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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

Friday November 24 2017

Yes it’s a busy time here at Chateau BMdotcom.  I have a meeting here this evening, for which I must now prepare, but, preparations are not helped by the fact that the two biggest supermarkets in my vicinity, Tescos Warwick Way, and Sainsburys Wilton Road, are both now shut, so that they can rearrange themselves, refurbish themselves, in time for Christmas presumably.  (And in order to take our minds off the fact that the prices of everything are now shooting upwards.)

This is bizarre.  Couldn’t they collude to take it in turns to shut, rather than colluding (I assume) both to be shutting at the same time?  I am too busy, doing such things as trying to think where I will be going instead to buy food for this evening, to be able to expand here upon this peculiar matter.  Let’s just say it’s lucky for capitalism that I really like it.  If I didn’t, this might have tipped me over the edge into full-on Bolshevism, at which point I might have become the straw that broke the camel of capitalism’s back.

After tonight’s meeting, I then have a succession of pre-Christmas socialisings fixed, for over the coming weekend and into next week.  All very nice and everything, but a struggle to keep track of, and to fit other necessary things around.  Which is why postings here have been a bit perfunctory of late, and why that may continue for a few more days.

Or, it may not.  Because actually, the urge to blog is, for me, hard to estimate the strength of beforehand.  Often, I think, the feeling I feel when busy that there are Things I Must Do, causes me then to avoid doing these Things by instead … blogging.

Right now, for instance, I am supposed to be preparing for this evening.  But instead ...

Yesterday I showed a photo that I actually took yesterday, rather than last year or last decade.  And today I’m doing the same.  I’m showing you another photo that I took yesterday:

image

That’s the inside of the domed roof in the middle of Leadenhall Market in the City of London.  This is another of those photos which is a lot easier to take if you have a twiddly screen, such as I always now have.

Here is the next photo I took, to show you which place I mean:

image

To me, one of the odder things about Leadenhall Market is that all the enterprises plying their trade in it would seem to be obliged by the house rules to proclaim their names in the exact same style and size of lettering.  This is not what you get in most shopping centres, which is what this place basically is.  But, fair enough: their gaff, their rules.  And although in one sense this is uniformity gone a bit mad, in another sense it is variety, because this is not something you see very often.

It is clearly a recent thing, and Wikipedia confirms this:

Between 1990 and 1991 the market received a dramatic redecoration which transformed its appearance, enhancing its architectural character and detail. The redecoration scheme received a special mention in the Civic Trust Awards in 1994.

Ah yes.  Commercial, you understand, but not too commercial.  The subtle business of not being too businesslike.

I passed through this place on my way to Monument tube, having been wandering towards the City and its Big Things from the Bethnal Green area, enjoying the last daylight of a very fine yesterday.  Of which maybe more here later, and of which maybe not more here later.  (This blog is also not very businesslike.)

Thursday November 23 2017

Indeed.  And, I got him to hold the pose while I photoed it:

image

Okay, mine’s a rubbish picture, but: you get the picture, and in any case the fact that you can’t read the numbers is a feature rather than a bug.  I’m sure he got his picture.  He has already typed into his other little machine a note of my address and electricity score.  So it will be entirely clear to him which number he is confirming, or conceivably correcting, with his photo.

Just another example of what mobiles contribute to the economy, not just by doing newsworthy stuff like transmit big gobs of money or send portentous messages to and from people on the move, but simply by helping workers to do little bits of work.  Often, mobiles and their cameras are used to record the progress of work.  This is using mobiles and their cameras actually to do the work, because this particular work is recording.

I know: smart meter.  Well, someone recently tried to install one, but for some reason it couldn’t be done, or not yet.

To really appreciate this, you have to have experienced what happens to your electricity bill when your electricity consumption is recorded wrongly.

Wednesday November 22 2017

It’s been a while since there’s been any horizontality here. (That isn’t the most recent piece of horizontality here, just one that I happen especially to like.) So, allow me now to correct this, thus:

image

Click to get the bigger original.

It’s a shop just off Lea Bridge Road, opposite the station.  Photoed by me almost exactly one year ago.

