Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Michael Jennings on On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
Darren on How the internet is cheering up Art
Michael Jennings on Marginal Eurostar economics
Michael Jennings on Marginal Eurostar economics
Natalie Solent on Union Jacks with colours played around with
Natalie Solent on Union Jacks with colours played around with
Brian Micklethwait on Union Jacks with colours played around with
Natalie Solent on Union Jacks with colours played around with
Valent Lau on The Poppies (1): What they look like
Alan Little on The Poppies (1): What they look like
Most recent entries
- Phone (and cash) box
- The Magic Flute at the RCM
- The Poppies (4): Bald Blokes photoing them
- On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
- Quota photo from Paris (also a selfie)
- How the internet is cheering up Art
- Marginal Eurostar economics
- Looking down through the see-through Tower Bridge walkway – but what about looking up through it?
- Cats – and technology
- Hot dog shadow selfie
- As found not-art
- The Poppies (3): People taking selfies
- The Poppies (2): The crowds
- Photographed flatness that doesn’t look flat
- The Poppies (1): What they look like
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Adventures in Capitalism
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Conservative Party Reptile
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we make money not art
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This and that
Category archive: Japan
Yes, dezeen (Dezeen?) continues to be a favourite wwwspot for me. Here are some recent dezeen postings that got my attention, for this or that reason.
First, news that there will be a viewing platform on top of the Walkie Talkie:
The Walkie Talkie Skygarden has yet to open and will, I’m sure, come with a catchier name. But already it is in obvious competition with the Shard – pricey versus free, ascetic steel and glass versus sylvan repose, supreme height versus not being able to see the Walkie Talkie. ...
Very droll. The original was about how you couldn’t see the National Theatre from the National Theatre. But me, I am warming to the Walkie Talkie, and I don’t just mean I’m standing under it and being fried. I especially like how it looks from a distance. The point being: it looks like the Walkie Talkie. Not just some anonymous rectangular London lump, no, that particular Big Thing. Yes it is not properly beautiful. But neither is London. Besides which, anything that just might compete down the price of going to the top of the Shard has my vote. I’ll definitely make my way up there, as soon as they’ll let me
Next up, isn’t fun when someone hitherto impeccably cool suddenly turns into Grumpy Old Man:
Speaking to Dezeen, the 85-year-old English designer said tech products like the iPhone and Apple Watch were turning people into zombies, adding: “I’ve got a certain cynicism of Apple and their motives. It’s a bit of a monster.”
“It’s a game they’re playing and it’s an absolutely straightforward, commercial, ruthless game, and it’s dressed up nicely because they’ve got some talented people in their employ,” he said.
Grange, who was knighted in 2013 for services to design, believes that the tech giant has successfully turned Modernism into “good commerce”, using aesthetics to dress up a self-perpetuating product cycle.
“There are probably few companies around now that absolutely answer the prospect that Modernism is good commerce,” he said. ...
Modernism is good commerce? Can’t have that.
… “They’ve been so bloody ruthless that you almost get no choice in the matter.”
“Almost” there means “not”. (See also: essentially, basically, fundamentally, etc. etc. etc.) Because actually, you get plenty of choice about whether to buy Apple stuff or not. Apart from one rather nice keyboard, I never have.
People always talk about the behemoths of capitalism like this, just as they are starting their long slide down into moderate size and moderate success, into business as usual. How do I know Apple is now at the top of that slide? Easy, they are building a custom-designed headquarters. It absolutely yells: from now on, all Apple-persons will talk to each other and keep everyone else out. And what they will be talking about, to an appalling degree, will be their own living arrangements inside this huge circular corporate burial chamber. They’re doomed, I tell you, doomed. Someone tell Sir Grumpy (above) that he can relax.
Next: what a driverless car might look like. Not. But, it looks very pretty. The basic point, that driverless cars will in the longer run utterly transform the look of the outdoors is, I think, a very good one. Maybe that is how some of them will look.
I really do not like the way this floating bikeway along the River Thames looks, in the pictures there. At the very least, I say, find a way to avoid having those obtrusive shapes above the level of the track, which makes it look like an infinitely extended item of tasteless garden furniture. I get it, that crap is there to enable it to float up and down on the tide. Well, find another way to do that.
