Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Erin on The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
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Edna on The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
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Michael Jennings on Calatrava coming to London
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- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
- Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East
- Opera North’s Ring
- An important game and only a game
- Making blue by copying tarantulas
- An old person television set
- Battersea from Clapham Junction
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This and that
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Truly, that’s a glorious headline.
Indeed it is:
The drone was not hostile. It was part of the show, as was Iglesias attempting to handle it. It was just that it all went rather wrong:
“During the show a drone is used to get crowd shots and some nights Enrique grabs the drone to give the audience a point of view shot,” the statement read. “Something went wrong and he had an accident. He decided to go on and continued playing for 30 minutes while the bleeding continued throughout the show.”
Iglesias was semi-treated immediately after the accident.
Definitely a future trivia question in a pop quiz. But the worst that could have resulted from this would have been a couple of missing Iglesian fingers. This ("NY-bound plane nearly collides with drone, FAA says") could have ended far more grimly.
There will be many, many more drone dramas. They are colossally useful, and accidents buzzing around begging to happen.
Yes, again, but I do love her, especially now, when she presides over all that noisily aggressive building work all around her at the top end of Victoria Street:
Nothing says old school femininity like a ballerina, and nothing says old school masculinity like one of those extendable (but not at the time fully extended) temporary cranes. Men are here. But if here is the top end of Victoria Street, so too is the ultimate lady.
Mozart’s musical progress began in 1759, at age three, when he began to remember themes and pick out chords. The next year he was taught brief pieces on the clavier and reproduced them correctly. In 1761 he began to compose pieces, which his father wrote down. It was essential to his father’s belief in his miracle-genius that his son should be displayed “to the glory of God,” as he put it. In 1757, when Mozart was two, Leopold had been appointed court composer by the prince-archbishop, and as a senior musician, had opportunities to show off his son. But in Salzburg they were limited, so in 1762, when Mozart was six, he took him to Munich, capital of Bavaria, to play before the elector. Nannerl went with them, as a co-prodigy, and by now a very accomplished one. But as a child of eleven, she did not raise much of a stir. Mozart did, and was feted at many fashionable gatherings.
Next they went to Vienna, capital of Austria and of the German- speaking musical world, in so far as it had one. Maria Theresa, the empress, who had survived the attempt by Frederick the Great of Prussia to destroy her and was now a formidable woman, received them graciously but, though a robust Catholic, showed no signs of treating Mozart as a personified miracle. She was not unmusical. On the contrary, she was gifted, a fine singer, and had been educated musically by her vice Kapellmeister, Antonio Caldera. But her advisers were strongly against spending much on music. Under Emperor Charles VI, her father, and his Hofkapellmeister, Johann Joseph Fux, there had been 134 musicians in the imperial chapel. Under Maria Theresa, the number fell to 20.
Hence, the empress received the Mozarts, but that was all. Her daughter, Marie Antoinette, picked Wolfgang up when he fell on the slippery parquet flooring. Her mother listened patiently when he played a difficult piece by Georg Christoph Wagenseil. When he jumped up onto her lap and kissed her, she made no complaint. Leopold got a bag of Maria Theresa thalers; the children, presents of court dresses, in which they were painted (not too well). But no job was offered. Later, when her son did offer some kind of job, she objected, in a devastating letter: “You ask me about taking the young Salzburger into your service. I do not know why, believing you have no need for a composer or useless people. If, however, it would give you pleasure, I would not hinder you. What I say is so that you do not burden yourself with unproductive people, and even give titles to people of that sort. If in your service, this debases the service when such people go around the world like beggars. Furthermore he has a large family.”
The last point is curious as Leopold did not have a large family. Otherwise the letter gives a telling glimpse of how a sovereign saw music on the eve of its greatest age in history. Musicians were exactly in the same position as other household servants - cooks, chambermaids, coachmen, and sentries. They existed for the comfort and well-being of their masters and mistresses. The idea that you took on a composer or performer simply because he was outstanding, when you already had a full complement of household musicians, was absurd. And of course performing music for money, outside palace or church employment, was mendicancy. There was plenty of it, of course. The trade was overcrowded. Groups played at street corners for coppers. In London there were “German Bands.” There were also Italian street musicians, who played “Savoyards,” what we would call hurdy-gurdies, or barrel organs. All this was begging, and beggars usually had, or came from, large families: hence the empress’s error.
In short the only respectable way a musician could earn his living was in salaried employment at a court, a wealthy nobleman’s house, or a cathedral or major church. Leopold had such a job, but it was at a low level and miserably paid. To rise higher - at a court like Vienna or the elector’s in Munich - required interest. That was a key eighteenth-century word, usually to do with family connections. When George Washington distinguished himself in colonial service during the Seven Years’ War, when Mozart was an infant, he aspired to rise in the British regular Army or its Indian offshoot. But he had no interest at the Horse Guards (War Office) or the East India Company in London. So he went on to become a revolutionary leader, and first president of the United States. When Napoleon was a young teenager in Corsica, he greatly admired the Royal Navy ships that anchored in its harbors. But he had no influence in the London Admiralty, and so a commission in the Royal Navy was out of his reach. He went on to become emperor of France and conquer half of Europe. Thus history is made. In Mozart’s world, to become a court painter, architect, or musician required interest, and his father had none. Fortunately in his case, he could go on “begging” by composing and performing.
