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Category archive: France

Tuesday March 13 2018

Incoming email from Tony entitled “Couldn’t resist buying this”:


Here’s hoping he was/will be amused by its cheek.

Apparently the Arse is a river in southern France, beside which grapes are grown.

Up early tomorrow. So now, to bed.

Monday February 19 2018

Yes, still ill, so still quota-photo-posting:


July 2009.

I like the hands.

Wednesday December 27 2017

Last night, egged on by some Southern Comfort and Coke, I sneaked a posting onto Samizdata, at a very quiet time of the year, and after a long break from doing anything there.  I wonder how often, in human history, far more portentous events than that have been set in motion by the power of alcohol to turn “maybe later” into “what the hell I’ll do it now”.

The posting started with a photo of five hands holding five plastic glasses of something alcoholic.  Here is another photo of the same scene, at the top of Primrose Hill, this time with one of the participants also doing a photo:


And then I showed a photo of Perry de Havilland, taken on Christmas Eve at his home.  Here is another such photo, rather less exuberant:


And I ended with a quote garnered from Deidre McCloskey’s The Bourgeois Virtues.  Page 61 of my paperback edition features five such quotes.  I put one of these, from Benjamin Constant (and added that link to that piece about him) in the Samizdata posting.  Here is another, from Voltaire, dated 1733:

I don’t know which is the more useful to the state, a well-powdered lord who knows precisely when the king gets up in the morning ... or a great merchant who enriches his country, sends orders from his office to Surat or to Cairo, and contributes to the well-being of the world.

Neither do I know “which is more useful to the state”.  But I know which one isn’t contributing to the well-being of the world and which one is.  I think Voltaire rather gives his game away there.

Monday December 11 2017

It’s been around for a while, but thanks to This Is Why I’m Broke, I have now heard about it.  Rubber(-ish) tyres which don’t need inflating, and which therefore don’t suffer from punctures:


An idea first conceived by Michelin research engineers in the United States, the TWEEL is a revolutionary non-pneumatic tire that changed the configuration of a conventional tire, bringing together the tire and the wheel assembly into one solid unit. The TWEEL comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit.

Unlike conventional tires, the TWEEL has no air, thereby solving what had seemed to be the unavoidable challenge of chronic flat tires that plagues the landscape, construction, contracting, refuse/recycling and agricultural industries.

Yes, at present the Tweel would seem to be confined to heavy duty activities of the sort described about, where spikey and scratchy things are constantly encountered, and where even a short amount of time is a lot of money.  On regular, smooth roads, the Tweel does not now make sense.

But, I wonder what effect the switch to robot road vehicles might have.  Might that, in some hard-to-foresee way, create an increased demand for the Tweel?  If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that we cannot now be sure exactly what robot vehicles are going to look like, and exactly how they will go about their business.  Will robot cars welcome the greater variety of terrains that Tweels would presumably make possible?  Might it be better for the robot cars to have wheels that are unpuncturable, given that those wheels would no longer be guarded by human drivers?  Who now knows?

More generally, it looks to me like further Tweel developments depend on improved materials, and improved materials is now something the world does very well.  Simply, Tweels may become better and cheaper.  That alone might cause them to replace what I am now inclined to call balloon-based wheels.  But what do I know?

What I do now know is that the Tweel impresses me greatly.

Wednesday October 18 2017

A recent posting here referred to the photographer Nadar.  He was a fascinating character, that being a studio portrait of Nadar on the right there, the portrait which also appears in King’s book.  And the most fascinating thing that Ross King recounts about Nadar (in this book) is this (pp.109-111):


Besides being a photographer, Nadar was also, even more wondrously, an aeronaut. In 1863 he founded the Société générale d’Aérostation et d’Autolocomotion Aérienne, started up a newspaper called L’Aeronaute, and constructed the world’s largest hot-air balloon. The aeronautical possibilities of hydrogen balloons had captured the public imagination. A few months earlier, an unknown thirty-five-year-old named Jules Verne, a former law student, had published his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, in which he imagined the voyage across Africa of three Englishmen in a giant hot-air balloon named the Victoria. The fictional Victoria had been inflated with 90,000 cubic feet of hydrogen, but Nadar’s real-life balloon managed to outstrip even Verne’s exuberant imagination. Christened Le Géant, it was borne aloft by 200,000 cubic feet of hydrogen, stood 180 feet tall, and used almost twelve miles of silk that two hundred women had required an entire month to sew together. Included in the wicker-work gondola, which was the size of a small cottage, were a photographic laboratory, a refreshment room, a lavatory and, for the amusement of the passengers, a billiard table.

