Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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This and that
Yes, quota photo time. I have spent the day doing ... other things, and am in that familiar tizz of having to shove up any old thing before going to bed. So here is another snap, to add to the one I earlier showed of all those bridges, of that model of the City of London, in the City of London, which I visited last Saturday:
The point of this picture being that it doesn’t just show what is there now. It shows what it is intended will soon be built.
The biggest of those Big Things there is, I presume, this.
Isn’t it terrible how horrible modern skyscrapers are ruining the view of the Gherkin.
As nudged by Simon Gibbs yesterday, I did indeed make my way to Trafalgar Square to check out Kenny and his Brexit chalk-proclamation.
The photos I sent to Libertarian Home yesterday evening were strictly utilitarian, to tell LH exactly what Kenny had written. Read the entire thing there.
Here, on the other hand, are some pictures which give more of an idea of how it looked, what the atmosphere was, and what Kenny himself looks like:
The atmosphere was low-key, actually. There were no scenes or arguments, although I did hear the occasional “not going to read it all because it says Out”, as people walked away. Others, however, did stop and read. Most significant, I would guess, were those with mobile phones who were, unlike me, maybe passing it on with twenty-first century immediacy. (I had to wait until I got home before I could send off my photos.)
I had to wait a while for Kenny to finish his efforts. I got there before 3pm, and it wasn’t until just after 5pm that he was done. And he started at 10am.
But it was worth the wait, and there was plenty else in Trafalgar Square to divert me, and to take photos of. But photos like that can wait. First things first, and that means Kenny.
I have been neglecting Libertarian Home of late. Let me assure LH’s Dear Leader Simon Gibbs that this is not permanent, just a combination of the declining energy that accompanies advancing years, and being, first, knackered by my French expedition, ant then preoccupied with the meeting I hosted on Friday addressed by Dominic Frisby. (Because this was a dry run for a theatrical performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August, some rearranging was required in my tiny front room, to make it less completely unlike a theatre.)
Simon has made it easy for me to respond positively to his constant nudgings, by serving up a nudge that is very easy for me to respond to, and in fact which I am glad to respond to, because it takes care of my something-every-day self-imposed rule here, for today.
At the Libertarian Home secret coven site where Simon nudges most of his nudgings to his various LH helpers and comrades, he posted this picture, which he recently snapped in Trafalgar Square:
Click on that to get the original, bigger and with more verbiage.
It is typical of Simon that he nudged this in my direction (picking me out individually thereby ensuring that an email about the nudge would reach me immediately) by emphasising the horizontality of this photo. (He had other ways of recommending it to others.) What this illustrates is that Simon is good at tuning in to how others think, which is the bedrock of the art of persuasion.
Photographic horizontality interests me because it suits the blogging format by helping to make blog postings vertically shorter and hence less unwieldy than they would otherwise be, and because horizontality also suits other circumstances that happen to be of interest to me.
So, he used it. Thus are ideological movements built and strengthened.
That Brexit thing is getting less and less horizontal by the minute, apparently. Although I promise nothing, I have in mind (more Gibbs nudging) to go to Trafalgar Square this afternoon and try to photo the whole thing.
I was very proud of this photo of seven London bridges ...:
… when I first posted it here.
Today I took another photo of these same seven bridges:
I wish this model included Westminster as well as the City, but it’s a model of the City.
Nothing much here today, but I just did three Samizdata postings today and yesterday:
I have always felt that the fascination with cat photos that has engulfed the internet was somehow more important than just being a matter of cat photos, engulfing the internet. Now it seems that cat photos are a threat to Islam, and must be forbidden. For me, cats means pure fun. No purpose is served. Other than the purpose (purr-puss) of having fun. And it seems that there is this crazy Sheikh who also thinks that photoing cats is pure fun also, and that this is why photoing cats should be forbidden. For him, I guess, fun is never pure. Quite the opposite.
One of my regular automatic google-searches is “face recognition”, and just now this has been alerting me to all the various tricks that are coming on stream for making face recognition not work, by putting on make-up, or spectacles, and such like.
Here is my contribution to this discussion:
I know what you’re thinking. Who might that be?
Exactly. Although, if you’re are supercomputer, you have probably worked it out. You have a special programme which tells you to take particular interest in any faces that are trying to not be recognised.
Most of my libertarian friends think that such tech solutions are the front line of this battle. I have long assumed that the world is moving rapidly towards a state where the question of what is X doing at the moment is technologically answerable, and impossible to prevent being answered. For me, among other desirable things, libertarianism is the claim that although we can see X saying or doing something we don’t approve of, we shouldn’t legally prevent him or her from doing that, unless it is really, really bad.
