Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- Taking photos with Big Flat Things
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- Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
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- How big should these squares be?
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Category archive: Travel
Here is recent confirmation of the map app effect, i.e. the replacement of paper maps by electric maps.
The pictures below were all taken on June 4th of this year. Soon after that date I picked out these nine snaps of digital photographers doing their things, with a view to showing them here, but I never got around to doing that. I made my selections without any particular thought of maps. So far as I can tell, I picked my winners on a variety of grounds, three of them, it would appear, because of interesting backgrounds, in particular the one (2.1) with the word VISIONS to be seen in the background, on the side of what looks like a TV van. My selection is also biased towards facial non-recognisability.
Here are eight of the nine I picked.
And here is the ninth.
Was that ratio a fair reflection of the ratio for the entire lot of photos I took that day? No. It was not. I took about 350 snaps, of which about third to a half were of digital photographers. That’s a lot. Number of maps being flaunted by photographers: one. That one. Otherwise, no maps to be seen. This does not of course mean that no other maps were being carried. But it is telling, I think.
Four of these snaps, by my calculation, feature pictures being taken with smartphones. I think I was a bit biased towards that also, but the fact that I had so many examples of that to pick out is likewise telling.
Goddaughter Two is in town. She was already spontaneously talking about this map thing, before she knew I had any interest in it. She and a friend are now being London tourists. They are seeing a few maps, but only a few.
Change is not just the new stuff. It’s the old stuff that you don’t see any more.
JUST BEFORE POSTING THIS: Goddaughter One’s dad dropped by. He was recently wondering about maps, his question being: How do I best tell fellow engineers, visiting London for a footbridge conference, where London’s best footbridges are to be found? Give them a paper map and mark the bridges on that map? No. Paper maps don’t sell any more. At all. Ergo, they are rapidly ceasing to make them. Answer: Given them electric map references. They get you to within ten yards of each bridge, no worries.
I’ve recently been doing a lot of trawling through old picture archives, and in the course of this I found a directory devoted to Digital Photographers Holding On To Their Maps.
So here is an enormous clutch of such photos, with the little squares below all homing in on the maps. Click to see the photographers in action, if you wish.
The photos you get by clicking are exactly as taken, but the little squares involved quite a lot of enhancement - brightening, contrasting, sharpening, etc. - the better to reveal their mapitude.
If you don’t wish to click on any of these map squares, fine, but at least reflect with me on how the age of maps, on paper, like this, is now drawing to a close. The above snaps were snapped between 2005 and 2007. I wonder how many such photographs I’d be able to take now. Next time I go out snapping snappers, I’ll make a point of trying to see if paper maps are still being carried by photographers.
My guess would be, yes, just a few. This would be because the keener you are on photography, the more likely you were to have had a nice camera before the smartphone thing kicked in, and the less likely you might be to get a brand new smartphone, to replace your regular, mapless old phone. So maps being held by people with regular cameras are still, I am guessing, around.
But, nobody taking photos with a smartphone will now be simultaneously waving a paper map. Such a person already has a map.
It’s surely worth me adding that I got my smartphone entirely for its map app. It’s lighter than an A-Z and much lighter than all the A-Zs you’d need if you travelled much, and also much nicer than google maps printouts from my computer, because my smartphone, crucially, tells me where I am. For me, a smartphone is a book of magic maps which also does occasional phone calls and textings, not the other way around.
Going back to the pictures above, it’s not just the map-flaunting that is now looking quaint. So do a lot of the cameras. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. A picture collection is like a well stocked wine cellar. It gets better with age.
Like the space in an Elizabethan court masque that the performers left for the courtiers themselves to step forward and take part, today everyone needs to work out how to create a stage on which the constellation of divas formerly known as the audience will strike their own pose.
That’s to be found under this headline:
The Long View: Bob Dylan and the selfie: The world’s now a stage and we’re all performing
And under this photo:
Are yes, selfies. Says Sidwell, re this new word:
Even as I cling to my old-fashioned desire to take photographs of the things that I see, “selfie” – the new nickname for a photographic self-portrait – has been declared Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, following a 17,000 per cent increase in usage year-on-year.
I have been long been studying this phenomenon. We may not have had the word “selfie” in 2007, but there were already many, many people doing selfies:
That being one of my all time favourites from my selfies archive.
LATER: Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Taken, says Michael, on a ferry between Greece and Albania in July.