Next, some excellent photos of the High Line, in New York. I especially like the distant aerial view of it curving its way over the Rail Yards, with the spontaneous architectural order of Manhattan’s towers in the background.
I do like this rectangular block of a house, but with one end lifted up. Usually the rectangular block houses featured at dezeen are impeccably, terminally tedious. But this one, I like. Apart from the fact that whenever the damn architect called round, you’d have to tidy up all your domestic crap all over everywhere, and turn the place back into the dreary corporate office it resembles in the photos. What is it with architects not wanting homes to look, inside, like homes, but instead like some kind of dystopian hell with nothing in it besides a wooden floor?
Here are some impeccably, terminally tedious rectangular type houses, in Japan. To me, by far, by several hundred miles, the most interesting thing about these photos of them is the amazing amount of electrical crap in the sky over the street outside. If I was photoing in Japan, I would be all over that. More Japanese sky clutter here, in photos of another impeccably, terminally tedious block house with an interior that also looked like a corporate office reception area when the photos were taken.
Google drones. Spooky.
Parisian blocks become wavey.
Finally what with this being Friday, some black cats with bronze bollocks. I kid you not.
The skeletons of six cats, including four kittens, found in an Egyptian cemetery may push back the date of cat domestication in Egypt by nearly 2,000 years.
The bones come from a cemetery for the wealthy in Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital of Upper Egypt in the era before the pharaohs. The cemetery was the resting place not just for human bones, but also for animals, which perhaps were buried as part of religious rituals or sacrifices. Archaeologists searching the burial grounds have found everything from baboons to leopards to hippopotamuses.
Three policemen in Pakistan guarding the prime minister’s home have been suspended for negligence after a cat devoured one of the premier’s peacocks, it seems.
It seems? Well, did it or did it not?
This Japanese gum commercial makes me wish I had a super fluffy gigantic cat to help navigate the horrors of public transportation and carry me around, avoiding traffic and other pedestrian suckers who don’t have adorable cat chauffeurs. Then I remember that if a cat that big existed, it would probably just maul me to death, ...
Why are there so many cats on the internet?
The problem is that they are asking the wrong question, which should not be “Why cats?” so much as “Why not dogs?” And the answer is that dogs are trying too hard. When a dog gets in a box or hides under the duvet or wears a funny hat, it is because he is desperately trying to impress you – longing for your validation and approval. When a cat does one of those things, it is because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. And it usually was. It is cool, and effortless, and devoid of any concern about what you might think about it. It is art for art’s sake.
This, at any rate, is one of the theories (of which there are an awful lot) about why content related to cats seems to gain so much traction online.
Maybe. I guess that’s part of it.
The original reason for my Feline Friday cat chat is that cat chat on the internet, at first only at inconsequential blogs such as this one but now everywhere, illustrates that the number one impact of the internet is that there is now a new way to be amused, and cats are amusing. The serious political impact of this is that with the internet it is easier to concentrate on what you consider amusing, and to ignore what people who consider themselves to be more important than you consider to be more important. This really ticks them off. Which is nice. The internet puts politicians, for instance, in their proper place, on the sidelines. Cats may or may not be important, depending on how mad you are, but they are amusing.
The willingness of the big old Mainstream Media to tell frequent cat stories, as they now show and do, illustrates that these organs have now accepted that they no longer control the news agenda. If the people of the world decide that it is news that an angry 22-pound cat that trapped a family of three and prompted a frantic 911 call has been sent to an animal shelter, then news it is, and the big old media now accept this.
… Yet for me, the most memorable 3D printing innovation of the last year or so was the launch of a $1,200 service called ‘Form of Angels’ from the Japanese pioneer Fasotec. Here an MRI scan is taken of a pregnant woman, and then used to produce a 3D printed model of her unborn baby. The plastic foetus can even be supplied embedded in a resin model of its mother’s midriff for presentation on the expectant parent’s mantelpiece.
Pictures of what that looks like here, among (as you can imagine) many other places.
