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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: Computer graphics

Saturday June 25 2016

Now that it’s been decided that we shall Brexit, Dezeen reports on what creatives have been creating to mark the event.  Here are the two images they reproduce which I think are the most striking:

imageimage

Both of these images are intended as expressions of regret that Britain has voted for Brexit, but neither quite say that, or not to me.  What, after all, is so great for a balloon about being stuck in a whole bunch of other balloons?  It’s creator says: “sad day”, but it doesn’t look that sad to me.  It just looks like a change.  If he was merely describing, relatively objectively, what had happened, then I guess: fair enough.

As for the disintegrating, weeping Union Jack, that would work far better as an expression of regret, in the event that Britain had voted Remain rather than Leave.  It is national flags like this one one that the EU has been working tirelessly to replace with its own flag.  Very odd.  But, a striking image nevertheless.

Thursday June 23 2016

First, this, which was the graphic on the front page of today’s pro-Remain Daily Mirror, and reproduced at Samizdata, which Natalie Solent reckons sends a somewhat ambiguous message.  I agree.  Because REMAIN is in the biggest letters, it looks like it could be saying that if you vote REMAIN, you’ll be sucked into a black hole.  As you will, by the way, if enough people do this. This is indeed the fate that awaits us all, in the event of a REMAIN victory.  One of the reasons why this graphic only works when misunderstood, is that when misunderstood, it becomes true!

image

The thing is, the EU is a lot nearer to being like a black hole than us leaving the EU is.  For that message, they needed something more like an endless desert, or a huge tundra, or maybe some grim maritime scene, doom-laden as far as they eye can see.

imageThe enormity of this decision is, I feel, appropriately reflected in the deranged graphics which occurred when this picture got loaded up.  Samizdata usually centres pictures automatically, and also makes them smaller automatically, if they need to be smaller.  That doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment.

In the comment thread on that posting, I mentioned that it was raining.  Which it was, torrentially.  But alas, it soon cleared up, thereby not dampening down the London (= Remain) vote as much it might have if it had rained with less violence but greater steadiness.  I mean, they even managed to have a shortened game of cricket at Lord’s, after the rain had stopped.

And on the right there, Elizabeth Hurley, who will have voted Leave by now, that being the picture she Twittered yesterday along with her support for Leave.  There she stands, wearing only high-healed sandals and a Union Jack cushion, or that’s how it looks.  Thankyou Guido.  She was probably right that this would get noticed, and would aid the cause she favours.  But I bet the Leavers have been circulating their own interpretations of this rather odd picture.  Is the picture recent, I wonder, or does it date from way back?

At least it is upbeat and optimistic in atmosphere, unlike that black hole.

Wednesday June 22 2016

I found a handy little graphic – of Big Things built and Big Things soon to be built in the “Square Mile Cluster” of the City of London – in this piece:

image

Click to get a bigger and easier-to-read version.

As you can see, the names are all very dull and stupid.  The Gherkin is called “30 St Mary Axe”, the Cheesegrater is called “122 Leadenhall Street”. The “Aviva Tower”, which will (if built) be the biggest of the lot (until a bigger one gets built), is far too big and obtrusive to go on being called the “Aviva Tower” indefinitely, by anyone except dull construction magazines terrified of their advertisers.  There is also no way that the angular pointy thing (5: “52-54 Lime Street") will remain “52-54 Lime Street”.  And I see that they even still calling Heron Tower the “Salesforce Tower”, which got squashed by public opinion ages ago.

Have these people learned nothing from the example of The Shard?  The Shard’s owners heard people calling The Shard “The Shard” as soon as they announced it, and said, okay, that’s a name we can happily live with, we’ll call it that too.  That way, there is no confusion.  Everyone, even its owners, now calls The Shard The Shard.  But refuse to bend with the linguistic breeze, and you end up with a building that you persist in pretending is called “34 Boring Street”, but which is really called The Dildo, or some such thing.

But the particular new tower which this article is about, now called “1 Leadenhall”, could quite well remain that, because it looks pretty unremarkable.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  The fundamental purpose of the City – London, actually – is to get things done, not to look pretty.

