Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Monday August 31 2015

I was out and about in Soho earlier this evening.  I was with someone, but someone mercifully sympathetic to me taking photos so I got the chance to grab this shot:

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I like how the ostentatiously silver colour of this vehicle grabbed every bit of light there was (as did my Lumix Camera).  And I like how I can now learn what the shiny vehicle was advertising, even though I had little idea at the time.  Capital Golf could have been something financial, for all I knew.  But, it actually is advertising golf, the game, or to be more exact a golfing equipment store.  When I looked more closely at my photo, “London’s Finest Golf Store” was a definite clue.

I could even read the website, and go straight there.  But this website is really boring.  Although that may just be me projecting upon it my personal opinion of golf.

Actually, I only tell myself that golf is boring.  I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century.  I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life.  And I wasn’t having that.

Sunday August 30 2015

I just watched a recording I made of a BBC TV show called Proms Extra, which is a chat show that responds to and flags up London’s immediately past and immediately future Promenade Concerts.  They were asking themselves whether they minded clapping in between movements, in connection with a performance of The Planets, in which this had happened..  The assembled commentators agreed that they did not mind at all.

Two thoughts from me about this.

First, the assumption seems to be that people clap in between movements because they don’t know they’re not supposed to.  But I think it is much more knowing than this.  I think the audience has changed its mind about this.

There has been a huge movement in music-making to achieve an “authentic” sound, by which is meant the sort of sound made by the first performers of the pieces.  Well, why not more authentic audiences?  Time was when “classical” audiences would clap in between movements without hesitation.  Sometimes they would yell for encores, of symphonic movements, before the symphony had even finished, just like at the opera.  That in-between-movements clapping is now happening (has been for quite a while actually) at the Proms tells me that the current fashion for clapping in among big multi-movement pieces is a very knowing decision, a very musically educated decision.  We are not “supposed” to do this?  Well guess what, we have decided that we will do this.

It’s not only this, but I am sure that this is part of it.

Personally, I think that not clapping something like the tumultuous third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, seems very unnatural.

However second, there is no doubt that this new convention, if new convention it will be, has not yet been fully established.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, and quite often in a rather tentative, awkward and rather indecisive way.  So, it must surely sometimes make life a little difficult for performers.

What if you have just given what you reckon was a tumultuously great performance of a movement which ends in a manner than just begs to be greeted with a round of applause, and there is silence?  In the older days, of strict inter-movement silence, fine.  I’m not finished.  But now?  Hm.  Did they not like it?  And, after a bit of silence, will they relent, and start clapping, just as I am starting the next movement?

The older regime of silence in between movements was at least a rule, which everyone stuck to and which newcomers quickly learned, from all the dirty looks they got if they broke the rule.  And performers could either pause or press on immediately, confident that no clapping would interrupt whatever effects they were seeking to create.

Saturday August 29 2015

Spent my day recovering from hosting a meeting at my home last night.  Much tidying up still to be done.  So, quota photo time.

But, two, both of brightly lit buildings against dark backgrounds.  Part of one of the dark backgrounds being the Shard:

imageimage

That chessboard building is about one minute’s walk from my home.

The one on the left taken in June.  The one on the right just over a week ago.

Friday August 28 2015

Incoming photo (which is something I like a lot), from Simon Gibbs, of a sign (I like signs a lot), near Southwark Cathedral:

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Click on that to get the bigger, unhorizontalised picture, and read more about what this is about here.  Google sends me regular links to anything that is “new architecture london”, and there’s been lots written about this place.

Although, rather oddly, I couldn’t find any pictures of this sign.  Maybe this will change that.

The gimmick is that this is a pub that sprays alcohol into the air.  That was always going to be catnip to the media, social and regular.  “Breathe responsibly”.  Arf, arf. There are already plenty of pictures around of that sign.

I like statues, by which I mean that I like the statues that I like.  Statues that I like don’t read where it says on my blog that I like them, and then say things like “But you never visit”, when I visit.  They don’t say things like: “So, now that you are visiting quite often, what is this?  Where is this relationship going?” In decades and centuries to come, maybe statues will behave in exactly this sort of troublesome way, but for now, they don’t.  They just stand there.

And, they stand there immobile, which as a rather crap photographer, technically speaking, I greatly appreciate.

Here is a recent London statue that I now like:

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That’s also another in my ongoing series of Great Photos Taken Rather Badly, which you, oh Real Photographer, can now go and take better.  Big Ben won’t have moved.  Nor will the legs of the recently unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi.  Today, as I write this, looks like being a lot sunnier than it has been in London for quite a while.

(New Gandhi statue unveiled in “London’s Parliament Square”.  Interesting how hitherto national organs now aim themselves at the whole world.  The media they are a-changing.)

I only recently noticed this Gandhi statue.  For decades Parliament Square had no Gandhi statue.  Then, it had one. 

Not that Gandhi as he was was anything like what he is now cracked up to be.  (Thank you Instapundit.)

Thursday August 27 2015

This combines two interests of mine, the use of containers to make buildings, and the use of colour, to make buildings look more colourful:

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It a proposal for a bunch of skyscrapers in MumbaiFrank Gehry‘s influence is starting to spread.