This is remarkable:
This is what it is:
The crows that live in Tokyo use clothes hangers to make nests. In such a large city, there are few trees, so the natural materials that crows need to make their nests are scarce. As a result, the crows occasionally take hangers from the people who live in apartments nearby, and carefully assemble them into nests. The completed nests almost look like works of art based on the theme of recycling.
Or, alternatively, like a Thing made with coat hangers.
But what I particularly like about the Crows Nest of Coat Hangers (I prefer “coat hangers” to “coathangers” because that could be read as “coa thangers") is that I have never before seen anything made like that by a bird. Made like that yes, by a human. By a bird, no. All the other photos are very nice, but I have already seen similar things, stunningly photographed. Technically, the crows nest photo is not actually that great. It’s the Thing itself that is great.
I will start with Would-be Lib Dem MP jailed for battering family cat to death with walking stick after it scratched his grandchild, which explains itself fairly clearly. That headline sounds rather long, in the manner of Hello Magazine. But I seldom read newspapers, so what do I know about that?
Better news is that Nottingham scientists identify cell component involved in triggering cat allergy.
Charlotte Gore contrasts Magic and Kittens Socialism with the bad sort, the actually existing sort of Socialism that actually happens, which always gets blamed on capitalism, because it’s bad so it must be capitalism. I am a bit confused by the Internet Explorer references, but the phrase itself is a good one, I think.
Here is a reminder that in another world, cat means Competition Appeal Tribunal.
So, has the Japan disaster affected the cat bond market? Probably. Although, apparently reduced demand from Japanese refineries for crude oil has cause the price of oil to go down. Odd. But, presumably this means that the price of the kind of oil you actually buy, to heat your house or power your car, will go up.
I don’t know to how many people Paul Marks sends his emails. To lots, I hope. I hope this because as the years have gone by, my admiration for Paul has gone up and up. Here is the latest. Rather than put it all as if mere quoted paragraphs, I have put this bit, by me, in italics, and the rest as a regular posting, as if I were recycling a bit from a book. Me publishing this doesn’t mean I agree with it all, although if I knew enough to do so, I probably would. The two embedded links near the end flag up two of my moments of particular ignorance. I thought: What is that? And I further thought that others might share my ignorance and appreciate a quick way to learn more.
Paul refers, in the text below, to him, Paul Marks, being a “semi-illiterate”. By this I take him to mean that there is a slight touch of the suicide note style about his way of writing, in that there are quite frequent spelling errors, as well as occasional grammatical infelicities, often in the form of sentences lumped together with dashes, brackets or commas, that I think ought to be separated by full stops. I have taken the liberty of correcting all the mistakes, as I consider them, of this kind that I have spotted. More editing, and I would probably have cut out even more of the brackets.
Paul mentions a distant cousin of mine, with the same surname as me, John Micklethwait, now the editor of the Economist. Paul does not admire this member of my clan. In another recent email, also critical of John Micklethwait, Paul expressed the hope that I am not hurt by this criticism of my “kinsman”. I am not. Especially since he went out of his way then to say kind things about me, just to prove that his was not a general anti-Micklethwait bias.
Anyway, here it the latest of Paul’s emails. If it turns up in a few hours on Samizdata, well, sorry and all that. If Paul Marks approves of me doing this, I will probably (although I promise nothing) continue, and post more of his emails. If he disapproves, I will note this, and refrain in the future. At present, I think it is a great shame to waste these thoughts as mere emails, although, as I say, I have no idea how many people get them, as mere emails.
When I praise someone or stick up for them in any way, it should not be taken as meaning that I would support them politically.
For example, saying that the words of a candidate for Governor in Alabama were not “racist” should not be taken to mean that I would have voted for him in the Primary (far too moderate for me). And what I am about to say should not be taken to mean that I support the recently resigned Prime Minister of Japan.
I think the Prime Minister of Japan who has just resigned was a well meaning and honest man. The last point will get some laughs (given the level of corruption in the government that was elected only nice months ago), but looking at his rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights face I cannot believe that he knew anything about the corruption (and it is the corruption, not the failure to move the American military base from Okinawa, that is the real reason for the decline in support for the Prime Minister that has led to his fall).
