Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Media and journalism

Monday November 17 2014

This morning I did a rather negative would-be posting about some Art, Art which had at first rather appealed to me but which, upon further consideration, I decided I did not much like or admire.

But then I realised that my rule for stuff that other people are doing with their own time and money and others are buying and enjoying with their own money and time is for me just to walk away.  Why moan?  The world is full of stuff I don’t much care for.  So long as I don’t get taxed to pay for it, or made to pay attention to it against my will, what on earth is the point of me seeking it out and bitching about it?

For me, this is one of the great benefits that has been brought about by the internet.  In the age of the mass media, you had this whole tribe of professional hacks who, day after day, week after week, were made to pay attention to things which quite often they would rather not have been paying attention to.  Inevitably, an air of irritation, even hatred, entered the souls and writings of these people.  The subtext, and often the text, was: I wouldn’t have picked this in the first place.  Only the Culture vultures who really were allowed to pick whatever cultural prey they were inclined to descend upon were able to communicate genuine pleasure, because they were the only Culture vultures who truly felt pleasure.  The rest of Culture writing was a mixture of grudging reportage and grumbling, with the occasional cheer when some hack found himself not clock watching, not trying to think of what the hell nice things he could say about something he considered nasty, or worse, just … shrug.

But now a tidal wave of amateurs has crashed into the culture-writing game and it has become, well, a game.  It has become fun. We bloggers and twitterers pick on stuff we like, and say: hey, this is cool, this is fun, this is good, this is something I really enjoyed immersing myself in.  Maybe you’ll like it too.  Commenters and other twitterers then say things like: well, I prefer this, or this, or that or that.  If, on the other hand, you said you didn’t like something or other, the response from other www-chatterers is, not unnaturally, just to say: well then why the rude word do you waste your time moaning about it?  Walk away.  If what you are moaning about is some Big Thing, heavily promoted, made much of, that everyone else seems to be paying attention to, fair enough, you are warning the rest of us off it.  But if it is just some little thing you found on the internet and you don’t like it, so rude-word-ing what?

For as long as there was just the one big Culture, that the media people agreed or had to agree was It, then all who wanted to be Cultural had to pay attention to that Culture, whether they liked It or not.  It was their duty, just as it was the duty of professional Culture-writers to write about It, to pay attention to It.  There was an air of joylessness and obligation about It all, like a queue in a passport office.

Favourite-blogger-of-mine Mick Hartley has written from time to time about the way that Art is now turning into fairground entertainment, often implying that this is a bad thing.  I also notice this when I visit London’s South Bank Arts enclave, which now has a much more “visitor attraction” feel to it than it used to have.  Hartley does do quite a lot of moaning, but mostly the Cultural stuff he does now is drawing attention to something he likes, thinks deserves to be more noticed, more enjoyed, more celebrated.  His posting today is a perfect example of this.  It’s not Art, it’s street art.  Street art is fun, it appeals to people, and it is also where a lot of the official Art action is now, because the Artists know that these street people are upstaging them.

Political money is now tighter than it was a decade and more ago, and if the Arts fraternity want yet more money, they must try appealing to their audiences rather than baffling them or insulting them.  They must now try to give pleasure, the way they tended not to in the twentieth century.

But there is more than economics going on here.  After all, there is still a hell of a lot of Official Money being competed for.  There is still a great big Culture out there, still being paid for, if not enjoyed.  No, the other difference is that there is also that damned internet out there, where regular punters get to say what they really think about it all.  If they are being got at by Culture, they can now get back at it, by saying: bollocks, and: I prefer this, or this, or that or that.  It’s a different world.

And you’ll never know what it was I just moaning about.  I will instead look for other things, that I actually like.

The sort of place I will be looking will be at places like Colossal, which, by the way, is where I found the thing that I liked at first but then didn’t like, that got me started on all this.  I don’t like everything at Colossal by any means.  But I like a lot of it.

