Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Wednesday December 26 2012

This:

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No point clicking, because that’s as good as that photo will ever get.

This is the light fitting that dazzles, but behaves better when reflected (often the way with light, I find), in this picture, of the Samizdata Christmas Eve jollities.

When I was a sociology student, I used to make things like that out of cocktail sticks.  It took huge amounts of spare time.  But then, I had huge amounts of spare time.

Tuesday December 25 2012

Last night I attended a dinner at Chateau Samizdata.

Lots of photos were taken, and not just by me.  The basic reason for all the photography was that the food was the sort of food that deserved to be memorialised in pixels:

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And once one camera is out, I get out mine to photo the photoing, and from then on it escalates.  As well as three old school cameras like mine, there were also several tablets and smart phones in action.  In fact, there were probably more cameras present last night than there were people (which I reckon to be an interesting moment in social history) especially if you include cameras like the camera in my mobile phone.  This stayed in my jacket pocket all night, but it was there.

Here is Michael J photoing two of our fellow guests:

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And finally, here are a couple of snaps of our host and hostess, being photoed ...:

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... and then looking at the result a few seconds later:

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As I keep on saying, the history of photography just now is not that this or that famous photographer has just taken a bunch more famous photos.  It is that we all now have these things.

Monday December 24 2012

This is without doubt my favourite Merry Christmas photo of 2012, taken in early November:

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There’s nothing like allowing a bit of commerce to brighten up those Oxford Street Christmas lights, which would otherwise have merely been the same old same old.  And it’s good that the notion that not everyone enjoys Christmas is acknowledged, but does not dominate.

So, a Merry Christmas to all my readers.  And likewise to any readers of Samizdata whom I manage to link to here from there.  Unless you are a spammer.

Saturday December 22 2012

More incoming signage weirdness from Michael J:

I do love a good biblical mixed metaphor.

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I guess this means that the plants can talk, but in lots of different languages.

Another foreign sign from Michael here.

Friday December 14 2012

As promised, more Croydon Shop Stuff, feline because it’s Friday:

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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.

Thursday December 13 2012

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:

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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.

Not quite.  The last posting at Samizdata before it does its Big Jump Through Hyperspace is actually entitled: Nice job you have here ... shame if something happens to it.

On Friday of this week, those links don’t work.  Here’s hoping they come back on Saturday.

Tuesday December 11 2012

Things seem to moving fast over as Samizdata, first there was an email telling us not to upload any pictures “whilst we are working on moving the blog”, and now this:

As of this Thursday, Samizdata will temporarily stop updating and on Friday, it will go off-line completely for… a while.

We wil be back at some point over the weekend with the New Improved Version.

And there has been another email clarifying when we may not post.

Meanwhile, here, there was another involuntary outage yesterday afternoon.  Something to do with upgrading a router, or some such thing, and all was soon well again.  No incoming emails told me of this.  I found it out for myself.  I deduce that this blog was not much missed.

I look forward greatly to seeing how the new Samizdata system works, and hope that it will continue to make sense for me to use the same software for a revamped version of this blog.

Incoming from Michael J:

Richard the Lionheart apparently occupied St Hilarion Castle in Northern Cyprus on his way to Jerusalem in the 12th century. Thus it is pretty clear that crusaders used these latrines. However, the castle is a couple of centuries older than this, so we must therefore wonder whether these are actual crusader latrines, or merely latrines used by crusaders.

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“Crusader Latrines” sounds like an up-to-the-minute brand, doesn’t it?  “Middle Age Privies”, on the other hand ...

Sunday December 09 2012

In this recent Samizdata piece, about using iPad’s to take photos, I said this, concerning a picture of a bloke photoing Westminister Abbey with an iPad:

He’s not the first iPad (or Tablet or whatever) photoer I have spotted in recent months, just the first who obliged with a good clear pose for me to photo, ...

But now see this:

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I took that photo on June 1st of this year.

The thing is, I photo an interesting thing, and then, through a combination of failing short-term memory and the desire to concentrate on the next photo rather than the last one, I forget about it.

Besides which, these things don’t present themselves to me in one revelation.  They creep up on me.  I find myself noticing a thing, now promoted to a Thing, several times, rather than just the once.  Just the once wouldn’t be a Thing, would it?

I just did yet another techno-ramble on Samizdata.

Wednesday December 05 2012

My blogging theme just now seems to be photography, face recognition, me photoing photographers, and so on and so forth.

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:

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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.

Indeed.

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:

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And here is my photo of Michael’s photo of me, as instantly displayed on his iPad:

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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.

Tuesday December 04 2012

Madsen Pirie has a posting up about the Parisian origins of the Statue of Liberty, featuring one of my all time favourite photographs.  Which gives me an excuse to exhibit some snaps I took in Paris last February, of the Statue of Liberty.

There are two miniature Statues of Liberty in Paris.  Before visiting Paris I didn’t realise there were any, and since being in Paris until now, when I looked it up on the www, I hadn’t realised that Paris contained two.  There is a very small one in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and a less small one next to Grenelle Bridge, which is the one I went to see:

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I still have tons more Paris photos to show off, but that’s a start.

Monday December 03 2012

More pictures taken yesterday.  Will I ever tire of snapping my fellow snappers?  The weather was a bit cold, but not too cold, so there was lots of photography going on with gloves on, but sometimes just the one. 

Click an enjoy:

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I am hoping that one of the benefits of switching to Wordpress, if I do, will be that both the posting and the viewing of such clutches of photos will become easier.  I will be able to fling them up more quickly, and you will be able to click through them more quickly.

And yes, I know that I could contrive this by using one or other of the dedicated photography “platforms”, but I personally particularly relish the thought of using only one platform for all of my bloggage.  I want to use Wordpress for Samizdata and for here, and I want to use Wordpress to display whatever photos I want to display.  I will only ponder alternatives if I find out that Wordpress doesn’t allow this sort of thing, far better than I am doing this now.  But judging by what Alec Muffet (the man who is contriving the Samizdata switch-over) told me in a recent conversation at Chateau Samizdata, Wordpess will offer much better photo-display options.  I definitely hope so.

Sunday December 02 2012

This afternoon was a real beauty from the photography point of view, and I journeyed across Westminster Bridge and along the South Bank, past the Wheel.  By the time I got to Hungerford Bridge and the Royal Festival Hall it was getting dark and by 5pm I was back home.

Of the many photos I took, this was a favourite:

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What I like about that is that it combines clichés.  And clichés combined are cliches declichéed.  I love to photo that great London cliché, tourist crap.  And I love the photographic cliché that is reflecting stuff.  And then there is cliché that is The Wheel.  Who in London who owns a digital camera does not have a stack of photos of that?

I love how glass reflects only when the thing behind it is quite dark, so that you get this sort of photoshop effect, of combined images.