Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Saturday April 30 2011

HereHere.  And here.  More to the point, for the time being, here.

Friday April 29 2011

Today, late in the afternoon, I took a walk towards Westminster Abbey, looking for things to photo in the aftermath of the public upheaval that was the royal wedding.

I know why people grumble about this wedding.  It’s not that they are forced to pay attention to it.  They are not.  Their problem is that they don’t like how much others seem to be attending to it, without being forced to any more than they are.  They don’t like the way this rather mediocre family occupies a place in British society, and in British affections, that they think ought to be occupied by a person who is - or persons who are - more politically qualified, by which is meant more political.  I used to think like this, but now believe that any more “rational” arrangement of this sort would merely strengthen the power of politicians by giving them yet another hold over us, which would be bad.  I still feel no reverence towards the family, but no longer favour any alternative arrangement.  It’s been quite a while since I would have lifted a finger to support any change in our Head of State arrangements.  Now, I might lift several fingers to keep them as they are, were the need for that ever to arise.

I don’t think the family can be expected to do anything beyond keeping the politicians away from the Head of State job, like preserving British sovereignty, or some such chimera.  If the politicians are determined to destroy that, destroy it they will, and the family will tag along.

Not being a reverent sort of royalist, I had no difficulty ignoring this wedding.  In order to notice it, I had to take active steps, which today took the form of wandering about London after it had finished, with my camera, to see whatever I saw.

Here is one of the photos I took, of a shop window:

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And here is another shop window:

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And of course, today as always, my fellow digital photographers were out in force:

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Those ones were photographing the front door of Westminster Abbey.  This looked to me much as it always does.  But I suppose if you find the family exciting, there is something extra about photo-ing the front door of the building where one of their weddings was, only hours after it happened.

Tuesday April 26 2011

One of the pictures here:

image

Reminds me of this, but it’s even better.

Samizdata doesn’t do politician endorsements.  They’re all scroundrels.  But I personally do get excited about mere political personalities from time to time.  I would have been totally horrified had Gordon Brown contrived to remain Britain’s Prime Minister after the last general election, and now I feel just the same about the ghastly prospect of Barack Obama remaining in the White House for another term.

Is the Obama Presidency a plan to do good that is going wrong because it is a bad plan to do good, because it is a good plan to do good that is going wrong because it is being done badly, or a bad plan to do bad that is going all too well?  Keystone President or President Evil?  It really doesn’t matter that much, does it?  The point is to get him out of the White House and put someone else - pretty much anyone else - there instead.

To that end, BrianMicklethwaitDotCom is now going to endorse a Not Obama politician for the Presidency of the USA, and support that candidate until his campaign collapses in whatever mixture of incompetence, incoherence, insincerity, incest, or just plain ignominy or ineffectuality forces him or her to return to normal life.  Or until I am persuaded that, although my hitherto preferred candidate is still in the race, there is a better candidate out there who I should switch to.  At all stages in the discussion it will a simple this-guy-or-that-guy argument about which guy would be better at replacing Obama than the other guy, either because the better guy is good or because he’s more likely to win, or maybe even both.  Winning is vital.  A guy I like who enables the Obama Presidency to carry on wrecking America and the world is not a guy I like, if you get my drift.

It’s a bit like those behind-the-scenes telly shows that Brit TV sometimes does about the FA Cup, where they start with some tiddling non-league club, and when they get beaten, they switch their attention to the club that beat them.  And all the way through to the Cup Final.

If Obama himself chucks it in earlier than in the Cup Final, I may chuck this in myself.  Don’t know.  But my belief now is that Obama is so stupidly-evil, so evilly-stupid, that despite all his grumbles about his job he wants another four years trashing America and the world, and won’t walk away gracefully.  He will have to be ejected.

So, step forward Gary Johnson, my first stab at a Not Obama man who I can get behind.  I know very little about him, apart from that he is Not Obama.  If you know something more than that about Gary Johnson (more here and here), either to his credit or to his discredit, feel free to enlighten me.

Sunday April 24 2011

Is quoting yourself allowed?  It is if you are me, here:

The state of the world is now such that, if you want to be optimistic about your own country, don’t whatever you do look at your own country.  Look at all the others.

