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: USA

Sunday June 19 2016

Here is a photo taken by a friend with her mobile, of a construction site in New York, complete with cranes:

image

I love it when friends send me snaps of things they know I will like.

I am particularly glad to see New York construction cranes in action.  After doing that posting about how there has been no construction in the southern end of Manhattan, mentioning absence of cranes as evidence of no construction, I started to wonder if, in New York, they do things differently.  I wondered if they built skyscrapers without using cranes, but just lifting all the stuff up the building, as they built it.  Or something.  But of course they use cranes in New York, same as everywhere else.

Just to be quite sure about that, I googled “construction cranes new york”.  And I was greeted with scenes of crane carnage like you would not believe.

Apparently cranes in New York occasionally fall over, and this is the one time when the average person is interested in them.  As a result, the average person has a totally distorted idea of the positive contribution made by construction cranes to modern society.

Tuesday June 14 2016

So I photo this guy outside Westminster Abbey who is wearing a Chicago Lions shirt:

image

Later I ask him what sport the Chicago Lions play.  He doesn’t know, but the magic WWW in the sky knows, because it knows everything that there is to be known.  Turns out the Chicago Lions play rugby. I couldn’t find any Chicago Lions shirts looking like that one, that colour.  But I could find no other Chicago sports team called that, so that must be it.

In the course of googling I also came across some Lion statues in Chicago, and further news of how these Lion statues were made to wear Chicago Bears helmets (American football), and Chicago Blackhawks helmets (ice hockey):

imageimageimageimageimage

Such is the world.  Such is Chicago.  Such is the internet.

Thursday June 09 2016

Indeed, with cranes and with intervening roof clutter in the foreground:

image

One of the oddities of the internet is that if you google new us embassy london, you get lots of Big Boxy Things, all looking different from each other.  By which I mean, it’s the same box, but the architectural wrapping is different.  Basically what you are looking at is all the different guesses or early suggestions about how it was going to look or how people thought it ought to look, which then just hang about for the next few years.  Until such time as the Big Boxy Thing is finished, at which point huge numbers of new photos of it will drown out the guesses and the failed propaganda.  This makes it hard to know, now, when the Big Boxy Thing is still being constructed, if what you are seeing is the Big Boxy Thing in question, or some other Big Boxy Thing.

But, in among all the imaginings, I found actual photos of the new Embassy as it actually is, in the process of being built, and the above photo is definitely of the actual US Embassy.  No doubt about it.  More views from the same spot, above my head as I write this, here.

What is happening is that Spook Alley, which starts near Waterloo Station, continues via all those James Bond enterprises in anonymous Big Boxy Things, and then takes in the new MI6 building, is now being added to with an American strip of boxes of comparable scale, further up the river on the south side.  This is the Special Relationship in steel and concrete form, and the idea that this relationship is now cooling is visibly absurd.  It has never been more solid.  A whole new district of London is being created, basically for spying on terrorists, and on anyone else that the spooks take against.

As the rest of London expands down river, towards places like the new Container Port way off to the east, governmental London moves in the other direction, up river, west.

Wednesday June 08 2016

I love to write about digital photography, and have been tracking the selfie phenomenon since long before the mere word was invented, way back in the days when I referred to digital photographers as Billion Monkeys (which I don’t anymore (because some people thought I meant Muslims)).  (But also way back in the days when I didn’t worry about showing the faces of strangers, the way I worry now.) And I also enjoy often public sculpture, especially of the more recent and less abstract sort.

So, I love this:

image

There have been complaints, of course, such as from all the commenters there at the Daily Mail.  God forbid that vulgar people should find this vulgar statue so much fun.  Sculpture is Art, and Art isn’t supposed to be amusing.

One of the Daily Mail’s other photos is of bloke photoing himself with his own mobile, in front of the selfie statue.  But I prefer the more subtle response that consists of simply being photoed joining in, thus:

image

For once, the statueness, so to speak, of the statue, the fact that it is made of monochrome metal rather than realistically painted to look like real people, works really well, because it contrasts so nicely with the real people.  It helps that it seems to be exactly life size.

One of the idiot grumpy commenters at the Daily Mail said that Sugar Land is a stupid name and they were obviously desperate for some attention, which they have never had until now.  But wasn’t there a Goldie Hawn movie called The Sugarland Express, or some such thing?  Yes there was.  Early Spielberg.  But, is Sugar Land the same as Sugarland?