A few days ago I did a posting, featuring one of those faked up photos, about how they are talking of moving a bridge in Porto from down by the river to uptown. Unfortunately, I muddled up two different bridges. Michael Jennings informed me by phone of this muddle and then he added to the posting this further clarificatory comment:
The Dom Luis Bridge is in the centre of town, and is the principal pedestrian route from one side of the river the the other, the vehicle route for local traffic from close to the river one one side to close to the river on the other, and also (on the top deck) carries Porto’s light metro. The Maria Pia Bridge is the rail bridge a kilometre upstream that is no longer in use.
The Maria Pia Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, although his employee Téophile Seyrig did much of the work. At the time it was the longest arch bridge in the world. Seyrig then (no longer working for Eiffel) built the Dom Luis Bridge, which then broke the record that had been held by the Maria Pia bridge. The two structures are similar, although the Maria Pia bridge lacks the bottom deck that the Dom Lewis bridge has. The two bridges are often confused. Also, perhaps rather sweetly, Dom Luis and Maria Pia were married to one other.
The plan to move the bridge away from the river seems a flight of fancy to me, although the basic problem that the bridge is very beautiful, very historically significant, and not presently used for anything does remain.
Michael spelt it Dom Lewis, but I’ve changed it to Dom Luis, because that does seem to be the proper spelling. Or maybe it is Don. Maybe it’s either Don Luis or Dom Lewis, and you can’t mix them. Whatever.
Michael, who happened to be just about to visit Porto when I said all this, was urged to send back photos of these two bridges. He did, for which much thanks.
Here is the bridge that is still very much in use, the Dom Luis Bridge, with a railway at the top and a road for cars and pedestrians at the bottom:
Taken with his iPad camera. Michael apologised for that, but I think it’s rather dramatic.
Later Michael sent two more pictures, presumably taken with a rather fancier camera.
First we have, again, the Dom Luis Bridge:
And here is the one they are talking about moving, the Maria Pia Bridge:
You can see why Portoans like their bridges, and why it seems like a nice idea to turn the disused one into a big piece of public sculpture.
Meanwhile, I repeat my earlier questions. Will people be allowed on top of the bridge to take photos from it? And: If Porto doesn’t want this bridge any more, can London please have it?
In that earlier posting here about reflections in cars, I wrote about how the brain interprets, while a camera only sees.
I think this also explains a related phenomenon, which is that when I go out on one of my photo-expeditions, I often need time to appreciate which are the best photos I took. When I look at all my photos from a day out as soon as I get home that evening, my memory of what I photoed is still, approximately speaking, fresh in my mind. Which means that I cannot see the photos objectively. I cannot separate the pictures I was trying to take from the pictures I actually took.
But later, as the memory of the trip fades, and all I have is the photos, and the memories those photos still manage to trigger, I am able to look at the photos as if I were looking at someone else’s photos. And I can then see far more clearly which the best ones are.
So, for instance, on September 5th, I went on a pilgrimage to the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, partly to see what the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park is, but mostly to try to check out the big cranes at the new London Gateway container port. With luck I’d be able to see the cranes from the south end of the park, looking east north east downstream, and so it proved. And, of course, I took a zillion photos,of the cranes and of everything else that caught my eye.
Of these photos, it is now clear to me that two of the best are the two below.
I took many photos of the cranes, of which this was the best, I now think. And that despite me later having got somewhat nearer to them than I did when snapping this:
I think what I like about this photo is that the inevitable blurriness of the cranes, what with them being so far away and the zoom operating at its most zoomy, is offset by the not so blurry pylons nearer to us. In almost all half decent photos, something in them is in sharp focus. Not everything, just something.
And then later in the day, just when I thought all the excitement was over, I took a whole batch of photos like this, of the sky:
Of which that one is now my favourite.
I don’t think I’ve ever before managed to photo, quite as well as that, those lines of light that sometimes emanate from the sun when it is behind clouds. The reason this worked so well on September 5th was that there were not only regular clouds, but also a general mistiness or cloudiness in the air, all of it, which picked up these lines and really emphasised them. Not even I could fail to photo the results interestingly.
Earlier, that same general cloudiness and mistiness had made photoing the cranes rather harder, but all in all, I was very glad of it.
This morning, in connection with a Samizdata posting about Europe, I found myself googling for info about London’s new container port, which I had heard about, but which I heard about some more last night.
