Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
pletcherntp on The ups and downs of English
carpinteyrokpv on Google Nexus 4 photos
carpinteyroiru on The ups and downs of English
pletchernvt on The ups and downs of English
carpinteyroayj on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
carpinteyrovsi on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
6000 on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Darren on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Michael Jennings on Wedding photography (2): Signs
Most recent entries
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
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The Adam Smith Institute Blog
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the blog of dave cole
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The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
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we make money not art
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Category archive: How the mind works
Bookshops are doomed, if my behaviour is anything to go by.
I treat them not as shops, but as showrooms. In them, I inspect potential purchases. Then I go home and see what Amazon will charge for anything I see that looks interesting.
A bookshop is not the only place for me to look for books of interest, but it is definitely one such place. The books in bookshops tend to be the more popular titles. This appeals to me for two reasons. First, popular titles tend to be quite good, and are seldom totally bad. Second, popular titles plug me into what the rest of middlebrow England is reading. I thus break out of the libertarian ghetto which I mostly inhabit when internetting. Even if a book is total rubbish, it’s still total rubbish that many are reading, and in that sense worth me reading.
When in bookshops, I used to jot down titles of interest. Now I merely take photos. Digital cameras are not just for taking pictures. They are also for taking notes.
Here are last Sunday evening’s notes, snapped in the big W. H. Smith at Victoria Station:
In each case, click on each picture to get to the Amazon spiel about it.
It may well be that, given Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price offers, one could, in this or that instance, get a better deal for this or that combination of books than one might on Amazon. But Amazon is the way to bet. You occasionally miss out on small savings with Amazon, but you quite often get larger savings, so you end up well ahead. In this case, the big Amazon bargain turned out to be the Bryson book, which cost 1p plus postage (= £2.81). All that is required is a little patience.
The most expensive of these books, even after Amazon had worked its price magic, was the one about 1216. But I still ordered that one. It sounds really interesting.
Great as the impact of Amazon has been on the new books market, I surmise that its impact on the not-so-new book market has been downright epoch-making. (That Bryson book is not so new, having been released in 2011.) Indeed, I surmise that Amazon has created a huge second hand book market where no such market previously existed.
But this too impinges on the bookshop business, because the big cost of books these days is as much reading time as reading money. If people spend time reading somewhat ancient books that they like, they have less time for the latest titles, as sold in bookshops.
A few years back, I got interested in Ian Rankin’s Rebus books. I read one, liked it a lot, and decided to read them all, in order. Why? Because, thanks to Amazon, I could. For a lot less than a fiver a go, I got Amazon to send me second hand copies of every Rebus I didn’t already have. I don’t see how I could have done this satisfactorily without Amazon.
See also: public libraries.
Also, impact of digital photography on trade, discuss. I’m thinking of how much easier it is to sell something to a stranger, by post, if you can cheaply show them a photo, or even several photos. Very cheaply. The marginal cost of digital photography is: zero. Impact of digital photography on trade: epoch-making. With books, you pretty much know what you will get. But, a frock? An item of furniture? Without even a photo, forget it. With photos, you’re in business. Which is more terrible news for shops.
As has already been reported here, I have been reading Pride and Prejudice on my Google Nexus 4 ultra-mobile computer-with-phone. And, in Chapter X of this book, I read this:
My highlighted version of that last sentence being:
“As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not attempt to have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
So, in Jane Austen time, painters “took” pictures.
I thought that was only photographers. There does seem, does there not?, to be something peculiarly apt about a photographer “taking” a picture. After all, you could only “take” a picture with one click of a mechanical button, as I just did of my Google Nexus 4 with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150, if the picture was in some basic sense already there for the taking, in its entirety. “Take” gets across the difference between photoing someone and painting a portrait of them, by which I mean “making” a portrait.
Perhaps this “take” usage, to describe portrait painting, declined when the painters stopped claiming to produce what we now call photographic likenesses, and, under the competitive influence of actual photography, began to “make” pictures of people, the whole point ofand the whole justification of which was that a mere camera could absolutely not “take” such pictures. Such paintings are made, not taken. To accuse a painter of “taking” a picture would be to accuse him of adding nothing.