As for him being well meaning - his plan for office was to take money from waste and corruption (especially corrupt government building projects - the Japanese equivalent of Crossrail in London, or the 2012 Games) and use the money to improve education and social services.
Of course, being the evil reactionary that I am, I would point out that the Japanese Welfare State has been growing out of control since at least 1972 (not 73 - it was not the Oil Shock that caused the Welfare State to expand and expand as a percentage of the economy), so yet more and expanded schemes were not exactly a good idea - however much “openness” and “public input” went into their design.
However, what the Prime Minister of Japan tried to do is entirely in line with the international ideology of the elite (with their love of ever expanding “public services") which is why they supported him and his Democratic Party against the Liberal Democratic Party government of Japan nine months ago. The Economist magazine was very strong in its support - and they are usually a good guide to who the international establishment favour. For example John Howard former Prime Minister of Australia was hated by the Economist magazine - so, in spite of his many faults, it is hard for me to believe he was all bad. The Economist magazine never supports open Marxists. Chavez, the Castro brothers, the Dear Leader in North Korea – these all are too much for establishment folk. But as long as someone keeps the corporate welfare cheques coming (in accordance with the ideology of bailouts and “stimulus") it does not look too deeply into their background or objectives.
It is hard to see reform coming to Japan - not with the powerful Civil Service against any real change (a Civil Service the now former Prime Minister tried to get under control) and an education system dominated by the left. (Should anyone doubt that statement check the political allegiance of the teachers union.)
The very effectiveness of Japanese education (so admired by semi-illiterates like me) is actually a problem when they are teaching political attitudes, rather than reading or mathematics.
Still why do I say that this man was unlike Barack Obama?
Firstly when the now former Prime Minister said “I take responsibility” he meant it. He meant he was resigning. Barack Obama would only use those words (and he does) because a focus group told him to. He has no intention of leaving office voluntarily. So the moral character of the two men is quite different - that is clear just by looking at them or hearing them talk. It was clear to me nine months ago that the new Japanese Prime Minister was a well meaning, gentle soul - and it was clear to me in 2008 that Barack Obama only cared about ideology and himself, not about other human beings, although some might say that I spotted that in Obama because I see a man like that every morning in the mirror. “It takes one to know one, Paul.”
Also, their policies were rather different. True, both men wanted an ever bigger Welfare State. But please remember what I mentioned above, that the Japanese Prime Minister went to great lengths to find savings by cutting corrupt spending.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, has not only pushed Bills vastly increasing Welfare State spending (such as the health care Bill which will see ever increasing numbers of people dropped by their employers and forced into government care), but has also increased corrupt pork project spending by something close to a TRILLION Dollars. (Of course the Economist magazine supported all this. The corrupt, Apollo Alliance designed spending was a “stimulus” according to the editor, Mr John Micklethwait.) This is quite different from what the Japanese Prime Minister was trying to do.
Unless one is utterly corrupt it is impossible for someone who knows the facts to claim that Barack Obama is “well meaning”. On the contrary, it is quite clear that he has a deliberate aim of spending the United States into economic breakdown - along the lines suggested long ago by the Marxist husband and wife team Cloward and Piven. But this was not the aim of the now former Prime Minister of Japan. He was a nice man, well meaning and (I believe) honest, but educated into mistaken ideas.
Although this photo contains no digital photographers it is otherwise perfect. There is a Big Thing. There is reflection. There is foreground clutter, in the form of cluttery old buildings and in the form of scaffolding. The Big Thing, like the scaffolding (and one of the reasons why I like that also) is in a temporary state, which means that the photo records of a moment that will soon pass, unlike a photo of the final version.
The “Tokyo Sky Tree” is already the tallest Thing in Japan, even though it still has another thousand feet to go. Final look guessed here, and here. It will be the second tallest building in the world, after the Burj Dubai.
Eat your heart out Shard.
The Labour Party finally agrees on a new Prime Minister to replace Gordon Brown
Seto Ohashi Bridge
More random links
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Tama the feline stationmaster saves the Wakayama Electric Railway Co.
“Japan is fantastic …”
Dasubee toilet scrubbing robot
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Further pictorial shallowness
Patrick Crozier talks with me about Japan