In a world of Total Surveillance by the Big Machine, the proliferation of stupid rules and regulations with no huge moral content becomes a problem like it never used to be. I means rules about things like what you should eat or smoke or, now, say in conversation. Rules like that mean that we can all now be seen and heard breaking such rules. (Okay, maybe not now, maybe not yet, but that’s where things are headed.) And that means that anyone who wants to fuck up your life or my life (for an actual real reason that has bugger all to do with the stupid rule actually being broken) can then do it. Worse, some legislative maniac might demand that anyone that the Big Machine sees breaking this or that rule that he personally is obsessed about, should be automatically fucked over, by the Big Machine, with no human intervention involved. With a big long list of exceptions, like legislators. The Big Machine can’t touch them. Libertarianism has arisen, partly, because it has become ever more necessary to insist on certain principles, principles which were imposed upon the world in former times by sheer ignorance of what other people were getting up to.
The other thing people have to do is develop thicker skins, psychologically speaking I mean, because although legislative pressure is not now a problem for most people, social pressure can become a big problem, for example if you find yourself being mobbed on the internet for some innocuous thing you said or ate. Just because a million idiots on the internet are screeching that you are an idiot, that doesn’t mean you are, or that if you are, it matters. When it does matter, bosses should chill, and not fire people just because the mob is screeching. I applaud, tentatively, the recent tendency to give social media mobsters a going-over, using the same methods on them that they have been using. Who is this mad bitch? What has she (it does often seem to be she) been up to lately? What is her job? Who is her boss? Etc. (In the age of cyber-bullying, I feel that I now understand witchcraft crazes better.)
Another problem is that as something easily mistaken for a state of everyone knowing everything increasingly pertains, that old illusion that everything will accordingly be centrally plannable is likely to keep rearing its very ugly head, and keep on having to be experienced as a disastrous illusion. (More libertarianism.) The point is, everyone doesn’t know everything. Nothing like. We can’t. Our heads aren’t big enough, and even if they were, knowledge is not like that. Everyone can known anything in particular that is easy to know (like where X is just now) that they want to know and ask the Big Machine about. That’s entirely different from actual omniscience.
I already showed you some Narbonne bridges, snapped during my France expedition. Here are more bridges.
Are these first lot of bridges really bridges, or are they just buildings with holes in the bottom of them to let people through? I reckon these make the cut, but once the buildings start really piling up on top of the holes …?:
I’m doing these bridge photos in sets of three, and next is a clutch of photos of a set of three bridges that connect the town of Ceret to the other side of the local river. Picasso spent time in Ceret, because of the light. (I also photoed Renault Picassos.)
The regular shot of these bridges is from below, as you can see if you click on the second of these photos. But I was with people who were in a hurry, so I only got to photo the bridges from the other bridges, or in one case, the shadow of a bridge, from the bridge. And oh look, photographers!:
In the first of these next three bridge photos, there are three more bridges, by my count. They’re in the seaside town of Collioure. The other two are in Perpignan, where, just like in Quimper (where I have also visited these same friends (G(od)D(aughter)2’s family) – they have houses all over the place), there is a river flowing through the middle of the town with multiple bridges over it.
Finally, here are some rather more modern bridges. First there is one of the main motorway from France to Spain, which carries a lot of lorries.
The motorways of Europe may, I surmise, be the place on earth where robot drivers have their first seriously big impact. Robot cars are too complicated, and to start with, what will be the point of them? But robot lorries will be able to travel a lot faster than regular lorries, for a lot longer than regular lorries, on roads that are the most controlled and predictable roads in existence. European motorways carry colossal amounts of freight, unlike in the USA, where a lot freight goes by train, Europe’s railways being full of passenger trains. And there’s nothing like a sight of this particular motorway, handily shown off by being placed on the side of a mountain in full view of the local and non-charged version of the same road, to see all this.
In the middle below is a hastily snapped shot from a bridge as we drove over it, over a newly constructed high speed passenger railway, again connecting France to Spain. Brand new railways lines have a certain pristine charm, I think, with the gravel under the tracks yet to be blackened by constant use.
Finally, we have what may well be my favourite South of France bridge photo of them all, on the right there. This is one of those unselfconsciously functional footbridges, which more and more abound in towns and cities (London has many such bridges), and which join work spaces off the ground to other work spaces off the ground. This particular footbridge is in Perpignan.
Quite why such bridges, which have long been around, are now proliferating is an interesting question. Maybe it is just that organisations are getting bigger, and demand bigger buildings, and connecting two buildings by a footbridge of this sort turns two buildings into one building, at any rate for certain purposes. If two bureaucracies that live across the road from each other merge, then a bridge joining the top floors together is the logical first managerial step. This allows the new bosses to commune with one another, without having to trundle up and down and across the road all day long, rubbing their shoulders with the unclean shoulders of their underlings. Lower footbridges bridges enable functional specialisation to proliferate among lesser personages.