When I have a longish spell of silence, such as the one that has just ended lasting ten days, my problem is that I keep thinking that another day won’t hurt, and that when I return, I must do so with a big bang, i.e. a brilliantly big or important posting. Which causes the spell of silence to prolong itself even more.
So instead, what I eventually do is just shove up any old thing, such as this photo, this one photo (easily done), which I recently took near the Houses of Parliament:
What I like is that I am so very obviously in it, in the form of my shadow.
This sort of picture explains why it is so very useful for me not to be using a viewfinder, but instead a twiddly screen such as all cameras I ever buy always have. They think I’m just looking at previous pictures, but I’m not. I’m taking my next picture. Of them. And using only one hand, which adds to the impression of me not taking a photo.
You see people taking pictures with smart phones more and more these days.
This morning, in bed, I pondered the extreme contrast in meaning of the expressions “settle up” and “settle down”. They are not opposites on the same scale, in the manner of “talk up” and “talk down”. They are two completely different expressions.
Having now woken up (again) and got up, I continue to ponder the ups and downs of the English language. What, if anything, might “woken down” mean?
“Fed up” means fed up, yet is seemingly unrelated to merely being fed. “Fed down” means very little, unless you are doing something like feeding a wire down a hole.
“Look down” is clear enough. But “look up” means three almost unrelated things. You can look at the ceiling. You can look up a word. And things can be looking up. In version one of this paragraph, look up only meant two things, but then I realised there was a third. Perhaps there are others.
“Kneel down” exists as an expression. “Kneel up” does not, but ought to, to describe that particular other sort of kneeling.
Out of doors in England, there are “downs”, but no “ups”. Often downs are further up than the regular landscape. The South Downs are hills, are they not?
How difficult it must be to be foreign, and to have to bone up on all this.
Here is another for the Digital Photography Imitates Art collection. I encountered this scene in the Tachbrook Street Market earlier this week, off Warwick Way, just as they were tidying up at the end of their afternoon.
I am sure the guy in the van clocked me as more than somewhat of a perv, but in my opinion photographic talent has a large dose of not caring what others think of you while you’re taking the picture, and another big dose of caring only about the picture.
So here it is:
It was only when I got home that I realised that I had one of those now-you-see-it-this-way-now-you-see-it-that-way pictures. One moment, I am seeing this as the back of a headless, legless, nude mannequin, which is what it was. Next thing I know, I am seeing it as the front of a headless, legless, nude mannequin, but very weirdly lit (from below) and very badly photoshopped into the picture, with strange white lines around it where a much less obvious join ought to be, which is what it was not, but still I see that. Do you agree? Course you do.
Here are two more snaps, just to show more unambiguously what was going on:
I think it’s the superior road surface that makes all this look like art. If it had merely been somewhat crumbly tarmac, it just would have been a few coat rails and a mannequin. Not art at all.
“Grubbings” is a word I inherited from my late father, along with his fondness for the thing that grubbings describes. Grubbings are big building projects in their early, especially below ground level, stage, when they are … well: grubbing, rather than building upwards. My father loved grubbings, and so do I.
It’s often hard to photo grubbings, because they often put a high fence around them and there’s no convenient high-up spot nearby to look over. But at this site, you can climb up some steps (top left) to a Centre Point entrance on the first floor, and photo through the mesh that you see in most of the other pictures.
Even with the internet, it can be hard to know how these kind of things are going to end up. Okay, here are these computer fakes of how they had in mind two years ago for it to be, but who knows if that’s still what they’re thinking.
There is also the fact that there are often so many images of how, at various stages in the design, they envisaged things looking, that it’s hard for a more casual onlooker to keep up. Simpler to just wait and see.
It reminds me of how the Brits confused the Argies during that Brits versus Argies war. Instead of not telling the Argies their plan, the Brits did tell the Argies their plan, and all the other plans the Brits might just as likely be following. The British newspapers were full to the brim with every imaginable plan. And the Argies were baffled, trapped in the headlights of too much information, all of it suspect of course. That’s sometimes how I feel when trying (admittedly not very hard) to find out how some big grubbings in a big city like London are going to end up looking.
Recently I recycled, at Samizdata, some thoughts about Art from favourite blogger of mine Mick Hartley.