But although unremarkable to look at, “1 Leadenhall” may prove very remarkable to look from.  For here is yet another City of London Big Thing which will, assuming they mean it, have a viewing gallery at the top.  The views of nearby and bigger Big Things will, I surmise, be pretty spectacular.

I actually think that they do mean it, just as they meant it with the Walkie Talkie.  The City’s rulers seem to be making viewing galleries – free and public viewing galleries – at the top of new City Big Things a condition of planning permission.  This is, I surmise, because they want to liven up the City at the weekend, by attracting out-of-City-ers there.

The City at the weekend is now about as exciting as the inside of a coffin.  When I visited that model of the City (which at the moment is open only on Fridays and Saturdays), I stayed nearly an hour and saw only two other people there.  They want to change that.

Trouble is, one of the things that gives the City at the weekend its coffinian atmosphere is its semi-darkness, on all but the brightest days.  This is because of the Big Things of the City are not built with daylight in mind.  They are built to create as much office space as possible, and maybe look cool from a distance, and they are now starting to cluster in a solid lump.  I recently wrote about the difference between London and New York in this respect.  In New York, daylight is a very big deal, and the Big Things of New York have always had to be rather further apart than these new London Big Things.

Sunday June 12 2016

Photoed by me yesterday, in Lower Marsh:

image

How soon before you will be able to take a smartphone photo of such a vehicle, and then, on your screen, press on the Twitter or Facebook squares, or on the website, and get there.  Presumably, with that squiggly square, you can already do something like this.

That would certainly be an “intelligent advertising” improvement on what I have heard threats of, which is that adverts will change when they see you coming, to something they believe you are interested in.  But I don’t believe that will happen any time soon, because how would you stop other people seeing what the advert thinks you are interested in?  Leaving it up to you to investigate further, if you want to, will be much more civilised.

Friday June 03 2016

Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:

image

And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:

image

The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior.  The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.

To me the two pictures look nearly identical.  Their technical identicality does not interest me.  But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.

Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half.  New York is one of the world’s great cities.  And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.

Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now.  Consider the cranes in these pictures.  Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.

I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.

It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers.  In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way.  Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.

Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:

image

People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike.  But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings.  A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city.  A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.

New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings.  In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.

Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York.  (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground.  That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same.  Good for him.

Sunday May 29 2016

I have been neglecting Libertarian Home of late.  Let me assure LH’s Dear Leader Simon Gibbs that this is not permanent, just a combination of the declining energy that accompanies advancing years, and being, first, knackered by my French expedition, ant then preoccupied with the meeting I hosted on Friday addressed by Dominic Frisby.  (Because this was a dry run for a theatrical performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August, some rearranging was required in my tiny front room, to make it less completely unlike a theatre.)

Simon has made it easy for me to respond positively to his constant nudgings, by serving up a nudge that is very easy for me to respond to, and in fact which I am glad to respond to, because it takes care of my something-every-day self-imposed rule here, for today.

At the Libertarian Home secret coven site where Simon nudges most of his nudgings to his various LH helpers and comrades, he posted this picture, which he recently snapped in Trafalgar Square:

image

Click on that to get the original, bigger and with more verbiage.

It is typical of Simon that he nudged this in my direction (picking me out individually thereby ensuring that an email about the nudge would reach me immediately) by emphasising the horizontality of this photo.  (He had other ways of recommending it to others.) What this illustrates is that Simon is good at tuning in to how others think, which is the bedrock of the art of persuasion.

Could the horizontality of a photo mean less to Simon Gibbs if it tried?  Probably not.  But Simon knows that horizontality means something (that was one of the snaps in this posting) to me

Photographic horizontality interests me because it suits the blogging format by helping to make blog postings vertically shorter and hence less unwieldy than they would otherwise be, and because horizontality also suits other circumstances that happen to be of interest to me.

So, he used it.  Thus are ideological movements built and strengthened.

That Brexit thing is getting less and less horizontal by the minute, apparently.  Although I promise nothing, I have in mind (more Gibbs nudging) to go to Trafalgar Square this afternoon and try to photo the whole thing.

Friday May 20 2016

For years I have struggled, with the graphics programme I have been using, to crop, not square (an option this programme does offer), and not to a size I specify (ditto), but to a ratio that I specify.  For years, I could not do that.  I repeatedly searched for such a thing, in other programmes, but evidently didn’t pick the right words.