But is it serious?  It shouldn’t be.  Making a skyscraper by piling containers on top of each other makes no sense, because the ones at the bottom have to be able to support the ones at the top.  And the ones at the top have to be very light.  The idea of having all the containers of the same structural strength and hence the same weight is foolishness containerised.  The ones at the top will be far too heavy for what they are doing and the ones at the bottom will be squashed flat.

And if you are not piling containers on top of each other, but are merely slotting them into an already constructed structure, then here’s a plan.  Why not save bother by not using big, heavy, lumpy old containers.  The simple fact is, containers are only useful for making regular old buildings of the sort of height that buildings used to be before they invented mechanical lifts and structural steel (even though containers are themselves made of structural steel) and reinforced concrete.

Besides which, it surely only makes sense to make a building out of containers if you can get some leftover containers on the cheap.  There’s no way they could get that many containers by just waiting for them to fall off a container ship.

Wednesday August 26 2015

Just had another rootle in the photo-archives, and I encountered two nice (if rather cheesey (but I don’t care)) photos, which had in common that there were not entirely nice, but that if I cropped a couple of squares out of them, they became a lot nicer.  The one on the left is the bottom right hand corner of the original.  The one on the right is two thirds of the original with the left one third omitted.

imageimage

Taken in Jan 2007 and Feb 2008.  (Feb: no leaves.)

Tuesday August 25 2015

I had another of those Goodness Me How The World Is Progressing!!! moments the other day, when I read a Wired piece by Brian Barrett entitled The flash storage revolution is here, and in particular stuff like this:

In 2013, Samsung announced a new way of approaching flash storage manufacturing.  Rather than place the cells along a single layer, as had been standard practice since NAND flash was invented in the 1980s, it would stack them vertically.  That allows for much greater density, which gives you much more storage space.

Samsung’s solution, called V-NAND, has seen remarkable gains since its introduction.  In the first year, the company stacked 24 layers on a single die, while in 2014 it managed 36.  The 16TB SSD kicks that up to 48.

Or, in rather plainer English:

By applying an innovative manufacturing technique to existing flash technology, Samsung has created a hard drive that could store well over 3,000 high-definition copies of Mad Max: Fury Road on your MacBook Pro. ...

But that same paragraph immediately continues:

… It might sound unlikely that you’ll ever need 16TB of space or be willing to pay for it. ...

And Brian Barrett then spends the next few paragraphs trying to convince potential skeptics of the “need” for such vastly increase domestic information storage capacity.

I need no convincing.  If there is one thing I have learned from spending the last thirty years mucking about with these amazing gadgets, it is that more power, more speed, more storage capacity will all turn out to be extremely useful, very quickly, and will then quickly become essential.  Things you just assumed would be impossible quickly mutate into near-necessities.

See also this earlier Samizdata piece by me, entitled Why fast and powerful computers are especially good if you are getting old.  And also this earlier piece, simply entitled Progress, also about domestic information storage, in this case concerning an old SD card I found while clearing junk out of my home, which stored the princely info-quantity of 16 megabytes, which is enough for about three photos with my current camera.

Monday August 24 2015

I’m concocting a short Samizdata posting which will need, if and when it ever materialises, its readers to be able to read what it says in this:

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Samizdata readers!  If you need this bigger to read it, click on it!

Sunday August 23 2015

When I first started noticing new architecture about fifty years ago, glass figured prominently in the ravings of Modernist propagandists, being the means by which buildings made themselves transparent and thereby proclaimed their structural honesty and modernity.

This same glass was routinely hated by those obliged to live or work behind it.  Glass was the means by which unfortunate inmates of Modernism were fried in the summer, frozen in the winter, or had their skirts looked up through by passing oglers.  The heating and air-conditioning bills could be stupendous.  Often, inmates shoved cardboard behind this glass, to diminish its worst impacts.  Glass in modernistic buidings regularly got broken, often deliberately, not least because first generation modern buildings, at any rate in the UK, often brought out the worst in those subjected to it.

How times have changed, by which I mean: how glass has changed.  It is far more varied now, far more cleverly made, far stronger and less breakable, and far more carefully used in buildings.  Which is not surprising given that glass has only grown in importance, and in the percentage of the surface area of buildings that it now covers.

What follows is the whole of a short report, by Chris Jarvis of Sheppard Robson, of a round table conversation in which he participated last May, about the use of glass in building, organised by the Architect’s Journal.

The prose is sometimes rather businessy and clunky, but I found the content fascinating:

Design process

The conversation was focused on the specification of high-performance glazing. More specifically, how fundamental changes within the industry – which include shifts in legislation and the drive for efficiency in our built environment – have resulted in the specification of glass being determined much earlier in the design process.

Glazing is no longer an adjunct that is decided upon once a concept design is complete and planning has been granted. Issues such as orientation, shading and air-tightness need to be considered in the early stages of projects along with the specification of the glass to ensure the target energy performances can be met. Rigorous energy modelling is also important to enable the right glazing option to be chosen for project, site and client.

Availability of data

One of the key challenges in the specification process is the availability of the necessary rigorous data on materials. Currently, there is a feeling across the industry that the level of detailed product information is not readily available across the board. This provokes the question of how can technology be harnessed to collate the necessary technical performance and cost data - which architects, façade engineers and contractors can use - to make the right choices earlier in the process.

