Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Thursday March 21 2019

Looking out over the gloom of Bermondsey yesterday, with maximum zoom, from the balcony of a friend’s flat:

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Despite the dreariness and consequent blurriness, you can clearly see the Big Olympic Thing there.  Next to it, right behind the tower of the crane, you can also see, if you look a bit harder, the top of the London Stadium, now the home of West Ham United.

What this photo illustrates, among many other things, is the enormous contribution to a city made by Recognisable and Big Things.  Most of what you see in that photo is dull Unless you are a craniac like me) and generic.  You could be anywhere.  But once you see that contorted red shape, however dimly, you know at once where you are looking and what you are looking at.  These Things aren’t called “landmarks” for nothing.  They are like giant squirts of solidified piss from God.  They mark the landscape.  They give it shape and structure.  You know where you are with them, but without them, you don’t.  Without them, you could be anywhere.  With them, everywhere becomes somewhere.

Wednesday March 20 2019

Yes, I and a friend took a stroll around Stoke Newington this afternoon, and despite the drabness of the weather, spring was in the air.

And as if to confirm Spring will indeed be with us very soon, if it’s not here already, this was the scene outside the Anglo Spice Grill:

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There were many other Stoke Newingtonian sights - animal, vegetable and mineral - to be seen and to be photoed, but today was a tiring day, with another activity in the evening before I finally got around to doing this.  So that will have to be your lot.

Tuesday March 19 2019

A friend has put this photo that he photoed on Facebook:

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If he objects to me using it, I’ll taking it down, but I doubt he will.

It illustrates two things.

(1) The arrival of a new kind of skyscraper, the Very Thin Big Thing.

(2) How much less of a nuisance trees are, photographically speaking, when not smothered in stupid leaves.  As it is, that photo is a fine addition to the Winter Tree With Big Thing Behind It photo-genre, which is a photo-genre I like a lot.  With leaves, it would be significantly duller.

Here is a Guardian piece which explains why these Big Thin Things are now happening in New York.  I now intend, although I promise nothing, to do a Samizdata piece in which I expand upon this circumstance.  Clue: the provisional title of this piece is “Law and liberty in New York”.  The point being that clear law says exactly what you may not do, but by so doing, it also says exactly - exactly - what you may do.  Unlike in Britain with its insane “planning permission” system, where you just have to hope that some random assemblage of local tyrants doesn’t take against the plan you’ve been working on for months, and where there’s now no way beforehand of guessing what these tyrants will decide.  In New York, if you follow the rules, you know you are allowed to build it.  Result: well, New York.

Monday March 18 2019

Further evidence (see below) that vapour trail light is my favourite sort of light:

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That photo was photoed by me in June 2008.  In Quimper I think, but if not in Quimper, then somewhere close.

I had been browsing through the directory in which all my photos from that expedition are stored, and I was struck by how well the best of them came out, despite the fact that the camera I was using was quite antique compared to my current camera.  I had always supposed that there had been a big jump in photo quality for me when I got my Lumix ZX150, which was a few years after that.  Since that Lumix ZX150, I have had a Lumix ZX200, and now use a Lumix ZX330.  All of those Lumixes (Lumes?) being much of a muchness.  And I think that’s right, there was quite a jump.  Nevertheless, earlier cameras of mine, when the light was really good, did just as well.  Where they suffered, by comparison, was when the light was merely quite good.

Vapour trails are a feature of the Brittany sky.  Basically, you’re talking about half of all the airplanes from Europe to America, and half of all the airplanes from America to Europe.  So, in Brittany, if the weather is vapour trail weather, there will be vapour trails.  A lot of vapour trails.

France also has excellent street clutter, with lots of wires.  The wires go well with the vapour trails, I think.

Sunday March 17 2019

Was out in Bermondsey today, and as usual photoed lots of photos.  But the light was dreary, so here is a photo I took in the same place just under a month ago, on February 19th:

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Vapour trail weather, which I love.  And not just for the vapour trails.  In such weather, everything looks good.  Those two birds, for instance.  They look very good.

Ah, the Summer of February 2019.  They don’t make them like that any more, except that they just did.

Saturday March 16 2019

The job of sports fan internetters like me is not to just wallow in the mere news that the commentators have just been reporting and to repeat their opinions about why it all happened (although that can be fun to look back on, in the years to come).  It is also to notice the daft things that commentators sometimes say.  The above gem of verbal inappropriateness came, from ITV commentator Nick Mullins, after just 13 minutes of the England Scotland rugby game at Twickenham, just after England scored their third try.  England really don’t look like they’re going to lose this one.

The basic reason England are winning is that Wales, earlier this afternoon, dessicated Ireland.  That actually is not a bad word for what Wales did to Ireland.  Ireland didn’t score any points at all until the clock had gone past 80 minutes, Wales having already scored 25.  This meant that Wales already had the Grand Slam, and that meant that Scotland would not now be working themselves into a frenzy of Scottishness to deny England, who were undone two weeks ago by a frenzy of Welshness (which did deny England the Grand Slam), the mere winning of the tournament.

And now, on the half hour, England have just scored their fourth try, making it 31-0 to them.

And what did Nick Mullins say about that?

This:

“Scotland are being drowned.”

When you get dessicated, what you want is water.  But not that much water.