You can tell that the bridge is Blackfriars Bridge because it has that written on it.
And then, moments later, I photoed someone else with the same combination of ideas:
Both photoed at that magic hour in the evening when everything is lit like it’s in a movie and when pictures on other people’s cameras show up in my pictures . Movie people call this magic hour “Magic Hour”, or so said a book I read a while back called Magic Hour.
I was out and about again today, and I have now got into the habit of photoing newspaper front pages, often in the shop where I usually buy my monthly copies of Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine (by “music”, they mean classical music). Which means that the guy in the shop doesn’t mind me photoing other stuff.
The big story just now is of course FIFA, and the badness of Blatter:
But, this front page story also got my attention:
I don’t mean the FIFA stuff flagged up in the big yellow bit at the top of the page. I mean the bit below, where it says “Cameron cuts off labour funding”. Although the Daily Telegraph itself now lives behind a paywall, I managed to find the story here.
This would appear to confirm what my friend Tim Evans says about Cameron. He is a much more determined and focussed politician than he lets on, and much more “right wing”. He is systematically destroying the Labour Party. Trying to, at any rate.
But, and this is what pisses off many libertarians, he is a politician whose focus is on changing institutions (in this case destroying an institution) rather than in spreading ideas. Also, he does things one at a time, which means he leaves a ton of bad stuff untouched, and often does other bad stuff, to protect the main task in hand.
All of the above flies in the face of the Samizdata orthodoxy, which is perhaps why I am thinking aloud about this stuff here, rather than there. If I put anything there about this stuff, I will have to think it through better than I have so far.
Can anyone tell me what this is?:
Soon, you will be able to shovel an image like this into the www and it would tell you what it is, same as you now do with words. But if that can be done now, I don’t know how.
I photoed this contraption last night, next to the recycling rubbish bins a few dozen yards from the front door of my home. So, whatever it is, someone has no further use for it. It was right under a street lamp which meant that the non-flash snaps I took were better than the flashed ones.
But, what on earth is it? Suggestions so far have been: some kind of toy; or: some sort of home for a pet. The latter suggestion being mine, but not a very confident one. I mean, why does it have what looks like a toast rack sticking out of its top? Bizarre.
So, as I often find myself asking here, ... anyone?
Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo. Exit your train, and go through the barriers. Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit. Step outside. You are in “Station Approach”:
I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.
You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi. But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”. (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps. Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.
To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie. To the far right, the Spray Can. Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.
It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train. Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings
What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter. In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground. If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them. Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”. Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared. The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now. But these two buildings could hardly be more different. The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss. The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.
And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:
Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.
Stations are great linear photo-opportunities. This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level. If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings. This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.
Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations. The traffic would wait for ever. So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level. So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it. You can from Station Approach. Well, I can, because I want to.
Am I going to have to stop denouncing test matches that clash with the IPL? The IPL didn’t seem to have a lot of close finishes this time around. (Yesterday’s final was over long before it was over, if you get my meaning.) And now, both England and New Zealand have all their top players playing test cricket, in England, in May. And playing it really well. NZ, a far better team now than they were only a few years back, got over 500 in their first innings and a serious first innings lead. But yesterday Cook batted all day, and Stokes scored a century that absolutely did not take all day.
What struck me, watching Stokes on the C5 highlights yesterday evening, was how sweetly his off-drives were struck. He is no mere slogger, although he definitely can slog. Thanks to Stokes, England can now, on the final day, win.
Stokes hitting two blistering scores at number six (he also got 92 in the first innings), and Root not wasting any time at number five, means that Pietersen can now kiss his test career a final goodbye. Had the England batting failed in this mini-series against NZ, and above all had it failed slowly, the cries for Pietersen to come in and beef it up and speed it up would have grown in volume. As it was, the slow guys at the top failed (Lyth and Ballance both twice over), apart from Cook yesterday, while the quick batters got on with it. This leaves no place for Pietersen. Bell? A decent innings in the next game will end any moans about him.
Meanwhile, this test match, as of today, is a real cracker. And today is one of those great test days in London where they cut the prices for the last day and Lord’s suddenly fills up with people like me. Not actually me, today. But I thought about it. And if I thought about actually going, it can’t be that I think the game is meaningless. Score one for the Old Farts who think that the IPL is just a faraway T20 slog of which we know little.
This game began with England being 30 for 4. Now NZ are 12 for 3, “chasing” (the inverted commas there meaning: forget about it) 345. Broad, a bowler who, in between match winning performances, looks like a bit of a waste of space, has two wickets already. Plus, Taylor, whom Broad has just got out, was dropped off him in the previous over, and that now gets mentally chalked up by both sides as further evidence that another wicket is liable to fall at any moment.
