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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: France

Sunday January 18 2015

At that demo a week ago today, there were, of course, and abundance of smartphones being used to soak up snaps:

image imageimage image

And there were tablets being used as well:

image

But more intriguingly, and this was a first for me, I saw smartphones …:

image

… and tablets …:

image

… being used actually to demonstrate.  And as you can see, I wasn’t the only one who was interested.

I’m not sure what this means.  I simply note that it was happening.

Monday January 12 2015

Here, as promised, is a big clutch of photos of signs that I took at the Trafalgar Square demo yesterday.  If you want to, click on a square to get the original photo.  The squares have, in quite a few cases been fiddled out with to make them a bit clearer, but the originals you’ll get to with clicking are exactly as taken.

There were, of course, lots of signs (including many mobile phones and at least one tablet) saying “I AM CHARLIE”, in fact you can see quite a few such if you do some clicking.  But, here are all the signs I photographed that said something else as well, or instead:

image image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image imageimage image image image

Of all of these, my two favourites are “Team Civilization”, and “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended” (in French).  But demos are at least as much about quantity as quality, and I trust the sheer number of signs shown here (there were plenty more that I didn’t get to photo) makes the bigger point.  There were a lot of people turning out to denounce these horrible attacks.

Even the rather or almost completely illegible signs are an encouragement, I think, because what these signs tell us is that quite a few people were present, and feeling strongly enough about it to want to wave a sign, who had never been anywhere near such a demo ever before.

Feel free to reproduce any of these images at will, with or without attribution.  If you’d like bigger versions of any of the pictures, my email can be found here, top left, where it says “Contact”.

Sunday January 11 2015

Spent the middle of the day at the demo, taking my usual excessive number of pictures, and then the evening trying to divide them up into clumps to show here, or somewhere.

My main impression was that this was a real demo, rather than some faked up exercise in pretending to be angry about some bit of bad economic or political news that some bunch of people have just been hit by, but not very hard, with lots of identical signs all printed out by the same dubious Marxist agitprop organisation, and then afterwards lots of moaning about how the evil Mass Media paid no attention.  There were a lot of people there:

image

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of French people present, what with London now containing so many French people.  Also not surprisingly, the average age of those present was young, what with there being so many young French people in London.

image

My thanks to Goddaughter 2, now back in London, who told me that she and a friend were going to attend.  Had she not done this, I would only have twigged that it was happening when it started happening and I saw it on the telly.

I have in mind, Real Soon Now, to be posting a clump of pictures of the signs and pictures that people were holding up, along the lines of these photos, that I took of a much smaller demo in London a while back, including the one above, and also including this one, which I especially like:

image

My immediate reaction to the Paris brouhaha was not: “I am Charlie Hebdo!” It was to take another crack at reading the Quran, to check if it really is as obnoxious as I remember it being the first time around.  So far, it is, even more than I remember.

Monday January 05 2015

My thanks to Tony, for his and his family’s hospitality during the last week and more, and for this photo, which he took in Quimper recently, and kindly emailed to me a few days ago.  I couldn’t then pay attention to it, but it was waiting for me when I got home:

image

What this shows is how Quimper Cathedral looked before they put two big(ger) spikes on the top of it, in the nineteenth century, thus making it look how it looks now.

I can find nothing about this transformation on the internet, let alone any repro of this actual map.  Odd.  Odd, that is, unless it is all there and I merely couldn’t find it.  That would not be odd at all.

Saturday January 03 2015

The error messages have continued, so all I will do this evening is post this.  Back home tomorrow evening, and I hope things work better there.  The temptation to attempt another picture posting is huge, but I will resist.

No I won’t.  That went so well, I’ll give it a go:

I only got this far so you’ll just have to click on this.

Like I said, see you tomorrow.

Friday January 02 2015

I love to photo things in shops, because that way you can enjoy them indefinitely, yet never buy them.

Cats, for instance:

image imageimage image

Uploading all of those took an age.  I keep getting messages saying things like this:

PHP has encountered an Access Violation at 01BEA37F

Very informative.  But if I just keep trying, eventually it works.

If it isn’t one stupid thing, it’s another stupid thing.  It will bear repeating again and again that no two computers in the entire world are exactly alike.  Get used to one, and you ideally want to keep using that one, always.  Switch to another, and life just becomes relentlessly more difficult and annoying.

