Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday January 31 2008

imageThis posting is not really about the Eee PC (but it is doing every bit as well as I thought it would), so much as about how to photograph newly announced products.

I recall that, when the Eee PC was first announced, my immediate reaction was to ask: so what size is it?  Many pictures of the little beast duly appeared, but none of the ones I say showed this.  They only showed what shape it was.  It could have been any damn size whatever.  I remember one particularly idiotic set of about thirty pictures of the thing being unwrapped, on Flickr, but not one of these pictures showed how small or big it is, by putting it right next to an already familiar object of universally known size.  Fool.

I don’t know who took the picture on the right (or this one, but such comparison pictures ought to be a lot more common than they seem (to me) to be, especially with things where size is three quarters of the point.

Wednesday January 30 2008

Photographed last night in W. H. Smith, Kings Cross, which is a books and magazines shop:

image

The brianmicklethwait.com thin version, with only the two signs, just wouldn’t be the same, would it?  You need something of the wider context, including, as it does, the words “delicious” and “fresh”.

Computing is delicious, but living can be so very, very fresh.

Tuesday January 29 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve visited this blog.  I particularly liked this bit of video dialog that I found there, between Michael Moore and John Stossel.  Moore takes a group of American sickos to Cuba, to get some of that superior Cuban medical treatment.

Moore: “I asked them to give us the same exact care they give their fellow Cuban citizens, no more, no less.  And that’s what they did.”

Stossel: “Do you really think that’s what they did?”

And yes, Cuba does indeed seem to have quite a low infant mortality rate, because any baby that looks like it will have problems gets aborted, and if it dies within only a few hours of being born, that doesn’t count.

There may have been a time in his ignorant youth when Moore really believed the kind of nonsense about Cuba that he serves up in Sicko (thanks for that link Garner), but I don’t think he believes it now.  He sounds to me like he’s just going through the motions.  I think he’s lucked into a gap in the market, for loony lefty drivel in the cinema fronted by a guy who looks like a regular Joe rather than a loony lefty, and he is now filling it, with very little concern for stuff like evidence or accurate quoting of his sources.  He’s changing no mind that matters, merely massaging the minds of mental defectives.  What he does now believe in is doing business.

Monday January 28 2008

So I chanced, again, upon the Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive, and thought, how about thin, sideways on picture of a galaxy?  Trouble is, look at galaxies completely sideways on, and you get only what is mundane and random about them, rather than what is magnificent.  This one, for instance, NGC5866, looks like a thread that’s come loose from the carpet.

image

Plus, I think, to enjoy galaxies, you have to see lots of dull darkness and lots of dull little stars, just being dull little white dots.  That way, you get this amazing contrast between the drabness of most of outer space and the extraordinary complexity and beauty of the prettiest galaxies.  Also, beyond the mere patterns, galaxies, at any rate in the pictures that the galaxies experts contrive, you often get this kind of hazy glow reaching out way beyond the core.  The original picture is amazing.  My version is, I’m afraid, not.

This is better:

image

That’s Andromeda, and now that we are above and looking down, it looks splendid.

But, what I mostly got from typing “galaxy” into Google was pictures of chocolate bars, David Beckham, and the Galaxy transporter plane.  One of the airplane pictures featured the truly magnificent rival of the Galaxy, the Antonov An-225, so then I went looking for thin pictures of that, and found this:

image

Better than a bit of dirty wool, I think you will agree.  Oh, and I put another thinnish airplane picture here.  Not as impressive as the An-225, but striking in its own particular way.

Sunday January 27 2008

Well, I like it:

image

If you don’t, well, no very great harm done.  Taken last Thursday.  The BM is snatching a last snap of Parliament, Big Ben etc., as the bus speeds away across Westminster Bridge.

Saturday January 26 2008

Yes.  But, it’s perpendicular rather than horizontal, so reproducing this thin picture here, with just this tiny bit of babble, would not be good.

Friday January 25 2008

I still have lots of DVDs, and more by the week, recorded off of the telly.  Tonight, for instance, I am acquiring Spice World: The Movie, The School of Rock, Grace of My Heart, and The Culpepper Cattle Co.  When I now record a movie off of the telly, all I then feel the need to do is shove it on a DVD, write the title on it and put it in a thin plastic envelope.  I now realise that exactly the same applies to all those elaborately packaged DVDs that I have now stopped buying in the shops.  If this packaging – production stills, publicity graphics, info about cast and crew, director, producer, when it was made and so on - did not exist, would it be necessary for me to invent it?  No.  It’s all on the internet with about three mouse clicks.  So, out it all goes.

