Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Why I like Cricinfo
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Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
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Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Brian Micklethwait on Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
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Most recent entries
- The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
- Brexit graphics
- Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
- Lioness eats camera
- An MP murdered
- A great new bridge in Iran
- Lions - Bears - Blackhawks
- An electric car recharging itself in The Cut
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Media and journalism
First, this, which was the graphic on the front page of today’s pro-Remain Daily Mirror, and reproduced at Samizdata, which Natalie Solent reckons sends a somewhat ambiguous message. I agree. Because REMAIN is in the biggest letters, it looks like it could be saying that if you vote REMAIN, you’ll be sucked into a black hole. As you will, by the way, if enough people do this. This is indeed the fate that awaits us all, in the event of a REMAIN victory. One of the reasons why this graphic only works when misunderstood, is that when misunderstood, it becomes true!
The thing is, the EU is a lot nearer to being like a black hole than us leaving the EU is. For that message, they needed something more like an endless desert, or a huge tundra, or maybe some grim maritime scene, doom-laden as far as they eye can see.
The enormity of this decision is, I feel, appropriately reflected in the deranged graphics which occurred when this picture got loaded up. Samizdata usually centres pictures automatically, and also makes them smaller automatically, if they need to be smaller. That doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment.
In the comment thread on that posting, I mentioned that it was raining. Which it was, torrentially. But alas, it soon cleared up, thereby not dampening down the London (= Remain) vote as much it might have if it had rained with less violence but greater steadiness. I mean, they even managed to have a shortened game of cricket at Lord’s, after the rain had stopped.
And on the right there, Elizabeth Hurley, who will have voted Leave by now, that being the picture she Twittered yesterday along with her support for Leave. There she stands, wearing only high-healed sandals and a Union Jack cushion, or that’s how it looks. Thankyou Guido. She was probably right that this would get noticed, and would aid the cause she favours. But I bet the Leavers have been circulating their own interpretations of this rather odd picture. Is the picture recent, I wonder, or does it date from way back?
At least it is upbeat and optimistic in atmosphere, unlike that black hole.
I love to write about digital photography, and have been tracking the selfie phenomenon since long before the mere word was invented, way back in the days when I referred to digital photographers as Billion Monkeys (which I don’t anymore (because some people thought I meant Muslims)). (But also way back in the days when I didn’t worry about showing the faces of strangers, the way I worry now.) And I also enjoy often public sculpture, especially of the more recent and less abstract sort.
So, I love this:
There have been complaints, of course, such as from all the commenters there at the Daily Mail. God forbid that vulgar people should find this vulgar statue so much fun. Sculpture is Art, and Art isn’t supposed to be amusing.
One of the Daily Mail’s other photos is of bloke photoing himself with his own mobile, in front of the selfie statue. But I prefer the more subtle response that consists of simply being photoed joining in, thus:
For once, the statueness, so to speak, of the statue, the fact that it is made of monochrome metal rather than realistically painted to look like real people, works really well, because it contrasts so nicely with the real people. It helps that it seems to be exactly life size.
One of the idiot grumpy commenters at the Daily Mail said that Sugar Land is a stupid name and they were obviously desperate for some attention, which they have never had until now. But wasn’t there a Goldie Hawn movie called The Sugarland Express, or some such thing? Yes there was. Early Spielberg. But, is Sugar Land the same as Sugarland?
According to a later Daily Mail report, it isn’t only their grumpy commentariat that objects to this statue. Could this be because a lot of people heard about this story partly through the Daily Mail, and those people being the sort that hears about things via the Daily Mail, immediately started objecting, because they object to everything. Whereas, the ones who liked it hadn’t heard about it so much.
I first found about the statue via Amusing Planet, so of course I was already self-identified as the sort who would be amused. It was just that the Daily Mail had better pictures.
Libertarian Home needs an intro for Mark Littlewood, for a publication they’re doing. Here is a quick profile of Littlewood by me, which I hope may be of some use to LH.