The message of all the cat stuff I do here is that blogging is fun and that if you are a blogger you should never forget it.  Sadly, this evening, blogging has not been fun. 

Thursday January 01 2015

In Quimper, as opposed to the world, the Twin Towers still stand, in the shape of the two identical spires of Quimper Cathedral.

When out and about in Quimper, and in among photoing roof clutter, I also made a point of trudging up the shady, frigid side of the long hill that overlooks the river valley that is Quimper, to try to photo Quimper and its Cathedral from there.

I have tried this before, but have only previously been here in the summer, when the trees are all smothered in foliage.  I had been thinking about this since before I came here this time around.  This time around, I thought, I might be able to really see Quimper and its Cathedral properly, with branches and twigs intervening somewhat and rather decoratively, but with no leaves to spoil the view.  I earlier photographed the Cathedral in gaps between the leaves, but this time I wanted to get both the Cathedral, and its place in the entirety of Quimper.

And I got it:

image

Branches and twigs intervening decoratively, but no foliage to spoil the wider view.

I didn’t want you people thinking that the only thing that interests me about foreign places is foreign roof clutter.

Also: see this piece about all the speakers I had at my Last Fridays, last year.  I had to step on it a bit yesterday, because you have to do end-of-year pieces like this before the year ends, even if nobody besides Paul Marks reads them until several days later.  It’s the rule.  But despite all that, and actually somewhat because of it, I have had a very Happy New Year so far, and I hope you are having one also, and that your happiness continues.

Wednesday December 31 2014

My journey from home to Quimper in Brittany involved a nervewracking change in Paris.  I only had an hour and a half to get from Paris Nord to Paris Montparnasse, during which time I had to buy a Metro ticket as well as do the actual journey.  The Metro ticket was the scary bit.  The Metro ticket selling system at Paris Nord is or at least looked that day like in-your-face fuck-you nationalisation, on full throttle.  Three windows for selling.  One imperturbably relaxed seller, at one open window, like in a British high street bank of the sort that is bullying you to do everything online.  A queue like something in old Moscow when a meat shipment was rumoured to have arrived, caused by two trains having just arrived at Paris Nord, mine being one.  Luckily there was also a slightly shorter queue for a machine, and by begging help from the lady in front of me, I managed to extract a ticket from the machine, and I then sped to Montparnasse.  On the way back, I will buy a ticket on the train from Quimper to Paris, which I can apparently do.  I will have four hours to make that work.  Should be enough.

At Montparnasse, I of course had an hour to kill, and although I had a good book with me, I killed the hour by taking photos like this:

image

That was taken quite high up in the Montparnasse station, through thick glass, hence the linear interruption and the yellow reflections.  But, being high up, I got a better view of a little of the magnificent roof clutter that Paris offers.  Those chimneys, with their pointy tops like something in a fairy tale book, are unlike anything I have seen or at any rate noticed in London.

Here is another picture which I took just before the one above:

image

Here we see a roof clutter refinement which I do not recall seeing in London much either, namely an illuminated sign right in front of whatever other roof clutter is behind it, advertising the business down below.  Given how I adore roof clutter and am also very fond of signs, this photo gave and gives me deep pleasure.

In among more formal expeditions to local beauty spots, I have got to walk around a bit in Quimper, of which I am very fond.  Back from some walk on the beach, somewhere or other, I had my hosts drop me off in the centre of town and I walked back in the amazing late afternoon sunshine.

In among much else, I took more roof clutter pictures, like this ...:

image

… and this:

image

The first is good because it shows more chimney pots.  The second I include for artistic impression.  I just like how it looks.

But what interests me about this clutter, aside from mere prettiness, is that whereas the chimney pots seem to be specific to France, the electronic stuff is the sort of thing that I recognise from the UK.  It would appear that a TV aerial is a TV aerial, anywhere in the UK or France.  Ditto a satellite dish.  How much do these things vary in the rest of the world?

Tuesday December 30 2014

I have swapped one kind of computing confusion, too complicated even to describe, for another, and am now using a French keyboard, but telling the computer I am using that this keyboard is really British.  This means various letters on the keyboard being in the wrong place, such as the Q and the A, which are where the A and the Q ought to be.  There are other confusions, of a more serious sort.