New products

A holistic approach needs to be taken to assess all of the above criteria and select the most appropriate single, double or triple glazed units to meet the performance requirements, whilst staying within budget. Triple glazing is not currently a widely used material to boost performance, mostly due to the cost of the product. However, over the next few years this is likely to change: as triple glazing products become more widely used and technology develops to decrease the weight of the product, it will become more viable for projects and client budgets.

However, the use of more advanced, highly tuned technology requires more monitoring after completion to access the efficiency of the product over the lifespan of the building. Currently, rigorous data of how glazing performs after 10 and more years does not exist; how can new products help the industry close the ‘performance gap’ and alert us to poorly performing glass that is ultimately having a major impact on the efficiency of our built environment.

I chanced upon this at the Sheppard Robson website after photoing one of their buildings, the new headquarters of the Salvation Army, near St Paul’s, and then looking that up on the www:

imageimage

It looks good, even if custom build HQs often spell trouble for the organisations which move into them.

While I’m on the subject of glass, several incoming emails have wanted to be sure that I had clocked this:

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That’s a swimming pool made of glass.  I yearn to photo oligarchical mistresses frolicking about in it, but, no chance.  This will be inside a very gated community, in the vicinity of the new US Embassy in Battersea.  I am optimistic, however, that we might all eventually catch a glimpse of such a thing in a James Bond movie, complete with frolicking oligarchical mistresses.

The above picture, and further details, here.

Saturday August 22 2015

Recently, here:

I hate leaves.  All over London there are great views, totally ruined by leaves.

I always regard it as a sign that I am onto something when 6k notices me noticing whatever it is, and he did notice that.

This outburst was prompted by the experience of photoing the lovely Pavlova, twice, and once through trees of the sort which, had the photo been taken later in the year, like now, would have been totally clogged up with leaves.

Here is another photo of this sort:

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Take a careful look at that (perhaps by clicking on it to get it a decent size).  Look how many Big Things would be invisible if all the branches and twigs there all had leaves stuck on them, as happens during the summer.  The photo would be nothing.  Just a station sign, and lots of damn leaves.

Or how about this?

image

That’s Vincent Square, which is a two minute walk from where I live.  Both the above photos were taken in March of this year.

Several Quite Big Old Things there, along with The Wheel of course.  And although leaves wouldn’t totally blot all that out, they’d also do severe damage to that view.  The top of Big Ben would still be visible, but The Wheel would be half gone and the Other Parliament Tower almost totally so.  If – the horror - TV aerials sprouted leaves during the summer, that would do for the other half of The Wheel and most of Big Ben, because there is a little clutch of TV aerials right between them. 

Despite being very London, I do not object to this picturesque view, even though it is so classically England countryside in its effects.  You can almost smell the warm beer.

Friday August 21 2015

Photoed by me, outside Earls Court Tube, last night:

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Click on that to get the bigger, truer, duller, original picture.

Thursday August 20 2015

On a sunny afternoon in June, this was the big picture, complete with Big Things, and a bridge, in the background:

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I homed in on that photosession, down by the river there.

There were making a bit of a spectacle of themselves, so their recognisable faces would have been fair game, but I took lots of pictures of them, and am able to show you only faceless pictures like these:

imageimage

My favourite faceless photo being this one:

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There was a big crowd looking down on all this.  They really can’t complain, and I don’t believe they will, in the event they see those pictures.

Happy day.

Wednesday August 19 2015

Indeed.

When I took this snap, this afternoon, ...:

image

... all that I thought I was snapping was a selfie session, done by two ladies with conveniently face-hiding hats of agreeably contrasting colours.

When I got home and saw the above photo on my giant home screen, I got two nice surprises.  First there was the surprise of how well the photo had come out on such a dull day.  But there was also the surprise of what that clip-on thingy is on the iPhone.  As so often, my camera saw more that I saw.

A little googling soon got me immediately to such places as this.  That’s right, a clip-on, fish eye lens.  £10.99.

Only a smartphone camera is thin enough for a lens to be just clipped on like this.  Did you see that device coming?  Me neither.

I’m guessing that taking a selfie with such a lens makes it much more likely that you will be in the picture, which is presumably quite a problem if you can’t see the picture you are taking.  It also gives you a panoramic view in the background.

I wonder if they clocked the bloke photoing them, in that background.

Tuesday August 18 2015

6k writes about a Fairly epic disaster video:

Cranes and bridges. I know who’ll like this one…

That would be me.

But it’s not a happy crane and bridge video. It’s a bit of a disaster…

So I watched the video, and then read 6k’s commentary underneath it, in that order.  6k’s commentary described my sentiments exactly:

Look, because of the title of this post and the title of the video, you know that things aren’t going to end well. But it’s the way things happen almost in slow motion and the lack of any sort of discernible panic that makes this so entertaining.

So slo-mo was it that I checked that the people moving about as this was happening were moving at a realistic speed.  They were.  Which meant that the cranes really did descend this slowly.  It was almost like when the Twin Towers collapsed, in that way if in no other way.

I’m not good at putting up videos here, so you’ll have to follow the link at the very top of this to watch this video.  However, this disaster having been videoed at the time, there was no way the www was not going to supply follow-up stills of the resulting wreckage, and here is an aerial snap that I quickly found, which tells that story very well:

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Click on that picture to get it bigger.  Follow the link above if you want to see where I found it.

