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

Tuesday October 03 2017

To quote my own earlier words about David Hockney:

What I particularly like about him is that he doesn’t indulge in the usual artistic sport of epater-ing the bourgeoisie.  He is content to be bourgeoisie.

And as if to prove me right, in the same book I was referring to, I later encounter (pp. 105-106) this amazingly honest Hockney outburst:

The best form of living I’ve ever seen in Monet’s – a modest house at Giverny, but very good kitchen, two cooks, gardeners, a marvellous studio.  What a life!  All he did was look at his lily pond and his garden.  That’s fantastic.  He was there for forty-three years. ...

Two cooks!  Gardeners!  How rare it is to encounter such full-throated pleasure being taken in the idea of having servants to look after you!

You can feel the people who try to decide these things going off Hockney, and I’m guessing that this has been going on for some time.  I’m not saying that Adrian Searle, for instance, doesn’t mean the things he says in this Guardian piece about Hockney’s pictures over the years.  And I actually rather share some of Searle’s preferences as to which Hockney pictures are nice and which are not so nice.  Searle says they’ve got worse, basically.

However, I suspect that Hockney’s real crime is that he started out looking like a radical homosexualist, but then when homosexuality settled back into being just part of the scenery of modern affluent, successful, happy life, Hockney was revealed as being not angry about modern, affluent, successful, happy life.  He just wanted that sort of life for himself, and for many decades now, he has had it.  He would have been angry only if denied such a life by anti-homosexualists.  But he wasn’t.  As soon as the world started happily tolerating Hockney’s not-so-private life and made his picture-making life affluent and successful, Hockney was content happily to tolerate the world and to revel in its visual pleasures, natural and electronic.  The Grand Canyon!  iPhones!  Bridlington!

Capitalism?  Commerce?  Hockney’s not angry about it.  He’s part of it. He produces it, he consumes it, he applies it to his work, he knows this, and he loves it.  And he has long surrounded himself with a small and happy team of assistants and cooks and bottle-washers of all the sorts that he needs, to enable him, Monet-style, to concentrate on his picture-making.  Hockney is the living embodiment of the glories of the division of labour.  Aka: social inequality.

I surmise that this is what really makes Searle’s readers (i.e. Guardian readers) angry about Hockney, not the claim that his pictures have got worse.  They’re angry about modern life, and they’re angry that David Hockney isn’t angry about modern life.

And I suspect that Hockney is, in the eyes of Those Who Try To Decide These Things, helping to take the Impressionists down with him.

Tuesday September 26 2017

A day or two ago I got an email from someone or something selling greetings cards, claiming that my birthday, September 26th, is the most popular birthday there is.  Today, which is September 26th, the same email with only small adaptations bombarded me again.

The thing about modern individually targetted advertising - emails, adverts that pop up on your computer screen, that kind of thing – is that you don’t trust them.  For instance, what if some know-a-lot computer happens to know that my birthday is September 26th, as many such computers surely do, and thinks that it will get a rise out of me by typing September 26th into its mass-email about what date the most popular birthday is?

So I asked the www, parts of which I do somewhat trust, and according to this Daily Telegraph piece from December 2015, it’s true.  The Daily Telegraph these days is not what it was, but for what it is worth, here’s what they said:

A new analysis of 20 years of birth records by the Office for National Statistics shows a dramatic spike in the number of children born in late September, nine months after Christmas. …

Overall September 26 emerges as the most common birthday for people born in England and Wales over the last two decades.
It falls 39 weeks and two days after Christmas Day, meaning that a significant proportion of those born on that day will have been conceived on Christmas itself.

I don’t know how popular September 26th was as a birthday way back when I was biologically launched.  I’ve always thought of my parents as pretty straight-laced and careful about things like when to have children.  But, did they just get pissed on Christmas Day 1946 and start me up by mistake?  Maybe so.  (Maybe they got pissed carefully.)

Anyway, whatever, happy birthday me.

Monday September 11 2017

My recent life has been seriously deranged by this book, which is about French painting and painters during the nineteenth century.  It’s by Ross King.  Never heard of him until I acquired and started to read this book of his, but the loss was entirely mine.  (Sounds more like a boxing promotor than an Art write.) This is one of the most engrossing books about Art I have ever encountered.

I am learning about several subjects that greatly appeal to me.  There’s French painting, obviously, which I have always wanted to know more about, in particular the rise to pre-eminence of Impressionism, which is what this book is about.  There are fascinating little titbits about the rise of sport, the 1860s being one of the most important decades for that, because of railways.  There’s French nineteenth century history in general, which this book, bless it, contains a lot of.  In particular there is stuff about the 1870 war against the Prussians, and then the Paris Commune.  There is French geography also, French geography being something that many of the more affluent French (including the more affluent artists) were getting to grips with properly for the first time, again because of those railways.  There is a glorious few pages about a big bunch of artists going on strike!  There are huge gas balloons.  This is not the sort of book about paintings that is only about the paintings.  Which means that it is much better than most books about paintings, because it explains their wider context.  It explains what the paintings are of, and why.

