating with their body assemblages, what it speaks to me of is the futility of life in the world now, for young people, educated, unemployable, unneeded, probably in debt.
I think it just possible that I may have invented that clutch of blogging phrases involving the word “quota” - “quota post”, “quota photo”, or (my favourite, I think) ”quota quote”. I rather doubt it. More likely I invented such phrases simultaneously with several other bloggers. But, if I did invent this quota stuff, kudos to me. Either way, I do genuinely suspect that 6k at least caught this usage from me. This being because, like me at the moment (although not always), he (always) likes to stick up something every day. Despite him having a life, a job, a family, and other such peripheral blogging paraphernalia.
Often, it’s a quota photo. Like, for instance, this one, …:
I had been trying for a while to work out just what it was that I found so particularly appealing about this snap. What was it that I found so particularly … particular? Then, I got it. It looks to me, not so much like a real sea, as like a static, plasticated sea, as made by a really, really good maker of models.
The sea looks like it is made not of sea, but of solidified glue, or that see-through plastic stuff, called whatever it’s called. Throw a tiny ball bearing at this solid sea, and the ball bearing would just bounce off, with no splashing, and making the same noise it would make if bouncing off a table. The immobile sea would remain immobile, untouched, impervious.
The effect of a solid object rather than a regular sea is, I think, partly the result of the lighting. The effect is more like the way a lamp is reflected in a shiny table top than the way we usually see light on the sea.
But most of all, it looks somewhat weird because it’s a photograph. Photographs freeze moving objects into static objects, and sometimes this makes them look entirely different and unrealistic. A video of the sea would look sea-like. Videoed sea swallows ball-bearings, just like regular sea. Just not this sea, as seen and immobilised by 6k.
All this because 6k likes to have something up, often. And that’s the point of quota posting, for those of us who are suited to it. If you have reasonable taste, then the mere fact of starting doing a blog posting ensures not only that something will go up, but that, really quite often, something really quite good will go up. Like this photo, which I consider to be very good indeed. Often what takes the time, with blogging as with life, is not doing it, but getting round to doing it. The actual doing is often quickly done, and often very well done.
Some of my best blog postings have happened because I wanted to put up any old something, however bad, and it turned out really good.
So Kevin Pietersen has been sacked by England, for not being a team player, being obnoxious, friendless, or whatever it was. Still a good player, but not a team player. The gory details will presumably all emerge, soon enough.
But the really important question is one that nobody seems to be asking, obsessed as they are with England, England losing the Ashes in humiliating fashion, and so forth and so on. Will Pietersen now be able to play more often for Surrey? Or, will he be so busy roaming the earth playing T20 cricket that he won’t have any more time to spare on Surrey than he has had in the last few years, ever since he joined them.
A couple of years ago, Surrey were in the throes (sp?) of the Maynard drama and the Ramprakash retirement, nobody was playing very well, and in particular nobody was batting very well. My theory is that when tragedy strikes a sports team, the natural reaction of the other players is to play badly, as a mark of respect. To play well, in the immediate aftermath of tragedy, would be to display insensitivity, selfishness, greater concern for one’s own career than about the tragedy.
But Kevin Pietersen, being Kevin Pietersen, is impervious to such emotional atmospheres. So, some crazy kid gets hyped up on drink and drugs and gets clobbered to death by a train? Although I hardly knew the guy, I am supposed to be all bent out of shape? Forget it. So out Pietersen goes and makes 234 not out, …:
This, by any standards, was an extraordinary innings. It was not just that Pietersen hit the fastest first-class century of the season - 93 balls with 13 fours and three sixes - or that he went on to hit the fastest double-century of the season - 170 balls, 25 fours and seven sixes - but that he bullied the bowling - the bowling of the county champions, no less - with a dominance rarely witnessed in the professional game. It was an innings that would have made Sir Viv Richards proud. And there really isn’t higher praise than that.
… which was, actually, the exact thing that the Surrey cricket team then needed. A ruthless bastard prepared to go on playing cricket, really well, when all about him were shuffling about staring at their feet, as if at a seemingly endless funeral, which mentally speaking they actually still were.
I bet Surrey would be very, very glad to have as much of Kevin Pietersen as he is now willing to bestow upon them. And what is more, at a time when he will be in the mood to inflict maximum embarrassment on England, for dumping him. To this end, merely thrashing sixes in T20 tournaments in faraway countries will not suffice. What he will want will be huge first class scores, in England, at exactly the time when England are being bowled out for smaller scores by visiting test teams with bowlers no better than English county bowling, and all in England for every cricket fan and cricket person in England to see and talk about and chortle about.
LATER: What Pietersen brings to the IPL.
Late last year I decided that since my blogging software puts a small gap between lines of photos automatically, I would put a small gap between pictures horizontally. This was easily done, with the html clutch of symbols to say space, which I do not know how to reproduce here, because all they do is create a space.
So anyway, I worked away at the slightly reduced sizes that pictures would need to be to fit in sideways, carefully checking that what looked like the final answer to two side by side, three in a horizontal row, four in a horizontal row, etc., would all work.
Unfortunately, I did not give sufficient attention to the tool which magnifies or diminishes my blog from its basic 100 percent size. The problem, I later discovered was the 110 percent setting.
In this posting from last December, for instance, it produced results like this:
Yesterday I went back through my archives, with the magnification set at 110 percent, and reduced the size of every little picture by one pixel, after which everything fitted, for all percentage reductions or increases. Luckily I have not been doing this horizontal space thing that long.
You want to look your best, and all now should be well:
There has to be an easier way to do this kind of thing, but with me and blogging, in fact with me and computers generally, whatever I can get to work is what I do. Like a rat in a maze, once I have found a way around, however circuitous, which nevertheless gets me there, that is the way I go from then on.
Such are the little dramas of blogging.