Mark Littlewood is the Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs. There was a time, not so long ago, when the IEA seemed doomed to obscurity or worse. But Littlewood has put in place and now leads a strong team of free market activists, strong on both the academic and media fronts, thus raising the profile of free market ideas both now and in the longer term future.
That may suffice, but here is more, if needed, of a slightly more personal sort.
Of particular note is Littlewood’s appointment of Stephen Davies and Christiana Hambro, in the area of student and young academic outreach. (Stephen Davies addressed Libertarian Home not long after his IEA appointment.)
When Littlewood was first appointed, I was not optimistic about the IEA, but then I heard him speak about his new job, and I became much more hopeful about the IEA’s future. That optimism has not abated.
Hope that helps and is not too late.
One of my regular automatic google-searches is “face recognition”, and just now this has been alerting me to all the various tricks that are coming on stream for making face recognition not work, by putting on make-up, or spectacles, and such like.
Here is my contribution to this discussion:
I know what you’re thinking. Who might that be?
Exactly. Although, if you’re are supercomputer, you have probably worked it out. You have a special programme which tells you to take particular interest in any faces that are trying to not be recognised.
Most of my libertarian friends think that such tech solutions are the front line of this battle. I have long assumed that the world is moving rapidly towards a state where the question of what is X doing at the moment is technologically answerable, and impossible to prevent being answered. For me, among other desirable things, libertarianism is the claim that although we can see X saying or doing something we don’t approve of, we shouldn’t legally prevent him or her from doing that, unless it is really, really bad.
In a world of Total Surveillance by the Big Machine, the proliferation of stupid rules and regulations with no huge moral content becomes a problem like it never used to be. I means rules about things like what you should eat or smoke or, now, say in conversation. Rules like that mean that we can all now be seen and heard breaking such rules. (Okay, maybe not now, maybe not yet, but that’s where things are headed.) And that means that anyone who wants to fuck up your life or my life (for an actual real reason that has bugger all to do with the stupid rule actually being broken) can then do it. Worse, some legislative maniac might demand that anyone that the Big Machine sees breaking this or that rule that he personally is obsessed about, should be automatically fucked over, by the Big Machine, with no human intervention involved. With a big long list of exceptions, like legislators. The Big Machine can’t touch them. Libertarianism has arisen, partly, because it has become ever more necessary to insist on certain principles, principles which were imposed upon the world in former times by sheer ignorance of what other people were getting up to.
The other thing people have to do is develop thicker skins, psychologically speaking I mean, because although legislative pressure is not now a problem for most people, social pressure can become a big problem, for example if you find yourself being mobbed on the internet for some innocuous thing you said or ate. Just because a million idiots on the internet are screeching that you are an idiot, that doesn’t mean you are, or that if you are, it matters. When it does matter, bosses should chill, and not fire people just because the mob is screeching. I applaud, tentatively, the recent tendency to give social media mobsters a going-over, using the same methods on them that they have been using. Who is this mad bitch? What has she (it does often seem to be she) been up to lately? What is her job? Who is her boss? Etc. (In the age of cyber-bullying, I feel that I now understand witchcraft crazes better.)
Another problem is that as something easily mistaken for a state of everyone knowing everything increasingly pertains, that old illusion that everything will accordingly be centrally plannable is likely to keep rearing its very ugly head, and keep on having to be experienced as a disastrous illusion. (More libertarianism.) The point is, everyone doesn’t know everything. Nothing like. We can’t. Our heads aren’t big enough, and even if they were, knowledge is not like that. Everyone can known anything in particular that is easy to know (like where X is just now) that they want to know and ask the Big Machine about. That’s entirely different from actual omniscience.
The tricky thing, Adam says, is how many of his clients insist on secrecy. If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know. Adam must balance his goal of spreading awareness of his company, so he can attract more clients, with the benefits of keeping the public in the dark. If people start to doubt the veracity of crowds, his business might suffer. “Right now, we’re still kind of this secret weapon,” Adam says. “We have the element of surprise. Yeah, you might’ve heard about political candidates paying to bring some extra bodies into their campaign events, but it’s beyond the realm of most people’s imagination that crowds are being deployed in other ways. Nobody is skeptical of crowds. Of course, in five years that could change.”