Here.

I do want to be an optimist, today and every day.  Happy Easter everybody.

Friday April 22 2011

Indeed:

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Photoed by me this afternoon, above the Royal Victoria Dock, which I have been visiting lately.

Thursday April 21 2011

Frank J:

Think about it: What’s the best way to make sure there is only goodwill out there towards Muslims?

That’s right: Kill all the bad Muslims.

It’s the way that he combines hate-the-hateful speech with everyone-live-in-harmony speech that makes it so funny, right speak with left speak.  Reminds me of that great speech for the defence in Animal House.

This evening I attended the ASI blogger bash, and one of the speakers, Harry Cole, said something along the lines of: Lefties are better at comedy than the Right.. Which I suspect is a lot truer of Britain than it is of the USA.  Closely related to that observation is that in Britain, as was also discussed, we are years away from anything resembling a British version of the Tea Party.  The British Right, in other words, is not in tune with the Zeitgeist, or even any major slab of the Zeitgeist, the way the USA Right is in the USA.  And even there, it may just be a temporary consequence of the Obama phenomenon,, which is a huge attempt to turn the USA into something entirely different.  Europe, basically.  When that attempt gets switched off, whenever that happens, the Tea Party may die with it.  By which I mean either go home or else turn entirely into dull old regular politics.

LATER:  Further illustration of the same proposition.  When Cleese was funny, he was, if not Left, then at least anti-Right.  Now that he’s not funny, he’s Right.

Wednesday April 20 2011

The world’s most powerful mobile crane:

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I occasionally see miniature versions of such gizmos in London, but nothing quite like this.

I love the telescoping effect, when it’s shut.  Power in reserve.

Incoming email from 6k, entitled “Future photo opportunities limited?”:

Hate to be the bearer of bad news (or in this case “news we all knew already"), but someone at Norman Foster’s place has finally stated the bleeding obvious and I’m left wondering what you will take photos of when there are no more new tall things to take photos of.

Thankfully, ever more Draconian ‘Elfnsafety regulations will surely keep your photography ticking over until such time as London can afford to go up and up again.

First thanks for the link.  The bleedin’ obvious being that the London Big Thing Boom is now over.  All the Big Thing construction projects now under way were set in motion before the big financial meltdown, and the next wave of building will be lean and mean and economical.  And probably very boring.  Well, yes.  I’ve been assuming this, and have been doing so ever since we started arguing here about whether even the Shard itself would get built, or just remain a big hole with a pipe dream hovering over it.

But second, London will never be short of things to photograph, and just because some particular London thing has not attracted my photographic attention yet does not mean that it never will.

If this was the London Big Things Blog, then I’d have a problem, but even that problem would be soluble.  For whereas things like digital photographers and health and safety notices have a way of being transient (that being part of their photographic appeal), the recently constructed Big Things will not go away in any foreseable future.  I have many more Big Thing snaps to snap and show, from many places and many angles of which I now know little.

Tuesday April 19 2011

Sometimes, public signage emits a portentous universality that may not have been intended:

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Photoed by me yesterday, outside Kensal Rise railway station.

Sunday April 17 2011

Detlev Schichter has written a book, Paper Money Collapse – The Folly of Elastic Money and the Coming Monetary Breakdown, which will be published later this year.  Detlev Schlichter’s website is here, and an outline of his book here.

Here are some pictures that I took of Detlev Schlichter just over a week ago, in the City of London:

imageimageimageimageimageimage

Last month, I inteviewed Detlev Schichter for Cobden Centre radio.  To listen to that (it lasts just over half an hour) go here.

Last week, Detlev Schichter joined the Cobden Centre’s Advisory Board.  Follow that link and scroll down for further information about him.

The purpose of these pictures is to help Detlev Schlichter to become better known.  If you are a blogger wanting to say something about Schichter’s ideas and writings, go right ahead and use any of the above pictures, gratis, preferably with a link to this posting.

Busy weekend.  Quota photo time:

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The Shard is in the middle, but in the distance.

Taken in January of this year.  The Shard hasn’t changed that much since then, outwardly.

Friday April 15 2011

Incoming from Antoine ...

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... to whom: Merci beaucoup!