According to a later Daily Mail report, it isn’t only their grumpy commentariat that objects to this statue.  Could this be because a lot of people heard about this story partly through the Daily Mail, and those people being the sort that hears about things via the Daily Mail, immediately started objecting, because they object to everything.  Whereas, the ones who liked it hadn’t heard about it so much.

I first found about the statue via Amusing Planet, so of course I was already self-identified as the sort who would be amused.  It was just that the Daily Mail had better pictures.

Friday June 03 2016

Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:

image

And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:

image

The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior.  The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.

To me the two pictures look nearly identical.  Their technical identicality does not interest me.  But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.

Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half.  New York is one of the world’s great cities.  And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.

Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now.  Consider the cranes in these pictures.  Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.

I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.

It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers.  In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way.  Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.

Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:

image

People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike.  But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings.  A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city.  A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.

New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings.  In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.

Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York.  (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground.  That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same.  Good for him.

Thursday May 19 2016

Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):

image

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.

imageThe 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.

Monday April 11 2016

The rise and (I now fondly hope) fall of Donald Trump continues to fascinate.

This bloke says it very well, I think:

Trump is powerfully illustrating the fraud at the core of his case for the nomination. He claims that because he is a successful businessman he would be much more adept than conventional politicians at mastering the intricacies of problems and processes. He will, he brags, figure out how to deal with challenges in a way that maximizes American interests, assembling the best, most competent people to execute his plans of action. As a result, we are told, American will “win, win, win” with such numbing regularity that we will be bored to tears by all the success.

But look what is happening. The process of choosing a Republican nominee for president, while far from simple, is not as complicated as many of the challenges that cross an American president’s desk. There are, moreover, countless experienced hands who know how the process works and how to build an organization nimble enough to navigate the array of primaries (open and closed), caucuses, party meetings, varying delegate-allocation formulas, etc., exploiting or mitigating the advantages and disadvantages these present for different kinds of candidates. Yet, Trump has been out-organized, out-smarted, and out-worked by the competition – in particular, Ted Cruz, whom I support.

Trump is not being cheated. Everyone is playing by the same rules, which were available to every campaign well in advance. Trump simply is not as good at converting knowledge into success – notwithstanding the centrality of this talent to his candidacy. Perhaps this is because he is singularly good at generating free publicity (and consequently minimizing the publicity available to his rivals). Maybe he underestimated the importance of building a competent, experienced campaign organization. But he can hardly acknowledge this because it is a colossal error of judgment – and his purportedly peerless judgment is the selling point of his campaign.

My first reaction to Trump was guilty pleasure, and the belief that he would win.  Now it looks like he won’t win.  Now it looks as though he has done America the huge favour of (a) destroying everyone in the Republican race except the man I support, Cruz, and then (b) showing himself to be unfit to run for President, let alone win, which means that Cruz could now be President, if he can beat Hillary Clinton (or whoever).  Would Cruz now have such a good chance of becoming President without Trump having flailed about like a wrecking ball, wrecking everyone except Cruz?

It is said that Cruz is a Bible Thumper.  (Trump worships only himself.) But for me, frankly, Bible thumping just now is a feature rather than a bug.  I reckon the Western World could damn well do with a bit more Bible thumping than it has been doing of late.

Yes, I’m talking about Islam.  The rich Christians right now are turning poorer Christian’s cheeks a hell of a lot too much at the moment.

On that subject, I also recommend this posting at Mick Hartley’s, where MH has this to say:

What I’d like to see is more robust criticism of Islam itself. Given the role Islam now plays globally in ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda; its insistence that the Koran is the immutable word of Allah; its general refusal to accommodate to the modern liberal scientific world; its misogyny; its violence, this shouldn’t prove to be that difficult. What stands in the way - apart from lack of courage - is that this comes at a particular post-colonial moment in history when we in the West seem to have lost confidence in our own liberal secular tradition.

There is also, perhaps more importantly, a general confusion about a belief and the people who hold that belief, which is perfectly exemplified in the term “Islamophobia”.

It’s a key part of our secular culture that we distinguish between the person and their opinions and beliefs. I think we inherit this to some extent from our Christian tradition - freedom of conscience, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, and all that - but however it was arrived at, it’s a key enlightenment concept that underpins our sense of justice and our sense of democracy. So we should be quite comfortable criticising Islam while maintaining a proper respect for individual Muslims. ...

The word is that Cruz has dared to criticise Islam.  Is that true?  It would appear so.  Good.  The anti-anti-Islam tendency is not happy.  Good again.

