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

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Category archive: Business

Monday July 27 2015

Today, from an advert in Shoreditch High Street, I learned of a game which is new to me …:

image

… Zorb football.  As I have already told you, in the heading of this.

Zorbing.

The website in the picture.

Video of people playing Zorb football.

The tackling reminds me of this.

Sunday July 19 2015

As already related here, I had a delightful day out with G(od)D(aughter) 1, way back whenever that was.  And I got as far as telling you that we had succeeded, with the help of our mobile phones, in meeting up, not (as I wrongly related (apologies to anyone inconvenienced or insulted)) at the “Manor Park” Cafe, but at the Park View Cafe.  And I also wrote about how I nearly didn’t have my mobile phone with me, and about how inconvenient that would have been.

Once settled inside the Manor Park View Cafe, GD1 and waited for the rain to stop, and conversed.

GD1 was full of apologies for the fact that she had kept on postponing our expedition.  I, on the other hand, was rather pleased about these postponements, because they were caused by pressure of work, GD1’s work as a professional photographer.  And I think that her being faced with pressure of work is good.  Getting established as a professional photographer has been a bit of a struggle for her, but now the struggle seems to be paying off.

Another sign that GD1 is now photographically busier than she had been in former years was that she felt the need to apologise also about not having done much recent photoing for the sheer fun of it, as I constantly do, and as the two of us were about to do again.  “You put me to shame” was the phrase she used, in one of her emails to me before this latest walkabout.  But again, I see that as a good sign.  I mean, if you have spent a day taking important photographs for a demanding client, and being sustained in your efforts by the expectation of money, would your idea of a fun way to wind down be to go out and take yet more photos, with nobody paying you?  That she does rather less fun photoing than she once did means, again, that she is probably busier doing work photoing.  Good.  Under the circumstances, it was all the more kind of her to be willing to share a day with me doing this now, for her, ever so slightly uncongenial thing.

At the Park View Cafe, GD1 and I discussed the fact that, although becoming an established professional photographer may be a struggle, this line of business still most definitely exists.

Not that long ago, some were predicting that the ubiquity of cheap-and-cheerful cameras, wielded by cheap-and-cheerful photographers like me, would drive the formerly professional photographers out of business.  Well, it did drive some of the old pro photographers out of business.  But the world now is at least as full as ever it was of pro photographers, including many who started out as cheap-and-cheerful digital amateurs.

Yes, there have been big changes in the photography business, as my friend Bruce the Real Photographer long ago told me, when digital cameras first started catching on.  And change often registers first as bad news for existing practitioners, who then have to adapt fast or go out of business.  Because yes, lots of the kinds of photos that Real Photographers like Bruce used to charge for are now taken by amateurs instead.  Family portraits, for instance.  If you take photos of your kids constantly, you are pretty much bound to get lucky with some of them, and that’s all most people probably want.

And yes, amateurs like me can sometimes take nice wedding pictures.  But, would you want to rely on the amateurs to take those crucial never-to-be-posed-for again wedding moments, just for the sake of a few dozen quid?  I think not.

Or consider the house-selling trade.  The phrase “false economy” is the one that best explained why there will always be professional photographers alive and well in that line of business.  Imagine you are trying to sell a house, perhaps for several million quid.  Does it really make sense to rely on some fun-photographer like me to try to make the place look its best?  No it does not.  A crappy set of house photos or a flattering set of house photos could be the difference between sale and no-sale, a difference that could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds or more.  So, not spending a few hundred quid making sure that the photos are non-crappy is … a false economy.

In general, whenever the economic difference made by good photos dwarfs the mere cost of good photos, then good photos will be demanded, and good photos will be paid for.