Earlier in the week Paul Collingwood of Durham was talking up Stokes, also of Durham. He can bat, said Collingwood, which he could say with confidence after Stokes made his first innings 92. Stokes can also bowl, said Collingwood and should do so earlier than he has tended to so far in his test career. He is not just a filler in, said Collingwood. Well, now, with the score a mere 16 for 3, Stokes is bowling.
At lunch, NZ 21 for 3.
LATER: And just when I thought KP was forgotten, there was Boycott on the radio talking him up, as a replacement for the as-of-now non-firing Ian Bell. So if England get hammered in the first two Ashes tests, with Bell getting four more blobs or near blobs ... Maybe KP ... I just added a question mark to my title.
LATER: Take a bow, Collingwood! Stokes gets Williamson and McCullum in two balls! NZ 61 for 5.
Indeed. Both of them were photographed by me, in central London, yesterday afternoon.
The first was very striking mainly because of its colour, or the colour it was showing to me. Very pretty in pink:
Seriously, I found this bus very eye-catching. You don’t expect to see a London double decker decked out in that colour.
It was selling ice lollies.
The second strange bus was this:
Something to do with Bayern Munich, as you can see. I stood as far away from this bus as I could, but the pavement was just not deep enough. But, you get the picture.
But why “Gulp”? Was “Gulp ‘82” some kind of tournament they won, in 1982? I asked the internet what gulp means in German, but sadly, all the internet wanted to tell me was the German for gulp. Anyone?
No not taken by me. I wish. The original and several others of the same guy that are equally fun, here.
I chose that one because, in addition to showing the artist and his murals, it also shows what a fight reinforced concrete puts up, when someone tries to destroy it. (A point also made, with an illustration (yes taken by me) in this earlier posting.)
Until very recently, Centre Point, the Big Thing at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, used to look like this, and quite soon, it will presumably look very much like that again. Just rather cleaner.
But, for the time being, Centre Point is looking like this:
The crane is there because at the bottom of Centre Point there is a frenzy of Cross Rail and London Underground station building activity.
And this one has a camera!:
It’s like the internet can read my mind.
Am I happy about that? Are you?
More to the point, what are the rules about flying one of these things around in London?
After an hour in the first test against New Zealand, England are now 30 for 4. This is exactly the sort of start the England bosses did not want, because it will amplify the clamour for the return of Kevin Petersen.
Here’s Ed: “Oh dear, an inevitably miserable summer for English cricket has now commenced ... and can already hear the plaintive cries of ‘KP, blah blah, must bring KP back ... blah, blah ... it’s SCANDALOUS, KP, blah blah, he’s box-office, you know ...’”
Well, you can see which side “Ed” is on. As for me, well, I want cricket to be entertaining and diverting. Whatever England do or do not manage this summer, first against New Zealand, and then against Australia, it will certainly be entertaining and diverting. If England win, hurrah! If they lose, then there will be all the “KP, blah blah” that Ed refers to. Sport is, among other things, soap opera, and it promises to be hugely soapy and operatic this summer, because England now look like doing very badly.
My main opinion about English cricket just now is, as it has long been, that the people running it seem to imagine that the I(ndian) P(remier) L(eague), now nearing its climax for this year, is “just another T20 slogfest”, when in truth it is the Indian T20 slogfest, which means that you can earn more money playing in it than in the rest of your year as a cricketer. Something like that anyway. It’s a lot of money, especially if you are really good at it. And money talks. Money says that the world’s best players now all want to play in the IPL, and that they will not want to play stupid test matches in England against England.
I will never forget the first day of a recent England/WI series, in England, in mid-may, when Gayle scored a terrific century. But, not a terrific century for the West Indies against England, a terrific century for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. I also distinctly remember blogging about this at the time, on the day, but cannot find anything by me about this.
Yes I can. Here:
I remember very little about that meaningless test series in England, but I do remember that on the first day of it, Chris Gayle scored a brilliant century. I watched this brilliant century on my television. But Gayle did not score this brilliant century for the West Indies, against England. He scored it for the Bangalore Royal Challengers.
You would think that the ECB would have got the message. How soon before cricket fandom everywhere just hoots with derision at these “test matches” in the sodden and frigid English spring? Such tests test nobody except the out-of-their depth second-stringers sucked into them. With the star players of the touring side missing, these tests mean very little. Sport is all about meaning. Drain the meaning from a game, and the thing is dead in the water. Literally in the water, if you are playing in England, in May, and you don’t get lucky.
So, memory does not deceive.
Well, it would seem that England still have the trick of enticing the best New Zealanders to come and play test matches in England, in mid-May. That is, the NZ cricket bosses are still able to insist that their IPL-ers come to England, in the nick of time. But this still isn’t satisfactory. I will be interested to see, when I watch the highlights of day one this evening on the telly, how big the crowd is.
England, at lunch, are now somewhat less soapy and less operatic 113 for 4, after the beginnings of a decent stand between Root and Stokes. But still very iffy.