Friday November 17 2017

Indeed:

image

Tilbury, September 2013.  That’s what a BMdotcom wildlife photo should be.  Creatures, yes, but also cranes.

At around that time, I made a series of trips out to London Gateway, London’s new container port, which is just downstream from Tilbury.  Here‘s a recent report of how London Gateway is doing, which also has further news about animals in the area:

The £1.5bn construction saw a staggering 350,000 animals moved off site into new habitats. At one stage DP World’s office building on the site homed tanks of great crested newts before they were moved into newly created ponds.

However, the horses in the above photo were not disturbed, because they were just outside Tilbury.  London Gateway is further down river.  It was only several hours later that day that I set eyes on those cranes, from a great distance. Despite the gloomy weather, it was a great day.  The photos bring it all back.

Thursday November 16 2017

Although “pipeline” is wrong, because these are solid-state batteries, to replace liquid batteries.

Instapundit says it’s “YUGE IF TRUE”, that Fisker has filed patents for solid-state batteries:

The reason all these companies are working on developing solid-state batteries is because they present a whole host of advantages over what you’ll find in today’s phones, computers and cars. The two big ones are greater energy density and rapid charging times. Fisker claims the batteries it’s developing have an energy density 2.5 times that of current batteries, and they should be capable of providing a 500-mile driving range. The company also says the batteries could be recharged in as little as a minute.

Companies don’t usually straight-out lie about things like this, but they do often get carried away.  In particular, they gloss over what may prove to be big obstacles.  But the obstacles get overcome, eventually.  They say they’re going to have this tech rolling in the early twenties.  Make that the thirties.  But, my guess: it will soon, historically speaking, happen.  They’re going to be very expensive, at first.  But that always happens.  Got to pay for all that inventing.

A key item of evidence for my optimism is that the report states that other companies are working on the same stuff, besides the one in the headline.  This suggests one of those inventions that is ready to be made, that Matt Ridley goes on about.  For decades this or that gizmo is promised, but: nothing.  Then suddenly: four companies all arrive at it, “independently”.  In other words, all the necessary inventions, that needed to be made before this one could be made, had finally been made.  At which point the gizmo goes from impossible, to inevitable.

Can these batteries be made really small, small enough for all those phones and computers?  If so, it really will be a new era.

As I keep saying, the one big aspect of our civilisation that is still working really well is … stuff like this.

Wednesday November 15 2017

On Thursday November 23rd, the latest manifestation of The Ashes kicks off:

image

I took the above photo in the pedestrian tunnel that goes north from South Kensington tube towards the Royal Albert Hall, or in my case towards the Royal College of Music (where GodDaughter 2 was singing in a concert).

But look more closely.  This is not an advert for The Ashes themselves, an advert, that is to say, for the chance to watch or otherwise witness some actual cricket games.  No.  This is an advert for the means to play in a computerised cricket game.

The last licensed Ashes game was Ashes Cricket 2013. It was developed by Trickstar Games (also based in Melbourne, Australia) but was so irredeemably terrible it was comically cancelled after it had been released (it was quietly released on Steam in November 2013 but yanked down just four days later).

I knew nothing of this until now, even though I follow actual cricket very keenly.  The only computer game I ever play is Solitaire.  Blog and learn.

I wonder how the income earned from the sale of this computer game will compare with the income earned by the actual Ashes cricket games.  I’m guessing that, assuming they’ve now done a better job of it than was done in 2013, the comparison will be quite favourable. Although: Bairstow, Root, Ballance, Broad, Anderson and Cook will presumably be getting their slices of the computer game action.

Tuesday November 14 2017

A lot of the stuff at Digital Photography Review these days is about money-no-object high-end DSLR cameras, and about the many different money-no-object lenses you can shove on the front of DSLRs.  When DPRev descends from this Olympus (or this Canon or this Nikon) they usually then prattle on about the cameras on smartphones.