A photographic laboratory!  Incredible.

On October 4, a Sunday, more than 500,000 people - almost a third of the entire population of Paris - crowded onto the Champ-de-Mars and surrounding streets, and even onto nearby housetops, to witness the maiden voyage of this magnificent vessel. A military band played for two hours as the gondola was towed into place by four white horses and the balloon, which one journalist claimed looked like “an immense unripe orange,” was inflated with gas. Twelve passengers besides Nadar then climbed aboard, including the art critic Paul de Saint-Victor. “Lachez tout!” shouted “Captain” Nadar at five o’clock in the afternoon, and the gigantic balloon rose skywards, sailing north-east across a silent and awestruck Paris, passing over the Invalides and the Louvre before finally disappearing from view. But unlike the Victoria, which sailed all the way across Africa, Le Géant stayed airborne for only a couple of hours before a technical malfunction in a valve line forced Nadar to make a premature descent into a marsh near Meaux, some twenty-five miles away. By the time he and his dozen passengers were rescued, the enterprising aeronaut was already making plans for a second voyage.

In other words, the connection between photography and innovative flying contraptions goes right back to the origins of both.

Later, aircraft of a more modern sort took to the skies during WW1, but not, at first, to shoot at each other with guns.  They did this in order to shoot at the ground with cameras.  Only a bit later did other airplanes try to shoot down these photo-reconnaissance airplanes.  (After all, the shooting with guns by airplanes at other airplanes had to be about something, other than the mere shooting down of airplanes, or it would never have got started.  Later, of course, the shooting was also about airplanes dropping bombs.)

And right now, we are living through the bit of the drone-photography era when a civilian - in this case: blog buddy-of-mine 6k - can do it, with a quite small and quite cheap drone, at least compared to the drones that warriors have been using, for rather longer.  See also this 6k blog posting, about another drone photographer.

Monday October 16 2017

One of the reasons I was so keen to read Ross King’s book The Judgement of Paris (see this recent posting for details of this book and of earlier postings based on it) was that I hoped to learn more about the various ways in which photography and painting influenced and impacted upon each other.  There are occasional references in this book to photography, but I was hoping for several pages which summarised this big picture, so to speak.  These pages never came.  But, there were some entertaining references to the earlier stages of this very complicated story.

One of the paintings that figures prominently in King’s narrative is this one, Manet’s Olympia, which features one of Manet’s favourite models, Victorine Meurent:


I found that version of this painting, along with more stuff about it, here.

Concerning the process by which this painting was created, King says (pp. 105-106):

Manet may also have made other images of Victorine.  Painters had been supplementing their drawings with photographs ever since Louis Daguerre, twenty-five years earlier, had created the first workable camera.  A writer in an 1856 issue of La Lumière, a journal dedicated to photography, noted the “intimate association of photography with art.” By the 1860s more than three hundred professional photographers were working in Paris, and a great many of their clients were painters for whom they did nude studies. Indeed, as many as forty per cent of all photographs registered at the Dépôt Légal were asserted to be académies done for painters - photographs of nude (usually female) models posing on chaises longues amid paraphernalia such as lyres, shields, plumed helmets, and antique vases and busts.

Even the most renowned painters of the day availed themselves of this new technology. In the 1850s Delacroix had collaborated with the photographer Eugène Durieu, who took pictures of nude models that Delacroix proceeded to turn into his paintings of odalisques. Other painters, such as Gérôme, had female models shot for them by Nadar, the most renowned photographer of the day. Born Caspard-Félix Tournachon, Nadar was a printer and caricaturist (his pseudonym came from the expression tourne à dard, meaning “bitter sting") who had also published a novel and spent time in a debtors’ prison. At the age of thirty-three, in 1853, he had turned his considerable energies to photography, taking portraits of many artists and writers and then, in 1861, a series of eerie-looking pictures of Paris’s new sewer system and water mains. An intimate of Baudelaire, by the early 1860s he was also friends with Manet, whom he photographed on several occasions. No photographs of Victorine, by Nadar or anyone else, have come to light, but she may well have appeared before his camera, either in Manet’s studio or in Nadar’s own workshop in the Boulevard des Capucines.

But King says that the impact of photography went deeper than merely aiding the creative process.  It also influenced it in others ways.  Olympia was a succèss de scandale, and one of the many complaints made about it was the seemingly crude and brash way in which it was painted.