I’m guessing (only guessing mind) that the fact that the cranes were on a boat may have been the straw that caused the camels to fall over onto those houses.

Commenter number one there spells it out, and he says that the water aspect of things was more like a bale of straw:

There is an example of this exact situation in the maritime crane operation safety textbooks. Obviously, they didn’t read those.

Here’s a quick list of safety violations:

1) None of the vehicles were secured on the decks

2) Barges stability was not ensured in any way

3) The cargo was not stabilized from swinging & windage by lines

It’s easy to sneer about how hindsight is easy, blah blah.  But this guy sounds like he might have been able to stop this, had he been directly involved.

Or maybe that should be “pedicab”.

I’m somewhat surprised that I don’t see this more often:

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By this, I mean the short of slim, attractive woman whom you regularly see paying to exercise on a stationary bicycle, through the windows of exercise parlours.  So, why not put all that peddling to good use, and why not get paid for it?

Something tells me that this is just too much exercise, and of the wrong sort.

But, interesting lady, I think.  I wonder what the rest of her life will consist of?  Something quite interesting, would be my guess.  What she is doing requires not just an above average physique but also a certain independence of mind, to just not be bothered about all the surprised and “admiring” looks she must regularly get.  (To say nothing of all the photos.)

My photo of her is recent, taken earlier this month in Victoria Street.

Monday August 17 2015

A lot of my postings just now involve me showing you photos I took quite a while back, and this one is also one of those.

What happens is, I rootle through all my past photos, and then sometimes get an idea for a posting about a certain category of thing or human conduct or mode of transport or some such thing, and I start gathering photos to illustrate this, in a separate directory.  I am careful to copy photos into the new directory, rather than just transfer them there.  One of my rules is, keep all the photos you took on a certain day on a certain expedition all in one place.  But, no harm in copying from those directories into other ones which are about particular things rather than particular trips or particular times.

However, what often then happens is that I forget about it all.  So, the directory sits there, sometimes for years, and then years later I come across it again.  This happened last night, when I encountered a collection of photographs, assembled in 2010, of photographers who were also holding guide books.  I could tell that I had never used them in a blog posting, because when I do that, I always give photos different names.

Here are four of those photographers-holding-guide-books photos, all of which involve guide books with the word “Londres” on them:

imageimageimageimage

Click to get the bigger pictures.

I’m guessing that both the French and the Hispanics spell London as Londres, with the French calling it Londr and the Hispanics calling it Lon Drez.  But that’s only a gez.

And, yes (google google), I gezzed right:

Londres, the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Filipino language name for London, capital of the United Kingdom and England

The guide book while photoing thing always appealed to me, not least because even then I was looking for ways to not photo people’s faces, and guide books often achieved that outcome for me very nicely.  But the phenomenon is also interesting because, slowly, it is fading away.  You do still see photographers flaunting guide books, but it is rarer now.

Instead, the smartphone is the new guidebook.  And, of course, increasingly, the new camera, for people like those shown above.  Makes perfect sense.

As for the lady above (in the picture bottom right) whose face I do here display (if you click), well, she was wearing a T-shirt saying, in London’s own language and therefore to attract the attention of Londoners like me: “believe me… i’m incredible”.  Somehow I don’t think it was “incredulous”.  Ergo, she was attracting attention with her own attention-attracting behaviour, ergo she was and is fair game for her face to go up, totally recognisably, (but nearly a decade later) on my blog.

Nearly a decade later because these photos were taken by me in 2006 and 2007.

Sunday August 16 2015

Last month, on the 22nd (thank you my camera), a friend took me to see a show consisting, in the first half, of improvised comedy, and in the second half of pre-written sketch comedy.  This was at a venue called the Proud Archivist (thank you me for photoing the sign saying that).

The core skill of the performers who were performing that night was improvisation, and it showed, part two being a rather severe disappointment after the often considerable excellence of part one.  The sort of sketches they did in part two needed to be done with detached and unrealistic faithfulness to the text, Footlights/Monty Python style, almost like you are reading the lesson in church, not “realistically”, as these performers tried to do.  But all it sounded like was that they had forgotten the damn words.  (I heard later that they included some improvisation in some of the sketches.  That was when this dire effect was at its most severe, or so I presume.)

But best of all, which as far as I was concerned made the entire expedition totally worthwhile, was the extraordinary light outside, for a few fleeting minutes during the interval, outside being where I went during the interval.

Here are two of the photos I took from just outside the Proud Archivist, next to the canal, during that interval:

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Okay, what was photoed there is nothing out of the ordinary, with the second picture just being a close-up selection from the bigger picture displayed in the first.  But the light!  Photography is light, and that is light! Or, it was.  Do you at least get a hint of what it was like actually to have been there, then?  Hope so.

Saturday August 15 2015

Time today only for three rather antiquated Citroens.

First, a Citroen DS23, photoed by me in Lower Marsh this afternoon, 3.45 pm:

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Second, a second Citroen DS23, photoed by me in the Kings Road this afternoon, 5.06 pm:

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To see one of these beauties is a beautiful thing.  To see two, within the space of less than two hours, is to be doubly blessed.

I know they were both DS23s because I also photoed where they both said they were DS23s, at the back.

