Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Saturday June 22 2013

Yesterday I was out and about, in the Kings Road.  But I forgot my proper camera and Sod’s Law went swinging into action and put a great big old Wedding Celebration under my nose just after I got off of the bus, right outside Chelsea Town Hall, with guests clogging the pavement and everything, getting in the way of people trying to just go along the pavement.  They were dressed to show off.  They were showing off.  On the pavement.  Fair photographic game, I decided.  If you shove your wedding under the noses of the world, on one of the world’s pavements, the world is allowed to take photos.  But then I discovered the ghastly truth: no proper camera.

But, I had my Google Nexus 4.  And it was a sunny day and it did okay:

image imageimage image

I noticed a couple of really old cameras in the throng, but none of my pictures featured any of those, or not close up so you could see the oldness.  Shame.

Weddings, it occurs to me, are where old cameras are likely to appear, in the hands of people who have such cameras, but seldom use them (maybe because they used to use them a lot but then stopped) and hence felt no need to replace them.  But then, when there’s a wedding, they dig them out and hope for the best.

Tuesday June 18 2013

Yesterday evening I attended the talk organised by Libertarian Home, in the City, given by Steve Davies.  I sat right at the front, and took photos:

imageimage

On the left, Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home photographs, on the right, Steve Davies.  Here we see Davies taking time out from talking about the history of individualism in Britain, to describe the best way to play the opening chords of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.

Sunday June 16 2013

This is a short posting, just to make a note of some links that I have acquired, to things about Emmanuel Todd.  Microsoft is in the habit of shutting down my computer without warning, and I don’t want to have to go hunting for them again.

Here is a review of a new book about America called America 3.0 (which I already have on order from Amazon), by James Bennet and Michael Lotus.  This book includes some of Todd’s ideas about family structure by way of explaining why the America of the near future will be particularly well suited to the free-wheeling individualism of the next few years of economic history.

In this review, T Greer says:

I was delighted to find that much of this analysis rests of the work of the French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd. I came across Mr. Todd’s work a few months ago, and concluded immediately that he is the most under-rated “big idea” thinker in the field of world history.

Spot on.

Greer also makes use of this map, which first appeared in this New York Times article:

image

Slowly, very slowly, Emmanuel Todd is starting to be noticed in the English speaking world.

Saturday June 15 2013

Just had an email about some new postings at the Norlonto Review.  Remember the Norlonto Review?

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Click on that to get it bigger, and with all the stuff below that you can read.

Cranes, with a great sunset behind them.  What could possibly go wrong with a shot like that?

It’s just a bunch of birds, that’s what:

image

You want cranes?  These are cranes:

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Birds picture via here.

Friday June 14 2013

Photographed by me this afternoon, outside the Savoy Hotel, Strand, London, where there are two of these, on either side of the entrance road:

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I couldn’t tell, no matter how carefully I looked, whether this is made of real vegetation or just plastic fakery.  I asked how long the cats had been there, but got no satisfactory answer.  All I learned was that these cats are there for “good luck”.

When home, I googled, and learned of Kaspar.

Thursday June 13 2013

Here are two Samsung products.  (Click on each to get each picture bigger.) And the question is, what is the connection between these two gadgets?:

imageimage

Okay, no messing about, they are the same gadget, viewed from one side and then from the other.

Samsung has just officially announced its latest cameraphone running Android and it’s called the Galaxy S4 Zoom. It’s basically a hybrid between the Galaxy S4 mini and the Galaxy Camera, combining solid smartphone functionality with the versatility of a zoom lens and a proper flash.

An early commenter says that this thing is ugly.  But function trumps beauty.  Function creates beauty.  If a thing works, it is experienced as a thing of beauty.  To those who want exactly such a thing, this will be very beautiful. My guess is the commenter was hired by a grumblesome rival that wishes it were doing as well as Samsung is these days, but is not.

My thanks to Michael Jennings, who knows of my interest in such things, for the link.

Tuesday June 11 2013

I shall definitely be having a go on this, which will be up and ready for climbing in the Autumn:

image

The boundaries between Art, Advertising and Fun get ever blurrier.

