Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Esteban on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Brian Micklethwait on Zooming in on the workers
Rob Fisher on Zooming in on the workers
Brian Micklethwait on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Rob Fisher on Zooming in on the workers
Rob Fisher on Big Things on Boris Bikes
Rob Fisher on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Prudy on Skyscraper covered in Gothic sculpture proposed for Manhattan
Brian Micklethwait on Big Things on Boris Bikes
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Most recent entries
- White vans in Kentish Town
- A busy day and a collection of Big Things
- A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
- A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
- A good time of the year
- 148 to Burgess Park
- A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
- Another way to photo my meetings
- Quota Pavlova
- The first Brian’s Friday of the year tomorrow evening
- Walkie Talkie looking not that huge
- David Pierce on what it’s like using an electric scooter
- Shard behind the Tower of London (reprise)
- Big Things on Boris Bikes
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Video
Today I spent my blogging/libertarian time transcribing a talk given by Syed Kamall MEP to Libertarian Home, back on June 4th of this year. The following very early bit from this talk, which was no more, on the night, than the self-deprecating self-introduction, convinced me that transcribing the whole thing, even though it will also be available to view on video, might be worthwhile.
Having joined the Conservative Party in 1987, I actually stood for my first election in 1994, in the London Borough of Lambeth. As you can imagine, I lost. A year later, I had my first post-doctoral job at Bath, and they asked me to stand, and I lost, in some local elections. In 2000, the Greater London Council was formed, and I stood in the GLA elections for the first time. And I lost. This is going somewhere, I promise you. [laughter]
In 2001, I stood in that well-known Conservative stronghold of West Ham, and thought I could defy history. And I nearly did. I think I lost by about fifteen thousand votes. [laughter] And then – a year later, no, when was it? - in 2004, I stood in the European elections, and I was fourth on the list, and we got three Members of the European Parliament in London. So therefore I lost, but a year later another MEP became a MP, … she became a Member of Parliament and, thanks to the list system, I moved up.
So, you can summarise my political career up to that date as: stood five times, lost five times, and ended up as an MEP. I know my Party is supposed to be against Proportional Representation, but I’ve done all right out of it, thank you very much.
There is an old cliché that goes: it matters not who won or lost, but how you played the game. I only know this because it was mocked in Beyond The Fringe, but in times gone by people took this sort of thing very seriously. Well, the case of Syed Kamall illustrates that there are circumstances when this cliché can literally be true. Because you see, the secret of Syed Kamall’s success, is that he lost all these contest so very gracefully and sportingly. That way, everyone in his Party liked him, and he levitated.
There is also the fact that, in politics, it is probably unwise to win any of your early elections, because then you have to hang around and actually do a rather insignificant job, instead of moving on to a bigger and better contest, and winning that.
Last Tuesday I attended the A(dam) S(mith) I(nstitute) Xmas Party, to which I had been looking forward. Sadly, when I got there (and this is nothing whatsoever at all to do with the quality of the ASI Xmas Party) I found that I was in a decidedly anti-social mood. Grumpy Old Men are not a cliché for nothing.
But before making my gracelessly early exit, I did manage to strike up a conversation with a young woman fresh out of studying the history of media censorship, at Cambridge. This, she said, “could not be a more libertarian subject”. True. Good. More and more libertarians seem to be emerging from universities these days, in considerable part thanks to the ASI.
Me carrying a camera caused her to mention that she too was keen on photography. I asked her what is the best photo you’ve ever taken? And she said, tapping away at her iPhone: probably one of these. Definitely a cat person. I reckoned it a bit too uncouth to be photoing her, but I did photo her iPhone, which is also good when the light is a bit dodgy, as it was that evening.
Later, I cursed myself for not remembering to ask Anton how his expedition to the USA had gone. But, as I keep having to remind myself, this is the twenty first century. You can look things like this up. And sure enough, at Anton’s Twitter Feed, I found this ("U can now watch my presentation (of thesis for the very first time!) at Columbia’s Center for Capitalism & Society: ..."), which takes you straight to this, the second this being the video of him in action. I just watched it. Excellent. And recommended to all who want to know how the world got from almost universal penury to something rapidly becoming almost universal creature comfort, in which all can have, if they wish, cat pictures on their iPhones.
Last night I did a posting at Samizdata about Milo Yiannopoulos.
Until today, when I dug him up on YouTube, I didn’t even know what nationality this guy is. American would have been my guess, but basically I didn’t know, although I did learn yesterday what he looks like. But for me he was basically a name, that I couldn’t spell.
Turns out he’s British. Very British. Who knew? Everybody except me, presumably. Blog and learn.