And anyway, when you watch Casablanca, what else do you need to know?  It explains itself as it goes along.  Maybe soon all the movies we’ll ever want will be stored on the one hard disc, or themselves accessible from the internet for pennies a go.  But meanwhile, I still like to store the things themselves on these separate little silver discs.  But discs is all I need.

There was always something rather annoying about DVD packaging, those absurdly and redundantly tall and thick cases especially.  When they first sold DVDs, the idea must have been that we would pay twenty five quid each for them, and choose which twenty we wanted to own for ever and watch again and again.  Now I regard five quid as about four quid too much and I have hundreds.  Chucking out the packaging will liberate yards of scarce shelf space.

image

Classical music, on the other hand, never tells you while it’s happening that this is the Scherzo Vivacissimo and will last 2 minutes and 56 seconds (I happen to be referring to the Sibelius Piano Quintet in G minor), and that the entire piece lasts 39 minutes and 35 seconds, ending with a movement that is marked Moderato Vivace, lasting 9 minutes and 9 seconds.  And since this music expresses something of the soul of Sibelius himself, I want to know about him, and about the circumstances in which he composed this Piano Quintet.  I want all that stuff, stored next to the CD itself, which means that I still like CD cases, which have always been approximately the right size to store both the CDs and the liner notes, and fit a title on the edge so you can find it easily.

DVDs, on the other hand, can be stored in alphabetical order by title, like cards in a card index, and in a similar kind of box, which you can now also buy in the exact right size in a shop along with the little plastic sleeves.

I’m looking forward to seeing one of these high definition DVDs, to see if they are all that much better.  I sort of hope not.  Oh, I’m sure for some they are.  But I don’t get much extra in the cinema, or even from big TV sets.

Thursday January 24 2008

Incoming from Jackie D: “Saw this and thought of you.” But Dells are too big and too heavy, with a screen like a flat TV and a keyboard with another blank bit stuck to it that’s as big again as the keyboard.  Cheap is not the only issue with me.  It has to be small and light.  I have no upper body strength.  “Just come to the US and get a laptop here, Brian!” So, I have to go to America and then lug this monster back here again, just to save a bit of cash?  Which it wouldn’t.  But, thanks for the thought JD.

A Woman has emailed in to Idiot Toys, thus:

I am one of your two female readers (I know there is another one because my friend reads you too, and even sent you some info for a crap MP3 player update some months ago. I mean the MP3 player was crap, not your update, obviously).

Anyway, I was just idly Googling shopping trolleys, as you do when you’re a woman, and in the process found some fantastic lifestyle photography at the following website: http://www.rolser-novela.co.uk/30800/info.php?p=2&pno=0.

I’ve attached the relevant JPGs: I’m afraid the resolution isn’t up to much but hopefully you can still get a good post out of them.

And the IT Geezer did.

It’s the way that The Woman says “obviously” that makes me ask: could The Woman perhaps be her?

Wednesday January 23 2008

Another thin(nish) urban skyline, this time with container ship:

image

Pretty, and pretty easy, certainly compared to Guess the city (1), because of the spike tower on the right.  I really just showed it up here because I like the picture, and his caption.  But soon there will spike towers in other places, notably London and Moscow, and who knows where else?  So guessing where this is may get a little harder, although I grant you the big tanker nearby, which needs big water and an ocean nearby, narrows it down a bit.

Tuesday January 22 2008

A central argument in the West about Islamic terrorism is: is it a betrayal of Islam, or is it Islam?  I say: the latter.  This quote, featured at greater length today by David Thompson (originally in its entire length here), illustrates very well why I think this:

I remember one particularly defining moment in an Arabic language class when I was sitting beside a Christian friend named Nagi Anton. I was reading a book entitled Alshaykhan by Taha Hussein that cited the Prophet Muhammad’s words: “I have been ordered by Allah to fight and kill all people [non-Muslims] until they say, ‘No God except Allah.’ “ Following the reading of this Hadith, I decisively turned toward Nagi and said to him, “If we are to apply Islam correctly, we should apply this Hadith to you.” At that moment I suddenly started to view Nagi as an enemy rather than as a long-time friend …

These doctrines [of jihad] are not taken out of context, as many apologists for Islamism argue. They are central to the faith and ethics of millions of Muslims, and are currently being taught as part of the standard curriculum in many Islamic educational systems in the Middle East as well in the West. Moreover, there is no single approved Islamic textbook that contradicts or provides an alternative to the passages I have cited.

