Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: USA

Monday July 24 2017

I often take, and often then display here, photos whose only merit is that they hint at what the proper version of the same photo would look like.  I then allude to some fun facts that even the crappy photo on display does nevertheless manage to show.  So it is in today’s photo.

Yesterday I was making my way to Alton, in Hampshire, by train.  This caused me to stop at Clapham Junction.  So far so routine.  I often change trains at Clapham Junction.  But never before had I been awaiting a train for Alton, and that meant waiting at platform 11, which I don’t believe I have ever done before, because if I had, I would be familiar with this Big Thing alignment:

image

That’s right.  We see there the Spray Can and the Shard there, right next to each other.  Well, we see them if I tell you they’re there, and if you persevere a bit.  The light yesterday was very poor and blurry.

And while we are about it, the above two Big Things are also both aligned with the nearer and not so Big new US Embassy, whose distinctively patterned vertical surface you can also just about make out.

Memo to self: pick a nice day (i.e. a much better day than yesterday), and spend it at Clapham Junction, getting all the views that can be obtained from the London end of each of its many platforms.  Or maybe just a representative selection of them.  Until someone arrests me.

Sunday April 16 2017

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Friday March 24 2017

Good news about a dog saving a child’s life here, linked to from Instapundit, no less.  And the Daily Mail now has the story too.  It’s interesting how the Daily Mail, behind a vast smoke screen of abuse from all those who like to abuse it (e.g. all Brit TV comedians), is now busily spreading itself throughout the English speaking world.  There’s a huge professional media gap in the USA, for something more Daily Mail-ish.

On the other hand, I read, with sadness, that long-time favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k has been setting fire to puppies.  This story has yet to go viral.

Sunday March 12 2017

I’m still photoing photoers, basically because the photos of photoers I took about a decade ago get more interesting by the year, and so, I’m betting, will photos like these, which I took in Trafalgar Square, last October:

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
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The difference from ten years ago is that I avoid photoing faces far more than I tried to then.  That means, as explained in this earlier posting, that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, as above.  Although, 3.3 is the hair on a lady’s sleeve, and the guy in 2.3 has no hair.  But, he has a hair style.

But I’m not a hair fetishist.  I’m just a not-face photoer, when I’m photoing strangers who are themselves photoing.

There was a posting at Mick Hartley’s yesterday which showed that concern about photoing the faces of strangers and thereby in some way stealing from them is not new.  Hartley reproduces a great pile of photos, photos like this:

image

Scroll down to the bottom of Hartley’s posting, and you will encounter quotes from the man, Richard Sandler, who took all these ancient black-and-white photos, of strangers.  Go to where Hartley got these pictures and the quote, and you’ll get one of the questions, as well as the answer.

Have you had anyone ever question your motives in the street? Did you ever piss off anybody?

Occasionally people get angry and they have a right to, I am stealing a little something from them. Also for many years I used the strobe on the street and so there was no hiding what I was doing ... it can be startling. I have been kicked, spit on, and chased, but not very often. Once a woman with a rabbit pursued me for 30 minutes because I had flashed her and her pet.

Hartley also quotes Sandler saying this:

I think those were more interesting times because the warts of corporate/capitalist society were more visible then they are today, and those contradictions could be photographed more directly than now ... also every third person was not virtual, being on the fucking phone and not really on the street ....

Two things about that.  One, there is something rather exploitative about these photos, as he goes on to admit, sort of like an old school colonist photoing the natives.  Second, why the hell are “fucking” phones not themselves fit objects for his photoing?  Not really on the street? Come on.

They are certainly fit objects for my photoing.

Could it be that Sandler is suffering from a dose of professional jealousy?  Suddenly, the damn natives can photo the warts of corporate/capitalist society for themselves.  And nowadays, they don’t even have to use a dedicated camera.

And as for flash, well, the latest cameras hardly need them.  They can pretty much see in the dark.

Sunday March 05 2017

Via this posting at the Scott Adams blog, I first learned, just now, about Robots Read News.

All the pictures in this cartoon series are identical.  Only the words change.  Yet, the words on their own would probably not be so effective.

I especially enjoyed the first two comments on the above posting:

AtlantaDude:

If the Robot knows he is superior, I would expect him to be more condescending, and less angry - insulting humans in more subtle and clever ways than simply calling us stupid meat sacks, etc.

Scott Adams:

I am going for insensitive not angry. Part of the joke is that objectivity is indistinguishable from hate.

My next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (March 31) will be my Libertarian Friend from way back, Chris Cooper, talking about the rise of the robots.  They will rule us, he says, if I understand him correctly.  But maybe I don’t because he and I are both meat sacks.  Maybe he is expressing himself badly.  Or maybe I am misunderstanding him.  Or maybe both.  That I am understanding him correctly suddenly seems like a one in four chance.