Wednesday April 13 2011

Administrivia.  New to me anyway.

In a piece about “governance”, which is not excellent at all.  Governance is creepy, and the Gorse Fox describes it well.

Spring is in the air in England, and in India it’s IPL time.  And I’m watching what could prove to be the best game so far, between the Chennai Somethings and the Punjab Somethingelses.  Punjab opening bowler Praveen Kumar made a sensational start, taking two wickets with the first two balls of the match.  But his third over, much later in the innings, just went for 4 6 6 2 . 4, courtesy of MS Dhoni.  Chennai, having been 0-2 are now a very strong 181-3, with another over still to go and two powerful hitters, well set, at the crease.  Dohni out to the last ball of the innings.  43 off 20 balls.  Chennai 188.

If you are a neutral, as I am, what you want in these games is for fortunes to fluctuate, and that innings was very fluctuational.  Lets hope the game fluctuationalises some more before it finishes.  I’m following it here.

So far, my impression of the tournament is that the bowlers are getting cannier at this type of game, and captaincy and fielding are getting better, which means that totals are getting smaller.  188, by far the biggest innings total this time around, is a very good score.

The player of the tournament so far has been a bowler, the amazing Lasith Malinga, who apparently practises his yorkers by bowling at a pair of boots rather than at an entire batsman, a boot destroyer being what a “yorker” is.  Malinga’s arm is not nearly vertical, like a regular bowler, when he bowls.  It is nearly horizontal.  I can’t explain how Malinga manages to be so accurate with such a low action, but then again, neither can anyone else.  His first match analysis was a match crunching 5 for extremely little.  In his second game he took only 2 for thirty something, and the armchair occupiers on the telly back here in London were rather sniffy.  But Malinga took a wicket with the first ball of that match, a vicious outswinger that sent the off stump cartwheeling but left the leg bail in place (which I love to see), and I believe that set back the batters for their entire innings.  First they were cautious because they needed to recover from that early setback, and I believe they later avoided risks to avoid exposing their tail enders to Malinga at the end.  Two for thirty didn’t tell the true story of Malinga’s impact on that game, which his side won at a canter.

The Punjab Whatevers have made a great start, so those fluctuations are continuing to be suitably fluctuationalistic.

Tuesday April 12 2011

Incoming from San Francisco:

Hey Brian,

I’m reaching out to you because Thumbtack is getting a lot of job leads for roof cleaners, and I’m looking for another roof cleaner who is interested in taking on more clients.

After checking out your website I think you are a great fit for Thumbtack and I’d love to start sending you job leads. Please fill out a few details about your skills and rates, and I’ll start forwarding you potential new clients.

If you have any questions about what Thumbtack can provide, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks,
Heather

I think I get the picture.

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Sunday April 10 2011

Incoming from Antoine: “Love to see Brian Moore and Martin Johnson in this kit”:

imageimageimage

Yes, this may be just the thing for French backs, but I can’t see English forwards taking to it.

Friday April 08 2011

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some more Men, ...

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… which I could have sworn were the work of the same man, Anthony Gormley, as did these South Bank Men.

It was getting late, but on the plus side there was a sunset in progress.  I had fun lining up these (I assumed) Gormley Men with some nearby Big London Things:

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I returned a day or two later, earlier in the day.  But it was gloomier.

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When I returned more recently, I found I had lost all interest in lining these Men up with the Towers of Docklands.  I had become interested in their immediate setting:

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On closer inspection, they looked like the moulds from which the Gormley Men had emerged.  But actually, they are not Gormleys.  They are the work of Peter Burke.  The official title of these Men is: Assembly.

And, I found myself wanting to photo them much closer up.  This is because I came to see that, inside and under all that armour plating, there is a much more specifically human man than is presented by the Gormley Men.  In particular, the face is much more detailed and less generalised, albeit the same every time.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Note how the camera, mine anyway, sometimes lies, especially when snapping sculpture, and especially when snapping sculpture close up.  In situ the eye sees context and hence knows what is really going on.  In situ, the eye darts hither and thither and makes sense of everything, provided only that there is sense to be made.  But give the eye only a photo, and all its sees is the photo.  So, here, it can turn the insides of the heads into heads in their own right.  Or, it can turn a comprehensible three dimensional shape into a two dimensional abstract muddle. 

