Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Billion Monkeys
I just bought a new camera, the Panasonic Lumix FZ150, and it is great. Here are some snaps I took with it, on Monday, of a few of my fellow digital photographers:
The light was fading quite fast while I was taking these, and trust me, these are much better snaps than I could have taken with my previous donkey-driven camera.
On Saturday I went to St Paul’s Cathedral, front of, to hear Kevin Dowd and Gordon Kerr address the Occupy St Paul’s people. In the event I head very little of what they said, Kerr having been and gone before I even got there. But I was very impressed that they did it.
If my time at Occupy St Paul’s was anything to go by, it has all been thoroughly domesticated. Somebody is definitely in charge of this thing, and with a combination of threats and negotiation, a stand-off agreeable to all has been achieved. There is no sense of impending violence. Nobody yelled at me when I wondered about in among the tents, taking photos. Nobody yelled at Kevin or Gordon for spouting Austrian Economics.
Click at will for the big pictures.
My usual preoccupations are in evidence. There are many signs. There are, of course, digital photographers, because I was not the only one taking photos. Many were just photo-ing St Paul’s.
The bloke in the cap taking photos is Nigel Meek, the Editorial and Membership Director of the Libertarian Alliance, who apparently showed up as a result of that Samizdata posting (already linked to above) that I did flagging this up. Afterwards (he told me later) he went out drinking with Kevin and Gordon and had a great afternoon of it.
If this demo is anything to go by, the tent makers have done a good trade.
Than it was a short while ago.
But, you still still can’t tell exactly how high it will finally be. Will the converging glass cladding insist on entirely joining up into a point at the top, like … a shard of glass? Or will the various converging shards of glass be content to get quite near to each other, and then just have a little extra roof in there?
Note also the excellent fifth finger of the left hand of the digital photographer, on the right. This reminds me somewhat of the Star Trek salute that Trekkies do, which was featured on an episode of The Big Bang Theory last night. But it is of course more sensible, being rooted in the necessity for the fifth finger not to feature in any photographs.
Although, I suppose the Star Trek salute might also be rooted in something “sensible”.
Early last week, via the Londonist, I heard about a big occupation of Regent Street that was going to happen yesterday, not by idiot hippies with no agenda (thank god), but by cars – veteran cars, E-type Jags, Minis, boringly modern cars, and surely plenty of etc. type cars.
But, come yesterday morning, I really wasn’t in the mood to get out, and nor was the weather very getoutful. But I am very glad that I forced myself to attend. I have never seen so many interesting cars assembled in one spot. Any one of them would have deserved a photographic effort. All of them congregated together was stupendous.
The light was poor, the kind where you have to hold your camera still or it’s disaster. But I held it just about still enough, and snapped away like a mad thing.
There were, as promised, lots of E-Type Jags:
Lots of E-Type Jags and Minis:
Yes, lots of Minis, and we’re not talking the fake German Minis of recent years, that aren’t even that Mini. These were real Minis:
The reason for all that Mini Jag action being that both are this year celebrating their fiftieth birthdays.
Better yet, there were lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of vintage cars, of the sort constructed over a century ago, when they were still trying to work out what a car was:
There were other cars, some exciting, like the knee-high red rocket car, and some dreary, like all the cars that demonstrated different varieties of fuel, such as electricity. The dreary thing about the modern cars on show is that they look exactly like ordinary cars, i.e. in the nature of this, dreary cars. You can’t see all the bizarrely new mechanical stuff, or not most of the time, because it is hidden behind dreary metal, just like a regular car:
But despite the dreary modern cars, it all added up to digital photographer heaven. Many of the above pictures contain photographers, whom I couldn’t have avoided snapping had I been trying to avoid snapping them, and of course I wasn’t. Was I going to be the only digital photographer present? Of course not. Here are some more of my tribe in action:
But what exactly, besides cars, were we all photo-ing? I believe I was not the only one who was particularly noticing all the details of the vintage cars. Like I say, they hadn’t (around 1900 or so) fully worked out what a car was supposed to be, and you can see them experimenting and juggling around with this and that arrangement, these and those luxury appendages, these and those sorts of seats, these and those sorts of bonnet shapes, right there in front of you. Things had to be somewhat different from horse-drawn carriages. But how different?
Amazing. That all took hardly more than an hour. Throughout, it was threatening to rain, but it never did until I was ready to leave. I love how, when you visit something with a camera, you can photo it, and then go home and look at it all at your leisure.
Including “Sport” in the category list is because today, many of these cars will have been racing down to Brighton.