I asked for the opinions of Samizdata commentariat, and got some. I don’t know why, but I expected more variety in these responses, more doubts, more reservations. Actually, the Samizdata commentariat has, so far, been uniformly approving of this guy.
Now I’m listening to him babble away, and it turns out that, being a libertarian and an atheist, I’m “touchy” - meaning oversensitive about being criticised - times two. As a libertarian I’m obsessed with marijuana and with computer hacking. (Actually: No, times two.) As an atheist, well, it turns out I dress stupidly. (Yes. True.) He does love to wind people up, which he does by saying slightly untrue and quite funny things. He’s like that classic old Fleet Street type, the Opinionated Female Columnist, whose job is to overgeneralise in ways that are quite popular and pile up the readers, and to make the Outraged Classes really really outraged, and who eventually gets … old.
I’m starting to think he may soon be a bit of a has been. But, at least he now is.
I think the article that I linked to from Samizdata may have been a peak. It is truly brilliant.
What I do like is his interest in the tactics of how to spread ideas, how to win arguments, how to be able to make arguments despite the efforts of people who want nothing except to shut him up, by saying things that shut them up.
This is a hastily drawn illustration of a characteristic urban phenomenon of the late twentieth century, namely: the Meaningless Triangle:
The blue lines are the edges, aka the curbs, of two city streets, which, for reasons lost in history, meet each other at an angle.
The black lines are are piece of Modern Movement type Modern Architecture, circa 1970, made of grey concrete, with big, boring windows. Something like an office block or a department store. The Meaningless Triangles are the pink bits.
In the days of Modern Movement type Modernism, architects were obsessed with making everything rectangular, which explains that jagged, saw-like edge to the big Modern Movement type building, at the bottom of my diagram. In order for the building to be in line with one of the streets, it has to be at an angle to the other street, because the streets are not themselves at right angles.
So, why not just have wall to the building that are not at right angles? This is what is done now. Why not then?
There are many reasons. One is that doing this kind of thing, in the days before computers, was a bit difficult. But more fundamentally, right angles were, you know, Modern. Only the despised higgledy-piggledy Past had walls at crazy angles.
More fundamentally, Modern Movement architecture was not so much about building a mere building, as about building a small fragment of a potentially infinite urban grid. In a perfect world, the Modern Movement type building would not stop at the boundaries of the site. It would instead stride madly off in all four directions, covering the whole earth in a single rectangular grid. You think that’s mad? Sure it’s mad. But this was how these people thought, in those days. They really did publish schemes to cover the entire world with just the one new building, and smash all the others.
The boundaries of the site were an affront to the building. The building did not end gracefully and decorously at the boundary, and then show a polite face to the world. No. It merely stopped, as gracelessly and rudely as possible, and in a manner which threatened to go bashing on, just as soon as a socialist upheaval (preferably worldwide) could clear all the higgledy-piggledy crap of the past out of the way. In a perfect world, there would be no boundaries, no property rights. No arbitrary lines where one bit of “property” stops and another bit starts. Oh no. All would be owned by the People in Common, and our architect is the instrument of the People in Common, and supplies them all, all I say, with a new and infinitely huge new building.
I know, insane. Don’t blame me. I’m just telling you what these lunatics were thinking.
Luckily, the higgledy-piggledy old world kept these maniacs under control. They had to stop their damn buildings at the edge of the site. If they had tried to bash on beyond the site, they’d have been arrested. But, they could make the ragged edge of the building look as ragged and ugly as they liked, and they did.
Hence all the Meaningless Triangles.
If you want to hear me talking about the above, go to this video, of me giving a talk about Modern Architecture, and start watching at 41 minutes.
What got me blogging about Meaningless Triangles was that I recently, in the course of wandering through my photo-archives, came across this photo:
What we see there is a very meaningful building, built to fill in a Meaningless Triangle. As I recall, this is a few dozen yards from the entrance to Kensington High Street Tube station. Yes, I just found the Caffe Nero in Wrights Lane, near that very tube station. That’s the one. I took my photo of it in 2010.
Later on, in Richmond, still beside the river, but upstream, practically in the country, I espied a cat. Here is the context, and the cat:
In other cat-related news, 6k did a cat-related posting for me to link to last Friday. He mentioned me in the first line, and then showed one of my photos, but I only realised that there was cattery later in the posting too late for last Friday so I had to wait a week. He went on to mention that video of that giant white fluffy Goodie stroke James Bond villain kitten attacking the BT Tower. Said 6k:
Yes. Kittens were huge (literally) in popular culture, even before the internet was around.
And if Brian reads this before the end of the day, he’s got a lovely Feline Friday tie-in opportunity with his post from yesterday.