Or, maybe this is really a posting that is not really about Art as such, more about getting old, as so many postings here are.  As you get old, you stop worrying about what Art is, if you are one of those people who ever did worry.  You just stop paying attention to Art, as in: Where Art Is Going.  It will go where it goes, and you go where you want to go.  It’s not the world getting happier.  It’s not Art getting more fun.  It’s just you.  It’s just me.

Ah blogging.  You can change your mind in mid posting, or even right at the end if you feel inclined.  What’s that you say?  You disapprove.  I must make up my mind.  Must I?  I tell you what, you go away and read something else, something you’d prefer.  This was just a bit of fun, and for you it wasn’t.  Forget about it.

Friday November 14 2014

Every so often I toy with the idea of dumping my Feline Friday habit.  But what am I supposed to do with a headline that reads FBI’s most wanted cybercriminal used his cat’s name as a password?  Just ignore it?  Hardly.

And now that I am already doing a cat posting with a hi-tech vibe about it, how about What robots can learn from cats.  One of the things robots can learn from cats, it would seem, is how to land on their feet without doing themselves damage.  My favourite bit of this report is where some computer genius says:

“It’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the sudden stop at the end.”

How very true.

More hi-tech plus cats news: Buy your cat a robot: Mousr acts like real prey.

But as the tsunami of cattery on the www roars out across the planet threatening to drown everyone in feline freak facts, the backlash is getting underway.  Can a wave cause a backlash?  It can now.  What research says about cats: they’re selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures.  They don’t love you, they slaughter endangered bird species, and they spread parasites that do your head in.

Finally, here are a couple of pictures I took last Sunday, in a Portobello Road coffee cafe:

image image

On the left there, Perry de Havilland (Samizdata supremo) shows me a cat picture on his mobile, and on the right, on Michael J’s mobile, no cat connection, but far too good a headline to ignore.

People drone on about how our new toys have replaced real socialising.  But here we observe them spicing up real socialising, by giving us something to chuckle about, while sitting right next to each other.

Also mentioned during our little bit of face-to-face socialising was this epoch-nailing scene.

Sunday November 09 2014

Those Tower of London Poppies are causing quite a stir, with politicians of all parties, and people too, saying they ought to stay there longer, beyond Remembrance Sunday (today), beyond 11am on Tuesday, and maybe as long as Nov 11th 2018, so as many people as want to can get to see them.

I’ve checked them out twice myself, and took many photos of the sort that are presumably now tsunaming all over cyberspace.  I already mentioned these Poppy trips in passing, in this and in this and in this, but this is the first Poppy Posting here that is specificallly about The Poppies, hence the number in the title.

Here are a few of my “what it looks like” snaps (click to get them larger):

image image image
image image image
image image image

What these snaps of mine don’t show (although 2.1 and 2.3 hint at it) is the panoramic hugeness of it all.  For that I turn to Goddaughter 2, who accompanied me on my first Poppies visit.

She had her mobile phone with her, which has an app for taking extremely wide photos.  By combining these two snaps …:

image image

… she arrived at this:

image

That is about two thirds of it.  You can see all of it only in pictures like this one

I can entirely see why thousands upon thousands of people have wanted to come and gaze at these Poppies, because the effect is very striking, and the vast scale seems entirely appropriate.  There is one poppy for each British soldier who died, the Britishness of the poppies being the excuse for the Guardian to have a go at it all, in such postings as this one and this one.  But if I was French or German or Turkish and I saw this huge spread of poppies in London, I don’t think I’d feel that my dead ancestors were being dissed in any way.  And actually, I think I did hear quite a few foreign languages being spoken when I visited.  I mean, why wouldn’t a nation mourn its own dead?  I didn’t feel any resentment, when I recently visited a French graveyard with lots of war dead in it, that the ancestors of me and my fellow countrymen were being omitted from the story, any more than I do when I chance upon a war memorial in England with only local local names on it.  Why would I? 