This particular bit of artistically fun advertising being to advertise a new way to use “tulipwood”.

Blog and learn.

Monday June 10 2013

Here is one of my favourite recent snaps, taken in that garden just up river from the main Parliament building:

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Click if you want the bigger original picture, which is not much different.

And yes that does look like a cassette, that he is using there to take snaps of his own (oblivious of me taking a snap of him of course).

So, a close look at the cassette:

image

I googled cassette iphone case and found lots of iPhone cases like this one, but not that exact one.  Maybe it’s not an iPhone, but an Android phone.

I also like the water bottle.

More thoughts from me on the impact of digital photography on our world, and an appeal for sofa help, here.

Wednesday June 05 2013

Finally.  Well, yes, fair comment, but I had and I have my reasons.

One of the reasons there have been so many inanimate objects in these wedding photos so far is that I got there so very, very early.  And it was such a lovely day, and such a lovely place.  What was I supposed to do?  Not take photos of stuff?

But another reason for the relative absence of people in these photos is that just shoving random wedding photos of people at a wedding and its immediate aftermath onto the internet raises the question of just how public a wedding is.  Is it the business of the entire world?  Not really.  Not necessarily.  (Think of the arguments that rage about who may and may not photograph celebrity weddings.  These arguments are not only about money.)

So, are weddings entirely private?  Again, not really.

A wedding is certainly not just about the Bride and the Groom.  They are of course central to everything, and in modern, self-scripted weddings, we guests are often included in the proceedings by being told that we are “sharing” this “special day”.  But I think more is involved than us merely sharing a basically personal ceremony.  What these two people, and typically also their two families, are doing is proclaiming to one and to all that, as of now, things are different.  The Bride and the Groom are no longer separate individuals in quite the way they were before this day.  They are now, in whatever way they want to do this, a couple.  Still two individuals of course, but also in it together.  And they are not just saying this to each other.  They are saying it to … everyone.  We are now living a different life.  Back us up, people.  Don’t hit on either of us during marital rough patches.  Help us to live this new life we are embarking on, rather than expecting us to behave like the singles we used to be.  If you are a long time friend of hers, but don’t much care for him, make the effort to change that, and meanwhile, keep your grumbles about him to yourself.

In the past, holding weddings in public was even more important, because only if you had lots of witnesses could most of those directly concerned be entirely sure that the wedding had even happened.  Public ceremonies, a marriage ceremony being only one such, were public ceremonies in order that everyone could then agree that they had happened, on that day, in that place, and that this or that, these or those promises had indeed been exchanged.  In pre-literate times, public ceremonies were the nearest thing most people had to a collective record of events.  They weren’t merely the principal form of public propaganda (although there definitely were that too); they were the public record.

As the old Church of England marriage ceremony puts it, right at the very start of the event:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; …

God, this congregation, this Man, this Woman.  The congregation is no afterthought.

But exactly who, at a wedding these days, are the members of this congregation?  In the internet age, is the congregation the entire world?  Hardly.  Yes, families and friends gather together to tell each other, and then to pass the word on to all their families and friends, that, as of now, they’re a couple and we will all help them to be a couple and to stay a couple.  But what of total strangers on the other side of the world?  Do you want random bods in faraway places to be told all about this event, and all about who was present at it, what they were wearing, and about how drunk they all got?  Maybe you will be delighted to be telling absolutely anyone who cares all about it.  But, maybe you will not.

So, in this next clutch of photos I have once again downplayed the individual portrait aspect of things, and concentrated on the kind of generic wedding-ness of the event.  Ceremonial niceties, beautiful or quirky fashion statements, food, sunshine, music making, distant shots of brideness and groomness.  But individual, recognisable faces?  Once again, hardly any.

For me, the fact that, in my pictures of my fellow amateur wedding photographers, faces are so often hidden behind cameras is a feature rather than a bug, when it comes to showing my snaps, at least in theory, potentially, to total strangers.  That’s basically why there are more photos in that collection than there are in this one.