On the subject of “as found” art, the sort when it’s Art entirely because the Artist says so, without having done anything else himself besides stick the thing in an Art gallery, Hartley said this:
The logical conclusion to this line of thinking would be that if anything can be art if its maker wishes it to be art, then anything or everything can be art – and we don’t need artists any more. Curiously this is an argument that artists themselves seem reluctant to make.
I just know that there is a connection between what Hartley says there, and Hartley’s (and my) habit of taking photos (and showing the photos of others) of industrial clutter, outdoor gadgetry (such as the communications kit you see on roofs), decaying infrastructure, etc., that resembles abstract art.
The point of such pictures is that you do not only perceive the objects you are photo-ing as things doing a job of some kind, that is, the way their original creators mostly, presumably, perceived them. You see them almost as disembodied effects, quite distinct from what the kit was originally built for, and often no longer even seeing what the objects once were or still are. You see them the way you see abstract art.
(Related to all this is that I like cranes, but what I really like is how they look (like very superior sculpture), rather than: how they work, which is best, which sort does what, etc. (Here is a Hartley crane snap I just found.))
I say you see all this stuff “almost” as disembodied effects. But I think a lot of the fun is that you can also see what they are originally, even as you observe their aesthetic pleasingness or oddity, or resemblance to some particular work of art or type of art. The pleasure you get is a bit like with those pictures which could be two different things, like an old ugly woman or a beautiful young woman, depending on whether you see that bit as an arm or a nose, or whatever. Is it what it merely “is”? Or is it Art?
Hartley is particularly fond of bright colour effects. As are many more recent sculptors.
In connection with all this, here are four snaps taken by me on Tuesday Feb 19th, when I went on a trip to check out Blythe Hill Fields:
Top left was taken on the way, through a train window. Bottom right was taken on the way home, at Whitechapel tube. The other two were taken in the Blythe Hill Fields vicinity.
Those Artists surely do still have a role in all this, because we photographers of abstract-art-like stuff are responding to their challenges. We are saying: We don’t need you. We can see our own Art, thank you. Mondrian rectangles? I’ll give you rectangles. Big crazy sculptures made of industrial waste? Why not photo … industrial waste? And so on. We are both acknowledging the power of and (some of us – like me and Hartley) seeking to diminish the power of the Artists.
The artists have been telling the rest of us to see and enjoy the real world in new and interesting ways, and we are doing that. They started this.
The question is not so much: Are the Artists necessary? They have been, to the process I have described. But: Can they stay ahead? Can they keep on setting new challenges, or do I and Mick Hartley and all the other As Found Art photoers end up being our own artists?
I am groping my way into this subject. The above may be a muddle. But there is something interesting in among all this, I think.
A final Hartley photographic link that also seems relevant.
I recommend trawling back through his blog, as I just did.
LATER: And, as if he’s determined to illustrate all of the above further, there is now this.
While I was on that Waterloo Station upper deck, I espied a couple of adverts next to each other, put out by this organisation.
Here they are together:
And here they each are separately, for you to click on to get them well and truly readable:
Okay, I accept these challenges, and will respond.
The left hand one is a variant on the theme of “a billion people can’t be wrong”. Yes they can. Why has the Qur’an remained unchanged? There are any number of reasons why that would happen, other than what they are trying to say, which is that it is all true. Because it is an object of unthinking worship, rather than of serious study? (Remember that the memorising of it is often done by people who have no idea what they are saying, merely reproducing sounds.) Because people have been too scared to challenge it? Because Islam remains stuck in the seventh century, and unthinking bigotry is built into it?
Science, which the second advert seeks to argue was pre-echoed by the Qur’an, has changed over and over again. And this is a sign of science’s intellectual seriousness and intellectual vitality. Lack of change, century after century, signifies the opposite.
As for the claim of the Qur’an to be science before science, the real theory of the big bang is but the conceptual tip of an intellectual iceberg consisting of a ton of evidence and interpretation, and it is the latter that gives science its force. Science is not merely true. It explains why it is true. It argues about whether it is true. And consequently it gets ever more true. Islam is no truer now than it was thirteen centuries ago.
The good news here is that the claim that the Qur’an is as scientific as real science is a huge concession to the acknowledged intellectual superiority of science. “We have been right all along, and science proves it!” But if they really thought that the Qur’an was the last word on everything, they wouldn’t be dragging science in to back the claim up. Science would be ignored.