Better a week late than never. (There is also a cat connection in this posting, which is about the head of another sort of big cat.)
6k is taking a bit of a break, or so he says. I’ll still keep checking in, just to see. “For personal reasons”. Ah yes, there are lot of those about, rampaging the earth, closing blogs and generally causing havoc. Me, I try to avoid having personal reasons.
Another favourite blogger of mine features more cattery here, in the form of East End high end graffiti.
6k writes about a Fairly epic disaster video:
Cranes and bridges. I know who’ll like this one…
That would be me.
But it’s not a happy crane and bridge video. It’s a bit of a disaster…
So I watched the video, and then read 6k’s commentary underneath it, in that order. 6k’s commentary described my sentiments exactly:
Look, because of the title of this post and the title of the video, you know that things aren’t going to end well. But it’s the way things happen almost in slow motion and the lack of any sort of discernible panic that makes this so entertaining.
So slo-mo was it that I checked that the people moving about as this was happening were moving at a realistic speed. They were. Which meant that the cranes really did descend this slowly. It was almost like when the Twin Towers collapsed, in that way if in no other way.
I’m not good at putting up videos here, so you’ll have to follow the link at the very top of this to watch this video. However, this disaster having been videoed at the time, there was no way the www was not going to supply follow-up stills of the resulting wreckage, and here is an aerial snap that I quickly found, which tells that story very well:
Click on that picture to get it bigger. Follow the link above if you want to see where I found it.
I’m guessing (only guessing mind) that the fact that the cranes were on a boat may have been the straw that caused the camels to fall over onto those houses.
Commenter number one there spells it out, and he says that the water aspect of things was more like a bale of straw:
There is an example of this exact situation in the maritime crane operation safety textbooks. Obviously, they didn’t read those.
Here’s a quick list of safety violations:
1) None of the vehicles were secured on the decks
2) Barges stability was not ensured in any way
3) The cargo was not stabilized from swinging & windage by lines
It’s easy to sneer about how hindsight is easy, blah blah. But this guy sounds like he might have been able to stop this, had he been directly involved.
That’s not my punctuation. That’s their punctuation:
This is sort of a wedding photo, in the sense that I took it just before the wedding of Ayumi and Richard, last Saturday, just outside the Church, where there is a market.
There was nobody manning this particular stall, selling miniature pub signs. And I have a rule about signs that say No Photos, or for that matter No Photo’s. That rule is: I take a photo of all such signs that I encounter. Their rule: No Photos. My rule: Photo of their rule.
I’m guessing that what they mean by a photo is a carefully composed photo of just one of these signs, so I don’t believe that, in the unlikely event that they find out about me posting this photo here, they’ll care. Besides which, maybe they have discovered that if they exhibit all their signs for sale, and stick “Sorry! No Photo’s!” in among them, they get free publicity from photographers like me.
I didn’t really compose the shot. I just grabbed it, on my way into the wedding. But I do like how it says “Queen Vic” and then “England”, right at the top. And, top left: “London”.
This had to go up today, because as you can see, cats are involved. And my rule about sometimes having stuff here about cats on Fridays has mutated in my head into a rule that says that I may only mention cats on Fridays, otherwise they’d overrun the entire blog.
Speaking of cats, I also recommend this video, which I found when I visited, after long absence, Norman Lebrecht’s site, this morning.
And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.
This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:
What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground. And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been. It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.
Fireball. Nothing else could have done that.
However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.
Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank. And with this, I thought, I had struck gold. This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:
I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006. At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos. A … well, a camera. But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.
Whatever that is. I have no real clue. Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?
The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale. I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.
Today, from an advert in Shoreditch High Street, I learned of a game which is new to me …:
… Zorb football. As I have already told you, in the heading of this.
The website in the picture.
Video of people playing Zorb football.
The tackling reminds me of this.
Last night I went awandering along the river, as I so often do, and outside that excellent (even though it’s fake) Globe Theatre, I saw all this:
As you can see, I concentrated on the guy with the very, very complicated camera. And I post pictures of him here, entirely recognisable ones, because, frankly, what he was doing was performing in public, just like the people he was filming or videoing or photoing or whatever it was that he was doing, “digital filming” being my preferred guess. He was smiling (1.3 - top row right). He was part of it. And there was a big crowd watching all this. He reminded me a bit of the guy who fronted this excellent TV show. But the funny thing is, because he was clearly enjoying himself so much, I can’t tell if this guy is a Real Photographer, or an amateur much like me, who has merely hired a Real Camera.
The event, according to snatches of conversation that I happened to hear, was some kind of charity do. The queue contained many rich-looking couples dressed to the nines. And the camera man was busily immortalising everything.
