Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Photographers by the river
Darren on Photographers by the river
Laban on Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington's Amazing Castle
Laban on Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington's Amazing Castle
Ed Harris on May 2005 was my first big month for photoing photoers
Mr.FC on An extraordinary coincidence
6000 on A smartphone wearing sunglasses
Brian Micklethwait on What writing for Samizdata should now (for me) mean
Brian Micklethwait on The Shard was looking very special today
Perry de Havilland on What writing for Samizdata should now (for me) mean
Most recent entries
- Don’t mention The Wires!!! in South Korea either!
- My next camera?
- How David Irving put himself on trial
- Credit where credit is due (in France)
- Zorb football
- Palestra House – then and now
- May 2005 was my first big month for photoing photoers
- White cat – Mick Hartley’s photos and other photos he likes – black and white and colour
- Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington’s Amazing Castle
- Photographers by the river
- When David Irving called a British Judge “Mein Fuhrer”
- Tomorrow I will get out less
- London dragon
- Sunlight (selectively) on roof clutter
- A smartphone wearing sunglasses
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Category archive: Cats and kittens
Well, it hasn’t really worked has it. No way have I caught up. But before today ends, I do want to show you this, because it is a cat and Friday is my cat day:
So, that white cat above, for instance. It adds an extra something that the white cat is surrounded by a white window frame, and that it is black behind the white cat. And, neither the cat nor the window frame would be as white if it were not for the blue wall.
So, go to Mick Hartley. You may not want to read the whole thing just because I do. But, look at the whole thing.
It’s true! Three of weeks ago, I was scratching about for a cricket cat connection, and all the time this cricket cat connection has been out there, and I never knew, until I followed a tweet at Cricinfo! And there it was! Philip Clive Roderick Tufnell (nickname: “The Cat”, or so somebody claims), former Middlesex and England spin bowler, now TMS commentator, painter, has climbed aboard the catwagon! Does he actually like cats? Is he merely hoping to get internet hits that are the envy of artists who prefer non-feline subjects? Who knows? Who cares?
I think people are sometimes surprised that art is my thing. I got an O level in art at school (my only one – I was too busy playing cricket!) and my Dad was a silversmith, so there’s a history of creativity in my family. I even worked with my Dad for a while when I was turning professional, and I loved it.
I’m not a landscape water-colourist or anything – you won’t bump into me and my easel on a country walk! Instead, I love to work in abstract art and with different techniques. My studio is full of spray-paint cans, because I really like the effects I can create.
You can see where I’m getting all my exclamation marks!
I love that the cat is a smoker!
What with my computer misbehaving, and having a meeting chez moi this evening, I am only in the mood for a bit of frivolity. Which is fine, because Friday is the day set aside here for frivolity of a feline nature. Earlier in the week I was able to connect the subjects of drones and cricket. Today, how about cats a cricket? And cats and drones?
Well, the best cats and cricket connection I have recently noticed occurred in a Channel 5 telly show called “Psycho Pussies: When Cats Attack”. Having spent the last few weeks showing us how various animals, cats, dogs, pets, or just animals, make us LOL, they now turned to the dark side of feline behaviour.
I was only half watching, but my impression was that they were talking to the same small bunch of owners – owners willing to live with psycho pussies – over and over again. I surmise that (a) most cats do not thus misbehave, and that in most of the cases where cats do thus misbehave (b) evolution swings into action in the form of a lethal injection. But, there were a few masochistic pscho pussy owners, one of whom dressed up in cricket gear by way of self-protection rather than take the obvious lethal step. And there was my connection. Remember that for Friday, I said. And I wasn’t the only one to notice this cat/cricket angle.
As for cats and drones, well the internet is flooded with gruesome pictures of that dead cat that some psycho artist turned into a quadcopter, or whatever the small and amateur drones are now called. (Real Drones are as yet only used by Americans, to kill people.) I seem to recall doing a blog posting way back about this feline quadcopter, but cannot now find it.