Sunday April 10 2016

Here (via Instapundit):

The tricky thing, Adam says, is how many of his clients insist on secrecy. If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know. Adam must balance his goal of spreading awareness of his company, so he can attract more clients, with the benefits of keeping the public in the dark. If people start to doubt the veracity of crowds, his business might suffer. “Right now, we’re still kind of this secret weapon,” Adam says. “We have the element of surprise. Yeah, you might’ve heard about political candidates paying to bring some extra bodies into their campaign events, but it’s beyond the realm of most people’s imagination that crowds are being deployed in other ways. Nobody is skeptical of crowds. Of course, in five years that could change.”

Indeed it could.  And something tells me that this story is going to get very well known, very quickly.  “How much are they paying you for this?” is going to be asked, a lot.

A longer term effect is also going to be that genuine protests are liable to look like they’re fake too.

People have been paid, in cash or kind, one way or another, to do this kind of thing for quite a while.  All that this guy has done is turn it into a pure, if that’s the word, business.

Rentamob
Benjamin Franklin maps the Gulf Stream
When is a creature suitcase idea a creature suitcase design?
Why the GOP top dogs don’t like Cruz
Recent taxis with adverts photos
Cruz?
Feeling the need to meet
How cranes might not keep falling
Drivel
Trump
The fixed quantity of laughter non-fallacy
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
David Pierce on what it’s like using an electric scooter
YAAI3DP
Modernist sand castles at Amusing Planet (and at Mick Hartley’s)
Skyscraper covered in Gothic sculpture proposed for Manhattan
Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Quite a line-up in New York
Anton Howes on the idea of (and the unstoppability of) technological innovation
Old photos of Enceladus
Excellent headline
Jim Glymph gets Frank Gehry past the limits of what is buildable
Machine versus icon in Modern Architecture
Miami cranes
Miniature architecture
A Real (cat) Photographer
Steven Johnson on The Myth of the Ant Queen
An old American car in Tottenham Court Road
Sorry!  No Photo’s!
Smart face on smartphone
Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
BMdotcom quotes of the day from Edward Snowden (and a picture of him)
Bloody Enrique Iglesias drone drama
Seaside muralist
“The temptation to pre-order one of these is almost unbearable …”
Along the river towards Battersea
A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
BMdotcom abusive comment of the day
Another use for a drone
From a cat cushion to Bill Murray and a nude to a demon horse sculpture that killed its creator
Bean drops snow on tourist
Paul Kennedy on centimetric radar
Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
Aerobots
Peter Thiel on striking a balance between optimism and pessimism and on how failure is overrated
Photo-drones fighting in the Ukraine and a photo-drone above the new Apple headquarters building
Cheap long-haul flights coming soon
Miniature photographic fakery
Anthrozoology
Fun
Drone on the White House lawn
BMdotcom What if? of the day
Drugs drones
The wrong kind of cranes
BMdotcom comment of the day
Santa’s tired helpers
Russia unleashes tiger on China
Pictures of Guy Herbert
Recently on dezeen
Bright buildings in front of dark sky
Happy Friday (eventually)
Postrel goes for Gray
Man 3D-prints Thing in his back garden
Cat news
Brian Micklethwait dot com quote of the day
Why aren’t people happier about amazing new stuff?
Capturing moments
Tricycles
A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
Stones created from layers of old paint from car factories
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
I see cats
Organised water
Noah – Cosi at the Imax – Big Blue Cock
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
Amusing cats versus important people
The good done by the Apple Newton
Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
Omaha dead
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
Big Thing news from New York and London - and a picture of climate alarmism losing
How hydrogen bombs work
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
Mark Steyn on Obama’s Hoover Dam and me on paywalls
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
RNSQotD
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
Richard Stallman on software patents
I’ve just been quotulated
Baltimore: cranes - a bridge - scaffolding
Chicago sunset
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
Emmanuel Todd links
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Rothko Toast
Domestic cats are destroying the planet
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
American election talk
Pollsters can’t say where things are but they can say which way they’re going
“No one has to know!”
Ryan wins
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom internet headline of the day
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
Some more presidential debate prophecy
Don’t vote Democrat!
Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
Reasons to think Romney is going to win big
How llamas told us so – in November 2008
And on my other personal blog …
Meow
What’s up with that?
Literally the light switch of leadership
Jobs
University of California chickens coming home to roost?
There’s a Communist in the White House
Google Earth and Mr and Mrs Goose
Space launch monster
Rainbow Bridge
America 3.0
NFL fans and their name-and-number shirts in Trafalgar Square on Saturday
Go Gary Johnson!
The Jobs difference
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