Here is a picture I took in 2005 of Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne, which I spotted at Waterloo Station in June of that year (it’s not one of those pictures):
Having had lunch, England are now 182 for 4, and the big stand by Root and Stokes is getting bigger and bigger. Stokes is really stepping on it. Hurrah! If England end up with a decent score, the KP clamour will fade.
And, happy coincidence, my other team, Surrey, are also right now enjoying a century stand for the fifth wicket, this time by Sanga and Roy. Roy is really stepping on it.
MOMENTS LATER: Stokes out, Sanga out, withing seconds of each other. Not so happy.
Another 20th of the month another evening at Christian Michel’s, and another walk from Earls Court tube to his place in the Cromwell Road. It’s a quite short walk, but long enough for me to take photos. Photography is light, and there was a lot of light, pouring down from the sun, uninterrupted by clouds:
These snaps look pretty average in the above small size, but if you click on them, they get bigger and better.
The tree and its shadow I saw from within Earls Court tube, in a street not on the regular route, but I just had to immortalise it, and that got me looking for other things to photo. I include the very thin buildings, top right, because I like such thin buildings of this sort. I include the chimney with the satellite receivers, bottom right, because I especially like how light falls at an angle on bricks. And I like the blue sky, bottom left, which illustrates that the way to persuade a digital camera to make a sky really blue is to stick a very brightly lit building next to it. In the thin buildings picture there is quite a lot of darkness, which is why the sky came out not so blue. Ditto the chimney, again rather dark.
See also, between me and the very blue sky, bottom left: wires! But these are not the regular and invisible sort of street wires. These are wires that you are supposed to see, because they were put there deliberately, to look good by lighting up in the dark.
A few months back my computer got a going over from The Guru, and I immediately started receiving more internet advertising than hitherto. At first this continued because I merely didn’t know how to stop it. But now, I find myself interested by this advertising.
I like old-school advertising, the sort that has no idea who you are or what you like, not even a bad idea. I learn from old-school advertising how the world in general is feeling about things, which is interesting and amusing information. (This is, for me, one of the pleasures of walking about in London. (Soon this pleasure may also vanish, because of embedded spy cameras. Soon, I may find myself looking at adverts for classical CDs and history books (and drones – see the rest of this), whenever I walk past a billboard).)
But I am now starting to enjoy new-school, internet advertising, where your most trifling internetted thought results in adverts appearing a little while later, for related (or so the internet thinks) products. Sometimes, it’s just crass, like a salesman barging into a conversation at a party and changing it. Fuck off jerk. But I am starting to enjoy this sort of advertising, sometimes.
As you can see from this picture, this drone is very small. It is also very cheap. But does it have a camera on it? Could you even attach a camera to it, or would that make it too heavy and crash it?
The last drone posting here was about a drone noticed by 6k that costs $529 dollars. But the above drone costs a mere £13.78. It is as cheap as that partly because you get it in the form of a kit rather than completed. But there must surely be a factory in China where people are paid 10p a go to assemble such things. I could surely buy a completed Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter if I wanted to, rather than have to make do with an Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter Frame Kit.
Kit or completely, I have no intention whatsoever of buying such a thing any time soon.
I can’t help thinking what gadgets like this, so small, so cheap, will do to photography, in a place like London.
A lot of what this blog is about is the texture of everyday life, and how that is changing. (I mean things like down-market computer stuff and smartphones and CDs. And advertising, see above.) Well, these drones are not yet a Big Thing about which old-school moany newspaper articles are being written about how the twentieth century was better, blah blah. But, they soon will be.
If I ever do get a drone to take photos, you may be sure that I will make a point of photoing the other drones. Although that’s assuming I’d be able to make something like a drone actually work, and I now assume the opposite. Maybe I will compromise, and photo all the drones I see from the ground. So far, I have only seen drones for real in shop windows. But give it a couple of years …
And oh look, the mere fact of me working on this posting, embedding links into it, caused another advert to present itself to me (for this only slightly more expensive drone (and this one you don’t have to assemble yourself (it’s like it read my mind!))), when I switched to reading something Instapundit had linked to. The advert has vanished now and been replaced by something for Walt Disney (?), but I screen-captured it before it went:
Adverts at blogs are a rich source of horizontality, I find.
Goddaughter 2 recently suggested I read this. I now suggest that you read it:
In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.
You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet. You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it’s agony-free for the rest of your afterlife.
But that doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant. You spend six days clipping your nails. Fifteen months looking for lost items. Eighteen months waiting in line. Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal. One year reading books. Your eyes hurt, and you itch, because you can’t take a shower until it’s your time to take your marathon two-hundred-day shower. Two weeks wondering what happens when you die. One minute realizing your body is falling. Seventy-seven hours of confusion. One hour realizing you’ve forgotten someone’s name. Three weeks realizing you are wrong. Two days lying. Six weeks waiting for a green light. Seven hours vomiting. Fourteen minutes experiencing pure joy. Three months doing laundry. Fifteen hours writing your signature. Two days tying shoelaces. Sixty-seven days of heartbreak. Five weeks driving lost. Three days calculating restaurant tips. Fifty-one days deciding what to wear. Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about. Two weeks counting money. Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator. Thirty-four days longing. Six months watching commercials. Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time. Three years swallowing food. Five days working buttons and zippers. Four minutes wondering what your life would be like if you reshuffled the order of events. In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.