The odd thing is, my two personal sets of ancestors had no WW1 deaths in them, or not one that anyone in my particular little family ever talked about.  This was not because of any general reluctance to talk about such things.  In WW2, we lost my mum’s older and only brother, Uncle John, and that was talked about every now and then, as were the two uncles who fought in WW2 and survived.  But stories about my ancestors in WW1?  Nothing.  I’m guessing this is a bit unusual.

Friday November 07 2014

Yesterday I took this photo, in the remainder shop on the other side of the intersection from the Old Vic.  I thought I was photoing that book about procrastination.  My immediate thought was that I should buy it, read its contents carefully and apply those lessons straight away to my hitherto hideously postponed life.  But then I thought: I’ll get it later.

image

But look on the right there.  A cat book.  I didn’t even see that when I took the photo.  They’re everywhere, I tell you.

And as if determined to prove my point, today is also a Feline Friday at the Daily Mirror:

image

I’m talking about the front page on the right.  The story, of which I can make neither head nor tail, can be read here.

The catification of the mainstream media continues.  Make way tasered cannibals.  Flesh eating zombies, your days dominating the front pages are also numbered.

Tuesday November 04 2014

The other day, I forget which one, I worked something out that had been confusing me. Why, given all the fun I get out of photography and given all the time I spend doing it and thinking about it, have I not immersed myself in all the technicalities of photography?  Why is it that the only setting on my camera that I regularly use is the one called “Automatic”?  Why am I no nearer to understanding manual focussing than I was a decade ago?

The answer is that it is the point-and-shoot sort of photography that strikes me as the most interesting sort of photography now happening.  Not in art galleries where the latest black-and-white photos of plague victims or under-age African soldiers are on display, in photos that cost more to buy than paintings and took more trouble to produce.  That is all so twentieth century, and even, actually, nineteenth century.  What counts now, for me, are the photos you can take with your mobile phone camera, or with the jumped-up mobile phone camera that I use, and the sort of photos that regular people are now able to take, of regular stuff rather than of foreign catastrophes that someone will pay them to take art-gallery standard photos of.

In short, I take point-and-shoot pictures because I like to be part of history, and this is where the history of photography now is.  (If you disagree, realise that what you are reading is not an argument.  It is a description of a feeling.)

What I have is called a “bridge” camera, but all that this means is that it is a bog-standard point-and-shoot camera that takes somewhat better photos when you go click, and which has a twiddly screen, and a lens that can go from close-up to mega-zoom without any faffing about with multiple lenses.  I have the best cheap camera that I can get, rather than the cheapest proper camera.  Oh, you can set my camera on manual and go all Real Photographer with it.  But if you want to do that, you should have a proper Real Photographer camera, not a bridge camera, and you should have a rucksack full of lenses, each perfect for each oh-so-carefully-taken shot.  What “bridge” means is the best camera you can have without having to give any thought to “photography”.  Instead, you just think about the picture.  More precisely, you think about what you see and which of the things that you see are the most interesting, and why.

My camera is not really any sort of “bridge”.  Bridge suggests that I am going somewhere with it, somewhere different, as in different from the technical point of view.  But I’m not.  Technically, I am staying right where I am.  If I am getting better at photography, it is because I am getting better at choosing what to point my camera at.

A bridge camera is rather like “crossover” music in that respect.  Crossover music is not for people who are actually doing any crossing over, from one sort of music to any other sort of music.  Crossover music is its own sort of music.  The people who like crossover music (and there’s nothing wrong with that) are people who like crossover music and who will continue to listen to crossover music, with no actual crossing over from any other sort of music to any other sort of music happening at all.

No links, because I thought of this all by myself.

Monday October 20 2014

I sympathise with whoever wrote this:

West Brom can hardly believe their luck. Being denied a win at the death by Manchester United is one thing, but having teased a previously woeful Marouane Fellaini back to life must really does takes the biscuit.

“Must really does takes the biscuit.” I reckon he was choosing between, not two, but three different ways of saying what he was saying, but managed to combine all three.