Indeed it could. And something tells me that this story is going to get very well known, very quickly. “How much are they paying you for this?” is going to be asked, a lot.
A longer term effect is also going to be that genuine protests are liable to look like they’re fake too.
People have been paid, in cash or kind, one way or another, to do this kind of thing for quite a while. All that this guy has done is turn it into a pure, if that’s the word, business.
Former colleagues reveal how, despite his slight figure, Milne had a remarkable habit of refusing to give way in corridors. Over several years, his fellow journalists grew tired of his insistence that oncoming co-workers make way for him. Eventually, one snapped, telling his desk, “I’m not going to do it again. Next time he plays chicken with me, I’m not going to get out of the way.” The whole office waited for the inevitable confrontation. Soon enough, it happened. As Milne walked down a corridor, the six-foot colleague approached from the other direction. They smashed into each other, sending Milne flying, along with the papers he was carrying. “Seumas was in shock,” recalls an onlooker. “No one had ever done that to him before. He expected people to show deference to him.
I still remember a collision of this sort, half a century ago now, that I once inflicted upon an equally impolite person, when we were both at Marlborough. The IP was in the habit of pulling rank on me when we were walking in opposite directions along a certain very narrow footpath, the IP making no effort whatsoever to in any way get out of my way, me having to do all the avoiding. So, one day, I didn’t do any avoiding, and me being shorter than him, I walked my head straight into his chin. I knew the collision was coming but he didn’t, so he got the worst of it. Nothing he could say or do, no matter how vehement, was going to change the fact that he got what he deserved and that we both knew it.
It’s amazing how much of the trouble in the world is caused by male human animals disagreeing with one another about their relative importance in the world.
Kudos to the Real Photographer who contrived to photo an airship in a way that has surely gone viral already:
The applications for the plane are broad, such as transporting cargo, performing surveillance operations, or simply to carrying super-rich tourists through the skies over London. The Guardian reports that two potential uses are monitoring refugees crossing the Mediterranean and acting as a mobile communications network at large sporting events.
A blimp. Can someone tell me how it differs from the blimps that we see already?
First customers, according to the Guardian, will be people like oil sheikhs. I suppose the dream is that the a sector of the more-money-than-sense super-rich will each want one, the way they now want a yacht.
I recently said here that I was finding it to be a pleasure to be contemplating the rise and rise of Donald Trump, but I also said that it was a guilty pleasure, and I really meant that. Mostly, the phrase “guilty pleasure” is used to describe a pleasure that is merely rather uncool, like liking Abba even before the gays did, which is exactly what I did because I liked them as soon as I first heard them win the Eurovision Song Contest, and this despite their absurd trousers. But that’s not a “guilty pleasure”. A guilty pleasure is when you enjoy something immoral, like Donald Trump and Donald Trump doing well. There was never anything morally wrong about Abba, and I never felt in the slightest bit guilty about liking them.
The immorality of Donald Trump is that he is the living embodiment of crony capitalism, and crony capitalism is the problem, not the solution. He might become a good President, but only if he turns over an entirely new leaf and starts believing in non-crony capitalism. This is not impossible. Having been one of these creatures himself, Trump may at least be able to spot other creatures of this genus, and he may decide that whereas being a crony-capitalist was good for him, a super-abundance of crony-capitalists is bad for America.
But why take the chance? Just as likely is that Trump will carry right on being a crony-capitalist, this time by obliging all the other crony-capitalists with little slices of his Presidential power, and charging them each a fee.
Based on what little I know of him, Cruz seems like the least worst Presidential candidate with a serious chance of winning, and now it is starting to look as if he just might win. I said in that earlier piece that Trump was going to walk it, but now it seems he might not even stagger it. Cruz might win. I have liked Cruz ever since I heard an interview someone did with him, during which Cruz revealed that he was enthusiastically pro the Constitution of the United States. Wow, that’s subversive talk, of the kind that I personally like a lot.