This is from Sum, by David Eagleman, which is subtitled “Forty tales from the afterlives”, the above being the first of them, also entitled “Sum”.
I sum- (hah!) -marised this tale as best I could to another friend, who immediately got the point that Eagleman makes at the end, that the mere fact of the variety of life becomes a source of joy, if you compare it with a life from which variety has been drained away. This alone turns humdrumness into hell, and contemplating that hell turns the humdrumness into a kind of heaven.
Count your blessings, but not the same blessings all at the same time.
Here is a cropped detail of a photo I took on Monday, of a rather strange hair style:
The internet knows everything, but my image-googling skills are not good enough for me to learn what is going on here. I have seen this kind of style before, so this is no mere individual eccentricity. There is a group of guys who all style their hair like this. But who are they? What else, if anything, to they believe in, besides believing in having their hair done in this strange way? Anyone?
Okay, this quote is from Chapter One, “A Universal Language?”, of The Story of English: How the English Language Conquered the World by Philip Gooden (pp. 11-12):
English is the closest the world has yet come to a universal language, at least in the sense that even those who cannot speak it - admittedly, the large majority of the world’s population - are likely to be familiar with the odd English expression. One term that is genuinely global as well as genuinely odd is OK (or O.K. or okay), originating in America in the 19th century. An astonishingly adaptable word, it works as almost any part of speech from noun to verb, adjective to adverb, though often just as a conversation-filler - ‘OK, what are we going to do now?’ Depending on the tone of voice, OK can convey anything from fervent agreement to basic accquiescence. It may be appropriate that such a truly universal term has no generally agreed source. Attempts to explain where it came from don’t so much show variety as a high degree of imaginative curiosity. So, OK is created from the initials of a deliberate misspelling, oll korreket, or from a campaign slogan for a would-be US president in the 1840s who was known as Old Kinderhook because he came from Kinderhook in New York State. Or it is a version of a word imported from Finland or Haiti, or possibly one borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. Or it is older than originally thought and derives from West African expressions like o-ke or waw-ke. Enough explanations, OK?
Photographer on the upstream Hungerford Footbridge, me not on any Hungerford Footbridge:
Photographer on the downstream Hungerford Footbridge, me on the same Hungerford Footbridge:
Me on the downstream Hungerford Footbridge, photographer not on any Hungerford Footbridge:
The first picture is the most visually dramatic, but the third is the most mysterious.
Deck chairs on a deck makes sense, but why is there a pretend lawn on the deck? And why did the man need to be in the middle of the pretend lawn to take his photos?
I do not know.
A while back, I showed you this photo, and mentioned how a sight like that often gets me going, photographically speaking. That one certainly got me going that day.
Here is one of the more fun snaps I then took, of a hair drying machine that looks like an alien robot about to crush your head with a pair of cymbals, ...:
... or perhaps it is about to hug you. You decide.
And here, taken only moments later, is a picture of a celebrity (the sort of celebrity that nobody has heard of) being papparized by a bunch of big-arse paps in big-arse trousers, outside what I assume is some kind of club, just off of Seven Dials.
When you get into that state of photographic ecstasy, that’s the kind of thing that seems to present itself to you.
Who knows? Maybe the cymbal playing alien robot had just been drying Madam Celeb’s hair. It does have some rather artful curls in it, that have the look of having been done to her, so to speak.
Nothing wrong with her arse.
One of my happier fancies here at this blog has been a category of photos called: I just like it! And I just like this:
The point being that the sort of things that I write about here, and investigate, and then photograph very purposefully and self-consciously, often begin just as things that I like. When I trawl through the photo-archives, I find things that I thought I only started noticing quite recently cropping up casually, years back.
So, what do I like about the above picture? It certainly isn’t how well those leaves have come out. (Although in my opinion out-of-control light in a photo at least tells you that it was very sunny.) Do I think the RSC is GENIUS? Only a bit. No, I think what I like is the way that the advert is about as pompous as it is possible for an advert to be, yet life goes on right next to it and indifferent to it. Or maybe not. Maybe something else completely.
It’s the top of one of those open top double-decker buses, by the way. And below that, the advert is for a show called Matilda.
The video at the other end of that link sells the drone as being fun for tourists. But I now surmise that the first great impact of drones on economic life is now already happening, in agriculture, in the bit of it where a tiny number of people manage vast acreages of agricultural land, and where a tiny increase in productivity is worth millions. These people already have an entire industry of small airplanes doing things like crop dusting, which is a very ungainly process but still already well worth doing. Imagine the benefits of being able to do that and much more, at virtually zero cost. You could plant the crop. Spray the crop. Keep and eye on the crop. Only the actual digging up of the crop, or whatever it is you have to do to crops, would still involve a bit of old school work.