But, what do I know? My point is, I like such footbridges. And whereas most of the other bridges in this posting are the sort that feature in lots of other people’s photos and in picture postcards, these Brand-X urban footbridges are only a Thing because I say they are. Which is a major purpose of truly good photography. Truly good photography doesn’t just celebrate the already much celebrated; truly good photography offers new objects of potential celebration.
So now I will celebrate this Perpignan footbridge some more:
Surrey being in Division One of the County Championship has, so far, not been nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. After that great day out last year, I toyed with being a Surrey member this year. That toying is now on hold. Actually, I don’t want to spend anything like that much time attending to cricket, but what I mean is: I am now really, really not tempted.
The other team promoted with Surrey at the end of last year was Lancashire. Look what happened today between Lancashire and Surrey, up there in Lancashire. That’s pretty much exactly what England did to Sri Lanka.
As someone said, soon after this debacle:
Memo-to-self: It’s only a game.
I keep wanting to write about music, but (a) it isn’t easy, unless both you and your readers know all the technical terms of your preferred sort of music. And (b) whereas words go fine with music, words about music, especially if they are attempting to be descriptive of a particular piece of music, can be devilishly hard to contrive in a way that is comprehensible without being banal and superficial and generalised.
A specialist blog or website devoted to a particular sort of music, with musical illustrations supplied to click on rather than only descriptive verbiage, whose writer(s) and readers are united by their taste in that particular sort of music, that makes perfect sense to me. I don’t read any such blogs, but it makes sense. I do read old school paper magazines (I see that there is a new one of those out that I’ve not yet seen) exactly like this. But a blog about other things which from time to time goes musical, not so much. I have no problem at all with my favourite bloggers (6k and Mick Hartley spring to mind) doing postings every so often about music that they happen particularly to like. Their gaffs, their rules. But I mostly skip such postings. I possess a lifetime and more of music in the form of a vast CD collection that I already want to listen to.
So, I do not wish myself merely to do postings about bits of music that I happen to like, hoping - implicitly or explicitly - that others will be infected with my tastes. I love Western classical music more than life itself, often a lot more. But most people don’t these days, and that’s fine with me. If I thought that western classical music was about to be completely expunged from the earth any time soon, I might feel differently about trying to infect others with the love of it, but it isn’t. Meanwhile, this music is, for me, mostly a personal thing. It is not an evangelical religion. If I meet a fellow devotee, we exchange enthusiastic exclamations of love for this or that piece or performance, but I mostly refrain from inflicting such True Believer talk on non-believers.
I am evangelical and anti-evangelical about some things. If you are not a libertarian, I want that to change. You should become a libertarian forthwith. If you are a Muslim, I want you to know, now, that I think you should stop being a Muslim, now. But if you hate Beethoven and adore hip-hop, that’s fine with me, so long as you have no plans forcibly to stop me listening to Beethoven or to force me to listen to hip-hop. If you merely want me to adore hip-hop, or even to stop adoring Beethoven, again, fine. Just so long as you don’t recommend the use of sticks or stones to make those points. Insofar as you do, then shame on you. But exactly the same point applies to people who force Beethoven upon those who resist Beethoven’s charms. I am evangelical about that sort of behaviour also. Are you threatening others with Beethoven? Stop doing that, now. Do you favour such behaviour by others. Don’t even think that.
However, more general postings about music (this one being an example) about the different ways we listen to it and enjoy it, how love of music spreads or should spread (that is what this posting has partly been about), about how those who contrive it contrive it, and so on, of the sort that all music lovers can read and tune into, even as they are hearing in their own heads quite distinct musical illustrations concerning whatever is being said, that makes more sense to me, and - memo to self - I want to do more of such postings here.
I have already shown you some horizontalised signs that I snapped in France. Here is a selection of the more regularly shaped sorts of signs, in the order I snapped them:
I love the ambiguity of the very first (1.1) of them, with the French for bread being pain.
Whoever thought that theatre (1.3) could be so dangerous.
That T-shirt (2.2) is a reminder of how many Brits there are in these parts, and the “Tattoo and piercing” sign (3.4) of how French people think English is cool. The French go to England to work. The Anglos (apart from those going there to sing) go to France to unwind, as I was doing. I’m guessing that’s roughly how it is. France specialises in being nice. England specialises in being busy.
I like how the French for cul-de-sac, which you would expect to be “cul-de-sac”, is actually “impasse” (4.1), which in English means something rather different.
I like (4.2) how on building sites, everyone gets credit, like at the end of a movie.
And then there are all those street name signs, that double up as history lessons. 2.4 and 3.1 are too famous to need a date, but one (3.1) still needs a brief explanation. But I love how the guy who does need a date (3.2) would probably have been awarded dates no matter what, because look at those dates! I only just noticed this.
I like how the French for diversion is deviation (4.3).
That Crack sign (4.4) was actually not in France but in a big shopping centre in Spain.
2.1 is reminder that not all signs in France are as informative as most of them are.