Here is how a commenter ("Prince of Whitebread"), on the piece linked to above, puts it:
I would ask the Trump supporters why Trump continues to get press and airtime far in excess of the others. Answer: Trump is the Candidate the MSM wants to face Hillary. The PajamaBoy Press soils their onesies every time they contemplate Ted Cruz debating Abuela Hillary. They know he’d destroy her with logic, facts, the Constitution, and her own gymnast principles.
“Abuela” is, I believe, the Spanish for Granny.
So, are the hoards of Trump enthusiasts now starting to agree with such anti-Trumpery, and to switch to the man that the establishment truly hates and truly fears? Would Cruz winning the Republican nomination, and in due course the Presidency, be a non-guilty pleasure? Or is he just another version of the establishment? Is he terrible too?
LATER: Roger L. Simon:
Which leads me to the real topic: Trumpophrenia. I suffer from it and it’s only getting worse. I change my opinion about Donald almost every five minutes - and I can’t be the only one. There may be millions of us.
I am not alone.
I am greatly enjoying the progress of Soon-To-Be President Trump. File under: guilty pleasures. My libertarian friends mostly express horror at Trump’s irresistible rise, and his terrible opinions, and his terrible hair, but surely you never really know what you’ll get with a new President. During the Thatcher years some of the people who most agreed with me did very little that I liked, while others, impeccably governmental sorts, who were just doing what seemed sensible to them, did quite a lot of good things. See: privatisation. Maybe Trump will turn out like that. Maybe he will even decide to have dignified hair.
Trump seems to me like he’s going to be the USA’s first Television President, by which I mean someone who got to be President via television. Didn’t they have one of them in Brazil not so long ago? Some guy who had got well known by being some kind of TV talent show host, or some such thing, and then, to the horror of the Horrified Classes parlayed that into being President. It was probably a disaster, but Brazil usually is. And now, Brazil has one of the strongest libertarian movements in the world, does it not? Maybe that’s how libertarianism wins. First you have a crazy TV guy, and then libertarianism. I can hope.
Anyway, Trump. This piece about Trump by Scott Adams is a good laugh, as are comments on it like this:
I liked the one in Arkansas when the manager of the facility announced that Trump broke the all time attendance record set by ZZ Top in 1978. lol
He is certainly a canny operator, as Adams explains very cannily, cataloguing Trump’s many previous successes, such as a best selling book on how to negotiate.
Part of the skill of getting the Republican nomination is to behave like a guy the Mainstream Media are confident they can easily destroy, in due course. Which means that instead of destroying you straight away, they destroy all the other fellows, who they thought were stronger than you, which by definition they can’t have been, can they? You have to be like Russia, and look either much weaker than you are, so the media don’t bother with you, and then much stronger than you are, so the media then grovel, as they do when they face a force of nature, in other words a force bigger than them.
I could of course be quite wrong, but I reckon Trump is going to walk it, when he gets around to dealing with whichever car crash of a candidate the Dems stick in front of him. And it will either be Clinton or that old socialist guy, the ones already in the race. Nobody else will want to join, because the prize for winning the Dem nomination will be getting Trumped all over, and who needs that? Those two old crocks both joined the race while Trump was still in his ridiculous phase.
Last Friday evening, at that meeting, I talked with Perry de Havilland about writing for Samizdata. I told him that I have recently been taking longer to finish my postings, to get them nearer to completely right. He compared blogging to rock ‘n’ roll. The clear implication being that blogging, like rock ‘n’ roll, is most truly itself when done, so to speak, live.
Each to his own. I now find that one of the symptoms of advancing years is that I am no longer as confident as I once was about the first thing that comes out of my mouth, or about what emerges from my tapping fingers. I prefer to have several reads-through of it, with gaps of time between them to think more.
Such polishing is not new, for me. I used to do it to stuff I wrote for the Libertarian Alliance. Stuff like this piece, which Patrick Crozier kindly linked back to, in one of the comments on the first of those two recent Samizdata pieces. As Patrick said, what that earlier piece said was very similar to what the Samizdata piece said. Appropriately enough, both pieces (separated by a quarter of century) were about how reluctant people are to change the basic way that they think about things.