Quite so.  As soon as I read the Koran at all thoroughly, in the weeks and months after those two towers fell down, I just knew that episodes like that had to have been happening all through the history of Islam and definitely to be going on now.  Now more than ever, because now more than ever, the average Muslim kid can read.  It wouldn’t make any sense for that kind of thinking not to be happening.

When younger, and when it was relevant (i.e. during the 1980s), I ran a thing called the Anti-Soviet Society.  It probably shortened the Cold War by several seconds and maybe even a few minutes.  One day, before I die, and perhaps as part of the process of me dying, I might start the Anti-Islamic Society.

Posting here in recent days has become somewhat more perfunctory, even than usual.

There are two reasons for this, both rooted in one bigger reason.

The big reason is that blogging has, I now believe, become part of the furniture.  I sense that it has settled down into being just one of those things that some people do, either as readers and writers, or as readers only, but which most do not, like disco dancing or watching rugby league or surfing of the other sort that you do on actual waves, on top of the sea.  I don’t know how to look at the relevant graphs, but I assume that they have now plateau-ed.

Lots of people tried it, but then discovered that it was not for them.  They got bored with orating to no obvious effect, the world remaining obstinately unchanged.  They found that it was a lot harder work than they were expecting.  Those small postings which look like they are dashed off in under a minute actually take all but the blogging geniuses twenty minutes to write minimum, and those bigger earth-shaker pieces can take ... days.  (Months, actually.) Plus, when our blogger-with-a-life sits down to do a quicky, it turns profound, and there goes three hours he absolutely didn’t have that were absolutely promised for something else.  He finds that he just can’t fit it in on the scale he aspires to, and given the impact that it isn’t having.

Blogging has, I think, lost a lot of any cool it ever had.  Facebook, MySpace, those are the cool ways to use the Internet these days.  (What will be next?) The “blogosphere” (i.e. quantity of bloggage) may still be expanding, maybe hugely, rather as premarital sex expanded hugely after the sixties (when as we all know it was first invented), but it has lost its air of threat to the established order of things.  This is because it now is the established order of things.  As old-school media hacks and the more thoughtful opposition politicians take to it, like mangy old ducks to a new pond that someone has mysteriously dug, and are discovering that they are often really rather good at it, blogging turns out to be business pretty much as usual, except a bit different because the more maniacal readers can now print their own letters to the editor, or, if they can keep it civil, add comments, and don’t have to beg.

Blogging has only begun to work its magic in commerce, but there again, I suspect, only certain types of people will turn out to have the time and the talent for it.  Hyper-energetic CEOs will do it before everyone else wakes up.  And the bloke who used to run the company newspaper or the factory noticeboard (i.e. cash strapped versions of me) will do it.  But regular people?  For most of them, it just won’t be the answer.  Most people could probably read a few blogs regularly to their great advantage, and many do, and will.  Occasionally they’ll comment.  But for most, that will be the limit of their involvement in the thing.

The impact of blogging, plus all the other things that the internet can do, is only just beginning to be felt.  The two big negative impacts of instantaneous electronic communication on the world as it is (or was) are, I believe: that it rearranges the boundaries (a) between geographically separated areas, and (b) between the public and the private.  The positive creations that will arise to replace the private/public divide we used to have and the old divisions into separate nation states (political parties as now understood spring to mind as examples of both divisions) are only beginning to be glimpsed (in the form of things like the green movement, the libertarian movement, and Islamo-fascism – all global, all “making no secret” of their aims and methods, even as they spring constant tactical surprises).  So the “impact of blogging” (the inverted commas being because so many other things are also involved) will be huge and has scarcely begun.  But the impact of gunpowder was huge as well.  That didn’t mean that everyone dropped everything and became small arms manufacturers or infantry soldiers.  (Although (contradictory qualifier tangent) the young male majority would eventually do the latter, for a few brief historical moments, centuries later.)

Blogging has, in short, settled down.

What this means for someone like me, for whom blogging is profoundly congenial, is ... well, I’ve said enough to be getting on with in this posting.  It started as a twenty minute quicky but is getting profound.  I’ll explain all about how the above is affecting my own bloggage ... some other time.

Summarising heroically, what the above is now doing to my own blogging is that I now seem to be doing more of it here (again) and here (also again), and rather less of it here.

Monday January 21 2008

Another thin urban skyline picture:

image

Click here for the answer.

Sunday January 20 2008

On Friday last, Antoine Clarke and I talked about the elections now going on in America.  Click here to have a listen.  Our conversation, which was mostly me asking and him answering, lasted just over forty minutes.