Let me add another point on the anonymity front, relating to the sticking up of photos of people on a blog.  Let me put it thus: I have quite a few subjects which I instruct Google to email me about whenever anyone mentions them on the big old www.  One of these subjects is “face recognition”.  I get a lot of emails from Google about that, often involving Google itself.

By now, the name and face of the Groom is not much of a secret to any friends of mine or of his or of both who care, what with him explicitly name-checking a couple of us guests for a couple of our photos (in this piece), my one being one of the sign photos I took beforehand.  I did take quite a lot of portraits of people at the event itself, of course I did.  But they will be thrown into the photographic bran tub that the Bride and Groom will presumably trawl through about once every decade, without casual internet passers-by seeing them.  I may even have the odd trawl through them myself in the years to come.  But as for the rest of you, you will have to make do with snaps like this:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

As you can see, this is not just the ceremony itself.  It is also the reception.

In 2.1 we see the Bride putting a ring on the Groom.  And in 1.2 we see us guests passing … something along between us, but I already forget what it was.  This was in accordance with some kind of Hindu ceremony that the Groom had read about on the internet and, if I recall what the Bride’s Mum said, we (i.e. regular Hindus) never do.  So the Groom, no sort of Hindu himself, had invented an entire Hindu wedding tradition.  Outstanding.

I particularly enjoyed the bit later on in the day (see 3.2) where the Bride and Groom, surrounded by musicians, were photoed together, at the far end of the lawn from the rest of us.  I got no really good photos of this, but what I saw reminded me somewhat of this famous Jack Vettriano painting, of people dancing on the beach, attended not by musicians but by umbrella holders.  I thought there were musicians involved in that picture, but I now reckon I was combining in my mind that painting with this one.  Ah, it seems that the man with the umbrella was singing.  So music was involved.

Setting Vettriano aside, one of the musicians told me that although they had performed at many weddings, they had never, ever been asked to do anything like that before.  So it was a slightly special day for them also.  Excellent.

Tuesday June 04 2013

I am testing out my ability to do posting with my Google Nexus 4, again.  This is because I tried doing this earlier today, and I lost everything I had put.  This was no loss to literature, any more than losing this would be.  But it was troubling.  I hope this works better.

Well, a bit of a problem with the categories.  Forgot to press OK.  Otherwise, OK, if very slow.

And it is quite amusing to be checking progress with Dawkins The Big Computer, on the exact same desk.

Monday June 03 2013

Insults are among life’s great - albeit guilty - pleasures.

Overheard while quarter-watching Top Gear.  Could have been bang up to date, or maybe from way back.  Don’t know.  But anyway, this is what May said to Clarkson:

I can’t dumb it down to your level because I’m scared of heights.

He was trying to explain, I think, how a particular sort of car works by burning petrol not to drive a petrol motor, but to create electricity, which is then used to power an electric motor, or maybe electric motors.  Seems rather complicated, but cars are rather complicated.

Yesterday I investigated another London Park, Victoria Park, out east.  Again, too many trees, Big Things only occasionally and distantly visible in among trees.

But at the end of my explorations I found myself at Hackney Wick Overground station.  Much better.  As railway stations often are, this is a fine spot to photograph surrounding stuff and distant Big Things.  And despite the already considerable elevation of the platforms, there was also a footbridge that was even higher than the platforms.  Here are some snaps taken from that footbridge:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

The white spikes (1.2, 2.1) are the Olympic Stadium, and the big red thing is the Big Red Olympic Thing.

At first I thought that picture 3.2 featured some sort of new bridge, but now I think it’s some sort of big shed, in its early stages.

LATER: No.  The thing that looked like a shed being constructed is actually a shed being dismantled.  It used to be a big white Olympic sport shed of some sort, and now it is being removed.

Further googling reveals that this used to be the basketball arena.

Saturday June 01 2013

Commenter Jimmy Haigh (May 30, 3:05 PM), on this at Bishop Hill:

He’s trying to sit on the fence and eat it too.

He is talking about the revolting Tim Yeo, who either has, or has not, changed his mind about Global Warming, depending on who you read.  But either way, he continues to make lots of money out of it.