Pictures taken by me earlier this month:
I keep telling myself to take notes during photo sessions like this, but I didn’t, and it took quite a bit of googling to work out where all this keeping up of appearances was. But here it is:
It’s the big block in the red rectangle. The big spread to its left as we look is Buckingham Palace. Hence, I suppose, the Palace in Palace Street.
The former civil service block is being demolished, apart from its Grade II listed façade, and converted into 72 homes within yards of the perimeter wall of the palace grounds.
Then there’s a lot of sales babble, the gist of which is that if you have to ask you can’t afford it. And then there’s this:
The building, designed by Chelsea Barracks architects Squire & Partners, will be completed in 2017 and reflect five architectural styles: 1860s Italianate Renaissance, 1880s French Renaissance, 1880s French Beaux Arts, 1890s Queen Anne, and contemporary.
Presumably “reflect” here means “preserve the outsides of buildings done in: ...”.
Or, it means “fake”.
For years I have struggled, with the graphics programme I have been using, to crop, not square (an option this programme does offer), and not to a size I specify (ditto), but to a ratio that I specify. For years, I could not do that. I repeatedly searched for such a thing, in other programmes, but evidently didn’t pick the right words.
Then, in France, I couldn’t remember the mere name (on such things do decisions hinge) of my regular photo-editing package, so I loaded PhotoCat, basically because it had “cat” in its name and I reckoned I could have Friday feline fun with it (ditto), to see if I could photo-edit with that, and I could, and I could do constant ratio rectangular cropping which was a most welcome surprise.
Thus are decisions made, by computer operatives. There are two rules for getting things done in the modern world. (1) Do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. If it doesn’t help you to do something that you need to do, don’t bother with it no matter how cool everyone else says it is. Cool is not a good enough reason to be faffing about with something. (Faffing about to no purpose cannot be cool, because it isn’t, and because another rule is: worrying about being cool guarantees that you won’t be.)
And (2): if it does help you to do just one thing that you do want to do, then, if you can afford the money, the space, the bother, whatever, use it. Then, when you are using that thing for that one essential thing, then, you can move onwards to finding out if it will do any other merely desirable things. But, lots of merely desirable things and nothing essential is not good enough.
Using anything is difficult, if you only use it occasionally, to do something merely occasionally desirable. This rule applies at all times, in all places, and no matter how “user friendly” the gizmo or programme claims itself or is claimed by other users of it to be. Occasional is bother. Always. Don’t do occasional if you can avoid it.
Using anything is easy, on the other hand, if you do it regularly. This rule applies at all times, in all places, to all things, and no matter how “user hostile” enemies of the gizmo or process claim it to be. If a convoluted dance around the houses by a complicated route gets you an essential result, then dance. Convoluted will quickly become imprinted on your brain, and easy, and reinforced each time you (frequently) use it. This is how rats and ants do things. (Hurrah: other creatures!) They’ll probably outlast us. Ants definitely.
The above explains why the division of labour was so epoch-making. When you concentrate entirely on a small but rather tricky part of a big process, you will do it massively better than others attempting this tricky operation only sometimes, in among all the other things they are attempting. The damn near impossible becomes routine and easy.
So, I prepared for a life of frequently PhotoCatting fixed-ratio rectangles out of my photos. Using PhotoCat for that one thing.
But then, earlier this week I was cranking up PhotoCat, prior to some fixed-ratio cropping, and it refused to load. It got to 80%, and then stuck there. Who knows why? Was this PhotoCat’s fault? Was it something I was doing? Probably the latter, but that isn’t the point. It didn’t load. So, I went looking for alternatives, and I found one, called: PhotoPad.
And the bad news for PhotoCat is that PhotoPad also does proportional ratio cropping, and does it rather more conveniently, because PhotoPad operates on my hard disc and doesn’t have to be uploaded from the www each time. Unlike PhotoCat, PhotoPad is not www based, or whatever you call it, which I prefer because you can still use it if the www is out of action. It’s now all mine:
That being a snap of a rather unusual form of transport that I snapped, in France. I like how you can see what’s happening there, like when they zoom in on a detail in a computer picture in NCIS or a movie or something similar. (Question. Does art lead life in computing? Does stuff like the above start out in the movies, just so absolutely everyone can get what’s going on, and then migrate to real life?)
PhotoPad does something else which PhotoCat didn’t do, or not for me, which is rotate much more exactly. Most photo software seems to want to offer only rotation in 1 degree increments. If they can do better, they don’t volunteer the fact. But, PhotoPad does volunteer this. With PhotoPad, instead of rotating something 1 degree or 2 degrees (or 359 degrees), you can do 1.38 degrees or 1.77 degrees or 358.61 degrees. You’d be surprised, perhaps, how often that is a desirable refinement. You can do it by eye, and let the numbers take care of themselves. Terrific. Cool, even.