But they know that they cannot now ignore science. Science is a challenge they know they have to respond to. On account of it being so much truer and so much better at getting at more truth than the unchanging and unchangeable incantations that they are stuck with.
Cheap hippos are hard to find
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Bad times for the NHS
Domestic cats are destroying the planet
Is Samizdata in danger of becoming a photo-blog?
A (slightly delayed) Happy New Year
An earlier tablet photographer
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
American election talk
“No one has to know!”
Click to see the big picture
James Hamilton on self help and class
Malta Day procession
Doctor Theatre - here very briefly but now there
“I just came across this fascinating photo …”
Surrey might not be relegated after all
Untrue colours from Windows Photo Viewer
Hyde Park squirrel
It got my attention
Literally the light switch of leadership
There’s a Communist in the White House
Is Samizdata dying?
Shard even nearer to completion
Lighter blogging here but not none
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Go Gary Johnson!
Knowing it but not knowing it
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
The final Steve Jobs Thing will be a brand new custom-built Apple headquarters
Big Things and small things
Notes to self but not to you
A board to stick Post-it notes on reminding me of all the things I hope to blog about
Less (here) is more (at Samizdata)
How can I change the double inverted commas in openoffice.org writer from curved to straight-up?
How England have dropped catches yet still won matches
My personal Fixed Quantity of Blogging unfallacy
No fruit juice
Brainwave-controlled cat ears for humans created by Japanese Neurowear
When size matters
Meaning in sport
The Armstrong Gun
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom narcissistic self-quote of the day
The fluctuating fortunes of Praveen Kumar and the devastating impact of Lasith Malinga
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Ireland beating England in Dublin
Sportsmanship by us – bullying by them
Crushed cricket minnows - missable soccer goals - Ashton’s swallow diving
From a strange airplane propeller to the strange strings of a double bass
Underestimating Paul Marks
A Spanish geography lesson
The free market encourages curiosity
Rain on a car
BM.com quote of the day
On pictures that don’t get any bigger when clicked and on the power of the tangential
Richard Dawkins on university debating games
Boxing Day morning at the MCG
The new mainframe
The Ashes: chickens and now a swallow
The Humpty Dumpty Learning Channel
How quickly the mood can change!
More blood to Australia
Cats only seem smart and dogs only seem dumb
Digger and chain
The Brusio spiral viaduct also looks like a toy train layout
Another ephemeron for David Thompson?
Talk at Christian Michel’s
The joy of error correction
Those cameras are getting cheaper
Why does a coffee lover not want coffee when he’s ill?
Paulina Porizkova gets older
James Waterton on a very smart very dumb Russian
Twenty ten twenty ten
Greenies make a video saying: “We’re a bunch of vile greenie-nazis!”
Real life toy trains
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
A picture I want to remember
Anti-aircraft guns may not have killed many enemy airplanes but they did point them out
“An alternative definition of intelligence …”
The names people choose for their children are strange
Obama raises the price of tanning
Farnborough (3): On the photographic appeal of the Red Arrows
Snappy quote from Victor Davis Hanson that may or may not actually be true
Peaceful time in war zone
On cricket and death
Choosing the best pictures by waiting a few days
Big box computers versus laptops
If they don’t want to be British Petroleum anymore they should stop calling themselves BP
Making those Big Statements one slice at a time
Making the effort
I love television
Incoming from Molly Norris!
Molly Norris was just kidding!
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
Why my libertarianism has the look and feel of socialism
“Is this a case of us operant-conditioning them or them operant-conditioning us?”
You know where you are with a book - usually
Muralitharan and Hayden carry on doing badly
Green cat email mystery solved
Getting well soon
Watching IPL cricket beats watching England play rugby
One of the many signs of aging
Two bridges in Portugal
Why do pregnant women now do quite a lot of driving of their husbands?
The right to photograph
My sleep and luggage and bus and fluid travel hell
Andrew Hughes on making heroes of cricketers
Hasselblad hit by custom-built headquarters disease!
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
The angst of team blogging about stories like the CRU hack
Samizdata and Zimbabwe both on the up and up?