Then, in France, I couldn’t remember the mere name (on such things do decisions hinge) of my regular photo-editing package, so I loaded PhotoCat, basically because it had “cat” in its name and I reckoned I could have Friday feline fun with it (ditto), to see if I could photo-edit with that, and I could, and I could do constant ratio rectangular cropping which was a most welcome surprise.

Thus are decisions made, by computer operatives.  There are two rules for getting things done in the modern world.  (1) Do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem.  If it doesn’t help you to do something that you need to do, don’t bother with it no matter how cool everyone else says it is.  Cool is not a good enough reason to be faffing about with something.  (Faffing about to no purpose cannot be cool, because it isn’t, and because another rule is: worrying about being cool guarantees that you won’t be.)

And (2): if it does help you to do just one thing that you do want to do, then, if you can afford the money, the space, the bother, whatever, use it.  Then, when you are using that thing for that one essential thing, then, you can move onwards to finding out if it will do any other merely desirable things.  But, lots of merely desirable things and nothing essential is not good enough.

Using anything is difficult, if you only use it occasionally, to do something merely occasionally desirable.  This rule applies at all times, in all places, and no matter how “user friendly” the gizmo or programme claims itself or is claimed by other users of it to be.  Occasional is bother.  Always.  Don’t do occasional if you can avoid it.

Using anything is easy, on the other hand, if you do it regularly.  This rule applies at all times, in all places, to all things, and no matter how “user hostile” enemies of the gizmo or process claim it to be.  If a convoluted dance around the houses by a complicated route gets you an essential result, then dance.  Convoluted will quickly become imprinted on your brain, and easy, and reinforced each time you (frequently) use it.  This is how rats and ants do things. (Hurrah: other creatures!) They’ll probably outlast us.  Ants definitely.

The above explains why the division of labour was so epoch-making.  When you concentrate entirely on a small but rather tricky part of a big process, you will do it massively better than others attempting this tricky operation only sometimes, in among all the other things they are attempting.  The damn near impossible becomes routine and easy.

So, I prepared for a life of frequently PhotoCatting fixed-ratio rectangles out of my photos.  Using PhotoCat for that one thing.

But then, earlier this week I was cranking up PhotoCat, prior to some fixed-ratio cropping, and it refused to load.  It got to 80%, and then stuck there.  Who knows why?  Was this PhotoCat’s fault?  Was it something I was doing?  Probably the latter, but that isn’t the point.  It didn’t load. So, I went looking for alternatives, and I found one, called: PhotoPad.

And the bad news for PhotoCat is that PhotoPad also does proportional ratio cropping, and does it rather more conveniently, because PhotoPad operates on my hard disc and doesn’t have to be uploaded from the www each time.  Unlike PhotoCat, PhotoPad is not www based, or whatever you call it, which I prefer because you can still use it if the www is out of action.  It’s now all mine:

image

That being a snap of a rather unusual form of transport that I snapped, in France.  I like how you can see what’s happening there, like when they zoom in on a detail in a computer picture in NCIS or a movie or something similar.  (Question.  Does art lead life in computing?  Does stuff like the above start out in the movies, just so absolutely everyone can get what’s going on, and then migrate to real life?)

PhotoPad does something else which PhotoCat didn’t do, or not for me, which is rotate much more exactly.  Most photo software seems to want to offer only rotation in 1 degree increments.  If they can do better, they don’t volunteer the fact.  But, PhotoPad does volunteer this.  With PhotoPad, instead of rotating something 1 degree or 2 degrees (or 359 degrees), you can do 1.38 degrees or 1.77 degrees or 358.61 degrees.  You’d be surprised, perhaps, how often that is a desirable refinement.  You can do it by eye, and let the numbers take care of themselves.  Terrific.  Cool, even.

So.  PhotoCat now offers me … nothing.  So, … see above.

Just now, while checking out the PhotoCat link for this posting, I successfully cranked up PhotoCat.  Whatever went wrong before has now gone away.

Too late.

Saturday May 14 2016

Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference.  Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs.  And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Conference programme here.

1.1: An attender.  1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden.  1.3: Syed Kamall.  1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides.  2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro.  3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook.  3.2: Brook.  3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books.  3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window.  4.1: Anton Howes.  4.2: Howes and Brook.  4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.