Concerning that, King agrees (pp. 108-109) that Manet did indeed paint …:

… Victorine’s face, torso and limbs with none of the sculptural three-dimensionality and careful modulations of colour to which Salon-goers were accustomed. Instead, using sharp contrasts of colour, he created her body through a series of flat planes, producing a two-dimensional image that almost served to make the canvas seem a parody of Titian’s curvilinear Venus of Urbino.

Personally, I don’t really see this.  But I am sure that those who have seen more paintings of the sort that King is contrasting Olympia with will know what he means.

King continues:

Part of Manet’s inspiration for this technique probably came from photography. Painters had almost always required a muted light in which to work. The ideal studio was lit by a large north-facing window that diffused the sunlight and allowed the painter to see-and to capture in pigment-the softest and subtlest tones. Photographers, however, worked under quite different conditions. Anyone hoping to produce a photograph in the middle of the nineteenth century needed bright illumination since the first chemical emulsions were stubbornly insensitive to light. In the days before the invention of flash powder (a mixture of potassium chloride and powdered magnesium first successfully employed in the 1880s), photographers were forced to turn on their sitters various forms of artificial light. Most of their pyrotechnic devices, such as “limelight,” a sheet of lime heated with a hydrogen-oxygen torch, had provided a harsh, brilliant illumination that resulted in photographs with pronounced tonal contrasts. Photographs therefore displayed far fewer varieties of tone than was found on canvasses. If Victorine had indeed been photographed by Nadar (who sometimes used battery powered arc lamps to cast light on his subjects), the result would not have been dissimilar to the stark image Manet produced on his canvas, whose lack of detail, moreover, resembled the hazy images produced by photographers as a result of the long exposures required by paper-negative prints.

A pattern that repeats itself throughout the history of new methods of information storage and communication is that when a new technique is introduced it has immediate short-term impacts that are often very different from – sometimes even opposite from - the impacts it creates later, as the new technology develops and spreads.

When commentators now use the word “photographic” to describe a painting, they mean that it is more detailed and realistic than paintings usually are these days, the camera having cornered most of the market for pictorial detail.  Yet here is King explaining the rather slap-dash and crude – as contemporaries saw it at the time – beginnings of Impressionism as having been at least partly influenced by the very early versions of photography.

But, as to what influence photography had on painting once the best sort of photography got to be more “photographic”, well, if King writes about that at any length, I missed it.

I am hoping for a more thorough and wide-ranging discussion of this matter when I get around to reading this book, which I already possess and am much looking forward to, even if it is going to be rather big to be lugging around London.

Sunday October 15 2017

For me, it’s the most expensive penny I ever spend.  I’m referring to the toilet in Gramex, the services of which I often avail myself, in between hunting for keenly priced second-hand or ex-review-copy classical CDs.

This shop has kept moving over the years and is now seeking yet another new location, because its current location is about to be turned into a hotel.  But for now, until the 17th of this month, when you pee there, you beyold, in a very bedraggled state, a reproduction of a famous photograph, of New York’s Grand Central Terminal:


There seem to be several versions of this photo, because more than one photoer noticed this remarkable phenomenon.  The phenomenon being how the presence of smoke or steam in the atmosphere turns any light that journeys through the smoke or the steam into a solid block of light.

This being well known to showbiz of course.  Here is a recent 6k photo, of a pop combo in action, being lit with smoke and searchlights.

The nearest I have ever got to anything like this myself is a set of photos I took one rather misty day in September 2015, when I was officially checking out the first of London Gateway’s cranes.  I have already shown this photo here, but here it is again because I like it so much:


Here is another photo that I took moments earlier, which I have not shown here before:


What I especially like about that one is that is shows how solidified light of this sort blocks out what is behind it.  You can’t see past such light.  But when there is no light crashing through and lighting up the mist, you can see through the mist.  Look how, when there isn’t lit up mist, you can see, past all the closer-up drama, another world of clouds, in the darker distance.

The above photo reminds me of another favourite photo of mine, this time where my reflection in a shop window, dark because back lit, makes it possible to see through the shop window into the shop, which otherwise you can’t because of brightly lit reflections from behind me.  In this case it is those bright reflections that are the solid light:


That was photoed in the south of France, in Ceret, a town famous for its light and much loved by artists, in particular by Picasso.

I love that what we actually see through the shop window is someone else taking a photo.