I particularly like that the role of the media is well described.  Tom Wolfe did not (with this book) invent that.  Art critics, then as now, were a big part of the Art story.

But, although I know that I will be a much improved human being when I have finished reading this book, I am finding the actual reading of it rather tough going.  For starters, there’s a lot of it, nearly four hundred closely printed pages, and my eyesight isn’t what it was.  But worse, there are constant references to people and to things that a better educated person than I would already know a bit about.  Who, for instance, was Charles Blanc?  I feel I ought to have known this kind of thing, at least a bit.  And then there’s the difference between Manet and Monet, which is all explained, concerning which about the only thing I knew beforehand was that they were indeed two distinct people.  But, I feel I should have known more about exactly which of them painted exactly what.  I could have whistled it all up from the www, but I do most of my reading away from my computer, because that way my computer does not then distract me.  Ross King never assumes any knowledge, and introduces everyone and everything very politely, but I am still struggling to keep up.

Another problem is that this book is packed with little stories about excitements of this or that diverting sort, any one of which could have been the basis of an entire book, but in this book often get just one or two paragraphs.  (I’m thinking of those titbits about sport, especially horse racing.) Accordingly, I find myself wanting to stop, to contemplate whatever fascinating little yarn I have just read, rather than dutifully ploughing on.

But plough on I am determined to do.  Until I finish, you here must make do with inconsequential postings, based on things like my inconsequential photos, which I happen to have been trawling back through in recent days.  But when I finally do finish this book, there may be some rather better stuff here.  I promise nothing, but I have in mind to pick out some of those diverting little stories, and maybe also sprinkle in some pertinent paintings.

I also hope (but promise nothing) to do a more considered review of this book for Samizdata.

Thursday August 31 2017

Here.

I heard about this soon after it happened, because I had been semi-following the game, on account of it being at the Oval and involving Surrey.  When it said “play stopped by crowd trouble” or some such thing, here, I at once tuned into the internet radio commentary, and replayed the strange moment when they saw this arrow stuck in the pitch and the players all either walked off or ran off.  Later, they reckoned the arrow must have come from outside the ground, not from one of the stands.  So, not crowd trouble after all.  Good.

Usually, when there’s an act of obvious terrorism by an obvious terrorist, the BBC makes a big thing of not jumping to the obvious conclusion about why it happened.  But this time, it really wasn’t obvious, and so far as I know, it’s still a mystery.  I mean, why fire just one small arrow at a four day county cricket game, which was already heading for a draw, watched by a largely empty stadium?  A small shower of arrows, into the crowd, and preferably a dense crowd, well, that might have caused some real grief and real panic.  As it was, it felt more like some bizarre accident rather than anything very malevolent.  A kid maybe?  Or just someone really, really stupid.

Mind you, I’d not be nearly so relaxed about all this had Surrey been chasing down a target of about a hundred, which earlier in the day it looked like they might contrive to be doing, despite all of yesterday having been rained off.  Had this mysterious incoming arrow turned a probable Surrey win into a draw, then clearly Middlesexist terrorism would be an obvious motive to be looking at.  But Middlesex had already batted themselves out of trouble, and a game that was already dead on its feet managed to get put out of its misery in a way that was really rather interesting, entertaining even, given that nobody got hurt.

Surrey have made a point of drawing games this year.  They have scored just one win so far, but are sitting pretty safe in mid-table.  Yorkshire have two more wins than Surrey, but fewer points, on account of Surrey having only lost one game, with their other eight all drawn.  Yorkshire have won three but lost four.

Meanwhile, test cricket has also been pretty lively, but in a good way:

So, Test cricket is in danger, is it? Ha! Test cricket laughs in the face of danger. Twice in the space of 14 hours, the game’s world order has been thoroughly rattled, with two of the most memorable results in recent years. The first jolt came at Headingley, where West Indies upset England for their first victory in the country since 2000; the next day in Mirpur, Shakib Al Hasan bowled Bangladesh to a thrilling, historic maiden win over Australia.

The danger, that test cricket just laughed at, being the danger of tedium and of insignificance.  Not arrows.

Sunday June 25 2017

I’ve been reading Adam Zamoyski’s book about Chopin.  So far, I love it.  And I love learning so much about a fascinating man, of whom I knew just about nothing besides his music, and the fact that he was Polish and is a very big deal in Poland, but that he lived mostly in France.

I have, in particular, learned just exactly how Polish Chopin was, and was not.  His father, Nicholas Chopin, was French.  But when the Polish aristocrat for whom he worked went back to Poland, Nicholas went with him.  In Poland Nicholas married a Polish woman, and Frederick was thus born in Poland, but with his French-sounding name.  It sounds French because it was French.

So far, I have reached the stage where Chopin has played his first few concerts at which he performed, to great acclaim, his first few compositions, most of them for piano and orchestra.  (I am very fond of these pieces, the two piano concertos and the various other one movement works for piano and orchestra.)

As for how Chopin played, Zamoyski supplies this especially pleasing quote, from an unnamed Warsaw newspaper critic:

He emphasised but little, like one conversing in the company of clever people, not with the rhetorical aplomb which is considered by virtuosos to be indispensable.