It looks rather impressive:
I found that picture here, that being how things were looking in May of this year.
The Unions are not happy.
I have a vague recollection of posting something here about some big new cranes arriving in London, for, presumably, this. Yes, here. These cranes are “taller than the London Eye”, according to the quote I found then. So, these cranes ought to be visible and photo-able from quite a distance. Stanford-Le-Hope here I come.
This last lot – and I do promise you that this really is it – shows the event winding down. My favourite is the one of the Bride (3.2), striding purposefully (but not too personally recognisably) across the dance floor, in pursuit of some wifely purpose or other. I was able to do that thing you do with fast moving objects, and blur the background. I love that effect.
As you can see there are a couple of reflection photos (1.1, 1.3). As already mentioned, there were two Real Photographers present, a wise precaution.
Ms Real Photographer told me that one of the big things Mr Real Photographer taught her was, when you photo a thing and the thing reflected, photo the reflection, and let the thing take care of itself. I rather think that 1.1 was taken right after she said that. And presumably that’s what she is doing in 2.2.
The end of an excellent day. I got a car ride home, which turned into a bit of a nightmare on account of the M4 being dug up. Luckily, however, I had my recently acquired Google Nexus 4 with me, complete with its ever changing map, with its arrow showing where I am. Thanks to that, we eventually found our way to the M3, and thus home.
And that concludes my The Wedding photo-postings.
No, not taken by me, of course not. By my compulsively globe-trotting friend Michael Jennings, who has recently been trotting around in Georgia ...:
Foreigners, eh? An endless source of fun.
… and in Warsaw:
The Warsaw one being bigger, because the title of the email in which this one arrived went:
This is my favourite photo for quite a while.
I’m guessing this is because the old Soviet-imposed Palace of Culture is upstaged behind and beside by skyscrapers, and in front by Polish people actually having quite a good time, buying stuff, doing capitalism etc.
I can remember when that bag of wind John Gray was saying that liberated Eastern Europe, for which people like me had such high hopes, would all end in tears, because in John-Gray-world high hopes always do. But look at it now!
I visited Warsaw in 1984, I think it was. I recall rather liking that Palace of Culture, even though I wasn’t supposed to, on account of the nastiness that it was built to spread, and probably also because of the defencelessly fine stuff that got smashed to rubble to make way for it. I could entirely see why the locals all hated it. I, on the other hand, considered it to be an example of one of my laws, which states that the splendour of a building is inversely proportional to the excellence of what goes on inside it when it first opens for business. Later, better things can get done in the thing. But the tendency is: not to start with.
Immediately after my first relaunched Last Friday, the one at which Sam Bowman spoke, I suffered a dose of success depression. This is when you achieve a goal, and then feel not happy but empty, because deprived of the goal. The event had gone well. But I expected a little too much from it by way of immediate good consequences. A wise friend who attended the evening later told me that good results would indeed happen, but more gradually than I had been assuming, and that is now starting to happen.
One of the better consequences of these events is that because I send out emails to anyone I half know or know of who I think might be interested in attending, I have re-established contact with a number of friends and semi-friends who I was in danger of losing touch with.
One such, Alastair James, a libertarian friend from way back, recently sent me an email which included this:
I know you mostly like shots of one thing (often with some clutter in the foreground), but if you are also interested in panoramas I wonder if you’ve ever been to Blythe Hill Fields in Lewisham. I think it has some of the best views in London of Canary Wharf and the City but I rarely see it mentioned.
For years I have been nagging people to tell me about good spots to photo London from, but mostly without success. And now that turns up, pretty much unsolicited, merely through me being in touch with Alastair and discussing his son’s sporting triumphs, they being the reason that he often finds Fridays rather hard to do.
As it happens, I had never heard of Blythe Hill Fields, but it immediately sounded very promising, the clues being in the name. A hill, with nothing in the foreground getting in the way, just fields. Ideal for wandering around on, to find the best shots, and so, yesterday it proved.
I immediately found out where Blythe Hill Fields is (from Google maps), identified the nearest station, Honor Oak Park, and soon discovered (from this train website) that there is a train direct to Honor Oak Park from Victoria, which is very near to me. I also learned (from a weather website) on Monday evening, that the short-range weather forecast for Tuesday was, in a word: superb. Not a cloud in the sky, they said, and so it proved. So, a superb forecast in the other sense also.