Here is a rather crappy picture which I recently took, of a non-crappy picture of a house interior, a house recently featured in the Guardian, a house which is (fingers crossed, for it is now (or was until very recently) owned by a good friend of mine) about to change hands for several million quid:

image

That’s a photo of a glossy brochure, devoted to this one, highly desirable house.  The house-sellers paid quite a lot for that glossy brochure.  For the same reason, they paid quite a lot for the photos in it.  Why would they not?  My friend described the mysterious things the photographer did with light when he visited.  “Ambient” light, was it?  I can’t even remember.  A simple way of putting it would be to say that if a muggins photographer like me had taken the photos, the garden would either have been invisibly white or the rooms would have been invisibly dark.  Plus, more generally, and for reasons I don’t even understand, it wouldn’t have looked like nearly such a desirable place.  No wonder the guy who took this photo makes a living at it.  And I’ll bet he doesn’t any longer go out fun-photoing in his spare time, any more than GD1 now does.

So, in the short run, Bruce the Real Photographer was suddenly faced with a hoard of crappy photographers like me, taking all the “good enough” photos that he had been taking, and he had to adjust to that by finding other photos to take.  This was not fun for him, at all.  But meanwhile, the same digitalisation-of-everything process that was making such miseries for Bruce the Real Photographer was also creating a whole new world of internettery where photos are now required.  Most of these photos need only be “good enough”, so Bruce the Real Photographer can no more make a living doing them than he can make a living with the many of the photos that he had been taking for a living in his younger days.  But, GD1, after a struggle, is finding work, illustrating all that internettery, for all those people - people like my friend’s house-sellers - for whom only very good is good enough.

If only because there are now so many more photos swirling about in the world, if you want your photos to stand out from the crowd, they need to be really good.  And really good costs.

My guess is that the photography profession is now several times bigger in number than it used to be, before cheap digital cameras erupted.

I say similar things from time to time (for instance towards the end of this recent posting here about the changing context within which Samizdata now operates) about the impact of the internet on the old-school news media.  Despite many individual failures to adapt to the new digital dispensation, and despite similar prophecies of doom at the start of the digital age, the Mainstream Media are in much the same sort of healthy state as, to adapt that phrase, Mainstream Photography.  And the current non-plight of the Mainstream Media is not only analogous to the non-plight of Mainstream Photography, but yet another cause of that non-plight.  After all, one of the biggest customers for Mainstream Photography is the Mainstream Media.

Tuesday July 14 2015

Another of those Wicked Camper vans, from the same fleet as this one:

image

It was never a totally White Van, but someone has painted some white on it.

I recently saw another of these vans with something like “Chuck Norris is the only person who can slam a revolving door”, but my photoing reflexes were too slow to capture it.  When I do photo this, I’ll try to remember that I said I might put the picture up here.

I agree with you.  Yes, it is a good marketing strategy.  Both of us are right about that.  And I see that these arseholes have been helping.

Monday July 13 2015

imageMore Dezeen catching up.  And this time the news is that Paris is about to get its first truly Grand Chose since the Montparnasse Tower.

Paris is, in certain Parisian minds anyway, suffering from London Big Thing Envy, and they want to change the place.

“The change in regulations is a historic moment,” the architects told Dezeen. “Paris is cautiously allowing tall buildings back into the city.”

Like Ken Livingstone, who did so much to make London’s recent Big Things happen, some of the Parisians angling most powerfully for Grand Choses are socialists.

But Big Things fit right in in London.  In London the antiquarian tendency is weak when confronted by the We Want More Office Space tendency.  But in Paris, it is the other way around.  Paris already has a look that lots of people like, and scattering Grand Choses all over it will radically change that look.  London has always grown in big ugly bursts of money-making, which everyone then gets used to and decides they like, so Big Things are just the latest version of a regular London process.  Paris was kind of perfect in the late nineteenth century, and since then it has been half city, half museum.  It was then neither bombed nor redeveloped by socialist maniacs, as London was.  It will be interesting to see if this transformation of Paris can be made to stick or whether it will be stopped in its tracks once again.

The opposition is gathering.  This particular Grand Chose has already been dubbed a poor man’s Shard, and in truth it really does look like a cross between the Shard and this infamous North Korean structure.

See also this earlier posting about Paris here, here

Sunday July 12 2015

One of the great pleasures of having Godot back in business is that I can catch up on what’s been on Dezeen.  And on July 1st, Dezeen had news of the next London Big Thing.