I just googled “drones in agriculture”, and then clicked on Images. Wow.
Drones are a bit like 3-D printing, as a technology. There is much talk of mere humans doing it for fun, in their homes (3-D printing) or while out and about having fun (drones) but the real impact of poth these technologies is in niche markets, where specialists are doing things that have long been done, but quicker, better, cheaper, and by-and-by doing things in their line of business that were never before doable. Drones, for instance, will make a lot of land farmable that was not farmable before.
I have always believed that the core skill of my generation, watching television, would end up having huge economic impacts.
Incoming from 6k, to whom thanks:
Busy in the lab, but thought you might appreciate this …:
… from here.
It’s old, but maybe interesting.
That’s London, of course, and I cropped the original graphic somewhat, concentrating on the top right hand corner.
Presumably the red bits are where the tourists go. And the blue bits are where the locals are to be found. But how exactly was this graphic concocted? Is it a map of flickr activity? (Should there be a “digital photographers” category below?) And what are the yellow bits?
Colour me purple. I live here, and I’m a tourist.
Today was the second consecutive day of fabulous weather in London, which meant I was out and about for the second day running (having been out and about on Sunday also), and when I got home I was well (C21 for extremely, or so I assume) knackered. There were also other dramas happening throughout this time to be attended to, which I will perhaps mention in some future posting. In the meantime, you’ll have to make do with this picture, taken by me late this afternoon:
That’s a conventional enough shot of the Shard, taken from Blackfriars road bridge, over Blackfriars railway (and railway station) bridge. You can see the ziggy zaggy roof of the railway station there. But, instead of photoing the Shard, I shifted a bit to the right, to take in Guy’s Hospital tower and part of the Tate Modern tower, and to omit the Shard.
I love it when the sun lights up a building and turns the sky behind it bizarrely dark. Even Guy’s Hospital tower looks good in light like that. It looks here like you could melt it down and end the financial crisis at a stroke. Well, the financial crisis of whoever did the melting.
I’ll try to do better tomorrow. Or, then again, maybe I won’t. I promise nothing.
Photoed by me a few days ago, in the Houses of Parliament area:
Like so many photographers these days, this lady is using a smartphone, and like so many smartphone users, she has a smartphone in a pretty case. I try to collect these, photographically I mean.
I like how I manoevred my way around this lady to make her face unrecognisable - at least, I hope, to a face recognition system. And I like how she’s wearing a pair of spectacles, by which I mean two pairs of spectacles. (A pair of pair of spectacles doesn’t sound right at all.)
But now, I want to ask about another pair that this lady is wearing. What I want to know is, what are those rubbery things on her hands? Are they something to stop her thumbs moving too much? That there are an exactly matching pair of these devices says to me a condition, rather than a pair of coincidentally matching injuries. But what might that condition be? Something like arthritis? Or am I way off with this guess? Anyone?
I only saw these rather strange manual additions when I looked later at the picture. As so often, my camera sees more than I do.
I wonder if me posting this will help:
And when I say “if me posting this will help”, what I mean is: if me posting this will help me. To take an informed interest in all this stuff, and then to start doing it.
All this stuff being:
That being a link to the posting at Quotulatiousness, in the heading of which those words are to be found, and where I found the above graphic. Mr Quotulatiousness found the graphic here.
I have tended to own cameras from which, had I understood all this stuff, I might have got the occasional much better result. However, the only reasons I owned such clever cameras was that I wanted lots of zoom and a twiddly screen. With all that, they have tended also to be very clever. But I have treated all of them as brainless point-and-shoot cameras. All my thinking has gone into the matter of what I have pointed at and shot at.
Goddaughter One once tried to give me a lesson in all this stuff. Well, correction, she did give me a lesson in all this stuff. But it didn’t stick, at all. One of the categories below is one of my favourites: how the mind works. But perhaps this posting would be better labelled as: how the mind doesn’t work.
It’s the BT Tower, reflected in that big shiny building known catchily as 250 Euston Road, photoed last Friday, from outside Warren Street tube station. Who says modern architecture is faceless?
I say it looks like an ancient carved god, but I can’t find, on the internet, any image that confirms this similarity which I know that I see, or remember. Anyone? The last time I said that, yesterday, in the previous posting here, I got the answer straight away.
Spent day doing other things, so quota photo time, but from the archives:
Taken in June 2005. I don’t understand mobile phones, but presumably things have changed since the above arrangements were advertised.
But how about that war that either Britain, or Europe, had with France? I don’t remember that. Seriously, I wonder what on earth that was about.
Photoed by me yesterday. Definitely one for the front page collection. Can’t find a link to the story though. Anyone?
Today, starting in the small hours of the morning, I’ve been rambling away at Samizdata about this election. Which was, I found, intensely dramatic and interesting, not least because all the polls were wrong. I was apathetic about voting, in a soporifically safe Conservative constituency. But I stopped being apathetic as soon as the drama of it all started to play out on the telly.
But, how could I have missed the news of this manifesto for cats, until today? Answer, today was the first time I tried googling “cats general election”.