But this report, even though it says it’s about DSLRs, I did find interesting.  Canon have filed a patent for a new sort of bigger flip out screen, in other words a bigger version of the sort of screen that I for one could not now do without:

While a hinged DSLR rear display is nothing new, Canon’s patent shows a design that would allow for a large and reversible display unlike anything we’ve seen before. In fact, the LCD shown in the patent’s illustrations covers the entire back of the camera, making it necessary to tuck the rear dial and several buttons behind it, though several others are exposed on either side of the viewfinder.

I can remember when flip out screens were held in contempt by the DSLR fraternity.  But many of us digital snappers took to them with eagerness, having worked out that there are many photos that are pretty much unphotoable without such screens.  The one where you hold your camera as high as you can above your head, for instance, yet still manage to compose your photo accurately as you point your camera slightly downwards to capture a scene that you can’t yourself see directly because you are stuck in a crowd, but which you can see on your twiddly screen.

To be fair to Canon, after an initial period of head-in-the-sand stupidity, they have for quite a while now lead the way with adding flip out screens to DSLRs, and all the other big manufacturers have followed along.  There are still plenty of cameras available without flip out screens, for idiot Not-As-Real-As-They-Thing Photographers who take positive pride in not liking these screens, and maybe for some truly Real Photographers who truly do not need them.

As the report goes on to acknowledge, filing a patent and actually making and selling the thing patented are two different things.  But Canon’s new and much bigger variation on the flip out screen theme suggests that the huge added value of these screens is now widely understood by camera makers.

Thursday October 26 2017

Will computer power displace humans, or empower them?  Will computers unleash mass-unemployment or create a world of new jobs for everyone?  Is humanity about to be divided into the indolent masses on the dole, and the lucky few who control the now human-workerless means of production?

Here‘s a guy who is quite optimistic. 

When most people think of robots, they picture an R2-D2-like droid, providing critical information to assist humans and courageously rescuing them from dangerous situations. While we are, in my view, decades away from having robots that can function like a “Star Wars” character due to the limitations of artificial intelligence, a new class of robots that are mobile, dexterous, and capable across multiple operational regimes will soon be available to augment human performance.

This will happen through a combination of human intelligence with machine strength and precision. In this symbiotic relationship, the multi-tasking robots rely on humans for direction while simultaneously safeguarding them from dangerous environments and tasks. These robotic “guardians” are the future of work on Earth and, yes, in space, too.

Peter Thiel also believes that computers and humans will complement one another.

Think power steering, but a hundred times more versatile:

We are at a point in history where decades of research and development coupled with ever-improving technological performance and lower component costs are combining to make yesterday’s science fiction a reality. Imagine a machine that is your personal proxy, controlled by you, leveraging your intelligence, knowledge, instincts, intuition, and judgment while able to physically perform in the same manner as your own body, but safely, and with super-human strength, endurance, and precision.

I’m optimistic about The Robots because every time they make a leap forward, they will do it by doing one particular thing a lot better.  That means that all sorts of new projects make sense that didn’t before, but each new project demands the services of a hoard of humans, to tidy up after, install, mend, and generally look after the robots, in their latest manifestation.

But, humans will have to be adaptable.  Abandon jobs that the robots have learned to do, and get new jobs doing things that the robots will need doing for them. Robots now make much of the world’s stuff, but there are still lots of shelves the stuff gets put on that it makes sense to have humans do, and because of the robots, there are more shelves with more stuff than there used to be.

I look at the world and I do see “technological unemployment”, but I also see people busily doing jobs that didn’t previously exist.

Rob Waller is doing a talk at my place, on the last Friday of November about the robots and all that.  He gave a talk about this earlier, which I was unable to attend.  But the title of that talk, together with the hints he’s already given me, all make me expect him to be optimistic also.

Tomorrow evening, which is the last Friday of this month, Rob Fisher will be speaking chez moi about Fatherhood.  I believe that Rob’s young son will have plenty of choices about how to make a living, especially if he is as smart as his Dad is, but even if he isn’t.

Friday October 13 2017
Sunday October 08 2017

Yes.  I ran it by Adriana plus her Plus One (Perry de H), at that feast I reported on yesterday, and it turns out that I’m not the only one who finds the phrase “self storage” …

image

… to be rather odd.  (That’s this.)