To everyone except cricket fans, WWW means the “world wide web” (yawn), but to us true believers it spells hat trick, three consecutive wickets in three consecutive balls. Which was what Stuart Broad got this afternoon against India, in among a couple of other Ws.
Antoine tW . . | . 1 . . 4 1 | . . W W W . | . Wittered that I must have been all excited, but actually I missed it. I was out in the sunshine. I only clocked it, on my laptop, when I stopped in at Marie’s Cafe in Lower Marsh for some of her delicious chicken and cashew nuts with rice, after visiting Gramex (also in Lower Marsh) to stock up on cheap classical CDs.
By then, England were already batting, and it was nearly the close. There had already been another W (Cook – having a rotten series (12, 1, 2, 5 so far) – cricket eh? funny old game), but mercifully there were no more.
I said in this, a couple of days ago, that if India hit back hard after their Lord’s disappointment, this has the makings of the best series here since 2005, and behold, India have hit back. England will have to bat very well tomorrow.
While in Lower Marsh, I took this artistic snap. Well, I like it:
And what with all the sunshine and all the great cricket (Surrey also won in a very close finish - earlier on in that game, Ramprakash was given out for “obstructing the field”, which happens in proper cricket about once a decade if that, and which I heard on the internet radio commentary just before I left home) and the great CDs I’d bought, I was in a really good mood. So instead of just getting the bus home, I strolled across Westminster Bridge like it was 2005 and took photos of people taking photos. Here are my favourites of those snaps:
When I got home and got to see the test match highlights on the telly, I discovered that the middle W of Stuart Broad’s hat trick should never have been given. Harbhajan Singh clearly hit it before it struck his pad, yet the umpire gave him out LBW. Still, the Indians would insist on not having techno-reviews, so they kind of deserve it. Hard on Harbhajan though.
Talking of techno-reviews, everyone is trashing Hot Spot, which is the one that shows if the ball has struck the edge of the bat, sometimes. What the players are saying is that sometimes, the ball does strike the edge of the bat, but doesn’t show up on Hot Spot, especially now that the batsmen all put Vaseline on their bats, in order to confuse Hot Spot.
However, correct me if I am wrong, fellow cricket fans, but this merely means that Hot Spot shouldn’t over-rule an umpire’s on-the-pitch opinion that the batsman did snick it. If Hot Spot says he did snick it, but the umpire says not, then Hot Spot is still right. Right? So, Hot Spot is still some use, and should not be totally got rid of. The rule should be: If the umpire says you’re out and Hot Spot says not out, you’re out. If the umpire says not out and Hot Spot says out, you’re out. Only if they are unanimous that you are not out, are you not out. You say that that is hard on the batsmen? I say it would serve the bastards right for putting Vaseline on their bats.
Today, late in the afternoon, I took a walk towards Westminster Abbey, looking for things to photo in the aftermath of the public upheaval that was the royal wedding.
I know why people grumble about this wedding. It’s not that they are forced to pay attention to it. They are not. Their problem is that they don’t like how much others seem to be attending to it, without being forced to any more than they are. They don’t like the way this rather mediocre family occupies a place in British society, and in British affections, that they think ought to be occupied by a person who is - or persons who are - more politically qualified, by which is meant more political. I used to think like this, but now believe that any more “rational” arrangement of this sort would merely strengthen the power of politicians by giving them yet another hold over us, which would be bad. I still feel no reverence towards the family, but no longer favour any alternative arrangement. It’s been quite a while since I would have lifted a finger to support any change in our Head of State arrangements. Now, I might lift several fingers to keep them as they are, were the need for that ever to arise.
I don’t think the family can be expected to do anything beyond keeping the politicians away from the Head of State job, like preserving British sovereignty, or some such chimera. If the politicians are determined to destroy that, destroy it they will, and the family will tag along.
Not being a reverent sort of royalist, I had no difficulty ignoring this wedding. In order to notice it, I had to take active steps, which today took the form of wandering about London after it had finished, with my camera, to see whatever I saw.
Here is one of the photos I took, of a shop window:
And here is another shop window:
And of course, today as always, my fellow digital photographers were out in force:
Those ones were photographing the front door of Westminster Abbey. This looked to me much as it always does. But I suppose if you find the family exciting, there is something extra about photo-ing the front door of the building where one of their weddings was, only hours after it happened.
These blue Men reminded me that I have been meaning, ever since I took them, to display here some of my photos of some other Men, the ones put by Antony Gormley all over the South Bank and related areas (like bits of the North Bank), in the Summer of 2007.
I wouldn’t recommend solemnly looking at all of these, but click on a few at random, until you get the picture (I think it was not knowing how to do squares that caused the delay.)