This is the kind of mistake that can only happen with a computer.  If you were merely writing, or typing with an old school typewriter, there is no way you would have put that.

When I perpetrate something like that, and I frequently do, and if I later spot the mistake, I then allow myself to correct it, no matter how long ago I made the mistake.  Is this wrong?  My blog, my rules.

A subsection of Sod’s Law states that whenever you mention someone else’s mistake in something you say on the www, you will make a similar sort of error yourself.  If I do this in this posting, I will not correct my error, but will add something “LATER”, in which I identify my error.

Computers.  New ways to screw things up.

I attended a talk this evening at Christian Michel’s about robots.  The point was made the robot cars probably will be safer, but every once in a Blue Moon, there will be a truly spectacular disaster, of a sort impossible to perpetrate with old school cars.

Saturday October 18 2014

This funny letter posting got me googling for Viz, which has the best letters page bar none.  I found a clutch of Viz epistolatory masterpieces here, of which this is my favourite:

What is it with vegetarians and their veggie sausages and burgers?  I’m a meat eater, but I don’t go around making carrots and sprouts out of beef.

This is also a good one:

I work in a call centre in Norwich and we’ve just been told our jobs are moving to India.  I’m so excited!  I’ve always wanted to visit India and with the salary they pay me I’ll be able to live like a Maharaja over there.  Well done Aviva, keep up the good work.

Interesting piece about the rise and fall and rise of Viz, here.

Monday October 13 2014

When someone shows the world a picture like this …:

image

… I’m like, as the younger element now puts it, yeah yeah.

But when a newspaper, the kind they still print on paper, reports that they are about to sell bits of it, then that, I say to myself, is actual news.  They’re actually going to build this bizarre Thing.  Next to Battersea Power Station.

And by selling the flats in advance, I guess they are also crowdfunding it.  Interesting trend, that, I think.

Expect (although I promise nothing) more pictures from me as it takes shape.  And that is quite some shape, at any rate in the pictures.