This is a very peculiar experience for a touch typist like me, because it means that I can now only touch type.  I cannot pause and go find the correct letters, because I do not know them, or not the ones that cause all the trouble.  Only my fingers do.

So it is touch typing, or no typing at all.

Which is better than French typing, but still very imperfect, because some of the regular British things are things which my fingers are not that good at, most notably inverted commas, both single and double.  This is why I said it is in the previous paragraph rather than abbreviating it, and why I am saying it is in this sentence, twice, without any inverted commas to indicate that I am quoting myself.

I seem to recall that faced with this dilemma on a previous French expedition, I had to make do with the computer recognising the French keyboard I was using as French, which meant switching As and Qs, etc.  The alternative arrangement is somewhat better, but only somewhat.

Luckily my fingers know how to do two important things, neither of which are in the same place on these keyboards, namely commas, and full stops.

Another oddity is that the spellchecking in my blog input process demands that all words be recognisably French, and so underlines most words, because of them not being French, thus rendering itself inutile, and yes that is how you spell inutile.  But, sorry about all the other spelling errors in this.

Sunday December 28 2014

When in France, I have no particular desire to do as the French do.  I have my own agendas.  So, for instance, French people do not make a point of photoing French posters advertising British or American films in the Paris Metro.  But, I like to do this:

image

I am using an alien computer.  Contriving the above photo-display took some doing.  Were I using my own computer I might have cropped that photo.  As it is, it is as it was when it came out of my camera.

Mostly, I just like the thought that we are making movies that they consider good enough to show in Paris.  But I think I am also interested in what sort of picture of my country they are seeing.  I’m guessing it is one that they want to see.  In this case, for example, they are see us Anglos being, although quite good looking, also boring, disgusting, uncultured and gross, and generally behaving like people upon whom wealth is wasted.  Not wanting to see Anglos in this light myself, I have not seen this movie, so I may be entirely wrong about what it is like.

But if it is not like that, they shouldn’t have called it that.  As a general rule, it is surely good business to take your movie look in the posters (and sound in its title) the way it actually is, because that way the people who will be attracted to it by the poster will then enjoy it, and the word of mouth will be good.  Many a movie is not what they first advertised it as, and hence was denounced by its early audiences, but was good in some other way, and ended up appealing to quite other people.  Had they advertised it more accurately to start with, they’d have done better business.

Saturday December 27 2014

Indeed.  Tomorrow I will try to post something more substantial.  But as for today, I’m afraid, a posting saying that that is it is it.

Tuesday November 18 2014

I was in Paris in the freezing February of 2012, and while there, on the coldest day of the lot, I visited an amazing exhibition of Relief Maps.  Thank googleness for the internet, because instead of having to explain this, I can just give you the link, and let you learn as much or as little about this event as you want to.

Here is the photo:

image

I can’t remember how exactly all the things that you see there came to look the way they do in that photo, but I’m pretty sure that a big mirror was involved, and also the glass of the big case that this map was in.  I can say with absolute certainty that no Photoshop(clone)ing is involved.

The big near-white thing in the middle is a map, on the floor, of France.

Go to the very middle of the picture, and then across a bit to the left and then down a bit, and you will see: me.  Wearing a scarf indoors, as was everyone else.

Sunday November 16 2014

Something a lot of people don’t get about rather small and incremental improvements is that even if they don’t mean anything to you (by which I mean to them) they can definitely mean something to someone, and potentially a great deal, and to quite a lot of someones.  My understanding of economics is that this is one of the most basic ideas embodied in it.  (The notion even has its own intellectual revolution: the Marginal Revolution.)

A price increase of around fifty pence for something costing, say, thirty quid may not seem much, and it may not change your behaviour.  But for some people this will be the proverbial straw that changes a light bulb to parsnips, the difference that makes all the difference.

Consider these slightly new, slightly snazzier trains, that have been announced by Eurostar, to replace their existing trains, next year.  Their front ends, so we are now being told, will look like this:

image

The Evening Standard (where I found all these pictures) tells us that these new trains will slash the journey time from London to Paris, but it neglects to reveal by how much.  Google google.  Here we go.  The Daily Mail supplies the answer to this obvious question.  It turns out that the journey time from London to Paris will be “slashed” (their word too) by … fifteen minutes.