For some damn fool artistic type reason that need not concern us unless we want it to, Gormley called these Men “Event Horizon”. (Artists who make nice things but talk bollocks about them are a characteristic type of our time, I think. I don’t blame them. If they didn’t talk bollocks they’d never get their careers cranked up. Anyway, it makes a change from a generation ago, when the things they made were almost entirely bollocks also.) The Gormley Men are all based on Gormley himself.
Critic Howard Halle (see here) out-Gormleyed Gormley by saying this:
“Using distance and attendant shifts of scale within the very fabric of the city, [Event Horizon] creates a metaphor for urban life and all the contradictory associations – alienation, ambition, anonymity, fame – it entails.”
Whatever. In other words, you see in these metal Men whatever you want to see, much as you see whatever you want to see when confronting actual men.
As for me, I liked how they humanised the mostly very unlovely buildings of the South Bank. And I liked how children would run about among them pointing excitedly and saying: “There’s another!”. And I liked how my fellow digital photographers photoed them, and how I was able to photo some of them photo-ing them.
They also reminded me of the angels in the Wim Wenders movie Angels of Desire, and even more of the angels in the Hollywood remake of that called City of Angels.
I really liked these Gormley Men, and have missed them ever since, whenever I have visited the South Bank. Thank goodness for digital cameras, which can ensure that such passing moments in the history of a city are thoroughly recorded and celebrated.
And in an attempt to illustrate that proposition with a link, I have just discovered that the Gormley Men paid a visit to New York, in the year 2010, I think.
And to Rotterdam in 2008.
Well done them.
Blog and learn.
Oh and: spot the deliberate mistake.
I like this, from Roger Kimball:
Like many conservative books, the only place Encounter books appear in The New York Times is on their best-seller list.
That list always did strike me as a Trojan Horse waiting to burst open with news that contradicts all the other news.
I also like the picture Kimball has here. (Spot the Billion Monkey (= digital photographer - which I have to put to stop any passing strangers thinking I am calling Barack Obama a monkey).)
And I like the fun he has with the word “structural” in this. As a general rule, I tend to be confused by the use of the word “structure” (structure of the economy, structure of the population, or, as in Man, Economy and State: “structure of production") to describe anything except an actual structure, of the kind that engineers erect and which hold stuff up, or just themselves up so they can do things like be cranes or bridges. Usually a word like “pattern” or “shape” would be better, and “structural” would improve clarity by being deleted. “Structure” suggests that this bit of whatever it is is doing something causally significant to that bit (in the way that the lower bits of an actual structure support the higher up bits), when often all that is happening is that this bit just happens to be next to that bit. Although, I suppose I have just answered the question of why Rothbard talks about “structure” of production, because this bit of production does indeed make the next bit of production possible, in the sense that making machine tools makes it possible for machine tools to make other things. But I still find the word confusing, even in that sense. I would prefer “nature of production”, or just “production”.
Anyway, Fareed Zakaria apparently blames President Bush for the “structural” deficit. Says Kimball:
Gosh. “Structural deficit.” That sounds impressive. How, you might wonder, does a structural deficit differ from the common or garden variety deficit? Let’s leave that to one side, acknowledging as we do that a “structural deficit” at least sounds more impressive than a deficit without that adjectival honorific.
I wonder too. Is the word “structural” rather like “social”, in the sense that it sabotages the meaning of whatever word comes next, by hinting at, in connection with something which would otherwise be real, a false theory about what exactly things of this sort really consists of and why?
Is the implication of “structural deficit” that this is the bit of the deficit that is hard to get rid of, because getting rid of it involves getting rid of the things that cause it, and that is really hard. The unstructural deficit being the bit of the deficit that can just be got rid of, without anyg other things that cause if being got rid of, because nothing does cause it. It is just lying around and sweeping it up and clearing it away is comparatively easy. Am I confusing you? Now you know how I feel.
I’m reading a lot of American stuff at the moment, with Instapundit, for now, being way ahead of Guido in frequency of visits.
There are some particularly excellent World Cup snaps here. I don’t know just how appalling the Boston Globe is when it comes to grovelling to Obama and being patronising about Palin (my guess would be: very), but boston.com can sure assemble great pics.
I don’t need to explain why this one, the first of them, is my favourite, do I?:
That was taken on Table Mountain.
Here are a couple that I was able to flatten:
Those silhouettes are Germans celebrating goal four against hapless Argentina.