Presumably “Paris” doesn’t include La Défense, which is out on the edge of Paris. Those Big Things are very big indeed. What they’re talking about here is building Big Things in the centre of Paris.
And the thing is, this Thing not very tall at all:
In London, this sort of thing would hardly be noticed.
But the fact that this new Thing is not that big is deliberate.
“This project is not a high-rise, but embodies a shift in attitude, and this gradual increase marks a willingness to reconsider the potential of height and will change the city landscape little by little,” said the architects.
They know that if they are to get any new truly Big Things anywhere near the centre of Paris, the first step is to make some things that are not Big, but just a tiny bit bigger. First you get the opposition to concede the principle, with something that doesn’t arouse huge opposition. Then you gradually increase the heights, until finally you get your Big Things, and the opposition unites too late. And by then it’s too small, because lots of people actually like the new Big Things. This is how politics is done. And this is politics.
The last, and so far only new and truly Big Thing anywhere near the middle of Paris (other than the Eiffel Tower) is the Montparnasse Tower, which was completed in 1973. Compared to almost everything else in central Paris, before or since, the Montparnasse Tower is very tall indeed. It aroused a lot of opposition by embodying such an abrupt, even contemptuous, change of Paris skyscraper policy, and judging by what happened for the next forty years, that opposition was very successful. This time around, those who want Big Parisian Things are going about it more carefully, as the above quote shows.
Speaking of politics, who is that geezer in the picture, in the picture? A politician, I’ll bet.
I am working on a quite big and unwieldy architecture posting just now, but this probably won’t be ready to go any time today, or even soon, so I’ll instead write a little essay on a related matter. Which is: Why I feel more comfortable writing about architecture, of the contemporary and hence controversial sort, than I do about contemporary interior design. The contrast between how fascinated I am by the architectural stuff (this is the posting that got me going with the architectural posting that I am now working on) at one of my favourite internet sites, Dezeen, and the indifference I feel concerning Dezeenery about interior matters, is becoming ever more extreme. I mean, designer X has designed a chair. And what does it look like? It looks like a chair. Hoo ray.
It’s not that I dislike or oppose interior design. It’s just that I feel that what I feel about it, or for that matter what anybody else feels about it, is of no public significance. We can all just pick whatever interior designs and objects appeal to us, and let others do the same. Interior design is not a political problem. There is therefore nothing vitally important to be said about it. Why argue, when there is no need to argue?
If you are one of those people who likes to tease out why you feel the way you do, about everything in general and interior design in particular, fine. Blog away about wallpaper, tea kettles, tables, chairs, standard lamps, stoves and suchlike, all you like. You’ll surely find plenty of readers, probably a great many more than I have. You certainly will if you specialise, as I do not. I write about such things myself, from time to time, when the mood takes me.
But on the whole, it tends not to. When the answer the question is: each to his own, and when that answer basically takes care of it, I generally don’t feel like adding very much.
You could say that this mood, of insignificant self-scrutiny, is upon me right now. After all, who cares what I put on my blog? If you don’t like it, don’t read it, problem solved. Choosing a blog to read is like choosing a chair. Nobody else need be consulted, or imposed upon.
But architecture is different. We can’t each step outside into a city like London and each have exactly the London that we want. If I am to have those new Big Things that I like so much, you also have to put up with them, even if you hate them. It therefore feels right to me to be explaining, to the entire world (even if most of the world pays no attention), just what it is about these Big Things that I like so much. It makes sense for me to say (even if I haven’t done much of this lately) why I came to hate most modernistical architecture when I was in my twenties, and why I think that modernistical architecture has improved so very, very much since that time, at any rate in the places I mostly walk about in and see in photos.
For the same reason, it also makes sense, to me, for me to be celebrating roof clutter, cranes, this or that piece of public or semi-public sculpture, these or those public signs. It is because these are public issues. Political issues, even. Definitely political, in the case of those signs I just linked to. Things like these have positive (mostly, in my case) or negative (perhaps in yours) externalities attached to them.
Actually, it is most unlikely that you hate all the publicly obtrusive things that I love, because you wouldn’t want to be reading such opinions, day after day. But, you get my point.
Shiny Thing in London, by Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, near to where I live. I go there. I photo it. I show you some photos. I tell you what I think of the Shiny Thing. (I like it. If I didn’t like it I’d not be mentioning it.) So far so ordinary.
But for me this was not a regular photowalk. The difference this time was that I had a friend with me while I did my snaps, and she was snapping also. Just as I was about to depart from my home and do the checking out of the Shiny Thing on my own, the friend had rung up and we arranged to meet, near the Shiny Thing so that I could combine the two things, meeting the friend and then, as a separate operation, me checking out the Shiny Thing. But while seeking somewhere to sit down and have a drink we went right past it, she saw it and liked the look of it, and we ended up photoing it together.