Monday May 09 2016

The weather in Thuir and surrounding parts yesterday and today has been grim, in sharp contrast to the weather at the end of last week.

Here is that sharp (as in sharp and then not at all sharp) contrast:

imageimage

On the left, the weather last week, as viewed from the top of the house I am staying in.  On the right, the weather viewed from the same spot this afternoon.  The weather on the left was the sort that decreased the apparent force of gravity.  The weather now is the sort that you describe yourself as being under.

Note that it is not only the far away Pyrenees that have disappeared in the right hand picture.  The further away bit of the much nearer, green bit of the landscape has also vanished under cloud.

These two pictures (click on either to get it bigger) both involved a lot of cropping, and fiddling about to get the cropping exactly (or approximately exactly) so.  Without Photocat, I could never have done it.

I am looking forward to maybe (I promise nothing) doing similar before-and-after snaps involving recently constructed buildings in London.

Friday May 06 2016

Travel and learn.

I mentioned in a recent posting that picture editing here in Thuir is different.  This is because I can’t remember the name of the photo-editing programme that I usually use, and am having to use a different one.  And the one I am using is called PhotoCat.  Irritating.  But one very good thing has emerged from all the irritation, which is that PhotoCat can do cropping which follows the original shape of the picture,which with me is always 4x3.  This means that I can now crop a picture and still have the final result the exact same 1000x750 pixels that all my other pictures are, and that means that I can easily do a much smaller version and make.  I could do that with my regular programme, but only with a lot of fiddling about.

PhotoCat also does rotating in a way that takes you straight to the biggest version you can then have, also while preserving the same proportions.

Here, for instance, appropriately enough, is picture of a cat which I took in Castelnou yesterday.  On the left is the original snap.  On the right is the cropped version.

imageimage

Whether the picture above actually needed cropping is not the point.  The point is that cropping, while keeping the shape the same, was painless.

As is rotating.  This same cat later did a bit of rotating of its own, so here is the original of it doing that, with my left foot intruding.  And on the right is my rotation of its rotating, also cropped:

imageimage

PhotoCat is a web based application, or I think it is.  It works pretty much like you own it, except that if your internet is down, it presumably doesn’t work.

This posting has been done to ensure that I do not forget the name of this programme.  PhotoCat.  By which I mean PhotoCat.

Monday May 02 2016

A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter.  But it was Spurs who faltered, twice.  They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points.  So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:

image

All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter.  Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”.  We’ll see.  Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap.  They did pretty well, for a while.

Spurs?  Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too.  On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball.  Again, we shall see.

Thursday April 21 2016

Circumstances had placed me at the Angel Tube.  My business was concluded and the weather was wondrous.  So, where to next?  There is a canal near there, but I didn’t fancy another canal walk, so instead I just walked along whatever road presented itself to me, in the general direction of the Big Things of the City (one of them (the Heron Tower) having been turned blazing gold by the early evening sun).  The road turned out to be Goswell Road.  A place of slightly down-at-heal struggle, where you felt that for some, the struggle wasn’t worth it, but for others, maybe.  That kind of in-between sort of a place.  Not as affluent as you’d expect for something that close to the City, but trundling along as best it could.  Big, shabby-modern university buildings.  Building sites.  Ethnic shops.

And then in amongst all this middlingness, a glimpse through what looked like a shop window, into a world of money-no-object designer gloss and nouveau riche ostentation.  What is all this stuff?

It all looked rather Zaha Hadid, especially this shiny but strange object, presumably for sitting on:

image

And hey, look, there’s a picture of Zaha Hadid.  This is obviously a place that takes Zaha Hadid pretty seriously, and is very saddened by her recent death:

image

Zaha Hadid, I should explain, is the world-renowned starchitect and designer, who recently died at the shockingly young age of 65.  When a starchitect dies at 65, that’s like a rock star dying at 22.  At 65, starchitects, rather like classical conductors, are just getting started.  The thing is, starchitects need power, and their target demographic is old decision-makers, so they tend to be old too.

What was this rather strange place?  I stepped back to see if there was any clue on the outside.

Here was a clue:

image

Good grief.  This is an actual Zaha Hadid place of work.