Yet again, we see here the working through of one of my favourite Laws, which says that new methods of communication (in this case the internet) do not replace older methods of doing things (in this case going there). Rather do the new methods complement and as likely as not reinforce the older methods. Writing gives people more to talk about. Printing makes writing massively more productive, and gives rise to masses more talk. Television adapts books and sells books and provides yet more conversation fodder. Email makes meetings, at which we can all talk to each other some more, far easier to organise and publicise. And now the internet makes wandering around London (also the world) massively easier.
This posting is already getting rather unwieldy, so I’ll hold the photos I took at and around Blythe Hill Fields yesterday for another posting. Instead let me finish up this posting by quoting and commenting on another bit of the Alastair James email, which further emphasises the point about how the internet makes travelling easier, and in his case more fun:
BTW I recently finally got a Smartphone and I find it much easier to follow blogs since I got it – I’ve always felt guilty sitting in front of a PC reading a blog that I’m doing something unproductive. Anyway I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading yours and how much I enjoy it!
You might be surprised to learn what a difference declarations of that sort can make to the morale of a blogger like me, who doesn’t now get many comments, still less comments like that. Without my Fridays, I never get to hear that, which is a perfect example of a somewhat delayed effect that my friend in paragraph one above talked about.
But note also the smartphone thing. Presumably Alastair now uses his to read blogs in circumstances where more serious work would be difficult, such as while travelling.
I am myself currently engaged in buying a smartphone, helped by my friend Michael Jennings (who is giving the next Friday talk this Friday – do come if you want to). Whereas for Alastair James a key app is reading blogs on the move, for me the killer app is definitely being able to learn exactly where I am at any point in my various wanderings, and how to get to where I want to go to next. It would have come in quite handy yesterday, but because of some serendipity that occurred without it (more about that later), I am actually quite glad that yesterday I did not have Google maps with me. That’s another story, for which stay tuned.
I suspect that Alastair and I are not the only ones now, finally, kitting ourselves out with smartphones. I sense a general society-wide stampede in this direction, as the iPhone works its magic. The iPhone defines what a smartphone is, and all those for whom money is no object get one. That tells the Taiwanese copyists what to copy at half the price, and now they have pretty much got there.
I will also be buying a “bluetooth” (Michael J says that will work) keyboard, much like the black keyboard in this posting (scroll down a bit), to go with my smartphone, the idea being that I will be able to type stuff in as well as read things. (That keyboard is also a straight copy, in black, of an Apple keyboard, incidentally. Again with the Apple influence.) A smartphone screen too small for typing, you say? My very first computer, an Osborne, had a screen that was hardly any bigger, and I loved that. Osborne equals a very stupid version of a smartphone, plus a keyboard, plus half a ton of electro-crap that is no longer needed. Discuss. I feel one of those ain’t-capitalism-grand postings for Samizdata coming on.
The trouble with my current laptop is that, like the Osborne if with less extremity, it is still quite heavy. This means that I don’t always have it with me, in fact I pretty much now never have it with me, because when I do take it with me on my travels I often never actually use it, and in the meantime greatly resent its weight. The idea is that I will always have my smartphone with me (obviously), and always (fingers crossed) with the keyboard. So whenever a blogging opportunity beckons, when I am out and about, I will be able to respond.
The smartphone I am getting also has a rather good camera included. It’ll be interesting to compare that camera with my present one.
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.
As already mentioned here, my next Last Friday of the Month (i.e. Feb 22 – please arrive at my home between 7pm and 8pm) speaker is to be my good friend Michael Jennings. The long version of his talk’s title is:
How the globalisation of commerce has made the world less rather than more homogenised, and what I have learned out this by travelling the world.
Which I will hereby shorten down to:
How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised.
As all his friends will unite in telling you, Michael has done a lot of travelling.
Emails will soon be going out confirming all this, and in particular drawing the emailee’s attention to the following, which is Michael writing at a little more length about the kinds of thing he intends to be talking about:
Around a decade ago, a friend of mine decried the fact that the American clothing chain “The Gap” was expanding around the world, and destroying the local character of the cities she was visiting. I then asked her in which cities, precisely, she had seen their stores. She paused for a moment, and said “New York, Toronto, London, and Paris”.