I know what self storage is.  It’s the name given to the process of ridding your self of some of the crap by which your self is currently surrounded and impeded, without actually chucking it away irrevocably.  In particular, when your self is in between locations, or when your self has moved from a big place to a smaller place, your stuff, or your excess stuff, needs to be stored somewhere.

But self storage, taken literally, sounds like you are parking your self in a warehouse and for the duration, your life will consist only of all the extraneous crap.

You become like a zombie or something.  I can understand people wanting to put their mere selves to one side while earning a living.  That might make a rather profitable business.  But while actually, you know, … trying to live … ?

Odd.

Tuesday October 03 2017

To quote my own earlier words about David Hockney:

What I particularly like about him is that he doesn’t indulge in the usual artistic sport of epater-ing the bourgeoisie.  He is content to be bourgeoisie.

And as if to prove me right, in the same book I was referring to, I later encounter (pp. 105-106) this amazingly honest Hockney outburst:

The best form of living I’ve ever seen in Monet’s – a modest house at Giverny, but very good kitchen, two cooks, gardeners, a marvellous studio.  What a life!  All he did was look at his lily pond and his garden.  That’s fantastic.  He was there for forty-three years. ...

Two cooks!  Gardeners!  How rare it is to encounter such full-throated pleasure being taken in the idea of having servants to look after you!

You can feel the people who try to decide these things going off Hockney, and I’m guessing that this has been going on for some time.  I’m not saying that Adrian Searle, for instance, doesn’t mean the things he says in this Guardian piece about Hockney’s pictures over the years.  And I actually rather share some of Searle’s preferences as to which Hockney pictures are nice and which are not so nice.  Searle says they’ve got worse, basically.

However, I suspect that Hockney’s real crime is that he started out looking like a radical homosexualist, but then when homosexuality settled back into being just part of the scenery of modern affluent, successful, happy life, Hockney was revealed as being not angry about modern, affluent, successful, happy life.  He just wanted that sort of life for himself, and for many decades now, he has had it.  He would have been angry only if denied such a life by anti-homosexualists.  But he wasn’t.  As soon as the world started happily tolerating Hockney’s not-so-private life and made his picture-making life affluent and successful, Hockney was content happily to tolerate the world and to revel in its visual pleasures, natural and electronic.  The Grand Canyon!  iPhones!  Bridlington!

Capitalism?  Commerce?  Hockney’s not angry about it.  He’s part of it. He produces it, he consumes it, he applies it to his work, he knows this, and he loves it.  And he has long surrounded himself with a small and happy team of assistants and cooks and bottle-washers of all the sorts that he needs, to enable him, Monet-style, to concentrate on his picture-making.  Hockney is the living embodiment of the glories of the division of labour.  Aka: social inequality.

I surmise that this is what really makes Searle’s readers (i.e. Guardian readers) angry about Hockney, not the claim that his pictures have got worse.  They’re angry about modern life, and they’re angry that David Hockney isn’t angry about modern life.

And I suspect that Hockney is, in the eyes of Those Who Try To Decide These Things, helping to take the Impressionists down with him.

Wednesday September 20 2017

This is how Chapter One, “Chez Meissonier”, of Ross King’s book The Judgement of Paris begins:

One gloomy January day in 1863, Jean-Louis-Emest Meissonier, the world’s wealthiest and most celebrated painter, dressed himself in the costume of Napoleon Bonaparte and, despite the snowfall, climbed onto the roof top balcony of his mansion in Poissy.