Tomorrow, people from Westminster Council are coming to collect household items that I had to spend the weekend extracting from under the chaos hitherto piled all over them.  Which is why it took me 48 hours instead of 4 to get this up at my blog.  Apologies especially to Antoine, who has already had an entirely justified moan about this, in among writing about how well Ron Paul did in the latest round.

I had expected to be asking a lot of questions about how the primary system works, but I still don’t know because instead I found myself asking about the personalities involved.  Maybe next time.

Being libertarians, Antoine and I concentrated particularly on Ron Paul, who was actually the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, and, if you don’t fancy him, the only other one who in any way appeals to us libbos, Fred Thompson:

imageimage

Ron Paul is the thin bloke on the left, Fred Thompson the fatter one on the right, more familiar over here, because he’s also a movie and TV actor.

Antoine also compared and contrasted Hillary Clinton with Barack Obama, saying that the former is an “abrasive personality”, and you got the definite feeling that had we not been recording ourselves, he’d have chosen a shorter and nastier word.  Antoine reckons that the Republicans would like her to win the Democrat nomination.

Saturday January 19 2008

It’s my blog and I’ll drone on about the same thing day after day if I want to.  Or copy and paste because that’s easier:

Although it was (and still is, really) astoundingly easy to simply point the finger and laugh at Everex’s completely unsightly, totally underwhelming TC2502 gPC just months ago, it appears that this thing may actually have a chance at gaining a wee (keyword: wee) amount of steam in the desktop market. Shortly after finding its way to Wal-Mart shelves, the box sold out - a feat few surmised would actually take place. Furthermore, it seems to have sparked, or at least been the poster child of, a quiet revolution of ultra-cheap, open source-based machines, tagging along with the likes of Asus’ Eee PC, Shuttle’s KPC and the recently announced Linux PC from Mirus Innovations.

Price, price, price.  Experts constantly underestimate how elastic demand can be, that is, how willing a whole new mob of people might be to give whatever it is a go, if it gets noticeably cheaper.

I’m probably going to get an Asus Eee PC, not because it’s perfect, but because £200 is only a little bit beyond my definition of money I don’t have to think too hard about.  (It occurs to me that this might explain why I so seldom go on holiday.  An adequate holiday typically costs more than that.  Doesn’t it?) If it turns to mud in my hands, so what, it was only £200, and at least I’ll know better next time what to get, for £200.  For four or five hundred quid it has to work decently and be nice, and I agonise and agonise about whether to buy it and then probably don’t buy it, whatever it may be.

And this “completely unsightly, totally underwhelming” Everex machine costs only two hundred dollars.  As do the other me-too machines linked to above.

Friday January 18 2008

Yes, wonderful Russian winter photos here:

image

Thank you Mick Hartley for noticing.

Thursday January 17 2008

I know I keep going on about it, but here you have the fall of Microsoft happening in front of your eyes:

“There is definitely pressure” from Microsoft to get Everex to install Windows rather than the free Linux on the CloudBook, Kim said. But Everex doesn’t want to risk making the CloudBook too pricey - one of the things that has held Windows-based ultramobile PCs back.

“We need to incentivize people, so we are going very, very aggressive” on price, Kim said.

Via engadget, and Eee Site (where they call the Everex Cloudbook the Cloud “bok” – which is nice).

For “pressure” read “desperation”.  For you see, what this guy Kim is talking about here is that his company is starting to make bigger tiny computers, just as cheap, working just the same way, but with bigger screens and bigger keyboards.  Until now, laptops were merely smaller desktops, but that has now changed.  In military terms, the Eee PC and its ilk were the bridgehead into the land of Windows, the staking out of a tiny piece of undefended territory.  This is the breakout, into territory until now held by Windows.

The point always was that whenever the generic computer started remaining the same from year to year, except that it kept getting cheaper, Microsoft Windows was going to be in trouble.  And the first generic computer owned by every kid in the rich world, and the generic computer owned by everyone in the getting rich world (which is a delightfully big place these days), is becoming Linux driven.  Near enough.  Goodnight Windows, and goodnight Microsoft as “the environment”, like IBM before it.

Here is a further titbit in this story.

UPDATE: Instapundit weighs in on the subject of the Eee PC, with a quote from the email of a satisfied user, and with the same point about price and consequent reduced fear of loss or theft as I have been making.  “Update”, as in he weighed in yesterday and I just spotted it.

UP-UPDATE: Instapundit returns to the same subject today.

UP-UP-UPDATE: Incoming Friday morning from Michael J: “I saw someone playing with an Eee PC in a cafe in the West End last night. It is very cute, I have to give it that.”