The final Steve Jobs Thing will be a brand new custom-built Apple headquarters
Thrashing India
Another reason to like Colorado
One World Trade Center
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
A potential challenger for Gary Not-Obama
Go Not Obama!
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
Someone doesn’t understand what I mean by roof clutter
Gormley’s South Bank Men
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Raptor not being very stealthy
Wisconsin question
A Spanish geography lesson
Jobs departs from Apple (again)
Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
The Humpty Dumpty Learning Channel
A down and up weekend
Cat defeats alligators
BrianMicklethwait Dot Com QotD
Paulina Porizkova gets older
Another link enema
Google rolls out computer controlled cars
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
More bridge magic
What if the British Empire had stayed together?
To Serve Man
Soros and his money
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Why not just sell them?
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Obama raises the price of tanning
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A demonstration I could join
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Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalisation today
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
Car in in front of sloping houses
The US Navy photos itself
Apple keyboard remains excellent – iPhone software not so excellent
A horizon(tal) sunset slice
Separating the men from the toys - the future of warfare and of sport?
Man photographed by women!
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
Those angry Americans
Two New York stadiums temporarily next to each other
Abstract satellite expressionism
Three airplane photos
Osprey pictures
Giant Bean covered in mirror
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
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Going global
American video
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Barney Stinson on how gay marriage will encourage regular marriage
Green cats - feral cats - cats murdered in Wales - more than 113 cats in Livingston NJ
Prize idiots
Quotes dump
Making the IOC feel important with a personal lubricant
At least libertarianism is understood over there
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Bloke in posh suit holding Real Photographer camera like it’s a Billion Monkey camera!
Anti-politics versus (or just and) the heroic delusion
Billion Monkeys in New York and London!
Someone called Rick wants me to puke on President Obama
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Nothing from me here today but something on Samizdata about cannabis
Meme for the New Depression
The exact same photos I would have taken
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
It’s over
Ruminating about politics and ideology
Media bias as asset stripping
Another pendulum theory
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Wonderwoman picked by Unsuperman
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
Big Pictures
Obama still won’t do nasty
Chivalry and the mad feminists
Mini-lit
How patent lawyers destroyed a mathematician
Africa is big
Another great viaduct
“She put the governor’s jet up on e-Bay …”
Will Wilkinson
Big head and big something else
North Carolina Billion Monkeys mad for Obama!
More at Jonathan Gewirtz
What a lot of circles
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
Modern above ancient
Crackers
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Flickring and Googling for the AMGEN bridge
Man regrows finger
San Francisco from Sausalito
Self-guided photo-tour of the streets of San Francisco
Classic car thinness
A deeper voice
The return of Friday cat-blogging
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
A better than average press release
Brian Hitler!
Instapundit succumbs to PID
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
Talking with Antoine about the US election and about libertarian politics in the US and in the UK
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
The moving bridges of Chicago
The Puerto Rican candidate
I love the internet
He is white and he is poking fun at himself
Ursa major
Making the Mississippi Delta make more land
Obama a loser?
Antoine Clarke on the US Primaries – either Obama will beat McCain or McCain will beat Clinton
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
Go to America and get a Dell Laptop
Antoine Clarke talking about the US Primaries
Billion Monkey Maria Sharapova lookalikes!!!
Michael Jennings photos Disney Hall
Tatiana the normal tiger
A job well done
A bog standard (but rippling and therefore ultra-cool) tower soon to be built in Chicago
Cat stuff on Tuesday?
Michael Jennings on private law in Hollywood
Someone is displaying mutilated cats in San Antonio
Filthy rich
Short posting with short photograph
There ain’t no such thing as a free NHS
A surprising outburst of truth
Thomas Edison - from cheat to creator
Stupid Billion Monkeys!
Tall chess men and tall buildings in the evening
What are the world’s biggest problems?
Very very low cost kitten in space
Telly on computers
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
The Pirates opens in New York
Antoine says why he got the midterms wrong
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 - Middle East, Mexico, USA
Something to bore everyone
Brian and Antoine democracy mp3 number twelve
Latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Brian and Antoine mp3s now into double figures
Brian and Antoine number 9
Election Watch podcast number three
American partisans and American voters
The Superbowl is live on the telly!
He loved my book
Still ill
I am an atheist but I often prefer the Christians