So. PhotoCat now offers me … nothing. So, … see above.
Just now, while checking out the PhotoCat link for this posting, I successfully cranked up PhotoCat. Whatever went wrong before has now gone away.
Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):
That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.
I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.
The email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”. When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).
Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat. See right.
Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane! So very tall, and so very thin. It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything. I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London. Not that Antoine’s crane is in London. It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.
I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes. When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.
It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.
As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below. Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.
There are four such bridges in the world.
And the pictures follow: Ponte Vecchio; Krämerbrücke, Erfurt; the Rialto in Venice; Pulteney Bridge in Bath. (The old London Bridge is, alas, no more.)
But then the bit about how there are four such bridges was crossed out, and this was added:
Update: Apparently, there are a few more. Pont des Marchands in Narbonne, France, is one example.
Narbonne? I was in Narbonne only days ago, hearing GodDaughter 2 and her pals sing the solo parts in the Mozart Requiem. Afterwards, we walked beside the river back to the car. Did I, I wonder, photo this Pont des Marchands? I do recall bridges, and I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t photoed them. Here are a couple of Narbonne bridges, that I photoed then:
So, did the Pont des Marchands figure in my bridge-snapping?
Image google image google.
The Pont des Marchands looks like this:
I had already copied those two bridge pictures above into my FranceMay2016/bridges subdirectory, but in that directory, there was no sign of anything with shops on top of it. However, another look through all the pictures I took in Narbonne that evening brought me to ... this:
The bridge in the front there is the one in the left of the two bridges above. Behind that little footbridge, could that be the Pont des Marchands, seen from the other side? Got to be. Those Ms certainly look encouraging. Short answer, after only a very little more image googling: yes.
There’s nothing quite like seeing something for yourself. And the next best thing is when you photo it without seeing it, and then see later that you did see it after all.
I had today, May 17th, as the day when I would finally have recovered from the strain and stress of taking a holiday in the south of France earlier this month.
So, what else is there to say about France. Well, a thing I love about France is … The Wires! Just like all those dezeen pictures of bland new Japanese dwellings, surrounded by The Wires!, France also seems to have no inhibitions about hanging The Wires! everywhere, and in particular above the roads.
Below are sixteen South of France clutter photos, chosen from a clutch of clutter photos several times larger than that. Included in these photos are views of The Wires!, and also of regular roof clutter consisting of kit for receiving entertainment. Sometimes both:
I am fascinated by all this clutter, because I am. But in addition to just liking it, I think that it illustrates an important point about the modern world, which is that if clutter is so visually appealing – as I believe it often is – then people should, on aesthetic grounds, be allowed to do erect whatever they like. Chances are, it will look amusing rather than ugly, in much the same way as a forest or a crystal cluster.
But, I have to admit that the general south of Franceness of it all also appeals. All those orange tiled rooves, and stucco, and all that amazing light. Almost anything looks good in light as nice as it often is down there, which it was for the first few days.
Most of the above photos were taken in the town of Thuir, where my hosts have a house.
Today I attended Deirdre McCloskey’s talk for the Adam Smith Institute. I know what you’re thinking. Okay, okay, photos, as per usual. But: What did she say? Fine. Go here, and you can find out. What I can find no link to is any information about the event – when, where, and so on. It’s all now gone. Maybe it was never there in the first place.
But the Man from the Adam Smith Institute told me to send in some of my snaps, and these are the ones I sent them:
McCloskey’s basic point was what is rapidly becoming the libertarian orthodoxy, to the effect that (a) the world started getting humungously rich in or around 1780 (Yaron Brook‘s preferred date for this is 1776 (to coincide with America starting and Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s getting published)), and (b) we did this. Our enemies tried to stop us and they failed. We know how to make poor people rich, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Our enemies only know how to make rich people less rich and poor people more poor. Bastards.
My recent favourite example of enrichment is a very tiny one offered at today’s talk by McCloskey, which is that you can now use your smartphone as a mirror. Better yet, McCloskey said, before the talk she was giving, she spotted Steve Baker MP doing this exact thing with his smartphone, while perfecting his appearance prior to doing his MP socialising bit.
The reason I particularly like this is that I just recently learned about this trick myself, when I saw someone doing it, and took a photo of it:
If you photo someone looking in a mirror, they can see their face, but you can’t. (Unless it’s a crap movie, in which case the audience sees the face and the person with the face doesn’t. I know. Ridiculous. But this is truly what often happens.) But, if you photo someone using their smartphone as a mirror, both you and they can see their face.
McCloskey’s point was that enrichment doesn’t only come in the form of more money, but also in the form of the ever more amazing things that you can buy with your money. Like a phone that is also a NASA circa 1968 supercomputer. And a face mirror.