Wednesday January 16 2008

The weather outside today was fabulous.  Clear.  Not too cold.  Perfect photo-ing weather:

imageimage

On the left, the Royal Festival Hall, now newly refurbished.  On the right, the view from the downstream Hungerford footbridge towards the City.  A nearby street lamp joins in.

Tuesday January 15 2008

Another shallow photo opportunity.  Via engadget, it’s the slimmest ever 8 megapixel camera:

image

So how did they do it?

The BenQ DSC X800’s 3x optical zoom Prism-type lens, which is housed inside the camera, is the key to its slim shape. It can photograph distant settings, and, with its 1cm micro shooting function, objects that are close to the lens. This powerful lens technology allows you to take stunning photos with ease and grace.

Take stunning photos with ease and grace? So, not for me then, although I will be snapping those for whom it is.  For me, it’s too thin.  I could fit three of these in the one pocket!  But, it’s still good for me that the camera makers are thinking thin, because what I want, the most I can get in my pocket (x12+, flip out screen etc.), can also only get better and better.

Monday January 14 2008

How could I have missed this?

image

Someone should have alerted me to this at the time.  They don’t look very like her, but who cares?  Billion Monkey gold, and better late than never.  I found this classic shot because there was a Sharapova interview in yesterday’s Sunday Times, with a picture of her snapping herself with a mobile phone, and I went looking for that.  (Apparently she’s just signed a huge deal with Sony-Ericsson.)

I didn’t find that one, but I did find some good Sharapova snaps, beyond the obvious ones of her wearing swimsuits and playing tennis.  There was this:

image

That’s her with a Canon Billion Monkey camera, on the side of a New York bus.

Best of all was this, which features La Sharapova holding the same camera (I presume) and a dog, and being photographed by a Real Photographer.  Most of my favourite Sharapova-being-photoed and Sharapova-holding-a-camera and Sharapova-lookalike snaps are the work of tammyloh, but all seem to be .gifs, and alas I don’t know how to make any use of them besides just linking to them.  Presumably that’s the whole idea.

All my instincts tell me that La Sharapova is not a real Billion Monkey, although I would love to be wrong about that.  There is none of the characteristic finger work, with the fifth finger sticking up in an exaggerated fashion, to avoid any possibility of it getting into the picture.  In all the pictures of her holding a camera that I’ve seen, that’s all she seems to be doing, holding it, and often as if she’s just been handed it and will very soon be handing it back.  Plus, in that bus picture she’s grinning at the person photographing here.  A real Billion Monkey lady would be engrossed in her camera and utterly oblivious of anyone photo-ing her.  Trust me.

But, look!  I tried again to find that self-photoing shot, and this time I found it.  It had only recently shown up on the Google.

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Ending her three-year run with Canon, the highly profiled player today pledged her allegiance to Sony Ericsson. Besides undertaking a series of new consumer-brand campaigns off the court, Sharapova will also be working with the Japanese-Swedish company’s designers on “a range of products and accessories,” according to the press release.

Well, we suppose it’s bye bye Canon PowerShot and, hello, Sony Ericsson for the tennis star. And guess what phone she’s using now? The Sony Ericsson W350i.  What did you expect?

Well, actually I had no particular expectations about which brand of phone La Sharapova is using.  I only quoted that nonsense to stop what happened to the picture in the previous posting happening again at the bottom of this one.  But it does rather confirm that she’s not a proper Billion Monkey.

Sunday January 13 2008

imageA Great Ball of China.  Other balls from the same guy.

To accommodate the photo to the right and stop it smashing into the previous posting below (my most alert readers with “feeds” or whatever may already have experienced this), I now need further waffle.  And it turns out that that much waffle is sufficient.

Saturday January 12 2008

Michael J emailed earlier in the week with this link, to a story about yet another very small computer, and commented thus:

One interesting thing about this is that the mini-notebooks are all being announced with either Linux of Windows XP. Windows Vista just demands too powerful hardware to actually work successfully on these little underpowered machines, and nobody is even trying to install it.  (This has been an even bigger problem for people like Sony and Fujitsu who make the more expensive mini-laptops like the one I had. The models they have released in the last year have run much worse than the ones they were releasing a couple of years ago, mainly because of the requirements of Vista).

I don’t think anyone is even pretending any more that Microsoft is going to stop selling Windows XP any time soon. When they released Vista the announced policy was that Windows XP would be on sale for an additional year (ie until January 30, 2008) but this has already been extended once. It is now supposedly going off sale on June 30, 2008. I think all bets are off as to when Microsoft will actually stop selling it. If they are genuinely going to lose sales to Linux if they stop selling it (which they undoubtedly will with these little machines) then I am sure they will keep selling it.