And then, before the two hours were up, I also snapped this:

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It just turned off the Kings Road, right in front of me.

Magnifique.  J’aime Londres.

That last one reminds me that I also took this photo, earlier in the week, in Strutton Ground:

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A form of transport that is even more antiquated than are the automobiles pictured above.  See also: this.

By the way, I rather enjoyed it when I just image-googled automobile.  All I was doing at first was checking the spelling.

Friday August 14 2015

That’s not my punctuation.  That’s their punctuation:

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This is sort of a wedding photo, in the sense that I took it just before the wedding of Ayumi and Richard, last Saturday, just outside the Church, where there is a market.

There was nobody manning this particular stall, selling miniature pub signs.  And I have a rule about signs that say No Photos, or for that matter No Photo’s.  That rule is: I take a photo of all such signs that I encounter.  Their rule: No Photos.  My rule: Photo of their rule.

I’m guessing that what they mean by a photo is a carefully composed photo of just one of these signs, so I don’t believe that, in the unlikely event that they find out about me posting this photo here, they’ll care.  Besides which, maybe they have discovered that if they exhibit all their signs for sale, and stick “Sorry! No Photo’s!” in among them, they get free publicity from photographers like me.

I didn’t really compose the shot.  I just grabbed it, on my way into the wedding.  But I do like how it says “Queen Vic” and then “England”, right at the top.  And, top left: “London”.

This had to go up today, because as you can see, cats are involved.  And my rule about sometimes having stuff here about cats on Fridays has mutated in my head into a rule that says that I may only mention cats on Fridays, otherwise they’d overrun the entire blog.

Speaking of cats, I also recommend this video, which I found when I visited, after long absence, Norman Lebrecht’s site, this morning.

And see also: Fossils reveal felines drove 40 species of canines to extinction after arriving in North America.

And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.

Here (thank you Instapundit) are twelve photos of the destruction that just hit the Chinese city of Tianjin.

This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:

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What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground.  And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been.  It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.

Fireball.  Nothing else could have done that.

However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.

Thursday August 13 2015

Yesterday’s posting was about, among other things, a photo I failed to take.  But not long after that failure, I succeeded in taking these snaps.  Which were a lot easier because nothing was moving:

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Not long ago, I photoed another selfie stick clutch.  But the selfie stick clutch above came out better, I think.  Less clutter in the background.  Better light.

That joke card was obviously composed and printed and sold by people who take it for granted that it is the government’s job to make you rich, because the implication is that government cuts make you poor.  But if you have an honest job, then government cuts will make you richer, especially if they knock it off the income tax.  And the graphic design should have been more deadpan.  As it is, it rather draws attention to itself and spoils the comic effect.  But I like it anyway.  Not enough to want to buy it, you understand.  But enough to photo it.

Strictly speaking, that scaffolding is not in Oxford Street, merely visible from Oxford Street.  But when it comes to scaffolding, rules don’t apply.

Wednesday August 12 2015

Today, a truly wonderful White Van sped through my field of vision, but by the time I had extracted my camera from my bag it had been and gone.  But, I remembered the name advertised on it ("Upshot"), and better yet the service advertised ("Ground Based Aerial Photography"), and when I got home I looked the story up. A truly twenty first centurion would have looked it up on the spot.

I even found, at the Upshot website, a picture of the van which I think I saw myself, in Tottenham Court Road:

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My first thought was that here was an enterprise only made possible by drones.  Well, drones are part of the Upshot story, but there is a lot more kit involved than merely drones buzzing about.

I had to look up the acronyms UAV and ROV.  UAV is Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and ROV is Remotely Operated Vehicle.  I sort of knew those, but needed to be sure.  But yes, drones.

The language at this website is pervasively evasive:

Given the nature of our work we cannot always advertise the scope of our experience, ...

Indeed.  The word “surveillance"s occurs quite a lot.  It’s all a bit creepy.  But then, photography so often is, I think.

But, I did like this photo, of lots of photographers:

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Click to get it bigger.

Tuesday August 11 2015

Photoed by me this afternoon, in Victoria Street:

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That’s right. You can drive straight at us pedestrians and we will always see you, because we look both ways.  We pedestrians have eyes in the backs of our heads.

Many signs exhort people to be more vigilant, or else disaster will ensue.  But here is a sign that says: relax.  When it comes to cars in their vicinity, pedestrians are omniscient.  There may seem to be a problem, with cars driving about, seeming to threaten pedestrians.  But actually, no.  No problemo.

Seriously?  What this sign shows is that sometimes, just sometimes, exclamation marks have their uses, not just to enable you to shout in writing, but to say something different.  Without punctuation, this sign is a bit ambiguous.  It does the job, but maybe it could do that job better.  To a pedant like me, it suggests that what merely should happen, is already happening.  With punctuation, the sign could be made unambiguous.

Pedestrians!  Look both ways!

Trouble is, that would set a precedent, for using shouty punctuation even when it is not needed to clarify meaning.

Monday August 10 2015

A friend of mine has a young daughter who is a very promising ballerina.  Young and very promising ballerinas tend to find themselves being guided from time to time by quite significant ballet persons, and I have urged my friend to pass on to any significant ballet persons he meets that they ought to do a ballet based on the antics of us digital photographers.