However, far more amusing than this old and horrible story was what I also found during my quest for a drone cat connection, namely this:
The point being that for some, drones are, just like cats, pets. And, pets get lost. And when pets get lost, posters get put up, appealing for help.
I don’t reckon neighbours will be so sympathetic and cooperative, though.
I’ve been giving attention to and often photoing white vans lately, and am starting to notice interesting things about them, of which more in due course. (Maybe. I promise nothing.)
But meanwhile, Fridays here have not, lately, seen much in the cat category, which is a thing I like to do on Friday.
So, a picture of a white van with a picture of a cat on it would seem to be in order.
I have yet to photograph such a thing myself, but I did find just such a picture of just such a white van, here. But alas, the cat was on it for a not very internetty sort of reason:
There’s lots of cat related stuff on the www, but this is an aspect of cats and the keeping of them that typically gets omitted. All is cuteness. Spaying is ... not cute.
Photoed by me yesterday. Definitely one for the front page collection. Can’t find a link to the story though. Anyone?
Today, starting in the small hours of the morning, I’ve been rambling away at Samizdata about this election. Which was, I found, intensely dramatic and interesting, not least because all the polls were wrong. I was apathetic about voting, in a soporifically safe Conservative constituency. But I stopped being apathetic as soon as the drama of it all started to play out on the telly.
But, how could I have missed the news of this manifesto for cats, until today? Answer, today was the first time I tried googling “cats general election”.
I have, of course, included a couple of feline photos, what with today being Friday. But, knowing what we do of animals, most of us would probably reckon that only the monkey really has any clue about what is going on, and he only in the sense of perhaps suspecting that this is a thing that makes a picture on itself of what it sees. None of them really get it, and most of them have no idea at all. It’s just a peculiar thing.
But, of course, they all look as if they are taking photos, if you want to believe this.
What makes them all look like real photographers is their total and totally unselfconscious concentration on what they are looking at and doing, with no thought of the fact that they are themselves being looked at. This they all do share with real human photographers.
I’d been meaning to check out that big Shiny Thing outside in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, ever since Mick Hartley gave it a mention at his blog, with a photo, way back on April 8th. Earlier this week I finally got around to doing this, and I took lots of the usual photographs that you would expect me to have taken, of which these are two:
Click on the left, and that shows what this Shiny Thing is like, in its present context. I loved the Shiny Thing itself, as my picture on the right illustrates. In there I see things like Darth Vader. And, rather smaller, I think I also see a naked woman there. Also, there is something vaguely feline about this shape, with its pointing ear-like attachments. Endless photographic fun, especially with the evening light warming up the colours of the surrounding courtyard buildings.
But, I found the rest of this agglomeration rather less interesting. If the idea was to create some interesting reflections, then blander shapes next to the Shiny Thing would have worked better. As it is, the wooden pointy thing, in itself nice enough, is by comparison rather mundane and the black frame that the wooden pointy thing and the Shiny Thing are held up by is ungainly, obtrusive and, to me, when I actually saw it, downright ugly. I mean, did the creator of the equally shiny Chicago Bean feel the need to stick a lot of other crap right next to it to be reflected in it, given that there was already a city there? No he did not.
But I guess if you are Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, you feel the need to do something arbitrary. Mere Platonic symmetry doesn’t do it. A merely beautiful Shiny Thing won’t serve your purpose. It would dilute your brand. Anyone could have done that. There had to be something there which would get people saying: Why did he do that? Come to that, who the hell is he? So that they can be told that it was done by Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, and so that Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, can supply an answer about what he thought he was doing when he, Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, did what he did, like this:
The contrasting materials employed in the sculpture, the natural wood against the highly finished metal, the differing treatments of space in the line-drawn star and the round curves of the solid star, create a tension and sense of the works being both repelled and attracted to each other at a fixed distance by an invisible force field.
Maybe if I go back and take some more snaps of this Shiny Thing, I will decide that I find the other crap next to it not so crappy after all. The other crap certainly looks better in the shots at the other end of the link above than it did to me, on the spot. And, if it was necessary for Frank Stella Hon RA to ponder the contrasts between a wooden thing and a shiny thing and black metal stuff to get Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, to have made a very entertaining Shiny Thing, then fine. Whatever it took.