At the time she said this, The Gap had stores in precisely five countries in the world: The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, France, and Japan. (They have since spread a little wider, but not much wider. And certainly, not much deeper. In many of the countries they operate in, they might have one or two stores in the capital city, but they are not a brand that ordinary people will interact with on a day to day basis.) This said far more about her than it did about The Gap: she travelled to the very small number of places that were its target market - places containing people similar to her - and assumed that this was “the world”.
An observation I made then was one that has been confirmed to me since: when you find someone who decries the corporate homogenisation of the world caused by globalisation, one immediately realises that they haven’t travelled very widely. With more thought, one also realises they haven’t travelled very deeply. The number of interesting restaurants in a city is strongly correlated with the number of McDonald’s outlets and the number of fast food chains present, and it is a positive correlation. The number of interesting coffee shops (and Bubble Tea cafes, and Polynesian Cava outlets) is strongly correlated to the number of Starbucks outlets, and once again it is a positive correlation.
The question really, is whether correlation is causation. Does the spread of McDonald’s and Starbucks cause local ecosystems of food, drink, and other retail outlets to become more complex and more sophisticated? If so, how do they spread, and why do they spread?
I have spent much of the last five years travelling the world, chasing the answers to these questions in various countries and quasi-countries. (Quasi-countries such as Northern Cyprus, Palestine, or Kosovo are particularly interesting, in that the forces that spread businesses and cultures are impeded and obstructed in certain ways, while simultaneously being not obstructed in other ways that they are obstructed in real countries, and one can learn a lot about what these forces are from this.) In doing so, I have learned much about the spread of international corporations, but also much about real estate booms and cheap money. The spread of international business confirms, in many ways, the starkness of international borders and the power of international institutions and how these things trump commerce. A quick glance at shopping malls and high streets in a foreign country can tell huge amounts of information about the governance and legal systems of a country - merely through the presence and absence of brands, and through what alternatives fill the gaps left by the absence of international brands.
On February 22 I shall attempt to draw and share some conclusions from what I have learned.
As to Michael’s question about correlation, causation, and so on, between on the one hand Starbucks et al, and on the other hand greater eating diversity, my untravelled guess would be that both are caused by globalisation, and in particular by lots of foreigners descending on the place, because of easier and cheaper travel, more globalised business activity, and so on. Some of these foreigners want their familiar stuff, i.e. Starbucks. And other foreigners welcome the change to get away from all that, and want sample local delicacies and diversions, perhaps guided by local work colleagues. Opposite sides of the same global coin, you might say.
But what do I know? Less than Michael Jennings, that’s for sure. He has not merely travelled. He has travelled, to use his own excellent phrase, deeply.
If you want to attend this event, email me, or leave a comment here, and I’ll get back to you to confirm that you will be very welcome, as you surely will be.
More incoming signage weirdness from Michael J:
I do love a good biblical mixed metaphor.
I guess this means that the plants can talk, but in lots of different languages.
Another foreign sign from Michael here.
As promised, more Croydon Shop Stuff, feline because it’s Friday:
Top left, superior Egyptian cats, and: a meerkat. They’re cats too, right? Well, kats, anyway.
Top right, you can see a hippo, next to all the exotic, big, wild cats. Hippos are extraordinarily rare in such situations, given how appealing you would think they might be. Stuff Shops are full of animals, such as monkeys, bears, cows, dogs, cats (of course), horses, and dinosaurs. But, hardly ever hippos, in fact pretty much never. I know this because Perry de Havilland collects hippos, and I am constantly on the lookout for them, to repay him a bit for all the free dinners I cadge off of him (and her).
The one in that picture is by something called Naturecraft, and it’s the only hippo they do. It costs £25 quid, and I’d be willing to go that far, but I reckon Perry already has one of these exact hippos. They aren’t hard to find on the www, so if he wants one, he already has one.
According to this site, Naturecraft was bought up and rejigged, and doesn’t do these animals any more. Maybe the problem was that people photoed them in shops, but didn’t buy them.
Today I took a trip to place I keep meaning to check out: Croydon. My fascination with Croydon dates back to a day in the 1960s when I was on a bicycle, on the way to an East Coast port, to get me to Scandinavia, about two hours from home on the very first day of the expedition. I was on this flyover on the south side of London, which I was anxious to avoid, and suddenly, there it was, like the towers of Pheonix, Arizona, or some such place. South London’s very own tower block cluster.