If any significant ballet persons ask what sort of thing that might involve, I suggest they be shown pictures like these, which I took between 2006 and 2007:

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Click on any of those pictures and you’ll see that what they’re all about is the big bodily contortions that digital photographers do, mostly just to get their cameras at the right height.  But, there is also the matter of the fun and games the people being photoed often get up to.  They do lots of more self-conscious posing.

Quite a few of these pictures have been posted on the www by me before, mostly on this blog.  But the idea of this posting is to gather together a biggish collection of such pictures, all in one place, for the ballet persons to say: “Wow!  Yes!  We’ll do it!  Pay the crazy blogger double whatever he asks to let us look through his entire photo archive!”

There’s a whole other clutch of pictures showing digital photographers and their hands and fingers.  They wave their fingers about, just to keep their fingers out of the pictures.  Ballet people would like that too.  In the absence of more pictures here, they could just walk over Westminster Bridge and watch the photographers doing it.  Because, provided they are only using small cameras, the photographers do this all the time.

Me being me, there is no category here for “dancing”.  So, “sculpture” will have to do, as in humans making sculptures of themselves.

And that’s not to even mention the whole selfie thing, and the amazing human sculpture making that that can involve.

Sunday August 09 2015

Indeed.

On the left (June 2007), one from the Bald Blokes collection.  He is photoing me through a bit of abstract sculpture that regular walkers along the South Bank, between the Wheel and the Royal Festival Hall will recognise.  And I photoed him.

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And on the right (June 2015), well, it’s me photoing me in a mirror.  But what I like about this photo is not that it is a self-portrait, The sight of me I can take or leave.  No, what I like is the contrast between the colourfulness of what we see reflected in the circular mirror, and the much more muted reflections to be seen in the shop window behind which the mirror rests.  Neither on their own would create much of an effect.  Put them together, and you have something, I think.

Click on each to get the big pictures.

Saturday August 08 2015

Indeed:

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I spent the morning not doing anything here, and then the later morning making sure that there were no Ashes mishaps.  Then I spent from the middle of the day almost to the end of the night attending a wedding.  I took about eight hundred pictures, but for now, one must suffice, not very wedding related, other than it was taken from where the reception took place, namely from the upstairs bar and terrace of Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

I am often out and about in London as the sun sinks, but seldom in a place like this, a crucial few dozen feet higher up than usual.  I think this affected the effect of the sun on the Big Things of the City.

Although, it could just be that I was in a good mood and the view was slightly unfamiliar.  After all, I was high enough to see over the new Blackfriars Bridge Station, and thus see those Big Things from an angle I’m not used to.

I am not used to the Gherkin being totally hidden by the Cheesegrater, which in this shot it just happens to be.  Perhaps that is what is making the Cheesegrater look so good, to me, today.  There is no bulge bulging out from behind it.

As you can see, one of the cranes was on fire with the light of the sun.

Friday August 07 2015

More and more, I find myself interested in not only architecture but vehicles.  Time was when I would always wait for vehicles to move out of the way, while I took photos of more properly photographic things, like buildings.  But vehicles are also interesting.  It is interesting, for instance, that most of the photographers I like to observe still regard vehicles only as an aesthetic interruption, rather than as being worthy of aesthetic reflection in their own right.

A particular category of vehicle I have recently been hoovering up with my Lumix FZ200 is “black cabs that aren’t actually black”.  I chose this particular specimen because this is Friday and there is a big cat involved:

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For Londoners, it’s an obvious fact, a fact not worth discussing, that whereas many black cabs are indeed black, many are not.  But how many of those unfortunates who do not live in London, or who do not even visit London regularly, or who may never have visited London, know that black cabs aren’t necessarily black?  Such persons may be interested by this, to them, unobvious fact.

Okay, not so very interesting, especially if you are a Londoner.  But what do you make of this car?:

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I photoed that soon after photoing the bald selfie stick guy in this earlier posting.

As it sped away I took another photo of this car, which was very blurry but which did just about tell me what its very distinct number plate was.  And I can definitely tell you that the car is this car.  It’s an example of something called “car wrapping”, whatever that may be.  Comments anyone?

Even weirder is this car, which I photoed yesterday afternoon, in Victoria Street, soon after photoing the taxi in picture number one above:

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What on earth is that?  The www told me nothing.

I note that this weirdmobile has a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour to it, including what looked (in other blurrier pictures) like quite a lot of Middle Eastern writing on it, in among the English verbiage.  But what it all means, or what kind of service is being sold or publicised, I have no idea.  Again: can anyone tell me more?

Thursday August 06 2015

Australia’s first innings, in this game, has got off to a shaky start:

. 4b W 2 4 W | . W . 4 1nb . . | . . . W . 4lb | . . . 1 1 . | W

Broad has four wickets.  Wood has only one, and was responsible for that humiliatingly wicketless fourth over.  Extras is doing the best for Australia.

England are clearly missing Jimmy Anderson.  If he had been bowling first up instead of Wood, Australia could have been in serious trouble.

Australia, at the start of the seventh over, now 27-6.  Clarke out to Broad, who now has five, with just nineteen balls.  Before that, yet another wicketless over from Wood.