The catification of the internet continues.
This big cat head isn’t now for sale, apparently. But I bet that it, or something a lot like it, soon will be.
After photoing the old London Model, which was the original reason (excuse?) I had visited the Building Centre, I took a look around the place to see what else was on view.
Look what I found:
Nut I took another picture of the Building Centre CATable which included a rather cool looking chair. All I was thinking about when I took it was including the chair. I liked the chair. (I also liked how it was lit.) But this snap, quite fortuitously, turned out to make the CATable look particularly like a cat:
It looks like it’s got eyes, because of the accidental aignment of two of the holes, and because of the way that there is light behind. We humans are programmed to find faces where we can, and if they can’t be human faces, maybe they can be cat faces.
The way that the CATable’s legs are done already shows that the cat resemblance is deliberate.
The CATable is not a one-off creation. They are now being mass produced and you can buy one, if you want to. A snip at $4,799.
Further evidence of highbrow types climbing aboard the catwagon in this Colossal report on Intimate Portraits of 50 Artists and Their Cats Compiled by Alison Nastasi. Artists eh? They’ll do anything to get noticed.
It started with this picture, which I took at the home of some friends a while back. I know exactly how you probably feel about this cushion, but on the other hand, I don’t care:
I love how the TV remote is there next to it. I had no idea at the time, or I would have made a point of including all of it.
But now the www-journey begins. At the bottom right hand corner of the cusion are the words “Susan Herbert”.
Obviously, I click where it says “visit page”, and arrive here. I scroll down, looking for the picture of Bill Murray and the artistic nude girl. I don’t ever find the picture of Bill Murray and the artistic nude girl, but I do encounter this, which is a posting about a big blue horse at Denver Airport. Clicking on “Denver Public Art Program” merely gets me to useless crap about Denver, but googling “luis jimenez mustang” gets me to pictures like this ...:
… and to an article in the Wall Street Journal from February 2009, which says things like this about the Blue Denver Horse:
Anatomically correct - eye-poppingly so - the 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture makes quite a statement at the gateway to Denver International Airport.
But that begs the question: What kind of statement, exactly?
“It looks like it’s possessed,” says Denver resident Samantha Horoschak. “I have a huge fear of flying anyway, and to be greeted at the airport by a demon horse - it’s not a soothing experience.”
Many people here agree, calling the muscular steed a terrifying welcome to the Mile High City.
Samantha Horoschak was not wrong. Because, it gets better:
Mr. Jimenez was killed working on the sculpture. In 2006, while he was hoisting pieces of the mustang for final assembly in his New Mexico studio, the horse’s massive torso swung out of control and crushed the 65-year-old artist.
Ah, that magic moment in the creative process when a work of art escapes from the control of its creator and carves out a life of its own, independent of its creator. And kills him.
Is it still there? How many more victims has it claimed? Has it caused any crashes?
I love the internet. And not just because I am quickly able to look up the proper spelling of such words as “posthumous” (which was in the original version of the title of this) and “kitsch”. It’s the mad journeys it takes you on. Who needs stupid holidays when you can go on a crazy trip like this without getting out of your kitchen chair?
Yesterday I visited a shop called Tiger in Tottenham Court Road. Here is the sign about it that sticks out into the road, even though what I thought I was photoing at the time was the Wheel:
That’s actually one of my favourite views of the Wheel, because it is so weird and unexpected. We’re looking south along Tottenham Court Road, with Centre Point on the left as we look. You hear people seeing this, and saying: Oh look, the Wheel. Wow.
Tiger has lots of stuff in it, which I haven’t time to tell you about now but will hope to do Real Soon Now. But what I will say (today) is that, after a bit of searching, I found cats, in the shapes of: a cat mat, some cat suitcases, and some tigers:
Too knackered to say more now. Suffice it to say that Tiger is a veritable cornucopia of cheap and cheerful stuff.