Finally, here are a couple more photography-related photos. On the left is the official photographer for the McCloskey talk:
And on the right there is a photo which I also took at the venue for the McCloskey talk, which I will not name, because the people in charge of this place might then learn of this blog posting and see this picture and then who the hell knows what might happen? Are you wondering what I am talking about? Click on the picture and work it out. I only realised what I had photoed after I had got home.
So today I went up to the roof of my block of flats, again, to photo the work in progress across the yard. And I did. But I also photoed a bird on a TV aerial:
So far so ordinary. But then this happened:
There are of course ways to take such pictures as this on purpose, with machine-gunning rather than just shooting, so to speak, and then picking out the best one. But that picture, with me shooting just the once, was a total fluke.
Let’s look at that bird in flight more closely:
To me it seems somewhat strange. The wings are those of a black angel, yet the body of the bird is more like an old woman in black with stooped shoulders. And all that in sharp contrast to the erect posture of the bird when it was just perched there. It’s just an accident of the exact moment in the flapping cycle that the bird got frozen, but it sill looks odd.
Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference. Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs. And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:
Conference programme here.
1.1: An attender. 1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden. 1.3: Syed Kamall. 1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides. 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro. 3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook. 3.2: Brook. 3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books. 3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window. 4.1: Anton Howes. 4.2: Howes and Brook. 4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.
Friday is my day for creatures of all kinds. Cats, yes, but other creatures too.
Here is a dog picture I took in France that I rather like. Okay it’s a bit blurry, but the car was wizzing by, and I tracked it by swinging my camera round to follow it:
According to the reviews of it at Amazon, I might have got a much better picture had I been using one of these, which is the camera I now lust after.
Here, on the other hand is a cat picture, of a cat clock, taken in Céret:
That is not a favourite picture. I show it merely because the lady at the centre of the next picture was taking a photo of this cat clock:
And that picture I do like, even though that’s me in the middle, reflected in the shop window.
I love pictures like this, where I stand in front of the window blocking the light onto the window, with the result that my reflection creates, as it were, a window through the window. Where my shadow falls, we see through the window. Where it doesn’t, what we see is what is reflected in the window.
Here is another cat, this time a real one, which we all saw just as we were getting into the car in Thuir to go to Narbonne, to sing in or to just be in the audience for Mozart’s Requiem. I do not often see a cat sleeping in a tree, but this one was:
Here is another creature picture, of those particular creatures called humans. The picture emphasises, I think you will agree, human biology:
And finally, back here in London, I photoed some pelicans in St James’s Park this afternoon, with a fountain going off behind them:
Note the baby pelican there. The eastern end of St James’s Park, where this snap was snapped, looking west towards Buckingham Palace, is one of my favourite places in London just now. One of many, admittedly, but definitely one.
I love signs. They communicate a lot, by their nature, but they are not considered Art, so they aren’t preserved. They come and go, and stuff that comes and goes is how a photographer who is only an okay photographer makes his photos count for something.
So, I gathered together all the sign photos I took, to do a big collection. But that was taking too long, so I picked out the long thin ones, and here are those ones, in chronological order. I really did take the first one first:
Click on each to get the bigger pictures.
No coincidence that two of them - arguably three of them - are in English. There’s quite a bit of English to be seen in French shops, just as there’s quite a bit of French in English shops.
Byrrh is the local drink of Thuir. It’s a lot like Port. I’d link to the website, but it makes noises that you have actively to silence. I hate that.
What “lefties” means, when on the front of a shop, I have absolutely no idea.
LATER: This was all done in great haste, and I neglected to mention that the “lefties” sign is actually in Spain, in a big shopping centre we visited (and got stuck in because of traffic jams all afternoon (don’t ask)). But, I still like the sign and am still baffled by it.
Another sign of advancing years, to add to all the other signs discussed here, is that if you go on holiday somewhere for X days, X further days is how long it will take you to recover. The longer you are away, the longer the recovery period. I went to France on May 3rd, returned on May 10th, which means that by about May 17th I will be approximately myself again. But throughout the time between now and the 17th, France will still be on my mind, and I consider myself entitled to post pictures I took in that country relentlessly until the 17th, and perhaps even beyond that date.
Here is a picture of a house that looks like a face:
Well, the picture of the house looks like a face if you crop it the way I did. Click to get the original picture, and it becomes a little harder to spot.
I don’t think that houses that look like faces is an entirely frivolous subject. After all, one of the most common complaints you hear about modern architecture is that it is “faceless”. To a certain extent, all trad-looking houses look like they’ve got faces. This house just takes that tendency a little further than most.
I am a very infrequent flyer, and the thrill of flying that I felt as a child has never really left me. As Louis CK has it, I’m in a chair in the sky, travelling at an unimaginable speed. And the magic of flight is, for me, even more magical if you can see out of the window, so I like to pay extra for a window seat, and ever since digital cameras, take digital photos. I’ll never forget photoing the mighty Millau Viaduct, back when I did that.