A town with a population of a little more than 3,000, Poissy lay eleven miles north-west of Paris, on the south bank of an oxbow in the River Seine and on the railway line running from the Gare Saint-Lazare to the Normandy coast. It boasted a twelfth-century church, an equally ancient bridge, and a weekly cattle market that supplied the butcher shops of Paris and, every Tuesday, left the medieval streets steaming with manure. There was little else in Poissy except for the ancient priory of Saint-Louis, a walled convent that had once been home to an order of Dominican nuns. The nuns had been evicted during the French Revolution and the convent’s buildings either demolished or sold to private buyers. But inside the enclosure remained an enormous, spired church almost a hundred yards in length and, close by, a grandiose house with clusters of balconies, dormer windows and pink-bricked chimneys: a building sometimes known as the Grande Maison.

imageErnest Meissonier had occupied the Grande Maison for most of the previous two decades. In his forty-eighth year he was short, arrogant and densely bearded: “ugly, little and mean,” one observer put it, “rather a scrap of a man.” A friend described him as looking like a professor of gymnastics, and indeed the burly Meissonier was an eager and accomplished athlete, often rising before dawn to rampage through the countryside on horseback, swim in the Seine, or launch himself at an opponent, fencing sword in hand. Only after an hour or two of these exertions would he retire, sometimes still shod in his riding boots, to a studio in the Grande Maison where he spent ten or twelve hours each day crafting on his easel the wonders of precision and meticulousness that had made both his reputation and his fortune.

To overstate either Meissonier’s reputation or his fortune would have been difficult in the year 1863. “At no period,” a contemporary claimed, “can we point to a French painter to whom such high distinctions were awarded, whose works were so eagerly sought after, whose material interests were so guaranteed by the high prices offered for every production of his brush. No artist in France could command Meissonier’s extravagant prices or excite so much public attention. Each year at the Paris Salon - the annual art exhibition in the Palais des Champs-Élysées - the space before Meissonier’s paintings grew so thick with spectators that a special policeman was needed to regulate the masses as they pressed forward to inspect his latest success. Collected by wealthy connoisseurs such as James de Rothschild and the Duc d’ Aumale. these paintings proved such lucrative investments that Meissonier’s signature was said to be worth that of the Bank of France. “The prices of his works,” noted one awestruck art critic, “have attained formidable proportions, never before known.”

Meissonier’s success in the auction rooms was accompanied by a chorus of critical praise and-even more unusual for an art world riven by savage rivalries and piffling jealousies - the respect and admiration of his peers. “He is the incontestable master of our epoch,” declared Eugène Delacroix, who predicted to the poet Charles Baudelaire that “amongst all of us, surely it is he who is most certain to survive!” Another of Meissonier’s friends, the writer Alexandre Dumas fils, called him ”the painter of France.” He was simply, as a newspaper breathlessly reported, “the most renowned artist of our time.”

From his vantage point at the top of his mansion this most renowned artist could have seen all that his tremendous success had bought him. A stable housed his eight horses and a coach house his fleet of carriages, which included expensive landaus, berlines, and victorias. He even owned the fastest vehicle on the road, a mail coach. All were decorated, in one of his typically lordly gestures, with a crest that bore his most fitting motto: Omnia labor, or “Everything by work.” A greenhouse, a saddlery, an English garden, a photographic workshop, a duck pond, lodgings for his coachman and groom, and a meadow planted with cherry trees - all were ranged across a patch of land sloping down to the embankments of the Seine, where his two yachts were moored. A dozen miles upstream, in the Rue des Pyramides, a fashionable street within steps of both the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre, he maintained his Paris apartment.

The Grande Maison itself stood between the convent’s Gothic church and the remains of its ancient cloister. Meissonier had purchased the pink-bricked eighteenth-century orangery, which was sometimes known as Le Pavilion Rose, in 1846. In the ensuing years he had spent hundreds of thousands of francs on its expansion and refurbishment in order to create a splendid palace for himself and his family. A turret had been built above an adjoining cottage to house an enormous cistern that provided the Grande Maison with running water, which was pumped through the house and garden by means of a steam engine. The house also boasted a luxurious water closet and, to warm it in winter, a central heating system. A billiard room was available for Meissonier’s rare moments away from his easel.