I was using my “camera”, and she was using her iPhone. And of course I photoed her doing this:
I have been out and about in London with this same friend quite a few times over the years, and I have usually been taking photos in among chatting. But I don’t recall her even joining in with the photography so enthusiastically. It was the Shiny Thing that did it. And you can bet that her best snaps were pretty soon if not instantly transmitted to others, long before I posted a couple of mine here.
There is a lot of this sort of opportunistic smartphone photography going on in the world, just now. The key moment was when cameras in smartphones got good enough, which at first they weren’t. But for a handful of years now, smartphone cameras have been more than adequate for shots like the ones my friend was taking, and of course smartphone cameras will, like my kind of cameras, keep getting better and better. Soon, it just won’t make any sense to own a dedicated point-and-shot camera, if you also use a smartphone, because the camera on your smartphone will be plenty good enough for all but the fussiest of purposes.
First, in this graph of camera sales from 1933 until 2013, we see the defeat of the old-school roll-of-film camera (the grey stuff) by digital cameras (in blue) like the ones I have owned over the last few years, and by DSLRs (green):
But now, take a look at what happens to this exact same graph when you include all the (yellow) smartphone activity, top right:
At the other end of the above link, they show the graph in all its endless-scroll-down vertical hugeness, huge enough to include all those smartphone cameras. Above, here, is the exact same graph, but ruthlessly flattened, to enable you to see the entire picture in one go, with no scrolling up and down.
As you can see, the big - very big - story is the sheer quantity of half-decent smartphone cameras there now are in the world, in private personal hands, such as the hands of my friend.
This is a transformation that I have of course been registering, with all my photos of digital photographers, with an increasing proportion of them in recent years using smartphones. See, for instance, this posting. Quote:
And of course, there is that vast category that has hove into view in the last few years, of people taking photos with their mobile phones. No less than seven of the above twelve snaps are of people doing this. This was not a decision on my part, merely a consequence of me picking out nice photos of people taking photos.
For me, the most interesting titbit in the article with the graphs linked to above (and again), is this, right at the end:
… and 92% of smartphone users worldwide say that the camera is the most used feature on their phones.
That embedded link being to another piece, which elaborates on this point. The other big use is, of course, texting.
The point being that all these smartphone cameras have not merely been sold to a billion plus people so that they can have them in their pockets.
Almost all of those cameras are being used, to take photos.
We also used our phone cameras while we were away. Firstly, so that we could email the kids something each evening and secondly (and photography snobs may want to look away now) because you can actually grab a decent shot every now and again. Oh, and it enables you to do things like this while someone else is using the “real” camera.
... and to make mini-movies.
Part of getting old (new category here – I still have a lot of categorising to do so bear with me on that) is that you just forget to do things, even things that you like. Thus, I have recently been forgetting to read Anton Howes. Today I remembered, and started reading, in particular, this posting, which is most recent as of now.
Uber isn’t a taxi company; it is a market. It provides a trust-based platform made up of assurances and ratings in order to let anyone ask “Can I have a ride? / Want a ride?” without sounding creepy.
I will now read the whole thing.
In the early, at first brightly sunlit evening I went walking by the river, over Vauxhall Bridge and then turning right on the other side, towards Battersea.
I noted progress on the new flats. The sky was a beautiful colour. The flats are not a beautiful colour:
The river was adorned by bright reflections off the buildings on the far side.
The evening sun also lit up the bright green wall that keeps the river in its correct place:
There is a new US Embassy taking shape, …:
… although it will not be a very interesting shape:
Battersea Power Station is missing one of its chimneys:
This is probably something to do with the fact that it is having dwellings built in it:
And, when I looked inland, towards the south, over the railway, I saw some world class roof clutter:
So I was in a good mood. Until, on my way back home, I saw this:
Yes, there is an election coming, and we will all vote in such a way as to try to deny office to the political party we most hate, which in my case is the Labour Party. Which means I will probably vote for the bastards advertising themselves with the signs above.
As you can see, by then it had become rather gloomy. As had I.
As mentioned earlier this week, and as is in any case very obvious, I depend heavily on good light for my photography.
And I particularly like light where there is plenty of it, but also dark clouds in other parts of the sky.
As in this one, taken last Thursday in Tottenham Court Road:
I particularly like that scaffolding shadow effect that you sometimes get, but usually after dark with artificial light from inside the building site.
Photography days with me often happen when I am basically out and about for some other purpose, but am struck by a particularly striking sight, which demands to be photoed. And then (because I always have my camera with me) I am off. The above photo was one such. I distinctly remember taking it. And then I spent the next two hours snapping, which had not been the original plan at all.
I have, of course, included a couple of feline photos, what with today being Friday. But, knowing what we do of animals, most of us would probably reckon that only the monkey really has any clue about what is going on, and he only in the sense of perhaps suspecting that this is a thing that makes a picture on itself of what it sees. None of them really get it, and most of them have no idea at all. It’s just a peculiar thing.
But, of course, they all look as if they are taking photos, if you want to believe this.
What makes them all look like real photographers is their total and totally unselfconscious concentration on what they are looking at and doing, with no thought of the fact that they are themselves being looked at. This they all do share with real human photographers.