So, today, on the way back from Perpignan to Stansted, I took photos through the window. But the clouds today were very cloudy and the only photo I took today that I consider worth a second look was this one, not of what I saw through the window, but of the window itself:
Those little things that look at bit like flying birds or insects are actually cracks in (on?) the glass, right? So, how is that safe? How is that allowed? I did a bit of exhausted googling just now, and got nothing, but I did try. (Maybe there is an answer in this, but I couldn’t quickly find it.) I’m not saying it’s unsafe, and that it shouldn’t be allowed, because obviously it is allowed, and it’s obviously safe. Flying is safer than crossing a road, and if those cracks were going to split the airplane open, they’d not be allowed. But to me, that’s what’s interesting. These little cracks are obviously not going to get bigger, any time soon. Assuming cracks is what they are.
LATER: Thanks, as always, to Friday Night Smoke, for one of his always informative comments, on the above. He tells us that these are not cracks, but little bits of ice. Further inspection of my photo archive confirms this.
Obviously, being ice, these “cracks” are on the outside of the plane, on the outermost of the three layers of airplane window. Soon after the photo above was taken, the Ryanairplane descended into the clouds over Stansted Airport, at which point I took the photo below. At the time, what interested me was that the water was moving upwards across the window, on account of the airplane descending. But now what it proves is that those “cracks” have now melted:
I don’t know what that road is. Presumably something near Stansted Airport. Google maps google maps: M11.
The weather in Thuir and surrounding parts yesterday and today has been grim, in sharp contrast to the weather at the end of last week.
Here is that sharp (as in sharp and then not at all sharp) contrast:
On the left, the weather last week, as viewed from the top of the house I am staying in. On the right, the weather viewed from the same spot this afternoon. The weather on the left was the sort that decreased the apparent force of gravity. The weather now is the sort that you describe yourself as being under.
Note that it is not only the far away Pyrenees that have disappeared in the right hand picture. The further away bit of the much nearer, green bit of the landscape has also vanished under cloud.
These two pictures (click on either to get it bigger) both involved a lot of cropping, and fiddling about to get the cropping exactly (or approximately exactly) so. Without Photocat, I could never have done it.
I am looking forward to maybe (I promise nothing) doing similar before-and-after snaps involving recently constructed buildings in London.
The Mozart Requiem, or “Rec” (sp?) as performers apparently call it, was duly performed yesterday in the magnificent setting of Narbonne Cathedral, and was wonderful. G(od) D(aughter) 2 and her colleagues sang beautifully throughout.
However, because of an oddity of the Cathedral’s acoustics, men’s voices would often leap out in front of of the general wash of sound, like closely recorded concerto soloists. This happened when the chorus was singing, and it also happened when the lady soloists were singing in unison with the gentlemen soloists. When that was happening, the lady soloists, mezzo-soprano Alice Ruxandra Bell (GD2) and soprano Isabelle Atkinson were, at any rate as heard from where I was sitting, somewhat drowned out by the gents. The gents sang beautifully, but so did the ladies and you had to listen rather too carefully for my liking to realise this.
But towards the end came the Benedictus. In this, rather than the ladies and the gents all singing at once, there were precious moments when the ladies were duetting together, while the gents waited their turn to do likewise, the gents complementing the ladies rather than singing over them. Heaven. At which point you realised why, following an earlier performance of an identical programme in the town of Ceret last year, a repeat performance was requested for Narbonne, with identical forces.
The all-important chorus, despite my acoustic quibbles, sounded great, as did the orchestra.
My feeling at the end of the Requiem was: I wish I could hear that Benedictus again. Not right now, necessarily, but, you know, some time. Was anyone, I wondered, attempting a recording of this occasion? Following the enthusiastic ovation that greeted the performance, conductor François Ragot and his soloists returned to do an encore, and guess what. They did a repeat of the Benedictus. Heaven again.
Earlier, in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Séverine Paris was the mellifluous and utterly assured soloist. The slow movement was, for me, especially eloquent.
Attendance at this event was free of charge, which perhaps was why the Cathedral was so packed. Afterwards, the soloists said what a joy it was to be performing for such a huge throng in such a wonderful building. Being just one of the throng was pretty marvellous too.
Today, I will be journeying from Thuir to Narbonne, to hear a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne Cathedral. I will share the car journey with G(od)D(aughter) 2’s parents, the soprano soloist, the mezzo-soprano soloist (GD2), and the baritone soloist (I wrote about his performance as Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore in June of last year). I heard a tiny snatch of these three singers rehearsing this afternoon. Despite an unforgiving acoustic (quite unlike the cathedral), and the then very incomplete orchestra, it sounded to me like it will be excellent, particularly the three soloists I will be rooting for. I heard nothing of the chorus, but conductor François Ragot is much loved by all and I’m sure they’ll do well.