My first reaction to these Men was that there is something very military about them, what with them being outside the old Woolwich Arsenal.  And I still think that.  To me (I have no idea what Peter Burke thinks he was doing) they suggest a reflection on how the military personality is shaped by its armour, by its uniform.  But, on closer inspection, there are still human beings in there.

I do wonder, however, how well Burke and Gormley know each other, and what they each think of the other’s work.  For real I mean, not in the form of the official art bollocks that they emit for public consumption.

Do any accusations of copying fly around, and if so in which direction?

Or, are they part of a “school”?

imageThe twentieth century Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich was much photographed, but I have never seen that photo of him before.  It is on the cover of the latest (numbers 1 and 3) in the Naxos series of Shostakovich symphonies being recorded by the RLPO and Vasily Petrenko.  Well, this CD has two covers.  There’s an outer cardboard cover, bright blue, with a picture of Petrenko on it.  And then there’s the regular cover, on the sleeve notes, inside the regular plastic CD case, which is where this photo is to be seen.  Acccording the back of the CD, it is entitled: “Two days before the completion of the First Symphony, 28th June, 1925”.  He looks chubbier than in all the later photos.

I don’t believe this photo has ever been used before on a CD or a record.  Which is surprising.  There’s a whole internet cat subculture, that will surely now spread the word of this CD.  I got my copy yesterday, for even less than the usual Naxos bargain basement price, but have not listened to it yet.  If it’s as good as people are saying, it’s good.

I have, on the other hand, listened to another recent Shostakovich CD, this time of his First Violin Concerto, done by Lisa Batiashvili.  Outstanding.  I especially like the contribution made by the conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen.  I heard Salonen drain all the excitement out of Beethoven’s Ninth at a Prom some years back, which was quite an achievement.  But this time around, his icy perfectionism is perfect casting.  And I also, not long back, finally found a cheap-enough-to-buy box of the Fitzwilliam Quartet’s complete Shostakovich string quartets.  Outstanding again, and done with a similar icy perfection.

Heh.

Thursday April 07 2011

These blue Men reminded me that I have been meaning, ever since I took them, to display here some of my photos of some other Men, the ones put by Antony Gormley all over the South Bank and related areas (like bits of the North Bank), in the Summer of 2007.

I wouldn’t recommend solemnly looking at all of these, but click on a few at random, until you get the picture (I think it was not knowing how to do squares that caused the delay.)

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For some damn fool artistic type reason that need not concern us unless we want it to, Gormley called these Men “Event Horizon”.  (Artists who make nice things but talk bollocks about them are a characteristic type of our time, I think.  I don’t blame them.  If they didn’t talk bollocks they’d never get their careers cranked up.  Anyway, it makes a change from a generation ago, when the things they made were almost entirely bollocks also.) The Gormley Men are all based on Gormley himself.

Critic Howard Halle (see here) out-Gormleyed Gormley by saying this:

“Using distance and attendant shifts of scale within the very fabric of the city, [Event Horizon] creates a metaphor for urban life and all the contradictory associations – alienation, ambition, anonymity, fame – it entails.”

Whatever.  In other words, you see in these metal Men whatever you want to see, much as you see whatever you want to see when confronting actual men.

As for me, I liked how they humanised the mostly very unlovely buildings of the South Bank.  And I liked how children would run about among them pointing excitedly and saying: “There’s another!”.  And I liked how my fellow digital photographers photoed them, and how I was able to photo some of them photo-ing them.

They also reminded me of the angels in the Wim Wenders movie Angels of Desire, and even more of the angels in the Hollywood remake of that called City of Angels.

I really liked these Gormley Men, and have missed them ever since, whenever I have visited the South Bank.  Thank goodness for digital cameras, which can ensure that such passing moments in the history of a city are thoroughly recorded and celebrated.

And in an attempt to illustrate that proposition with a link, I have just discovered that the Gormley Men paid a visit to New York, in the year 2010, I think.

And to Rotterdam in 2008.

Well done them.

Blog and learn.

Oh and: spot the deliberate mistake.

Wednesday April 06 2011

At the top of a London Tube escalator, an appropriate juxtaposition, n’est pas?