Just to indicate how behind Microsoft now is with its product cycles, it is worth observing that Microsoft originally intended to stop providing support (ie security updates and the like) for Windows XP at the end of 2006. Given that they didn’t even get its successor out the door until after that date, that obviously had to shift, and it has. Support for XP is now scheduled to end in 2014, which seems perfectly reasonable, although we will see if it still does in 2012.

I’d approximately worked all this out already, but it’s very good to have it confirmed by someone more tech-savvy.

I saw a review of the Eee-PC in a British magazine, one made with actual paper and everything, and the price of it here will apparently be two hundred and twenty of our English pounds.  That’s cheap enough for me to buy one just to see if I like it.  What I will actually do is take a stroll along Tottenham Court Road in about a month’s time and see what’s there.

News about a rival to the Eee-PC here (thanks Jackie D).  And here comes news that small and cheap batteries are getting better too.

Friday January 11 2008

imageSo what’s that then, on the right?  Is it a large column, stuck between two brightly lit buildings?

No of course it’s not.  It’s the relatively small upright of a shop window, and just the one building, both reflected in the shop window.  The shop is Peter Jones, at the junction between Sloane Square and the Kings Road.  It is highly regarded by architects, having itself been designed by one, by the name of William Crabtree, I now learn.  (Only an architect could make it curved at the corner like that.)

Thursday January 10 2008

Michael Jennings asked me recently if it takes me a stupidly long time to do those photo mosaics that I like to do, and of course it does.  So this time, I’m just going to show you a mere three favourite snaps of all the Billion Monkey snaps that I took yesterday afternoon:

Yesterday in London was a classic sunny-intervals-scattered-showers day.  When I went out it was sunny, but soon it became rainy again, and darker, and soon it became officially dark.  But the rain did good things to the pavements.  And dim light has its uses for us Billion Monkeys, especially if we are a Billion Monkey who likes to photo other Billion Monkeys.

The first is an example of what you can do with fading light, because in dim light anything in motion becomes a blur and blur is good because anything in front of the blur in good focus shows up especially well.

The second, I think, is another consequence of rain on the pavement.  This man doesn’t want to mess his trousers by allowing either knee to touch the ground, hence his somewhat ungainly crouch.  For he has to get low enough to get Big Ben into the picture properly.

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The third is my favourite of all that I took yesterday.  It shows a characteristic Billion Monkey moment, when the person you’ve just asked to take your photo with your camera gives it back to you afterwards.  The rainy pavement and the umbrella makes me think Jack Vettriano, although he never does out of focus.  That would be just too photographic.  Nor would he think of painting a raindrop on his lens by lightening and slightly blurring a bit of his picture, which is what happens towards the bottom left of my picture.  Which I don’t mind at all.

Wednesday January 09 2008

Another day without any bloginspiration has come and now nearly gone.  As regulars here will know, when the urge to write things deserts me, I reach for my photo archive.  And here is a recent picture of some London roof clutter, but with a difference:

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The thing is, this is indoors, or approximately so.  You can see this strange sight by ascending the escalator out of the main concourse of Victoria Station, the escalator that leads to the shopping centre on the far right as you face the railway platforms, towards the big bus station.  Anyway, when you do this, you see that roof clutter to your left.

I should have taken a note of what goes on underneath it, so that I could now pass it on.  (It’s a single story structure.) But I neglected to do this.  Perhaps a comment will materialise here, from me, with this information.

The photograph above is not a thing of beauty.  (Such a thing would not now be allowed here.) But there is more to photography than recording beautiful things.

Tuesday January 08 2008

Via engadget (which until today I had been becoming a bit bored by) comes this news:

By 2010 it looks like robots will take over some of the work of building high-rise towers. This new building technology is expected to bring down the number of injuries at high-rise construction sites and also cut down on the time spent on building them. It may only be a matter of years before robots take over such death-defying work. So says the Construction and Transportation Ministry, which announced that it now has the core technology for building high-rises without human workers.

The ministry says it is going ahead with the process of applying the technology to nuts-and-bolts building projects. It will create a construction process almost totally automated, taking advantage of 12 high-tech patents including so-called “intelligent” cranes and the world’s first bolt-tightening robots.

Not surprisingly, the robot-led system is expected to cut labor costs by up to one-third and start-to-finish project time by around 15 percent. Add it all up and experts say it will boost overall productivity by an impressive 25 percent.

Consider the 69-story Tower Palace, a lavish residential complex in southern Seoul that took 33 months to complete. With the new technology’s touch, it could have been finished five months sooner.