What go me posting all these pictures, just like old times here, was partly the sheer pleasure involved in doing something really complicated with Glorious Godot, so fast and so solid (such a contrast with wade through sewage little Judas). And partly it was picture 3.3, middle row on the right. I love that pose, like he’s crapping by the roadside when on a really awkward holiday in an awkward country, except that obviously he’s not doing that. So, what is he doing? The fact that we cannot see his camera means it all needs explaining, and I thought, well, better put in another picture to show what he was actually doing, and then I couldn’t choose, and then I thought … this will be easy with Godot and there you go.
I still have lots of catching up to do, so what shall I do tonight? I know I’ll go to a Barbecue at Chateau Samizdata. Which they invited me to. I didn’t just ring up and say I was coming round and would be using their barbecue.
This posting is not so much me passing on advice as me seeking to solidify some ludicrously overdue advice from me to myself, about how to photograph speakers.
Don’t try to do it when they’re speaking.
Last night I took about two dozen photos of Dominic Frisby, who was addressing the Libertarian Home crowd at the Two Chairmen pub in Westminster. Almost all these photos were useless. This was because Frisby was talking, and when people talk, they move. The indoor light was very scarce, so the slightest motion meant a blur, and a succession of blurs was accordingly all that I got. My only photographic successes during the Frisby talk were when I switched my attention to the people listening to him. They were keeping still.
People like Richard Carey:
I think Rob clocked me, don’t you?
The only half-decent Frisby photos I got were during the Q&A, when, just like the two persons featured above, he too was listening rather than talking:
Doesn’t he look adorkable.
As to what Frisby said (on the subject of Bitcoin), well, it was all videoed, although the video camera was being hand-held, as this further snap of Richard Carey, helping out with that, illustrates:
I include that snap also because of the John Lilburne reference, Lilburne being a man whom we libertarians should be bigging up every chance we get.
Finally, a book photo. On account of Frisby’s talk beginning a few minutes earlier than I had been expecting it to, I arrived a few minutes late, and the only seat I could find was the one with Frisby’s books on it, which he had presumably earlier been sitting at. That explains the odd angle of this photo:
Both books highly recommended. More about Frisby by me (+ further links) in this Samizdata posting. In this I mentioned that Frisby was working on a Bitcoin book. As you can see, that book has now materialised.
It helps that books, like people who are listening, or for that matter doing photography, and unlike people who are talking, do not move.
I like cricket. And I like drones. But which is best?
There’s only one way to find out. Fight.
Actually, all the drone did there was hover, waiting to be clobbered, which, a minute and a half in, it duly was, by Chris Gayle.
What I want to see is a game where drones fight against each other. Or a war. Either would do.
Or, perhaps a demo.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Truly, that’s a glorious headline.
Indeed it is:
The drone was not hostile. It was part of the show, as was Iglesias attempting to handle it. It was just that it all went rather wrong:
“During the show a drone is used to get crowd shots and some nights Enrique grabs the drone to give the audience a point of view shot,” the statement read. “Something went wrong and he had an accident. He decided to go on and continued playing for 30 minutes while the bleeding continued throughout the show.”
Iglesias was semi-treated immediately after the accident.
Definitely a future trivia question in a pop quiz. But the worst that could have resulted from this would have been a couple of missing Iglesian fingers. This ("NY-bound plane nearly collides with drone, FAA says") could have ended far more grimly.
There will be many, many more drone dramas. They are colossally useful, and accidents buzzing around begging to happen.
The video at the other end of that link sells the drone as being fun for tourists. But I now surmise that the first great impact of drones on economic life is now already happening, in agriculture, in the bit of it where a tiny number of people manage vast acreages of agricultural land, and where a tiny increase in productivity is worth millions. These people already have an entire industry of small airplanes doing things like crop dusting, which is a very ungainly process but still already well worth doing. Imagine the benefits of being able to do that and much more, at virtually zero cost. You could plant the crop. Spray the crop. Keep and eye on the crop. Only the actual digging up of the crop, or whatever it is you have to do to crops, would still involve a bit of old school work.
I just googled “drones in agriculture”, and then clicked on Images. Wow.
Drones are a bit like 3-D printing, as a technology. There is much talk of mere humans doing it for fun, in their homes (3-D printing) or while out and about having fun (drones) but the real impact of poth these technologies is in niche markets, where specialists are doing things that have long been done, but quicker, better, cheaper, and by-and-by doing things in their line of business that were never before doable. Drones, for instance, will make a lot of land farmable that was not farmable before.
I have always believed that the core skill of my generation, watching television, would end up having huge economic impacts.