Being in the middle of Croydon this afternoon confirmed a suspicion, which is that you have to be in just the right spot to see the various Big Things of Croydon as a cluster. In reality, they are spread out. The closer to them you get, the less clustered they become. But, they are scattered along an approximate line. Which means that you see them as a cluster if you get in line, as I just happened to do, all those years ago.
Today, it got dark long before I might have found this sweet spot, and the Big Things of Croydon that I photoed were utterly lacking in any architectural punch, in the manner, say, of the Docklands Towers.
I’ll be back.
So, instead of a picture of the Croydon Tower Block Cluster, here is a quite different photo I took, in one of Croydon’s many Stuff Shops. It features me, but what I really like about the photo is all the vertical and horizontal lines, mostly here combining into rectangles. I really like rectangles:
The metal rectangles in the foreground, which are what lift this snap out of ordinariness, are, to me, mysterious. Are they things to screw televisions to? Or something else shop related? Or something people buy? Don’t know.
The shop in which I snapped this snap was your basic Stuff Shop, with a bias towards carpets, but also containing things like horses and elephants and pictures of the Last Supper.
I love Stuff. Croydon has tons of Stuff Shops, and I love gawping at Stuff. As a general rule, I prefer Shop Stuff to the Stuff you see in art galleries. Stuff Shops are windows into the soul of contemporary England, as art galleries can never be. Art galleries are merely windows into the souls of artists and gallery owners
Thank God for digital cameras, because with a digital camera you can photo Stuff, instead of being tempted to buy any of it.
Although I promise nothing, I hope to post further Croydon Stuff photos tomorrow.
This Samizdata posting, for instance, is about a guy using a great big iPad to photo Westminster Abbey. Scorn was expressed by some commenters at how stupid this man was making himself look. I disagree strongly, as did Michael Jennings.
Michael’s comment about this deserves further attention and here it is in full:
It is believed that the reason that the first generation iPad did not have cameras was because Steve Jobs believed that people using it to take photographs would look ridiculous. This received complaints, not so much for people who wanted to use it to take photographs, but for parents of small children. Point the iPad at the baby, start up a video conference with the grandparents, allow the grandparents to watch the baby, and the grandparents will be happily occupied for hours.
However, people then started using the iPad for taking photographs anyway. So, Apple gave it a decent camera. I have one myself, and I prefer taking photographs with it to taking photographs with a cellphone camera. Whether that is the quality of the camera, I am not sure. (By standards of cellphone cameras, the one in the iPad is of high quality, but most high end phones have cameras of similar quality). I think it may be the screen. Everybody who takes digital photographs knows the experience of taking what you think is a good photograph, but discovering later that it is blurry, but being unable to tell that at the time on the tiny screen on the camera. The iPad has a large, very high resolution screen, so you have a much better ability to tell at once if you have taken a good picture or not. If you haven’t, there may even be a chance to take it again.
A final good thing about the iPad is its fantastic battery life. (This isn’t hard to explain - if you look at pictures of the innards of an iPad it is almost entirely battery). At the end of a busy day, its not uncommon to find that your batteries are low or completely depleted on all your devices except the iPad. You see something that needs photographing, so you use the iPad simply because it is still going.
As for looking ridiculous, that is all about what is normal and expected. If everyone does it, it no longer looks ridiculous.
To me what is truly ridiculous is refraining from doing what works best, because you think that looks ridiculous. It’s like that thing about being cool. If you are trying to be cool, you are by definition failing. If your over-riding concern is not to look ridiculous, then you are being ridiculous.
To illustrate the matter further, Michael immediately added another comment, which included this photo, also deserving of a wider audience than it may get while buried in a comment thread:
Underneath which Michael added:
For instance, if on a slow afternoon you unexpectedly find your self at the tomb in Jerusalem where protestants believe that Christ rose from the dead, it can be really helpful to have your iPad with you.
Last night, Michael and I both attended the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party. Here is my photo of Michael, taking a picture of me with his iPad:
And here is my photo of Michael’s photo of me, as instantly displayed on his iPad:
Michael could be sure that his photo was in focus even as he was taking it, and certainly immediately afterwards. I could only be sure that my photo of his photo was also in focus when I got home, and actually, a great many of the other photos that I took at this shindig were not properly in focus, there being somewhat insufficient light (with what there was of it typically being ill-directed for my purposes), and people being prone to move about when they converse with one another. Which makes Michael’s point yet again.