Then as now, such polishing did not make my writing perfect. But it did make it quite a lot better.
Well, now, I seem to be reverting to writing more considered and revised essays, short or not so short, rather than “blog postings”. Rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game, and I do not feel comfortable writing in that manner. I used to. If Perry de Havilland still does (and he does), I am very happy for him. But it seems now not to suit me so much.
However, I do actually think that rock ‘n’ roll is now less appropriate. The novelty of just anyone being able to shovel stuff onto the internet has now passed. The mainstream media have now thoroughly internetted themselves, and the “any old stuff” approach (such as prevails here) does not get a blog like Samizdata the traffic that it used to get. I think that some of us at least should be polishing. More and more, my role model is becoming the late Findlay Dunachie. Not in the sense that I intend only to review books from now on. I mean that I find myself wanting to write more in the way he wrote, more thoughtfully, in a way that is more considered.
I am not now deciding to write differently. (I promise nothing.) I am merely noting that this is what seems now to be happening. An earlier stage in the change of attitude I am describing was earlier described in this posting here.
By which I mean, what seems to be happening at Samizdata. Here will continue to be the impulsive, sloppy, last minute, thinking aloud, what you get is what you get operation that it has always been. I did a little polishing of this piece, but not a lot.
Yes, a truly wonderful The Wires! sculpture gets long overdue recognition from Dezeen, on account of a lump of religious concrete being put next to it, by an architect.
The photographer clearly loves The Wires!:
But Dezeen’s writers are under strict orders.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful and intricate The Wires! are:
The rule is set in concrete.
Don’t mention The Wires!
Today I was out and about in the grim greyness of Winter London, with only very occasional patches of blue in the sky.
Had I had only these three photos in their original versions to go on, I might eventually have pieced together that David Bowie had died:
But I had already clocked this news from reading this posting at Mick Hartley’s. Viewers who feel strongly that all commemorations of the recently deceased should be in good taste are urged not to click on the middle picture. Whether the original you get by clicking is “what he would have wanted”, I do not know. One thing I know for sure is that it is not what I wanted. But it is what it is, and I had no other more suitable substitutes.
Later I took a more self-consciously commemorative photo to recognise Bowie’s death:
I’m not sure that it makes perfect sense to wish that a dead rock star should “rest in peace”, though. Surely at least the occasional burst of raucous rock and roll would also be in order. But, they only meant to say the right thing, and if not that, then what? I don’t know.
My personal feeling about Bowie, as with many rock and rollers, was that I paid very little attention indeed to the words as anything other than an excuse to make a satisfying musical racket. Also costumes don’t impress me, for better or for worse. I love the music of Abba, despite their preposterous outfits. And I love the Bowie tracks that I love, regardless of what “persona” he happened to be adopting at the time. It’s the backing that I love, and Bowie was really good at making this happen interestingly, I think.
What did “Suffragette City” mean? I never bothered to find out and I probably never will, but I love the sound it makes. “When You’re A Boy” made a bit more sense (to me), but it still came as a surprise (to me) when I saw a video of some women dancing along to it, who turned out all to be Bowie in drag. What was that about? Some sort of rumination on the socialised nature of sex-roles? Just a tease, to get the newspapers to denounce it and do the publicity for free? Probably the latter. Bowie was a dab hand at that.
City A.M. Is so excited that the headline writer, as of now, has decided that there is only one i in ambitious:
That headline is recycled here in case they correct it. Thereby establishing that the (more) mainstream media behave just as I do, when it comes to correcting their mistakes. Or else, alerting you to a permanently wrong headline, whichever. And I’m guessing that even if they do correct the headline, they may feel obliged to keep the link spelling as it started out.
But more to the point, this ambtious plan refers to driverless flying cars, driverless flying cars that look like this:
When I first set eyes on that picture, my reaction was: That’s not a car, that’s a drone. City A.M. agrees:
The futuristic, if slightly terrifying sounding vehicle, has been unveiled by Chinese tech company Ehang and manages to combine the top two trends predicted to dominate this year’s biggest tech show - drones and driverless cars - and claims to be the first Autonomous Aerial Vehicle in the world. Or, in other words, a driverless flying car.