Yet despite these modern conveniences, the Grande Maison was really intended to be an exquisite antiquarian daydream. “My house and my temperament belong to another age,” Meissonier once said. He did not feel at home or at ease in the nineteenth century. He spoke unashamedly of the “good old days,” by which he meant the eighteenth century and even earlier. He detested the sight of railway stations, cast-iron bridges, modern architecture and recent fashions such as frock coats and top hats. He did not like how people sat cross-legged and read newspapers and cheap pamphlets instead of leather-bound books. And so from the outside his house - all gables, pitched roofs and leaded windows - was a vision of eighteenth-century elegance and tranquillity, while on the inside the rooms were decorated in the style of Louis XV, with expensive tapestries, armoires, embroidered fauteuils, and carved wooden balustrades.

The Grande Maison included not one but, most unusually, two large studios in which Meissonier could paint his masterpieces. The atelier d’hiver, or “winter workshop,” featuring bay windows and a large fireplace, was on the top floor of the house, while at ground level, overlooking the garden, he had built a glass-roofed annexe known as the atelier d’été, or “summer workshop.” Both abounded with the tools of his trade: canvases, brushes and easels, but also musical instruments, suits of armour, bridles and harnesses, plumed helmets, and an assortment of halberds, rapiers and muskets - enough weaponry, it was said, to equip a company of mercenaries. For Meissonier’s paintings were, like his house, recherché figments of an antiquarian imagination. He specialised in scenes from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century life, portraying an ever-growing cast of silk-coated and lace-ruffed gentlemen - what he called his bonshommes, or “goodfellows” - playing chess, smoking pipes, reading books, sitting before easels or double basses, or posing in the uniforms of musketeers or halberdiers. These musicians and bookworms striking their quiet and reflective poses in serene, softly lit interiors, all executed in microscopic detail, bore uncanny similarities to the work of Jan Vermeer, an artist whose rediscovery in the 1860s owed much to the ravenous taste for Meissonier - and one whose tremendous current popularity approaches the enthusiastic esteem in which Meissonier himself was held in mid-nineteenth-century France.

Typical of Meissonier’s work was one of his most recent creations, Halt at an Inn, owned by the Due de Morny, a wealthy art collector and the illegitimate half- brother of the French Emperor, Napoleon Ill. Completed in 1862, it featured three eighteenth-century cavaliers in tricorn hats being served drinks on horseback outside a half-timbered rural tavern: a charming vignette of the days of old, without a railway train or top hat in sight. Meissonier’s most famous painting, though, was The Brawl, a somewhat less decorous scene depicting a fight in a tavern between two men dressed - as usual - in opulent eighteenth-century attire. Awarded the Grand Medal of Honour at the Salon of 1855, it was owned by Queen Victoria, whose husband and consort, Prince Albert, had prized Meissonier above all other artists. At the height of the Crimean War, Napoleon III had purchased the work from Meissonier for 25,000 francs - eight times the annual salary of an average factory worker - and presented it as a gift to his ally across the Channel.

“If I had not been a painter,” Meissonier once declared, “I should have liked to be a historian. I don’t think any other subject could be so interesting as history.” He was not alone in his veneration of the past. The mid-nineteenth century was an age of rapid technological development that had witnessed the invention of photography, the electric motor and the steam-powered locomotive. Yet it was also an age fascinated by, and obsessed with, the past. The novelist Gustave Flaubert regarded this keen sense of history as a completely new phenomenon - as yet another of the century’s many bold inventions. “The historical sense dates from only yesterday,” he wrote to a friend in 1860, “and it is perhaps one of the nineteenth century’s finest achievements.” Visions of the past were everywhere in France. Fashions at the court of Napoleon III aped those of previous centuries, with men wearing bicorn hats, knee breeches and silk stockings. The country’s best-known architect, Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, had spent his career busily returning old churches and cathedrals to their medieval splendour. By 1863 he was creating a fairy-tale castle for the emperor at Pierrefonds, a knights-in-armour reverie of portcullises, round towers and cobbled courtyards.