Indeed. What on earth was I thinking, posting - on a Thursday, rather than today, Friday, the traditional BMdotcom day for cat-related items - a piece that starts with how computers are rather bad at recognising cats? I only even realised that the cat category should be attached to the posting just now. Oh well.
Anyway, more cat news, which I did deliberately hold back until today, is that the mega-behemothic-super-industry that is Hello Kitty is making a deliberate play for more male customers, with T-shirts decorated with such things as the picture you see to your right. But, will such images repel human females? You can imagine the high level debates that the Hello Kitty high ups (I somehow imagine them to be mostly men) must have been having about this issue, of such fundamental importance to their brand.
More cat news? I need a bit more to be sure that the picture there doesn’t bash its way into the posting below (even though that would be rather appropriate). Well, I am sad to report that for some people, the most interesting thing about the death of Terry Pratchett (good quote that – that’s the sort of thing he will be really missed for) was that he had a cat sleeping on his bed at the time.
Here (pp. 143-5) is how Thiel explains the difference between humans and computers, and how they complement one another in doing business together:
To understand the scale of this variance, consider another of Google’s computer-for-human substitution projects. In 2012, one of their supercomputers made headlines when, after scanning 10 million thumbnails of YouTube videos, it learned to identify a cat with 75% accuracy. That seems impressive-until you remember that an average four-year-old can do it flawlessly. When a cheap laptop beats the smartest mathematicians at some tasks but even a supercomputer with 16,000 CPUs can’t beat a child at others, you can tell that humans and computers are not just more or less powerful than each other - they’re categorically different.
The stark differences between man and machine mean that gains from working with computers are much higher than gains from trade with other people. We don’t trade with computers any more than we trade with livestock or lamps. And that’s the point: computers are tools, not rivals.
Thiel then writes about how he learned about the above truths when he and his pals at Paypal solved one of their biggest problems:
In mid-2000 we had survived the dot-com crash and we were growing fast, but we faced one huge problem: we were losing upwards of $10 million to credit card fraud every month. Since we were processing hundreds or even thousands of transactions per minute, we couldn’t possibly review each one - no human quality control team could work that fast.
So we did what any group of engineers would do: we tried to automate a solution. First, Max Levchin assembled an elite team of mathematicians to study the fraudulent transfers in detail. Then we took what we learned and wrote software to automatically identify and cancel bogus transactions in real time. But it quickly became clear that this approach wouldn’t work either: after an hour or two, the thieves would catch on and change their tactics. We were dealing with an adaptive enemy, and our software couldn’t adapt in response.
The fraudsters’ adaptive evasions fooled our automatic detection algorithms, but we found that they didn’t fool our human analysts as easily. So Max and his engineers rewrote the software to take a hybrid approach: the computer would flag the most suspicious transactions on a well-designed user interface, and human operators would make the final judgment as to their legitimacy. Thanks to this hybrid system - we named it “Igor,” after the Russian fraudster who bragged that we’d never be able to stop him - we turned our first quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2002 (as opposed to a quarterly loss of $29.3 million one year before).
There then follow these sentences.
The FBI asked us if we’d let them use Igor to help detect financial crime. And Max was able to boast, grandiosely but truthfully, that he was “the Sherlock Holmes of the Internet Underground.”
The answer was yes.
Thus did the self-declared libertarian Peter Thiel, who had founded Paypal in order to replace the dollar with a free market currency, switch to another career, as a servant of the state, using government-collected data to chase criminals. But that’s another story.
Indeed. But not an advert for a cat, an advert by a cat. The story of the century so far:
Photoed by me this evening near to Shoreditch Overground station, underneath the railway.
The website is here. What’s going to happen there, in Upminster, I am really not sure. Are they playing music live, or just playing recordings they’ve done, or playing recordings others have done? Or what? And why the big pussy cat? To get the attention of irrelevant people like me?
Once upon a time, it was thought that the internet might abolish regular advertising. Now regular advertising advertises the internet.