Are you sceptical? I am. But City A.M. continues:
Ehang claims the 184 is already at the point of becoming a commercially selling vehicle, albeit with a £130,000-£200,000 price tag. Belive it or not, it’s not just a concept - it’s already preparing for pre-orders and plans to ship to customers this year.
Well, I’m not sure that I do “belive” it, but I would be fascinated to be proved wrong.
Bizarre new forms of transport are definitely the Thing of the New Year, here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. I haven’t been especially looking for such things. They have merely presented themselves to me. But now, perhaps (although I promise nothing), I will start looking for such things. Anyone come across any other crazy transport stuff lately?
LATER: I googled “ambtious”, and was informed of a horse called “Ambtious Dragon”. So, some kind of Chinese neologism? But it turned out that this was a headline misprint also.
Last Tuesday I attended the A(dam) S(mith) I(nstitute) Xmas Party, to which I had been looking forward. Sadly, when I got there (and this is nothing whatsoever at all to do with the quality of the ASI Xmas Party) I found that I was in a decidedly anti-social mood. Grumpy Old Men are not a cliché for nothing.
But before making my gracelessly early exit, I did manage to strike up a conversation with a young woman fresh out of studying the history of media censorship, at Cambridge. This, she said, “could not be a more libertarian subject”. True. Good. More and more libertarians seem to be emerging from universities these days, in considerable part thanks to the ASI.
Me carrying a camera caused her to mention that she too was keen on photography. I asked her what is the best photo you’ve ever taken? And she said, tapping away at her iPhone: probably one of these. Definitely a cat person. I reckoned it a bit too uncouth to be photoing her, but I did photo her iPhone, which is also good when the light is a bit dodgy, as it was that evening.
Later, I cursed myself for not remembering to ask Anton how his expedition to the USA had gone. But, as I keep having to remind myself, this is the twenty first century. You can look things like this up. And sure enough, at Anton’s Twitter Feed, I found this ("U can now watch my presentation (of thesis for the very first time!) at Columbia’s Center for Capitalism & Society: ..."), which takes you straight to this, the second this being the video of him in action. I just watched it. Excellent. And recommended to all who want to know how the world got from almost universal penury to something rapidly becoming almost universal creature comfort, in which all can have, if they wish, cat pictures on their iPhones.
Last night I did a posting at Samizdata about Milo Yiannopoulos.
Until today, when I dug him up on YouTube, I didn’t even know what nationality this guy is. American would have been my guess, but basically I didn’t know, although I did learn yesterday what he looks like. But for me he was basically a name, that I couldn’t spell.
Turns out he’s British. Very British. Who knew? Everybody except me, presumably. Blog and learn.
I asked for the opinions of Samizdata commentariat, and got some. I don’t know why, but I expected more variety in these responses, more doubts, more reservations. Actually, the Samizdata commentariat has, so far, been uniformly approving of this guy.
Now I’m listening to him babble away, and it turns out that, being a libertarian and an atheist, I’m “touchy” - meaning oversensitive about being criticised - times two. As a libertarian I’m obsessed with marijuana and with computer hacking. (Actually: No, times two.) As an atheist, well, it turns out I dress stupidly. (Yes. True.) He does love to wind people up, which he does by saying slightly untrue and quite funny things. He’s like that classic old Fleet Street type, the Opinionated Female Columnist, whose job is to overgeneralise in ways that are quite popular and pile up the readers, and to make the Outraged Classes really really outraged, and who eventually gets … old.
I’m starting to think he may soon be a bit of a has been. But, at least he now is.
I think the article that I linked to from Samizdata may have been a peak. It is truly brilliant.
What I do like is his interest in the tactics of how to spread ideas, how to win arguments, how to be able to make arguments despite the efforts of people who want nothing except to shut him up, by saying things that shut them up.