This sense of nostalgia predisposed the French public towards Meissonier’s paintings, which were celebrated by the country’s greatest art critic, Théophile Gautier, as “a complete resurrection of the life of bygone days.” Meissonier’s wistful visions appealed to exactly the same population that had made The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas père, first published in 1844, the most commercially successful book in nineteenth-century France. Indeed, with their cavaliers decked out in ostrich plumes, doublets and wide-topped boots, many of Meissonier’s paintings could easily have served as illustrations from the works of Dumas, a friend of the painter who, before his bankruptcy, had lived in equally splendid style in his “Château de Monte Cristo,” a domed and turreted folly at Marly-le-Roi, a few miles upstream from Meissonier. Both men excelled at depicting scenes of chivalry and masculine adventure against a backdrop of pre-Revolutionary and pre-industrial France - the period before King Louis XVI was marched to the steps of the guillotine and the old social relations were destroyed, in the decades that followed, by new economic forces of finance and industry. “The age of chivalry is gone,” wrote Edmund Burke, a fierce critic of the French Revolution who lamented the loss, after 1789, of “manly sentiment and heroic enterprise.” But the age of chivalry had not entirely vanished in France: by the middle of the nineteenth century it lingered eloquently in Dumas’s novels, in Viollet-le-Duc’s spires and towers, and in Meissonier’s jewel-like “musketeer” paintings.

Still, the subject matter of Meissonier’s works accounted only partly for their extraordinary success. What astounded the critics and the public alike was his mastery of fine detail and almost inconceivably punctilious craftsmanship. “It is impossible to comprehend that our clumsy hands could achieve such a degree of delicacy,” enthused Gautier. Meissonier’s paintings, most of which were small in size, rewarded the closest and most prolonged observation. After purchasing one of his works, the English art critic John Ruskin would examine it at length under a magnifying glass, marvelling at Meissonier’s manual dexterity and eye for fascinating minutiae. A critic once joked that Meissonier was capable of putting the Prophets of the Sistine Chapel on the setting of a ring. No one in the history of art, it was said, ever possessed such a superlative and unerring touch with his brush. “The finest Flemish painters, the most meticulous Dutch,” claimed Gautier, “are slovenly and heavy next to Meissonier.” ...

Wednesday September 13 2017

Yesterday was a complicated day for me, and when I went out to dinner it got more complicated, because I got swept up in this:

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I was jammed in a no-standing-room-either tube carriage, on my way to dinner at my friends, and at West Brompton someone who’d been sitting got out and a seat became available.  Me being Old, I was invited to have it.  At first I was reluctant.  “I’m getting off at the next stop”, I explained.  I’d be stuck further inside the carriage with more shoving when I got out than if I stayed where I was.  “Oh that’s okay,” said the guy.  “Everyone’s getting off at the next stop.” Eh?  How did he know?  Was he psychic?

He was not psychic.  He was a Chelsea supporter.  And so, as he well knew, were most of the other people causing the train to be so strangely packed.  Above is my photo of us all waiting to get out from the rather unfortunately named Fulham Broadway tube station, which is right near the Chelsea ground, but not nearly so near to the Fulham ground.

And here is a photo I took of Chelsea stuff that was being offered to the throngs:

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They had a special scarf to commemorate this one game, which I’m guessing they do for lots of games.  Good thinking.  The game was against something called Qarabag.  Chelsea won comfortably.

Earlier, sport also forced itself upon my attention, in the form of these flags in Regent Street:

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The Americans are coming.

Saturday September 09 2017

So there I was, wondering around the other side of the City of London from where I live, as I like to do, and I saw this taxi with a tree behind it.  But the weird thing was, no matter which direction I photoed the taxi and the tree from, the tree was always directly behind the taxi:

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What gave?  Answer: the tree wasn’t and isn’t behind the taxi.  It was and is right on top of the taxi, made to look as if it is growing right up through it.  This taxi with tree was and is: Art.

Yes, this is one of those many places where hurt-your-foot-if-you-drop-it work has recently been replaced by “creative” work.  (The sneer quotes are not because creative work isn’t, but because other work so often is also.)

Here is a map of this place, together with a description of what has been happening there recently:

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When exploring a new place, I always photo maps and signs which explain everything.

This map looks, I think, rather like one of those illustrations in a birds-and-bees instruction manual for adolescents.

More about Orchard Place here.