To be a bit more serious, this is the kind of blog posting I do for myself, to put alongside postings like this one, because goodness knows, there’ll be plenty of other people writing about this.  File under: my heart, warming the cockles of.  I missed the first two wickets on the radio, because I was having a quick piss.  Happy day.

But here, as my Aussie friend Michael Jennings likes to say, ‘s the thing.  When Australia smash England, they do it five nil.  When England smash Australia, which is what looks to be happening now, it’s usually something more like three one.  Have we ever beaten them five nil?  Ever?

Meanwhile, more consolation for England fans like me.  Australia now 33-7.  Nevill bowled Finn.  But, as has just been pointed out by the radio commentators, in his previous over, Broad, like Wood before him, just bowled an entire over without taking a wicket.

More than the usual number of cock-ups while posting this, I’m afraid, and I expect there’ll need to be further cleaning up.  Happy day.  So far.

LATER: One of those crazy taken-in-a-pub-at-a-crazy-angle shots of a big pub screen, showing the carnage inflicted upon Australia on Day One of Trent Bridge 2015:

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On the right, Sky TV’s Ian Ward, I think.  On the left, Broad, I know.  8-15.  8-15.

Australia 1st Innings: 60.

Wednesday August 05 2015

I love to photo tourist crap in tourist crap shops.  And I am able to report a new arrival in the tourist crap shops, or at any rate an arrival that I have not noticed until now.  Yes, they are now selling selfie sticks, in large numbers.  Either that or they are not selling selfie sticks in large numbers, and have reduced them to clear:

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I took that photo today on my way from Oxford Street to Holborn tube station.  I would have taken the tube, but the Central Line currently fails to stop at Tottenham Court Road tube station, so I walked instead.

Later, outside Buckingham Palace, a place I do not normally frequent but tube strikes have peculiar effects on travel habits, I spied a Bald Bloke taking photos of a guardsman.  And he was using a selfie stick.

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What I think we see here is an interesting “other” use for selfie sticks, which is simply for holding your camera-phone more steadily than you might if you merely used your unaided hands.  It is important that selfie sticks can be scrunched up to something quite short, which can then operate as a simple handle.  I am seeing this kind of thing quite a lot, now I come to think about it.

Selfie sticks, hated by opinionated would-be opinion-formers, looking for some stupid new way to denounce the Depravity of Modern Life.  But people ignore the opinionated would-be opinion-formers and just go ahead and use their selfie sticks, whenever they feel inclined.

This guy, with his bright blue hood, looked vaguely academic I think.  He isn’t academic, you understand.  He just looks that way in my photo.

Tuesday August 04 2015

Most of the things I tell you about at this blog are the sort of things that will keep for a month.

This view, for instance, looks exactly the same today, apart from any weather differences, as it did on the day I photoed it, nearly a month ago.  Okay, weather does make a difference, so these Things probably did look quite different today to how they looked on July 7.  But, they won’t have moved:

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G(od)D(aughter) 2 wanted to visit countryside.  And I wanted to visit Richmond Park.  At Christian Michel’s, on the July 6 manifestation of his 6/20 meetings, I had had a Distant Views of London’s Big Things conversation.  Hotel ME, Parliament Hill (click on that to see what a huge difference different weather can make, in the space of a few minutes), this rather hard to describe one, that kind of thing.  Richmond Park, said this most obliging woman.  Have you tried that view?  No, said I.  You should, said she.  So, Richmond Park was the perfect spot for me and GD2 to visit.  GD2 wanted rurality.  I wanted a new and exciting view of urbanity.

The picture above is a rather extreme case of a good photo taken badly.  (I will return some time Real Soon New and take it better.) But I like it, because it records the moment when I first saw that the woman the night before had been spot on.  Wow.  There’s London.  Mission accomplished.

But soon, the views got a bit better, and so did the photos:

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That’s a photo taken with my now maximum zoom (maybe this will get zoomier some time soonish).  The next two are me easing off on the zoom, to show not only London itself, but how London looks from Richmond Park, by including a bit more of Richmond Park.

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I like these snaps so much that I took a long time pointlessly fretting about how exactly to display them here.  In the end, I just did what Hartley always does.  I just piled them up vertically.

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The Walkie Talkie looks particularly fine in these snaps, I think.  However, it is becoming harder defend this building, even though I am determined to go on doing this.  Not content with firing death rays down onto the street in front of it, this building, it is now being said, is doing terrible things to the local weather.  The death rays were easily corrected, but changing these wind effects will be much harder.  Basically, those on the receiving end will have to get used to it, one way or another, which might include more architecture.

This is the kind thing that happens when you build a building which is a different shape to all previous buildings.  You find out that there are reasons why people mostly don’t build buildings this shape.  No, that’s not quite it.  You find out that whereas regular-shaped buildings, having been built a million times, have had all the bugs ironed out of them, this is not true of your building.  Simply nobody know exactly how to build it.  Not you, not anybody.

Monday August 03 2015

I like this:

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Which is why I put the picture in my “I Just Like Them!” directory, and why I am putting it here now.

The picture was taken by me, on July 11th 2007, assuming my camera at the time was not lying to my computer at the time.

I see several of my photography recipes already in action.  Recipes like: by all means photo cliché Big Things like The Wheel, but put The Wheel in front of or behind or next to something else interesting, otherwise all that the picture of The Wheel will be is just one of the many million pictures already taken of The Wheel.