I crossed the road, to photo the whole thing:

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To be more exact, this is not the one place where Hadid and all her underlings did everything.  This is the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, which opened in 2013 (I now learn), which would perhaps have been open for me to walk into had I encountered it earlier in the day.  The place displays many of Hadid’s numerous designs for Small Things, like furniture, lamps, sculptures, jewellery, paintings, and suchlike.

Considering what a wacky designer Hadid was, that’s a surprisingly prosaic building, isn’t it?  I’m guessing that it was not built specifically with her in mind, but was adapted.

So, no wonder that this place now contains memorials to Zaha Hadid, like this:

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There is some reflection of the outside in this next snap, but it gives you an idea of what the place as a whole is like, and what kind of stuff is in it:

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Frankly, for me, all this indoor small stuff does not show Hadid at her very best.  For that, I think, you have to go outside.

Her only building in London so far is the Aquatics Centre, which I photoed, very hastily, when I visited the top of the Big Olympic Thing.  Had I know then that Zaha Hadid had been about to die, I would have taken more photos of this building, and more carefully:

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I would, for instance, have placed it in a gap in that safety netting, rather than just randomly.  Another time.

But notice that even in that casual photo, the beauty, I think, of the building still asserts itself.  It’s like a sports helmet, of the sort worn by cyclists, and by some cricketers.

Even more remarkable is this amazing ancient-modern juxtaposition:

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This is now, apparently, nearing completion.  It might be worth a trip to Antwerp, just to see it.

Zaha Hadid’s underlings are going to try to keep the Zaha Hadid enterprise going, at least the architectural bit.  Good luck people, but you’re surely going to need it.

The rumour I heard is that Hadid was “difficult” to work for.  Maybe this was just an example of that law that says that bossy men are masterful, but bossy women are bossy.  But maybe she really was difficult to work for.  If so, this difficulty looks like it was all of a piece with the sorts of designs she created.

The thing is, Hadid was not some logical, everything-has-a-reason systematic, machines-for-living in, presider over a system of architectural problem solving.  She was the kind of architect who unleashed drama, excitement, at vast extra expense, if what you’re comparing it all with is a big rectangular box.  You only have to look at her stuff to see that any logic involved is just an excuse for a cool looking design.  Why does it look that way?  Because I, Zaha Hadid, say so, and I’m the boss, that’s why.  I make beautiful shapes.  Other people like them and buy them.  Deal with it.

That’s going to be a hard act to replace.

Monday April 18 2016

Indeed:

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For the uninitiated.  I did once sit through this piece, when it was on the radio, but my mind wandered.  I blame the performance.  I also fondly remember the Gramophone (I think) review of a recording of it: a blank column.

Friday April 01 2016

So back on Wednesday afternoon, I said I’d be going out, and I did go out.

I took a ton of photos, including this one, of the Wheel:

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And then this one, of Big Ben:

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And then this one of the Wheel again, and a general view of the River:

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I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to being able to enjoy a cricket match and a walkabout, simultaneously.

The T20I, as they now call it, has worked out perfectly.  England are in the final (see above) by beating NZ.  Good.

And the West Indies are in the final also, because they beat India.  Even though Gayle was out in only the second over of their very difficult chase.  The Windian Ladies are also in their final.  Also good.

Good because cricket needs the West Indies to care about cricket and to go on playing it and playing it well.  (Indians are not going to lose interest in cricket any time soon, no matter what their team does or doesn’t do.)

Time was when the Windies were great at test cricket.  Then they became crap at test cricket and fans like me feared that they might soon switch their attention to a quite different sort of game.  Well, now they have.  Twenty-twenty cricket.

What do you suppose this is?:

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Just looking at that, I can’t tell.  A bit of pink string or wool?  A vapour trail in the sunset?  Clue: This is Friday here at BMdotcom and living creatures are involved.

But click on it, getting the bigger picture, and it all becomes clearer.

However, I submit that this clarity is not because of the picture being slightly bigger.  It is because we see where this strange Thin Thing is to be seen.  We don’t so much see what it is as deduce it.  We?  Maybe it was not like that for you.  Maybe you have a better screen than I do.  But this was how I worked it out.

The picture is one of these.  6K called it “The thin pink line”, so I’m guessing he realised how it might be cropped.  By, e.g., me.