But this posting is not (see above) a rant about how little difference this will make to most people.  It is a rant about how much difference it will make to some people.  For some people this fifteen minute reduction will make the difference between being able to go to Paris in the morning, get the job done, and then return to London that same day in time to read a story to a daughter.  Or … not.  Connections just missed will turn into connections just made, and fifteen minutes (doubled for the two journeys) will stretch out into something more like two hours.

Not for most people.  Just for some people.  And when you consider how many people might or might not choose to use Eurostar, depending on considerations like the above, that “some” people turns out to be really quite a lot of people.

In short, fifteen minutes does make a difference.

Or consider another small improvement that these new trains will involve, this time an improvement measured not in minutes but in inches.

Here is how the new trains will look on the inside:

image

Now that may not seem very interesting.  But it interests me greatly.  It’s been a while since I travelled on Eurostar, but my abiding memory is of how small and cramped and dreary the interior of the carriage was.  For such a supposedly twenty first century experience, the whole thing had a very twentieth century feel to it, in a bad way.  The above picture immediately makes me think that these new trains will be a significantly more spacious and less soul-destroying experience than the old ones, the old ones that I will still be partaking of when I journey to France and back, just after Christmas.

Judging by this photo ...:

image

… it would appear that they have done to the design of the Eurostar what they have also been doing to some of the trains in the London Underground.  These new London tube trains now bulge outwards, over the platforms.  Not by much, but by just a bit, just enough to make a real difference to the inside.

A few days ago, I overheard a conversation between some out-of-towners who were enthusing about the new and wider tube trains that were recently introduced on London’s Circle Line.  They were rhapsodising.  It was like listening to the scripted pseudo-public babbling away on a TV advert, so delighted were these truly regular members of the public about the new train that they and I were travelling on.  And I agree with them.  Whenever a train that I am awaiting emerges from its tunnel and reveals itself to be one of these new and slightly wider trains, my spirits are lifted.

And that was just inside a tube train.  When it comes to Eurostar, we are talking about two hours.  Two hours stuck in a dreary little tube, or in a rather less dreary, rather less constricted sort of tube.  That is quite a difference.  I can easily imagine, when some future decision about a cross-Channel journey presents itself to me, that these extra few inches ("cramped" is all about inches) could be the difference that will be all the difference, to me.  At the very least, I will try to give the new carriages at least one try, when they do finally appear.

Tuesday October 21 2014

There I was, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 3.  Some music had ended, and I was now being subjected to a programme which I do not usually listen to, called Words and Music.  And I heard the actor Jim Broadbent saying these words, by Michel de Montaigne:

I take the first subject that chance offers.  They are all equally good to me.  And I never plan to develop them completely.  For I do not see the whole of anything.  (Nor do those who promise to show it to us.) Of a hundred members and faces that each thing has, I take one, sometimes only to lick it, sometimes to brush the surface, sometimes to pinch it to the bone.  I give it a stab, not as wide, but as deep as I know how.  And most often, I like to take them from some unaccustomed point of view. Scattering a word here, there another, samples separated from their context, dispersed, without a plan and without a promise, I am not bound to make something of them, or to adhere to them myself, without varying when I please, and giving myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and my ruling quality, which is ignorance.

Sounds like a blogger, doesn’t he?  A blogger, that is to say, like me. Especially where he says “without a promise”.  I keep saying that. Above all there is that “this is what it is and if you don’t like it you know just what you can do about it” vibe that so many bloggers give off.  With Montaigne, we are arriving at that first moment in history when writing and publishing new stuff had become easy.  Not as easy as it is when you blog, but a whole lot easier than it had been.

I transcribed the above quote from Broadbent’s reading of it.  The punctuation is somewhat uncertain, and at one point assertively creative on my part.  I added some brackets, around what is clearly a diversion from his main line of thought to which he immediately returns.  It’s a sideswipe at others and it is then forgotten.

Such is the wonder that is the internet that I had little difficulty in tracking down the quote.  It is near the beginning of Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Democritus and Heraclitus”, in volume three of his essays.

image

The BBC used a more recent translation, which I much prefer the sound of, it being less antique and long-winded.  And if Montaigne himself was also antique and long-winded, then I still prefer intelligibility to stylistic accuracy.

LATER: More about Montaigne, also emphasising the modern social media angle, here.