Later, I also got hear a distant snatch of the piece that will proceed the Requiem, Mozart’s similarly beloved Clarinet Concerto. That too sounded very promising.
I mention all this now (now being the very small hours of the night before) because today (i.e. tomorrow) looks like being a complicated day, and the option of not doing anything more here today (i.e. tomorrow) is one that it will be very convenient to have.
Travel and learn.
I mentioned in a recent posting that picture editing here in Thuir is different. This is because I can’t remember the name of the photo-editing programme that I usually use, and am having to use a different one. And the one I am using is called PhotoCat. Irritating. But one very good thing has emerged from all the irritation, which is that PhotoCat can do cropping which follows the original shape of the picture,which with me is always 4x3. This means that I can now crop a picture and still have the final result the exact same 1000x750 pixels that all my other pictures are, and that means that I can easily do a much smaller version and make. I could do that with my regular programme, but only with a lot of fiddling about.
PhotoCat also does rotating in a way that takes you straight to the biggest version you can then have, also while preserving the same proportions.
Here, for instance, appropriately enough, is picture of a cat which I took in Castelnou yesterday. On the left is the original snap. On the right is the cropped version.
Whether the picture above actually needed cropping is not the point. The point is that cropping, while keeping the shape the same, was painless.
As is rotating. This same cat later did a bit of rotating of its own, so here is the original of it doing that, with my left foot intruding. And on the right is my rotation of its rotating, also cropped:
PhotoCat is a web based application, or I think it is. It works pretty much like you own it, except that if your internet is down, it presumably doesn’t work.
This posting has been done to ensure that I do not forget the name of this programme. PhotoCat. By which I mean PhotoCat.
Postcards like this one, which I photoed this morning, in ... well, you can see where:
Why not just take my own photos?
Well, I do take my own photos, a ton of them, and many of them look extremely like the ones in this photo of a clutch of photos. But what I learn from these picture postcard pictures is what in, in this case, the small historic town of Castelnou is considered by all the others who visit Castelnou to be most worthy of photographic attention. I may agree. I may disagree. Either way, I consider this to be interesting information.
I went Ryanair to Perpignan to get here. I made a point of booking a window seat, but tragically, the wing was centre stage, thus:
I choose that photo to show you what sort of window my window seat was next to. There are nice, clean, easy-to-see-through windows, and there are Ryanairplane windows. So, I didn’t attempt many photos on my journey.
But as we approached Perpignan airport, from the sea, which involved the Ryanairplane obligingly taking a sharp right turn and lowering its wing out of the way, with the snowcapped Pyrenees way out in the distance, I had to at least try:
That being what I finally saw, after I managed to persuade the Thuirian computer that I am now laboriously using, to show it.
I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days. Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking for more amusing sights. I was not disappointed.
I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner. But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle. So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:
Cranes. Is there anything they can’t do?
Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to. But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle. So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.
Imqgine what it would be like to be able to see this from the top of your house:
I don’t have to imagine this. I am doing it now.
Having had no sleep at all last night, I am in no state to say much more. What I can tell you is that those are the Pyrenees.
A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter. But it was Spurs who faltered, twice. They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points. So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:
All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter. Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”. We’ll see. Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap. They did pretty well, for a while.
Spurs? Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too. On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball. Again, we shall see.
As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old. Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.
I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket. This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket. Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.
Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.
When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel. Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting. Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket. I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades. The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life. But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.
Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do. And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still. So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now. On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night. As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains. Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.
I know the feeling. One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo. I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst. I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.
A bit of a meander, I’m afraid. But don’t mind me. You’d best be going now. I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.
While channel hopping in search of an entirely different TV channel earlier this evening, I happened to catch this snatch of dialogue, from the TV show New Tricks:
“When you’re looking for something, it’s always in the last place you look.”
“That’s because when you find it, you stop looking for it, you berk.”
Well, I laughed. And I reckon it’s an improvement on any of these.
I didn’t know New Tricks was such a success in foreign parts:
These curmudgeonly coppers, baffled by new technology, hating modern policing methods and clearly in no state to mount a rooftop chase, proved gripping to viewers across the globe.
Actually, it’s pretty obvious why New Tricks is so popular with TV viewers everywhere. It’s because TV viewers everywhere are mostly the same age as the curmudgeonly coppers in New Tricks, and at least twice the age of all the other cops on television.
Speaking as an oldie myself, I can tell you that jokes about not being able to remember where you put things speak to me, very loudly. Yesterday, my oldie friend was helping me with my Ryanair checking in (another thing not all oldies to put it mildly are very good at sorting out) and during this my debit card was required. So I produced it, from my wallet, and two seconds later I placed my wallet … into a black hole, and couldn’t for the life of me find it anywhere. It just totally vanished into thin air, into a parallel universe, with its entrance portal on the far side of the moon. And then it reappeared, on top of the plastic sugar jar.