Battersea flats are about to be sold and therefore are about to be built
Not about cats
A swimming pool in a skyscraper
PID at the Times
Cat photo and cat news
Robyn Vinter is wrong about Google Glass
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Pictures of soon-to-be-built London Big Things
Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
Amusing cats versus important people
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Nowadays a picture is no longer worth a thousand words
Friend on telly
Broad thrives properly on getting abuse
Alex on Quentin
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
The Times of May 24th 1940
Photoing each other - and photoing stuff in the canal
The Alex Singleton blog
A Fleet Street lunch
Bad times for the NHS
Australia v South Africa starts now
American election talk
Pollsters can’t say where things are but they can say which way they’re going
“No one has to know!”
On how being linked to enables you to tell your story as you wish and why long titles are good
Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
Reasons to think Romney is going to win big
“I just came across this fascinating photo …”
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Kevin Dowd last night
Alex Singleton has a new blog
More shiny new headquarters buildings
Does Kevin Pietersen have a weakness against bowlers?
Release Ai Weiwei
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
Why I prefer blogging to writing for a magazine
Leytonstonia
Wagga Wagga has been flooded by the Murrumbidgee River
Obamanomics dod not work
Cats only seem smart and dogs only seem dumb
Scientology enthusiast is now Climate Change Minister
A blog posting linking to a science article
Photoing the World Cup
Sneezing chat
Balls balls up
Three Gorges Dam picture
A demonstration I could join
This is not Mohammed
Alex Singleton on Photoshop CS5
Gordon Brown proves Guido was right about him from the start and Ed Balls not nice either shock
We’ll always have Chelsea
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Will I ever tire of writing about the relationship between the new media and the old?
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom understatement of the day
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
The right to photograph
Those angry Americans
Blur
Cricket talk tonight
Three more headlines and how the internet remembers it all
Photographic coup
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
India looking good against Sri Lanka
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
Going global
American video
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Correction
Rude Ian Morbin should have a blog
Environmental
Was it Sweeney?  And what else were they trying to suppress?
Why I vote against AGW
Quotes dump
Another London lump?
Photo by me in a newspaper!
Edinburgh’s skyline doesn’t suck
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Go Gordon!
Thoughts on the Go Gordon petition
Fantasy budgets
Globalisation Guido – and other Bright Young Things
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
“What did you just say?”
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Clay Shirky on newspaper doom
Headlines of the times
It all depends on whether there is anything worth Twittering
Effing newspapers
Photoing the Police
Actually quite a big cat
You don’t wait for it – you go looking for it
Billion Monkeys liked photoing the nastiest poster!
The impossibility of God but the possibility of Michael Flatley’s cure and of super-super-flees
Random links
Evening Standard hand-done billboards go printed shock
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
Photo-ing the news in Evening Standard headlines
An abstract view of Kings Place
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
Brought?
Not the same thing
Big Pictures
Ken Livingstone was beaten by the billboards!
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
Even if people fake them the government still likes them
Smog returns to Beijing
It’s blue!
Portable copiers and copying jokes
The writing on the wall
Mainstream media bloggers and the problem of my blogroll
Turmoil
Seven Napiers – three Ansaris - Gilchrist
Voice of God journalism
The new Lowe look
I predict that Germany will win
Brown leapfrogs Cameron with 36 point jump
Permanent Bold Disease strikes Brassneck
Oddities and specialisms
I really should stop buying newspapers and magazines
The absurdly derided excellence of British weather forecasts
News Media Coalition versus Indian Premier League
Travis Perkins of Pimlico Road are not good at delivering timber
A blogger mutates towards being a journalist
A better than average press release
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Obama a loser?
Paris Hilton and the Something Else First rule
Photo that hits the mark
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Pictures of the year
Treating the internet like the printing press
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
When the penny drops
Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance
For Skimbleshanks read Tizer
Digital Camera Review error
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
Three … thirty six … sixty one … a hundred a forty eight …
Blogs are not cacophonous
Facebook
Real Photographers worship the Logo
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Back lit Billion Monkey lady and back lit Saturn!
Left behind?
Tom Wolfe on the only real fun of writing
Assorted London quota photos
Billion Monkeys photo their own demo!
Some plain English
Magic Andy makes magic dragon
The Mainstream Media finally get around to noticing Andy and his sand sculptures
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
Real world
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
Susan Hill on not having to be up-to-the-minute about book blogging
When “it’s” becomes “it is” – plus a picture of some Mac users
Micklethwait’s Four Star Theory of the Internet
Storms rip through London
Screwed by Google – and Google screwed by the kitten-bloggers?
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
Me on 18DSTV
A breezy day in London
Spreading the word for free
Crickinsomnia
Me on the intertelly tonight
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
A dangerous development
Editing as falsifying
Me on 18 Doughty Street tonight
29th and 14th
Patrick and Brian talk about the War on Terror - thoughts about podcasting
Treacle
Kristine writes down some of what Adriana said
Jeffrey Archer - blogger
Lords pictures from last Monday
Guido’s narrative
Billion Monkey flash strikes twice! - 7/7 a year later - Office Space on TV even though I own it
Big Media crap and football cock-ups
Dnalgne no emoc! - Billion Monkey snaps mental Maradona!
Latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Wisden on the back foot
Billion Monkeys stop cover-ups!
Giving up rouge for Lisbon
Old media
The latest Brian and Antoine Election Watch podcast and some thoughts on democratic nastiness
Lightning strikes twice
The internet is creating new video stars
How links have weakened the mainstream media
Wrong comparison
Quoted but not linked to
Blogging fun and blogging profit
I won’t be doing any television myself in the near future but in the meantime have a watch of this
Fake but true?
“What on earth gives every computer owner the right to exude his opinion, unasked for?”
Those cartoons
The problem of long blog postings
Deep fried eyelids anyone?
“The Internet has also brought a new class of people into politics”
Talking about my generation
The Great Gulf War?
TV.com
Ted told you and I told you Ted told you