Any decade now, they’ll just fill the air with magic rays and then spray toner powder into it and bingo, there the skyscraper will be, as I think I may already have informed the readers of this blog, however many months ago that was.

But more significant, I think, is the paragraph that comes next:

Industry insiders also expect this breakthrough to lower the number of accidents at job sites, address the labor shortage stemming from an aging society, and step up Korea’s competitiveness in building super-sized structures.

Aging society.  Robots.  Of course.  Eventually almost all humans will be laid out on their not-quite-death-beds, for century after century, stacked neatly in ever more super-sized structures, while robots plugged into our brains live life for us, having virtual sex, feeding non-harmful drug experiences into us and attending virtual rock and roll concerts on our behalf.  If I had stayed at home more and read science fiction and watched all of Doctor Who (where those Daleks turned out to have gooy creatures inside them – don’t they?), instead of spending so much of my discretionary time wandering about London seeing people, attending events, and photoing buildings and photographers, I would have realised this years ago.

Monday January 07 2008

I am tired, having got up at a sensible time this morning, i.e. very early.  So here is a quota photo, taken last July, of the Gherkin:

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I don’t know whether I like that cropped version of it or the original.  So, click on that version and get the original, and you decide. (Actually, having thought about it some more, I prefer the original, the one you get by clicking.  You get more bridge, but no more people, which emphasises how nice it was of the guys all to be in the right spot.)

That’s the Millenium Footbridge that they’re walking on.

Saturday January 05 2008

Said last night on the telly, by one of the detectives in Criminal Minds:

Strange how many serial killers seem to make a hobby of photography.

Something to do with voyeurism, he went on to say, but I’ve forgotten the exact wording.  This is the episode I was watching.

imageWhy is Jonathan Ross paid an obscene amount of money for having really rather innocuous conversations on the telly?  It’s very simple.  He interviews film stars on the telly.  They aren’t the only interviewees, but without them, it’s no show.  This means that when his people ask film stars to be on his show, they have to say: yes.  If they say no, there’s no show.  Their only question is: is this guy a star?  If he’s a star, they’ll be on his show.  If he’s not a star, then they put their own stardom at risk by talking to him as if he’s human.  And the only way they have of determining whether he is a star is to ask: how much is he paid?  If it’s obscene, then he’s a star.  If it’s not obscene, then he’s not.  If he’s not a star, they won’t talk to him.  No, it’s more basic than that.  They can’t talk to him.

So, do we want somebody having innocuous conversations with film stars on our telly?  If we do, then what Jonathan Ross gets paid is what it costs.

Personally, I favour a free market in telly as in everything, and there’d be no BBC doing sums like this.  But that is a somewhat different debate, about the morals of who pays the price, rather than the question of what that price is.

By having Ross do his Friday chat show and also having him do Film Whatever year it is, the BBC contrives only to pay an obscene sum of money to one person rather than to two.  The film stars are needed for both, but the two needs are covered by just the one obscene payment.  Ross also does other movie shows, about Hollywood, Japanese movies, and the like.

Jonathan Ross is saving us all a fortune, by only being paid one.

I’ve just had a glass of wine, so this may not be true.

Friday January 04 2008

Today’s top quote at Cricinfo, from an Indian supporter placard at the Sydney Cricket Ground:

Commit your crimes when Sachin is batting. They will go unnoticed because even the Lord is watching.

The international cricket going on at the moment is especially choice, and this despite England not playing.  Actually, it’s more a case of because.  England, without Flintoff, or indeed a proper bowling attack of any kind, are a sad shadow of the side which won the Ashes in 2005, their recent performances against Sri Lanka having been particularly dispiriting.  It says everything that England’s best batter in Sir Lanka was: Bell. Pietersen never got to fifty in any of the tests.  But despite the poor England batting, I suspect that the biggest recent England loss has been Troy Cooley, the Australian who in 2005 was coaching the England bowlers, and who now coaches the Australian bowlers.  In 2005 all the talk was that Australia would struggle without McGrath and Warne.  Yet it is still their opponents who do the struggling.

But when India are batting, that can be quite a struggle.  Overnight, India reached 532, in reply to Australia’s 463, thanks to a huge 154 not out by Sachin Tendulkar (see above), the Aussies having just begun their second innings before stumps on the third (not fourth) day.  If Australia win they will go two up in the series and will have equalled their previous record for successive test wins, and although that now looks unlikely it’s still not impossible, because the Aussies really get on with their games. Meanwhile, the Windies, having registered their first ever test win in South Africa, are now battling to keep that advantage.  (What wouldn’t we have given to see Holding, Marshall, Garner, Croft and the rest of them bowling against Pollock, Richards and D’Oliveira?) I have never been more tempted to go the whole hog and get Sky TV, what with the rugger also getting better all the time.  My Real Life would then be officially over, but what a couch potato life it would be.