And actually there are two interesting things besides The Wheel in this picture.  Obviously there is the stellated whateverhedron that dominates the picture, which is the kind of thing that constantly comes and goes from the strange little space behind the Royal Festival Hall.  The Royal Festival Hall being the grey lump on the right as we look.

But now, take a look the far end of the roof of the Royal Festival Hall.  There’s a little figure standing up there.  And, I can tell you at once that it is one of those Gormley Men.  It is also clear to me that I was jiggling my camera around to as to get that particular Gormley Man standing in a good place to be seen through the stellated whateverhedron.

I still remember those Gormley Men fondly.

Sunday August 02 2015

Playing?  Yes.  It’s like they think test match cricket is some sort of mere game.

Cricket, says Cricinfo’s George Dobell, is no longer like this:

A few years ago - 2004 if memory serves - an elderly spectator settled down to watch a day of cricket at Horsham before the 11am start of play and promptly died. It was not until 9pm that anyone noticed. Such was the character of the crowd, and the cricket, that one more silent, motionless man in a chair hardly stood out.

He’s right.  The current England side is full of one-day cricketers.  And when they tried to beef up their top order for their latest test match, all they could think of to do was to sack one of the top order grafters (Ballance) and bring in yet another one-day batsman, a one-day batsman (Bairstow) who has done well in county championship cricket this year, so in he came.  Nobody will be surprised if they sack another grafter (Lyth), and I would not be surprised if another one-day belter (Hales? Roy?) came into the team to replace him, because one-day belters is all that there are to pick.

After all, if batting like Kevin Pietersen is what all the best batsmen do best these days, why try to find old-school grafters in the Boycott manner, if no such people exist of the necessary class?  (By the way, a basic reason why there is no clamour for Pietersen to return to the England team is that he now has no rarity value.  Bell, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, all bat the way Pietersen does.  So does Bairstow.)

One day cricket also rewards those who can bat, in a twist-or-bust sort of way, and who can bowl in a similar fashion.  This doubles their chances of making an impact in a one-day game.  They get to place two bets instead of just the one.  England now have two such, Stokes and Ali.  Plus, Broad can bat after a fashion, and Root can bowl after a fashion.  Which means that England now bat, in a one-day sort of way, right down to number eight, where Ali now operates, and they now have five regular bowlers, because two of them are now Stokes and Ali.

Australia have the same feel about them.  Mitchell Marsh is supposed to be a batter and a bowler.  Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous slogger.  They too are inclined to try to hit their way out of trouble, David Warner style, rather than to graft their way out of it, the way they used to in the days of people like Bill Lawry, Australia’s Boycott (i.e. the guy Boycott was England’s answer to), whom I remember from my childhood.  Lawry grafted always, whatever the situation was.  Now, Warner slogs, whatever the situation is.

And now, all wicket-keepers can bat up a storm, ever since Gilchrist created that template, and actually, before that.  I remember am England chap called Parks, who could bat better than he could keep.  Now everyone picks the wicket-keeper who bats best, and they then give him extra tuition with a wicket-keeping coach.

The most memorable old-school test match I can remember was this one.  Six hundred played six hundred, and that was it.

For me, a turning point was Kevin Pietersen’s innings on the final day of the final test of the 2005 Ashes series, at the Oval.  England were 126-5, with Warne threatening to finish them off and leave Australia needing 150 to win and with plenty of time for them to do just that, and level the series and go home with the Ashes.  So, the one surviving front-line England batsman, Pietersen, had a match to save.  There were two ways for him to do it.  He could try to bat for a long time and make no runs.  Or, instead, he could try to slog lots of runs and thereby get England too far ahead, which is what he actually did.  Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood batted for about an hour and got next to nothing, which was also useful, but nobody except me remembers that.  Giles was spared having to bowl, but batted very capably instead.  I remember at the time how the commentators said, after Pietersen had just hit another six, that this was a strange way to save a match, but save it he did, and rather quickly, because England were suddenly way beyond Australia’s reach.

The most one-day thing of all about the current England v Australia contest is the way that these supposedly five-day games have all so far finished early, with one, one and then two entire days to spare.  At one point that most recent game looked like it might end with three days to spare.

Also very one-day is that all three games have been won, by whoever happened to win them, by large margins.  One team just happens to slog or bowl its way into a dominant position.  The other team tries to slog quick runs or take quick wickets to get itself back into the game, and, as teams doing this usually do, they fail, and the dominant-from-the-start-to-the-finish winner wins by a mile.

England crushed Australia in the first game.  But then, after they were crushed even more crushingly in the second game, everyone said, oh, England will now go back to grafting.  But no.  They didn’t.  They couldn’t.  They didn’t have the players to do that, even if they had wanted to.  And they won the third game by eight wickets, and only right at the end was Boycott a happy commentator, because the Australian tail in the third innings, and then the England top order in the final innings, both did a bit of “old fashioned” Boycott-type batting, or as close to that as modern batters can now manage.  This was why the match lasted a whopping three days, instead of a mere two.

Saturday August 01 2015

Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank.  And with this, I thought, I had struck gold.  This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:

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I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006.  At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos.  A … well, a camera.  But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.

Whatever that is.  I have no real clue.  Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?

The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale.  I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.