The Helter Skelter began to rise up a couple of years or so back, but then it stopped.  Now, the Helter Skelter has been reborn, as the tallest Big Thing in this faked-up picture, in the middle:

image

The really good news:

At the top, London’s highest bar and restaurant will sit alongside a free public viewing gallery offering vistas over the smaller neighbouring towers, including Richard Rodger’s Cheesegrater, Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie and Foster + Partners’ Gherkin.

Eat your heart out Shard.  Free public viewing platform. You’ll probably have to check in on a website the night before.  But even so, good.

I promise nothing, but … expect pictures here of the Cheesegrater, the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin, from above.

Thursday July 09 2015

Indeed:

image

At the time, all I thought I was photoing was a slightly amusing van.  One of those supplied by this enterprise.  Photoed by me earlier this evening in Lower Marsh.

The van is nothing to do with the shop.  It was just backing into the small Wicked Campers park next to it.

Tuesday July 07 2015

Indeed:

image

I had this complicated posting in the works, but, as often happens, it got too complicated.  Usually, in these circumstances, I fob you off with a quota photo of that Pavlova statue.  This time I thought I’d fob you off a quota White Van instead.

Learn more about the enterprise in question here.

Thursday June 11 2015

I love learning about two-man teams, and in Paul Johnson’s short, excellent biography of Mozart (see also this earlier bit) I have been learning more about just such a team, although a very temporary and unequal one:

In the meantime, Mozart had met his great partner, the Abate Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The letter (May 7, 1783) in which he tells his father, “I have looked through at least a hundred libretti and more, but I have hardly found a single one with which I am satisfied,” also says he has met the new fashionable poet in Vienna, Da Ponte, who “has promised ... to write a new libretto for me.” The emperor had decided to abandon singspiel in 1783 and embrace Italian opera again, and he put Da Ponte in charge of the words.  Da Ponte was a converted Jew, the son of a tanner, who had embraced Christianity in 1763.  He had led a bohemian life, as a teacher, a priest, a lascivious escort of married women in the Venetian fashion, a friend of Casanova, expelled from Venice for sexual depravity, and thereafter making his living as a translator and writer in the theatrical world.  He had an extraordinary gift for languages, rather like Mozart himself but on a much more comprehensive scale, and seemed to think multilingually.

Da Ponte wrote the librettos for three Mozart operas, The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492, presented May 1,1786), Don Giovanni (K. 527, October 29, 1787), and Cosi fan tutte (K. 588, January 26, 1790), and the collaboration between the two men must be accounted one of the most successful in the history of opera.  By almost universal agreement, Figaro and Giovanni are Mozart’s two best operas, though a small minority argues that Cosi contains the best music and superb staging and that a first-class production can make it the best evening’s entertainment.

The two men worked successfuly together for two reasons. First, they both understood that creating an opera was collaboration and that composer and librettist both had to know when to give way; sometimes words must yield and sometimes notes. The truth is, of course, that Mozart was extremely adept at words as well as music, and often he took over as librettist, Da Ponte acquiescing. This raises the second point: Both men were good tempered, used to hard knocks, nasty words, and intense arguments.  They had the admirable habit, essential to success in the theater, of drawing a firm line over a disagreement, once it was resolved, and moving on quickly to the next problem.  Mozart’s good nature was absolutely genuine and went to the root of his being.  He was incapable of real malice or the desire to wound (the one exception was the archbishop, and there, too, hatred was expressed in words rather than deeds). Da Ponte was a much more flawed creature.  He was a fearful liar, to begin with, and his various volumes of memories are not to be trusted at all. His subsequent career after he left Vienna and went to New York, becoming a trader, a bookseller, a bankrupt, a poet, and other things, shows that his commitment to the stage and to music - drama, particularly - was not total.

Moreover, it is not clear that he recognized quality in opera. He thought the best composer he worked with was Vicente Martin y Soler, and he had the most fulsome praise for Antonio Salieri.  The implication was that both were Mozart’s superiors as musicians.  Both were more successful commercially at the time, and their operas were performed more frequently than Mozart’s - so were those of many other composers, at least eleven by my reckoning.  But both were so inferior to Mozart by any conceivable artistic criteria as to cast doubt on Da Ponte’s musical understanding.  And it is a significant fact that his three Mozart operas are the only ones whose libretto he wrote that have remained in the repertoire or that anyone has heard of today.