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Climbing aboard Samizdata
Graeme Swann - twitterer but no twit
Rude Ian Morbin should have a blog
Why I vote against AGW
All your Quite Interesting questions answered
A muddle of wires
It’s now something at least once every two days
Llyr Williams and Llyr Williams play Bach
Green eyed monster devouring cat food
Ingrid Fliter has a problem with the piano
Busy day and busy night
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
Small photos that look like something else
Thinking thin at the top
Anti-politics versus (or just and) the heroic delusion
“. . . and the air froze . . .”
The Fixed Quantity of Advertising fallacy and the menace of targetted advertising
Unamazing photo of amazing road
MBA - necessary but insufficient
The Rand revival - and some thoughts about Rand’s failure to understand architectural tradition
Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog is now on indefinite hold
Truth is true
Dream magic that spoilt the magic
Nothing from me here today but something on Samizdata about cannabis
Advice to daily bloggers
Link to Samizdata piece about arguments from incredulity
The shadow of Shipman – and forgetting things
Star Wars mosque and rockets mosque
Cricketers don’t have to get along – they just have to turn up and play
Generational taste in furniture
Making the new look and feel like the old
On not seeing Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra
Do not read this if you prefer all epigrams about getting well to be tasteful
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
Jesus above the keyboard instead of beyond it
The Official Story and the Most Confident Alternative
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Another resizing test
Billion Monkey hits 40
Ruminating about politics and ideology
I need to get out less
“This is fun!”
The uses of Jesus
Not the same thing
Wonderwoman picked by Unsuperman
Profundity and silliness
Obama still won’t do nasty
Chivalry and the mad feminists
Rock and roll will die very soon!
North Carolina Billion Monkeys mad for Obama!
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
On classical music voice addiction
Why I prefer to live in a failing neighbourhood
On the nature of the evolution argument
I’m not nearly grand enough to ignore this
Clarkson on Sarah Jessica Parker
The Fat Man is not alone
Pietersen not humbled
A poetic Hornby
Armed is less dangerous
The new Lowe look
I predict that Germany will win
Cisco – fuck off and die
Photos are better
Art is always a value judgement
Avoiding barbarism in the street
Bowled Harmison bowled Harmison
Is my brain failing, or not?
An impulse posting about procrastination
Ting Tings on Ross
The absurdly derided excellence of British weather forecasts
This is why I put stuff up here every day
You must enjoy reading!
The personal and the political
Head Men need to be a bit wrong in the head
A deeper voice
Paul Marks told us so
You tend to listen more carefully when something might go badly wrong
The return of Friday cat-blogging
Sounding like a different country
Fourth innings heroics
Lucky I don’t take cricket seriously
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
Inventions which start as toys
Another don’t-get-it-right-get-it-written Samizdata posting
Probably not right - but definitely written
The romance of new technology – or the drudgery of it
November 15th 2007 resolution - good enough is good enough
The A380 bulge
The drive to see smiles (and they have to be real)
“How much better …?”
Someone is displaying mutilated cats in San Antonio
Understanding is the booby prize exclamation mark
The Emperor Jones
Breaking blog silence
Nine points better than last time!
At the dogs
Dave Gorman sees faces!
Voluntary World 3: Transport Blog illustrates the Muggins principle
Internet problems solved
How compulsion deranges the spreading of ideas
A double cricket surprise
The idea that mental illness does not exist
So that’s how you pronounce Csikszentmihalyi
Words of wisdom from Brian Micklerthwit
Darrin M. McMahon and me and George Orwell on the pursuit of happiness
Cats can be taught!
Shadow and light near Tower Bridge
Glenn Gould on the hereafter
Alan Turing – dead earth and cold wires
Not what it looks like
An improbable England win in the Six Nations
How Stephen Hough took a nap during a piano concerto (that he was playing)
Indexed - blogrolled
But what is so evil about Powerpoint?
Not everything means anything
Everyone in the world is not like me
On letting career decisions make themselves
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
Thoughts on the Age of Google
Blogging is filing for those who can’t
Armando Iannucci on going to classical concerts - and me on not bothering
On China Law Blog and on the reinforcing of prejudices
The thief of time
What The Tyranny of The Facts said
This and that at 9.07am
Same greys! Same colour!