Friday October 03 2014

Yes, dezeen (Dezeen?) continues to be a favourite wwwspot for me.  Here are some recent dezeen postings that got my attention, for this or that reason.

First, news that there will be a viewing platform on top of the Walkie Talkie:

The Walkie Talkie Skygarden has yet to open and will, I’m sure, come with a catchier name. But already it is in obvious competition with the Shard – pricey versus free, ascetic steel and glass versus sylvan repose, supreme height versus not being able to see the Walkie Talkie. ...

Very droll.  The original was about how you couldn’t see the National Theatre from the National Theatre.  But me, I am warming to the Walkie Talkie, and I don’t just mean I’m standing under it and being fried.  I especially like how it looks from a distance.  The point being: it looks like the Walkie Talkie.  Not just some anonymous rectangular London lump, no, that particular Big Thing.  Yes it is not properly beautiful.  But neither is London.  Besides which, anything that just might compete down the price of going to the top of the Shard has my vote.  I’ll definitely make my way up there, as soon as they’ll let me

Next up, isn’t fun when someone hitherto impeccably cool suddenly turns into Grumpy Old Man:

Speaking to Dezeen, the 85-year-old English designer said tech products like the iPhone and Apple Watch were turning people into zombies, adding: “I’ve got a certain cynicism of Apple and their motives. It’s a bit of a monster.”

“It’s a game they’re playing and it’s an absolutely straightforward, commercial, ruthless game, and it’s dressed up nicely because they’ve got some talented people in their employ,” he said.

Grange, who was knighted in 2013 for services to design, believes that the tech giant has successfully turned Modernism into “good commerce”, using aesthetics to dress up a self-perpetuating product cycle.

“There are probably few companies around now that absolutely answer the prospect that Modernism is good commerce,” he said. ...

Modernism is good commerce?  Can’t have that.

… “They’ve been so bloody ruthless that you almost get no choice in the matter.”

“Almost” there means “not”.  (See also: essentially, basically, fundamentally, etc. etc. etc.) Because actually, you get plenty of choice about whether to buy Apple stuff or not.  Apart from one rather nice keyboard, I never have.

People always talk about the behemoths of capitalism like this, just as they are starting their long slide down into moderate size and moderate success, into business as usual.  How do I know Apple is now at the top of that slide?  Easy, they are building a custom-designed headquarters.  It absolutely yells: from now on, all Apple-persons will talk to each other and keep everyone else out.  And what they will be talking about, to an appalling degree, will be their own living arrangements inside this huge circular corporate burial chamber.  They’re doomed, I tell you, doomed.  Someone tell Sir Grumpy (above) that he can relax.

Next: what a driverless car might look like.  Not.  But, it looks very pretty.  The basic point, that driverless cars will in the longer run utterly transform the look of the outdoors is, I think, a very good one.  Maybe that is how some of them will look.

I really do not like the way this floating bikeway along the River Thames looks, in the pictures there.  At the very least, I say, find a way to avoid having those obtrusive shapes above the level of the track, which makes it look like an infinitely extended item of tasteless garden furniture.  I get it, that crap is there to enable it to float up and down on the tide.  Well, find another way to do that.

Next, some excellent photos of the High Line, in New York.  I especially like the distant aerial view of it curving its way over the Rail Yards, with the spontaneous architectural order of Manhattan’s towers in the background.

I do like this rectangular block of a house, but with one end lifted up.  Usually the rectangular block houses featured at dezeen are impeccably, terminally tedious.  But this one, I like.  Apart from the fact that whenever the damn architect called round, you’d have to tidy up all your domestic crap all over everywhere, and turn the place back into the dreary corporate office it resembles in the photos.  What is it with architects not wanting homes to look, inside, like homes, but instead like some kind of dystopian hell with nothing in it besides a wooden floor?

Here are some impeccably, terminally tedious rectangular type houses, in Japan.  To me, by far, by several hundred miles, the most interesting thing about these photos of them is the amazing amount of electrical crap in the sky over the street outside.  If I was photoing in Japan, I would be all over that.  More Japanese sky clutter here, in photos of another impeccably, terminally tedious block house with an interior that also looked like a corporate office reception area when the photos were taken.

Google drones.  Spooky.

A weird footbridge in Paddington.

Parisian blocks become wavey.

Finally what with this being Friday, some black cats with bronze bollocks.  I kid you not.