Hence the inescapable conclusion is that Mozart was the dominant figure in the collaboration.  Da Ponte understood or learned from Mozart the need to keep the drama moving by varying the musical encounters and groupings, by altering the rhythms of vocal speech, and by switching the moods.  He may even have understood the great discovery in the writing of opera that we owe to Mozart - the way in which character can be created, transformed, altered, and emphasized by entirely musical means taking possession of the sense of words.  But the magic touch is always provided by Mozart as music dramatist.

Wednesday June 10 2015

I continue to photo white vans.  The poshest white van so far is one I photoed today.  Here’s the basic photo:

image

But, this being a posh enterprise, the graphics are a bit thin and polite, and my photo doesn’t help.  So here’s a close up what it is:

image

And here are the services they offer.

Earlier in the day, I also photoed this white van, which also seemed rather posh:

image

Again, for the same sorts of reasons, here’s a close-up of what it is:

image

But, although “piano people” suggests people who play pianos, or at the very least tune them, all that these piano people do is move them from place to place, carefully.

There really are a lot of white vans out there.

Thursday June 04 2015

My favourite shop in London is Gramex, which sells second hand classical CDs in the basement of 104 Lower Marsh, underneath the Book Warehouse.

Below is a picture I took this afternoon of a would-be purchaser of a classical CD patiently waiting for the attention of Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland, seated:

image

His gaff.  His rules.

Today, he had some cardboard boxes out from which we were invited to select items to purchase, for nothing.  (He had bought them for nothing and he was passing on the good news.) I selected over a dozen really good CDs, some of the sort I usually buy.  Which was good.  And others of the sort I don’t usually buy.  Ditto.

Tuesday June 02 2015

Today I attended an event at the office of the ASI, at which Tim Worstall spoke about his latest book.

I took photos, but almost everything I took was terrible.  This one, much cropped and enhanced, was one of the least worst ones:

image

That’s Sam Bowman in the middle there, with his back to the window, and on the right, Worstall, holding his glasses, waiting for Sam to finish his intro.  That almost everyone had their backs to the windows didn’t help me photo their faces.

The only half decent photo I took was when I got outside, and photoed people who were saying those prolonged goodbyes that happen at these kinds of events.

image

Through the upstairs window you can see the party continuing.

The gist of Worstall’s talk was that the Green claim that the earth’s resources are about to run out is based on a failure to understand the meaning of the word “reserve”.  Reserves are not all the resources they even know about or know how to go looking for; they are the resources that they already have lined up to be extracted, given current market conditions and current technological ability.  The entire point of “reserves” is that they are already on the warehouse shelf, metaphorically speaking, and are indeed about to “run out”, aka be consumed.  That these “reserves” are about to be consumed does not mean that all the earth’s resources, known and unknown, easily obtainable at today’s prices and with today’s technology or difficult, are all about to vanish, any more than the fact that all the food now in warehouses will soon disappear and then immediately be replaced means that we are all about to starve.

I have long suspected-stroke-assumed something along these lines.  Good to hear it spelt out in detail.

Monday April 27 2015

One of my favourite buildings that I’ve never seen is the recently completed (quite recently completed - 2008) Oslo Opera House, which looks like this:

image

Sooner or later, some big public building was bound to be built like this, with a roof that doubles up as a big public open space, where you can walk to the highest spot on the building’s roof, without once having to go indoors.

Oslo Opera has become a new landmark for the city and proved an instant success with both locals and tourists.

And of course, that roof doesn’t have to be the bland and featureless desert that this one is, in this picture.  Sooner or later, it will acquire roof clutter!  Perhaps it already has.