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Another sign of the times I spotted in Egham earlier in the week, here.

Rob Fisher was recently kind enough to recall a pronouncement of mine from way back, that goes Everything competes with everything.  Which I am sure is not original to me, but which I am nevertheless very proud of.  Here is the piece where I first found myself saying this.  It was the very first blog posting I ever wrote, in January 2005, for the now long defunct Competition Blog that used to be published by the now long defunct Centre for a New Europe, and it was entitled, then as now: Everything competes with everything.  None of the links in the original text now work, so I have just cut them out.

“What’s wrong with leaving the market to decide?” asks Alberto [Mingardi – in another CNE blog also defunct].  He doesn’t really mean that as a question, but I’ll take him at his punctuation.

I think one of the basic assumptions which sustains the idea of competition ‘policy’, i.e. the idea that competition is not something that can be allowed to take care of itself, is the assumption that there isn’t nearly as much competition about as there actually is.

The unspoken and unexamined – they’re the most powerful kind – assumption here is that shoes only compete with other shoes, cars only compete with other cars, football clubs only with rival football clubs.

Suppose you believe that a shoe seller in a small town, say, only faces a competitive threat from other shoe sellers in that same town.  Well, if you assume that, you will see monopoly, or the threat of it, everywhere.  After all, if there is only one shoe shop in town, it can charge whatever it likes for its shoes, can’t it?

Well, no, it can’t.  Demand for shoes is not that strong.  In economic parlance, it is “elastic”.  And this is not merely because shoes can be obtained elsewhere, albeit at greater cost and with more delay and inconvenience.

Many – in lucky countries: most – people already have enough shoes to avoid having to go around in bare feet all day.  So when they now buy shoes, they are mostly buying more shoes.  And if those more shoes were too expensive, or ugly, or liable to leak, then they’d not buy more shoes. Instead, they’d buy more clothes, slightly nicer holidays, slightly better dental care, or if there didn’t seem to be much along those lines worth buying, they’d save it (saving being another product) until something that was worth buying did come along, like university education for the kids or help for tsunami victims.

Certainly that is how the world looks to a shoe seller.  He knows that his shoes are fighting for a place in the market alongside not just other shoes, but alongside … everything.  And the same goes for all other traders.

Once you see the world like that, the idea that governments need to rush around ensuring competition by, for example, minutely comparing these shoes with those shoes, this shoe supplier with that shoe supplier – starts to look very foolish.

Tuesday April 05 2011

In pursuit of my personal hobby of photo-ing my favourite London New Things (Shard, Gherkin, BT Tower, Docklands Towers, Strata, Wheel) from all possible viewpoints and angles, near and far and all distances in between, here is yet another shot of Strata, one taken yesterday afternoon, from … which railway station was it?  I think it must have been Vauxhall:

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Yes, I’m almost sure it was Vauxhall.

Seriously, railway stations are very good places to snap snaps of London Big Things from.  Often their platforms are at roof level rather than ground level.  And, these platforms are long.  They are not just one point, they are a longish string of points of view, to choose between.  You can move along the platform, until you get just the short you want.  As there.

Sunday April 03 2011

I have nothing very original to say about the World Cup Final yesterday.  (I’m talking about cricket, of course.) I enjoyed it very much, and I particularly admired the batting of Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka and of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India, as did millions of others.

Yuvraj Singh also batted calmly at the end for India to help Dhoni see them home, and in general Yuvraj had a great series, being named Man of it.  I also enjoy Yuvraj’s default facial expression, which appears to be, in about equal measures, a mixture of anger and shock.  Strangely, he looks much more good humoured in most of these pictures.

Antoine Clarke has just emailed me to say that his Norlonto Review is back in business, and that he also had things to say about this wondrous sporting event, including this, which is a slightly more acute observation than anything I can manage:

I’m guessing this is the biggest celebration of a sporting win by anyone at anytime in any sport.

I guess that’s right.  It certainly was fun listening to excited Indian commentators talking about India winning “the world cup”, without it seeming to cross their minds that there are any other world cups in the world of any significance.

Now, if those Chinese were ever to get seriously interested in cricket ...

Friday April 01 2011