Friday March 03 2017

I am reading everything at the Scott Adams blog just now, and I even watched/listened (new word needed for that) to all of this video.

Adams is being “shadow banned” by Twitter, as he notes in this posting:

As many others have documented, Twitter throttles back the tweets of people who hold political views they don’t like.

What “throttles back” means is that you can still read it, but nobody else can.  I think.

To outwit this shadow banning, Scott Adams has devised a cunning plan involving kittens, which I absolutely do not understand the details of, but which he mentions several times during the above-linked-to video ramble.  (It’s a good ramble, but a ramble.) Whenever he writes about things that Twitter’s censorship committee disapproves of him writing about (Trump and the climate debate being the two big ones at present), he tweets instead that he has done a piece about kittens.  This will alert his followers to a posting that Twitter wants crushed.  In order to shadow ban this, Twitter would have to shadow ban all kittens which would break the internet, and all humans also because they would be laughing so much.  Or something.  I don’t see why Twitter can’t just shadow ban Scott Adams whenever he mentions kittens, along with whenever he mentions Trump or mentions the climate debate.  But what do I know?

New word: outweet.

I always knew, when I started Friday-blogging about cats and kittens here, that this topic would become highly significant from time to time, on account (for instance) of politicians being jealous of all the attention that cats and kittens were getting.  (Prediction: at some point during the next thousand years or so, climate permitting, a cat or kitten will be elected President of the United States.)

But this particular Scott Adams kitten-tweeting circumstance I did not see coming.

Monday February 20 2017

Last night I sent out the email concerning the Brian’s Last Friday meeting this coming Friday, at the end of which email I found myself blurting out this:

Whenever I concoct these promotional emails I end up feeling very excited about the forthcoming talk.  This time, this effect was especially pronounced.

This was what got me “very excited”:

Marc Sidwell will give a talk entitled: Promoting Freedom in a Post-Expert World.

He will be speaking about “the ongoing erosion of power and technocratic authority (most recently visible in the Brexit vote and the rise of Trump) and proposing some ways libertarians can respond to this shift.”

Other talk titles that were considered: “Twilight of the Wonks” and “The Revenge of Common Sense”.

Marc Sidwell is an journalist, editor, publisher, and writer, most recently of a How To Win Like Trump, now riding high in the Kindle best-seller List.  More about Marc, his career and his publications, here.

For further information about the kinds of ideas Marc will be presenting, I strongly recommend a visit to: marcsidwell.com/.

It was there that I gleaned this quote, from Brexit campaigner Dominic Cummings:

“All those amazed at why so little attention was paid to ‘the experts’ did not, and still do not, appreciate that these ‘experts’ are seen by most people of all political views as having botched financial regulation, made a load of rubbish predictions, then forced everybody else outside London to pay for the mess while they got richer and dodged responsibility. They are right. This is exactly what happened.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if that quote gets a mention at some stage during Marc’s talk.

I would add that there are some kinds of expertise that continue to be held in very high esteem.  Nobody doubts the expertise of the people who make all the machines and devices, mechanical and electrical, that keep our world ticking over efficiently and entertainingly.  Not all expertise is now held in low regard, only the kinds of expertise that Cummings itemises.

The room is already starting to fill up.

Email me (see top left of this blog) if you want to know more about these monthly speaker meetings at my home.

I’ve been meaning to post this image here for some time:

image

Guess what it is.  If in doubt, look at the categories list below.  Then go here, to confirm what you must surely have worked out.

Many have described the event at which this happened as historic, but not because of this.  But I reckon what you see in the above picture is what historians will end up being most impressed by, about this event, because it was a very public manifestation of a very impressive sort of technology, which is going to have a very big future.

Sunday February 05 2017

My fantastic weekend of sport on the telly is nearing its conclusion, the Super Bowl having just begun.

A rising star of rugby union commentary is David Flatman.  He’s the bald one there.  Flats.  I bet they adore him for rugby club dinner speeches.  That came out sarcastic, but I really mean it.

Flatman has a nice double act going with the posher Mark Durden Smith, intro-ing the Premiership highlights.  Plus he was commentating for ITV on Italy v Wales today.  And then this evening he was fronting the Anglo-Welsh highlights, with Andy Goode, whose surname rhymes with food.

Flatman just seems to set the right tone.  He is knowledgeable and takes rugby seriously, but knows that others take it less seriously, and that it’s basically entertainment, and that’s fine.  Having been a forward himself he relishes the pugilistic and collectivist nature of the forward game, as well as the open-field individualism of the backs.  Above all, he communicates that he loves the game.  “Love” being a word he uses quite often.

And, he is funny. Just before the first advert interval a third of the way into this evening’s Anglo-Welsh highlights, he signed off like this:

Don’t go anywhere.  You can if you want.  But don’t.

I liked that.  I didn’t go anywhere.  I stayed here and wrote this.