As entire cities compete with one another for tourists, buildings like this, with walkabout roofs, will surely become ever more common, as ever more tourists search, as I search, for places up in the sky from which to take tourist snaps.  It is no accident that I found the above picture and quote at a site called Visit Norway.  (Although sadly, this Visit Norway site fucks with the links and causes them not to work, and these fucked links also fuck with subsequent links which are none of Visit Norway’s damn business. This caused me major problems, until I just stripped out all Visit Norway linkage, at which point sanity was restored.  So if you care, you’ll have to find the damn place for yourself.  I think Visit Norway was trying to help. It failed.  Norway, sort this out.)

Even as I praise this building, I make no judgement about what goes on inside it.  The point of these “iconic” buildings - horizontal Big Things - you might say, is that they are fun to visit, regardless of their mere indoor contents.  See also: Tate Modern.  After all, one of the advantages of a roof like this is that the roof can be enjoyed even as the inside of the building can be entirely ignored.

What got me writing about this Oslo building was a recent posting at Dezeen, featuring another proposed building by the same architects, Snohetta (which has a forward slash through the “o") which uses the same trick, of people being able to walk up to the top in a big zig zag.  This time it is a museum in Budapest:

image

And oh look, I went to the Sn o-with-forward-slash hetta website, and here is another Snohetta proposal, using the same trick, for another opera house, this time in Busan, South Korea:

image

With the design of the Busan Opera, the opera is no longer a passive playground for the elite but becomes interactive, democratic space, responding to the public’s ambitions and interests.

This is architect speak for:

People can walk about on the roof and take photos without having to sit through some stupid damn opera.

And oh look, again.  Snohetta have also proposed that a new media centre in Vienna should look like this:

image

Look again, and you encounter the Barack Obama Presidential Center:

image

These last two are not so zig zag, but the principle is the same.

London awaits you, Snohettans.

Monday April 20 2015

It is more important to me that I get to bed at a sensible hour than it is that I do some sensible blogging before getting to bed.  So, another sign:

image

But this time, instead of them doing something a bit strange, it’s me doing something very silly.

Photographed by me in Walthamstow, yesterday.

Good night, and I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Monday April 13 2015

So, I googled aircraft coming in to land over closed civilian roads, and to my surprise I came across another use for a drone:

image

This one looks like it might be spraying stuff on the crop below.  Obvious, I know, but I am collecting these things.  The drone is yet another gadget that the banning classes would love to ban, but it’s just too useful.

But you can see how this will mean a whole new sort of newsworthy accident.  Or, even better, of newsworthy malevolence.

Monday March 23 2015

First, an outstanding White Van photo snapped from what looks like the inside of a cafe, by Simon Gibbs, to whom profuse thanks:

image

I’ve been photoing White Vans for a month and more, but have never got three of them in one go like that.  That arrived chez moi first thing this morning.

And then, to my amazement, this was this at Guido, also today:

image

That’s right.  Labour have launched there very own White Van!  You wouldn’t dare make that up.  I knew I was onto something with all this White Vannery.

The problem for the Labour Party here is that Essex White Van Man, the original beast, doesn’t work as an employee driver for Wellocks, or for Office Revival or for Yate Supplies (these being the enterprises who own and whose glory is proclaimed by Simon’s three White Vans above), and certainly not for the Labour Party.  He has his own White Van, which is entirely white, as you can see when you peruse that original tweet that got all this fuss started:

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That snap being a recent one of mine.  And, as Guido points out, a proper Essex White Van is not a Merc, as the Labour White Van is.  He doesn’t go on to say that it should be a Ford Transit, as above, but it should.  The White Van in the original tweet is a Transit.

This new Labour White Van is supposed to separate Labour from the la-di-da world of London and to assert its connection to the common (i.e. non-rich-London) man.  But it fails to do this, because, as these recent White Van postings of mine have been explaining, White Vans covered in poncey graphics are now quintessentially London.  I assume that they have also become quintessentially Wigan and quintessentially Rotherham and for that matter quintessential Dagenham.  But I further assume that when true-blue Wiganians and Rotherhamians and Dagenhamians look at them, they see, not their local culture, but cultural imperialism by bloody London.

(Damn.  I did everything to this posting put actually post it “today”, so I’m leaving the date I originally attached to it.  Cheating I know but it talks about Monday as today, so Monday it is.)