And this next one is of a photographer setting up his remote control camera before a game. Behind the goalmouth?:
In general cameras figure prominently, and I’ll end with this one, because it doesn’t just feature Real Photographer cameras (Canon must have made a mint with cameras in the last decade), but also Billion Monkey cameras. I wonder who the people were with the Billion Monkey cameras? Spanish support staff of various sorts? FIFA hangers on? But maybe just regular fans who were in the right place at the right time:
I love how huge the Spanish captain/goalie is compared to little Blatter.
Today I went through the Leake Street tunnel, described by me it this SQotD posting. I photoed this work in progress:
I prepared another version of this, by cropping it down to just the girl, but it stopped being a quite interesting photo, and just became a not all that well done painting of a girl with a spray can.
A more typical Leake Street image, taken (like that SQotD) in March, would be something like this:
I like the hand holding the cassette. This is how Billion Monkeys often hold their cameras.
Another will-be favourite photo, I think. Taken the same day as, and very soon after, this:
I’m proud of that. Another photo-category is being born, of London street lights, with interesting activities or buildings or whatever going on behind them. London’s best street lights make me say to myself when I pass them: This is how to waste public money!
This, on the other hand, is baffling, to me anyway:
Any explanations? It looks as if there used to be something there, rectangular, as per the marks on the concrete. But what?
I also like this:
That’s definitely me on the left, and it looks like another street light on the right. But, if you think it’s a rubbish photo, you would also have a point.
So I went searching for a good quota photo, and this time, I went back a bit, to the era of the Canon A70, which was only my second digital camera. And here are two pictures I took with it, the first in December 2003 and the second in April of the following year:
Click to get them bigger.
What these snaps have in common is that they are now becoming out of date, but in a good way. The Gherkin is starting to attract a whole new gaggle of Things around it, sadly none of them are as pretty as the Gherkin itself, and a few of them bigger. And that camera that that bloke is holding looks to me to be about five or six years out of date. Which would probably be because it is.
The best of my snaps will, I am starting to believe, get better, as time goes by.
I love this:
The point being that however fast the biker is moving, his shadow doesn’t move at all, relative to him.
I remember snapping a skateboarder and his shadow on the South Bank, by following him with my camera. I went looking for that, but instead found these, of which the one in the middle of the bottom three is also a skateboarder, approximately in focus while all around is blurry. I had no idea I was capable of such brilliance.
Earlier in the week I heard a similar expression of arrogant humility, from E. J. Moeran, on the subject of his cello sonata, which was played on the radio.
“I have just spent all day yesterday on cello sonata proofs. You know I don’t usually boast, but coming back to it, going through it note by note, and looking at it impartially, I honestly think it is a masterpiece. I can’t think how I ever managed to write it.”
Ain’t the internet grand?
Although, any dumbo can still take the odd great photo, provided only that he knows its greatness when he sees it. The real artists when it comes to photography are the geniuses who make the cameras. Once I have one of these cameras, I don’t have to put my photos together “note by note”. Cello sonatas, that is to say, are not something you can just get lucky with.
Excuse me sir, might I ask why you are taking those pictures? I’m doing it because I like it. You like it? What kind of a reason is that? Might I enquire what your name and address is? Ah well now that’s where it gets a bit complicated. I could tell you, but then I’d be missing out on a story for my blog about you PCSOs harassing innocent photographers who are not terrorists but who are a bit weird and who know their rights because they’ve read about them on the internet. I’m not harassing you sir, just asking for your name and address. Although, if you don’t give it, I’ll get one of the proper policemen to arrest you for being weird. Yes you make a strong point. Tell you what, have a read of this (which I am actually thinking of getting printed out and taking with me in triplicate on my photographic expeditions). Etcetera, etcetera.
I feel like I’m part of an era in British social history that may soon vanish. It can’t be long before only foreigners and the government will be allowed to take snaps in Britain. So, while I still can:
That was last Saturday, I think, at Picadilly Circus, definitely. I took lots of this particular little drama. I figure, if they put on a great big show like that, I’m entitled to snap it too. I did, anyway. And if you take lots of pictures of a real photographer in action, in bad light, sooner or later your opinion about the best time to take the snap coincides exactly with his and you get what I got.
Actually, snapping other photographers in London, who are mostly foreign (although I’m guessing not this one), is easy now and is likely to stay easy for quite a while, because I look like one of them. You seldom see PCSOs asking Billion Monkey foreign tourists why they are taking photos, because if they did, it might cause an international incident and threaten the tourist trade. A few months back, I seem to recall a policeman harassing a tourist Billion Monkey, and it did cause an international incident and it did threaten the tourist trade.
Plus: Mr Clown says I’m - you have to scroll to the end - a genius. I ought not to care about such things, but I do.