Photography is light.

Saturday October 14 2017

I got bogged down semi-working on a succession of postings that never got finished.  So here is a quota photo, picked out the archives pretty much at random:


There I was, trawling through a huge clutch of photos taken somewhere in Brittany, in June 2011, but not knowing where they were of.  Then that photo presented itself, and all was clarified.

Memo to self: always photo signs, maps, signposts, in fact anything that will later tell me what I was photoing and where.  I know, I know, cameras will give you map references, if you ask them nicely.  But I’m a twentieth century boy.  I like actual maps

Preferably with little signs on them that say: you are here.  Or in this particular case, vous êtes ici, which I don’t think the above maps do have.  Quel dommage.

I recently started a new directory called “You are here”, for all such map photos.

Pont-Aven et ses environs
David Hockney likes having servants!
Ross King describes how Louis Napoleon became the most important man in the world
How Pablo Picasso (and Picasso’s wife Jacqueline) saved the life of Lucien Clergue
A lot of people used to go to see the paintings in the Paris Salon
Ross King introduces Meissonier
Un autre quota photo
An interruption ends
A disruptive book about nineteenth century French painting
Me and Patrick Crozier talking about WW1: If only?
Why computers are so dumb and so insolent
Just how Polish Chopin was and how he played
The queens of the canning factory
Tim Marshall on ‘Sykes-Picot’
An Eiffel Tower at Wembley?
Some more Christmas cheer
Home alone
Sunlight on sea
Some more lighthouses for 6k
Snake on a car
More birds on a TV aerial
So shiny it looks fake
Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
Brittany lighthouses
A direct hit
French animals from GodDaughter 2
Modernism now works
A decade of unrecognisable photographers
More South of France bridges
South of France signs
Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
Incoming imagery from Antoine
A bridge in Narbonne
Horizontal French signs
A house in France that is not faceless
Safe cracks in an airplane window
Weather and weather
Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne
Why I photo postcards
My camera can see through a Ryanairplane window better than I can
Using your crane to protect your cement mixer
The view from the roof
Sports thorts
More drone trouble
A rejected Grand Chose that shouldn’t have been
Footbridges in the sky
Twelve 2015 photos
The culling of the Northern Hemisphere
Blog interrupted
Trois Citroens (et deux chevaux)
Credit where credit is due (in France)
A new Grand Chose for Paris
Pancake White Van
A forgotten war
A new not very big Thing in Paris
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
Not squash
The Bayeux Tapestry small enough to fit in this blog
Exit Caesar
Triple Chess and a Four Wheeled Pedal Board
Proof that there are a lot of French people in Britain just now
Smartphones and tablets at the Charlie Hebdo demo
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Old Quimper Cathedral
Posting difficulties so see you tomorrow
Cats in Quimper shops
Quimper and its Cathedral
French roof clutter
Touch typing or no typing at all
A French film poster advertising a British film
Tired in France
Quota photo from Paris (also a selfie)
Marginal Eurostar economics
Recently on dezeen
Parisian roof clutter gets the Real Photographer treatment
Back from France (plus cat photos)
Cat photo and cat news
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Omaha dead
Selfies of me – 2001, 2007 and yesterday
Three more Paris pictures
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
Fat bastard!
Eurostar before St Pancras
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
A Fleet Street lunch
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
Mon chat se tient debout tout seul
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Les Rillettes Henaff
Summer blogging break
Empty tables and empty chairs
Quimper cat on Harley-Davidson
Quota frogs
Infrequent flyer
Signs from the Frenchosphere
Paris signage
Rugby shirts on drugs
Pronouncing on the Six Nations
Another link enema
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
France falls in love with Hugh Laurie
Sailing photos – and another bridge for the collection
Happy New year (if possible)
The Fat Man is not alone
French cats
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Talking about St Pancras at St Pancras
Millau Viaduct with goats
Australia out! – New Zealand out! – pass forward!
Wildlife news
Antoine Clarke on the French National Assembly elections
Lots of links
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Somebody else photos Billion Monkey photo-ing Notre Dame!
Antoine on Sarko’s win
Serious tax cutting
If they don’t get who they would have preferred then silly them
“What do YOU think?” - “More -isationisation!”
“It’s a shame that copyright was infringed in a thesis about copyright itself”
Other people’s photos (6): More bridges
Other people’s photos (5): Red balloons on a monochrome bridge in Paris
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
Singing Frenchmen in stripey T-shirts
A dangerous development