One of the basic ways of getting a laugh is: take a cliché (in this case “Don’t go anywhere"), and then muck around with it.  Along with North’s try against Italy, the above mucking about was my equal-best rugby highlight of the day.

Also another word of praise for the team that has been doing the American Football for the BBC, two black guys called Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora, with Mark Chapman, who usually does proper football.  If these guys don’t actually enjoy their sport and each other’s company, they do an excellent job of pretending that they do.  However, I see that Mike Carlson, who used to monopolise all the American football commenting is now back for the final, aka the Super Bowl.  If he does no irrelevant Trump sneering, it will be because he’s been told not to do that.

LATER: Well, that was worth staying up for.  As Flats might have said:

Do go to bed yet.  You can if you want.  But don’t.

And Carlson was excellent.  There were Trump jokes, but they were excellent too.

Saturday February 04 2017

This weekend, the first weekend of February, is one of my particular favourites.  The Six Nations begins, and on Sunday night, there is the Super Bowl.  Mind you, France nearly spoilt it by nearly beating England at Twickenham, but in the end, all was well.  England pre-announced that they were going to play attractive rugby, blah blah, but in the end, they settled for playing unattractive rugby and winning.  The commentators all said England played badly, but I reckon they were understandably wrong-footed by France being so very good compared to recent years.  It’ll be interesting to see how well France do in the rest of the tournament.  They had all kinds of huge runners, some of whom were about eight foot tall by the look of them, and also a certain Louis Picamoles, who was out of the Six Nations for the last two years, but who today was declared to be the Man of the Match.  I reckon England won the game in the first half, by being even at half time instead of twenty points down, as they well could have been.  Oh, and Farrell kicked all his conversions with the accuracy of a champion golfer.  Daly is apparently a long range specialist, and he kicked a penalty too, from long range.

And hey, Spurs have just won ugly too.

Aside from the sport, the other great thing about this time of year is that the days are back getting longer.  Even now, only a month into the new year, the days are already an hour longer than they were.  And by the time the Six Nations finishes, they’ll be another hour and more longer than they are now, with more photography time in proper light.  Lovely.

Thursday December 08 2016

Here are some photos from the archives, of front pages from a year ago tomorrow:

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It’s interesting how Donald Trump was even then so recognisable from behind, because of that weird hair.

Will anyone try to ban President Trump from visiting Britain, I wonder?  Nobody of any significance, surely.  What Trump was saying then was that radical Islam is a serious problem and that he was going to give it hell.  And what has happened since says that Trump is one clever operator.  Which means that we now live in very interesting times.

I seem to recall thinking, around then, that Trump might win.  But by the time the election came around, I was surprised as anyone that he did.  And I wasn’t the only one.

Sunday December 04 2016

Today, after being knackered yesterday, I had a quiet day, but just before it got dark, I visited my roof, and took photos.  As you can see from a couple of clocks in the pictures (this one (1.1) and this one (3.1)), it was just after half past three, and already it was starting to get dark:

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My official purpose was to find out what stage the new US Embassy has got to (1.3).  But I also like 1.2 and 2.1, because they feature bright lights, looking almost as bright in my photos as they did for real.  3.3 features a view of the next door tower block that I hadn’t noticed before, flanked rather pleasingly by chimneys.

The sky (2.2) was also looking good, it being vapour trail weather.

Friday November 11 2016
Wednesday November 09 2016

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

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

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

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

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

See also: Brexit.

LATER: A collector’s item.

Wednesday November 02 2016

imageToday’s expedition happened pretty much exactly as guessed at yesterday.  I went by train from Victoria to Battersea Park, then wandered back towards Vauxhall, and finally took a bus back across the river and home.  I took over five hundred photos, including many that were really quite diverting.  On the right is one of these photos.  Just the one.  Click to get the picture twice as big.

One of the many things that holds me back as a blogger is that I think of an idea for a blog posting, but the thing gets too big and complicated, and it never gets done.  The trick is to say just one thing, not all the things that also relate to or are provoked by that one thing, just that one thing.  The other things can follow, in further blog postings.

So, on the right there is what the Spraycan looks like, when reflected in some of the windows of the new US Embassy at Nine Elms, the one that they are building to replace the one in Grosvenor Square.

To remind you of which one the Spraycan is, here is an earlier picture I took of it, next to the moon.

Well, it looks like the shape and size of this photo demands that I now say some further things, of the sort that relate to or are provoked by this one thing.  How very inconvenient and contradictory.  Clearly, a photo shaped like this was absolutely not the right way to illustrate the need to say one simple thing.  All of which is complicated by the fact that my inputting software doesn’t tell me exactly how the final postings will look.  So, there’ll probably be too much waffling towards the end of this posting.

In an earlier manifestation of this posting, this paragraph was identical to the one above.  The explanation of that circumstance being explained in the next paragraph.  There should now be about the right amount of waffle here.

I’ve had a rather tiring day.