Ganga and Ramdin have now reduced the South African first innings lead of 78 by 50, without loss.  Ganga, who had a total nightmare of a summer in England, is now doing much better.  I’m watching it on Ceefax.  You can tell a lot from Ceefax.  At 9.1 overs, the Windies were 7-0.  N’tini’s opening spell: 5 overs 5 maidens 0 runs 0 wickets.  You just know what that was like.

Cricinfo:

Without Gayle, icing his leg which had stiffened up in the field, West Indies opened with Daren Ganga and Denesh Ramdin. Against a fired-up Nel, who has rarely bowled better, and Makhaya Ntini they played and missed and looked ripe for getting out at any moment. But, vitally, they survived, saw off the new ball and with the introduction of the wounded Steyn, reduced to pop-gun pace by a hamstring strain, they knew that they had weathered a major storm. More were on the way, but for now they were back in the match.

Now N’tini’s figures are 8-5-16-0, and it’s 59-0 off 26.  This is not calypso cricket, just test cricket.  Go Windies.  Cricket needs you.  (Doh!  Ramdin out for 26.) (Doh!  Doh!  Doh!  Close: Windies 96-4.  Shame.)

Thursday January 03 2008

One of my favourite end-of-year blog moments is the one when Michael Jennings does a huge Samizdata posting with photos for every month of the previous year, each taken somewhere Abroad. 

Here is the latest of these.

My favourite snap this time around is this June 2007 picture of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall in Los Angeles:

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Click on it to get it nice and big.

I hope Michael will forgive me calling him an amateur photographer.  I need to do this because the thing I particularly like about this photo is that, like many amateur photos, it actually gives me a more vivid feeling of actually being there than I typically get with the photos by Real Photographers.  All that road at the front helps, in this respect, as does the fact that the road has a car on it.  Plus, there are two skyscrapers getting in on the scene, as there are for real of course, but as you only seldom see in the official photos.  In these shots you can almost see the Hall turning its head around this way and that to ensure that its best side is shown.  What we Billion Monkeys do is simply record the scene as is.  (I think I may have blogged about this phenomenon before.  Apologies to those who are picking up on the repetition, if anyone is.)

In connection with Frank Gehry, see also this New Criterion Article about the phenomenon of the Starchitect.

Wednesday January 02 2008

Will it never end?  Incoming:

me taking a photo of me taking a photo of brian taking a photo of me taking a photo of me taking a photo of brian - and i am in photo twice.

beat that.

Time for a picture of a semi-stately home, which I used to visit as a child because it belonged to my Grandmother.  Now it belongs to my cousin.  The general opinion in the family is that he looks after it very well, despite this being extremely difficult and time-consuming, and quite often financially scary.  Who’d be rich, eh?

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I know what you’re thinking.  Finally, a proper photo, of something.  It’s basically a late nineteenth century expansion of a much more modest earlier house.  Grade II listed, apparently.

Tuesday January 01 2008

Okay so Happy New Year, and all that, but I agree that the Billion Monkeys aren’t really saying that.  For a start, I photoed most of these ones last summer.  But I say Happy New Year with Billion Monkeys, because that’s me.  Originally, I had in mind to only put up one, namely the lady with the icecream cone in her mouth, like it’s a unicorn’s antler only at the front.  But by the time I found that one, I also found lots of other good snaps that I’d forgotten about.

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I really must get plugged in properly to Flickr.  The thing is, I don’t mind violating people’s privacy here, but on Flickr I think I should be more careful.  However, Billion Monkeys often hide their faces.  They crouch with only their hair showing.  They hold bags up in front of themselves.  They have huge cameras which they look into with scrunched up faces that nobody would recognise.  So, I have plenty of Flickrable pictures.  I just need to sort it out.

Anyway, as I said, Happy New Year.  Here’s another Billion Monkey picture that I took last night, at an actual New Year party:

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That’s Adriana, with her new movie camera, which can also be used as a still camera hence the flash.  It was a real beauties and beasts night.  And since Perry has already flaunted this lady ...

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... I will too.  Like I said, beauties and beasts.  She is also a Billion Monkey.  She had her own funny shaped little lipstick coloured girl-camera with her last night and even took some snaps, and looked at them happily and everything.  Just not in that shot.