But Chopin found it difficult working with orchestras, and I’m guessing that this is partly why that stopped, and he concentrated henceforth on solo works.  But as I think the above quote reveals, that probably suited his manner of playing better.

Friday June 23 2017

The internet loves animals, especially cats and dogs, and I went looking for Grenfell Tower animal stories.  Because, there’s always an animal angle, to just about any story, even if it wasn’t an animal story to start with.

Did many pets die in the Grenfell Tower disaster?  I wasn’t able to answer that one.  But there have been a number of stories about pets who either can’t now stay with their current owners, or whose owners have died.  Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, for instance, is helping out with temporary pet accommodation.

Animals were also heavily involved in the search for bodies in the wreckage, as MSM news explains:

Specially trained dogs are also vital to the mission. The search process is painstaking, and as dogs are smaller, more agile, and have such a keen sense of smell (better than any technology), the animals have been deployed at more challenging areas.

The upper floors of the 24-storey high rise, those most damaged, and where people are most likely to have been killed, benefit particularly from the dogs’ expertise.

The canines come from the LFB and the MET’s urban search crews. They’re given special equipment, and even little boots to protect their feet from heat and broken glass. While obviously dangerous, no fire dog has ever been harmed while out on an operation.

...

The dogs mean the sad and devastating process of finding the missing will be quicker. They can get into parts of the building humans simply can’t get to.

I particularly like the bit about those “little boots”.  Nice touch.  Both in the sense of what this detail adds to the story, and in the sense that this must make life easier for the dogs, despite any doubts the dogs might have when first made to put their little boots on.

More about these dogs and their boots, with a picture, here, in a story from last year.

Friday June 16 2017

It feels hard to write about anything else in London, other than that towering inferno.  This story will run and run, because it partakes of both genuine emotions of the strongest sort, and politicians and media people eager to fan the flames.  What happened?  Who exactly has died?  Whose fault was it?  You can’t blame the media.  Their job is to tell true stories, and this is one hell of a true story.

image

Daily Mirror story about a barking dog.

Politically, if you had tried to hand-craft a disaster calculated to do the most possible damage to the Conservative government, and to most encourage what now seems to be a rising tide of Corbynism, you could hardly have done it more perfectly.  Those political people who are now fanning the flames are filled with passionate moral self-confidence.  How on earth the long-term politics of all this will pan out, I have no idea.

Would a Corbynite government really turn Britain into Venezuela?  Probably not, but why take the chance?  That’s what I say.  But will enough of my fellow Brits agree with me, when the time to say comes round again?  As of now, it feels like: no.

Oh well:

Spero infestis metuo secundis.

6k liked that too.

Wednesday June 14 2017

In the movie of that name, the inmates were all rich and glamorous.  Well, they would be, they were played by movie stars.  And the fire spread slowly enough to last for a whole movie.

This tower contained mere people, and the flames spread very quickly, like … wildfire.

I presume that the social media are ablaze with images of this tower, but for me, being the age I am, it’s the Evening Standard that really brings these sorts of things home:

imageimageimageimageimage

As you can see, they originally went with “Inferno”, but later changed it to the more politically charged “Death Trap”.  On the telly, the story was already developing, along the lines of: they were warned.  But they did nothing.

The Evening Standard story so far.

Towering inferno
And in Other creatures news …
Scott Adams tries to outwit the shadow banners with kitten-tweets
The god that failed
Flats (plus a fantastic Super Bowl)
Trumping the Opera House
Trump makes headlines a year ago
They’re back!
Referendum day graphics
The Sugar Land selfie statue
Introducing Mark Littlewood
Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
Rentamob
Punitive collisions
Blimp photoed to look like a big arse
Cruz?
Trump
Polishing
Magnificent The Wires! sculpture gets noticed because of a concrete temple next to it
RIP David Bowie
Ambtious plans for driverless flying cars
Cats on an iPhone and Anton Howes on video
Milo Yiannopoulos
Excellent headline
Corbyn – and an advert bus
I am now really enjoying the Rugby World Cup
Tricycle transport
A testicle eating killer fish headline and drone dramas
On photos and headlines
William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Alcoholic Architecture sign
Big Ben through the legs of Gandhi statue in Parliament Square
Photoing and communicating the devastation of Tianjin
Out and about with GD1 (4): On the survival of professional photography
What writing for Samizdata should now (for me) mean
Smoke over west London
England crush NZ (and Surrey beat Leicester)
Two Lady covers
Bloody Enrique Iglesias drone drama
An interesting front page story
An alien robot playing the cymbals and paps
A forgotten war
Oh yes it could
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
Big 4
The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
“The image was taken at long range and therefore is deceptive …”
I said it twelve years ago
January newspaper pages
Photo-drones fighting in the Ukraine and a photo-drone above the new Apple headquarters building
Miniature photographic fakery
Anthrozoology
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Photo-drone wars to come
I finally did something for Samizdata
How the internet is cheering up Art
Cats – and technology
The Poppies (1): What they look like
A cat book and a feline front page
Why I am a point-and-shoot photographer rather than a Real Photographer
Only with a computer
Letterz
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 on the impact of digital photography
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