I feel sorry for Scotland.  If you’re an England rugby fan, feeling sorry for Scotland is great.  Scots never feel sorry for us, which is how they torment us.  We feel sorry for them every chance we get, which is our way of tormenting them.  All I am missing now is a Scotsman for me to feel sorry for in person.  They must really hate that.

But hey, Scotland have just scored a breakaway try.

Said the moisture-obsessed Mullins, switching metaphors:

“A shaft of light.”

If you’ve been desiccated but then drowned, a shaft of light is probably what you want.  31-7 to England at half time.

I am going to miss the end of this game because I am off out to dinner.  Fine by me.  My guess is that the second half of this game will be rather an anti-climax, like the second half of the England France game.  The only thing that could make it interesting would be a couple more shafts of light for Scotland at the start of the second half.  If that happens, I would have to stop feeling sorry for Scotland, which would be terrible.

And Scotland have indeed scored, 7 minutes into the second half.  Just before they did, Mullins said:

“Scotland are beginning to throw some coals on the fire!”

Said a colleague:

“Can that be the spark?”

Scotland not drowned after all.

Well, well, well.  Two shafts of light it is.  Two Scotland tries at the beginning of the second half.  Suddenly I am starting to regret that dinner date, and to stop feeling sorry for the Scots.

And another.  31-19.  It’s a game.

Another Scotland try.  31-24.  If Scotland win this, they will be as insufferable as I was being half an hour ago.

I’m off to dinner.  Thank goodness for mobile phones.

Another Scotland try!  Under the posts.  31-31.

Mullins:

“Are you not entertained?”

I think I am.  Four shafts of light, in the second half alone.  Five, if you could the one in the first half.

England’s defence is being desiccated.

LATER (i.e. after I got back from my dinner party (very enjoyable)): England 38 Scotland 38.

Friday March 15 2019

Here are three photos I took, on May 21st of that year:

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I vaguely recall refraining from showing them here (and there was indeed a here then) because I had no idea what was going on.  I still have no idea what was going on.  I should have asked more questions at the time.

Some kind of sporting event promotion perhaps?

Taiwan Birds (well worth a long scroll down there (some truly amazing birds (I think))) yesterday featured this remarkable photo ...:

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…, and has this to say about it:

Congratulations to Chen Chen-kuang … for winning the Hamdan HIPA Prize for his shot of a ...

… see above.

And there was me thinking that “Drongo” was just a word made up by Australians to describe … drongos.  Apparently drongos really exist, and presumably drongos behave in a way that Australians disapprove of.

Taiwan Birds adds:

Never leave your camera behind! And spend years refining your skills ...

Indeed.

Some video that says a lot about a lot, here.

Thursday March 14 2019

That car park I wrote about got me noticing car reflections, again:

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I think that’s worth top billing in a posting, instead of being an afterthought in a posting about a car park.

And just now, I came across this in the photo-archives, from May 2015:

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Mmmm.  Cranes.

And here, taken about one hour later, is a photo with St Paul’s Cathedral reflected in a roller.  Too bad I was more interested in including the photoer, than I was in St Paul’s Cathedral reflected:

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Or, was I?  Here’s the next photo I took:

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A car park, and a cathedral.  They make a nice pair, don’t they?

More car reflections, this time of Piccadilly Circus adverts, recently featured at Mick Hartley‘s.

Wednesday March 13 2019

Some close- and closer-ups of the Optic Cloak:

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What these photos, photoed just after I’d photoed these photos, only show a few glimpses of is how different the OC looks, depending on the light’s strength, its direction, and its colour.  All of the above photos were photoed from the western, upstream side of the OC, as I moved from north to south, and all on the same day.  There’s a whole different set to be taken from the east, or from the West on a different day.

This is something that all the best London Things, Big or, as in this case, not so Big, have in common.  (I’m thinking in particular of the Shard and of the Walkie Talkie and, more recently, of the Scalpel (which is only very small in that photo, but which does wonderful things with the light).)

Tuesday March 12 2019

Well, I sat down to do a blog posting for here after a hard day doing this and that, but, while I was doing that blog posting, I was also half telly-watching, and I chanced, on my television, upon the classic episode of Porridge in which Fletcher keeps on being disturbed and ends up pushing the padre off the balcony (into a safety net).  Fletcher gets punished with three days in solitary, and the final line is him asking the governor if he couldn’t make it a fortnight.

Instead of a regular blog posting, let this be a recommendation.

Monday March 11 2019

When I saw and photoed this sign, in London, yesterday afternoon …:

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…, I thought it was some kind of electronic malfunction.  ULEZ?  Is that real?  Only one way to find out.  The Internet.

And the Internet was in no doubt.  ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone.  Question answered.

I just wanted to know if ULEZ was real.  It is.  The details, for now anyway, interest me less.  If you want to know more about ULEZ, you now have the acronym and the knowledge that it stands for something real, and you can learn all you want.

Sunday March 10 2019

Here:

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It reminds me of the scene at the end of Starship Troopers (a scene which I may now be imagining (but I think it happened)) where the victorious Starship Troopers celebrate their capture of The Queen Bug.

Saturday March 09 2019

Another shop window photo, photoed by me on the same day as I photoed, this, this, and this:

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Click on that to get it quite a bit bigger than usual.  It deserves the detail.

I have long considered the stuff in tourist stuff shops to be an underrated object of photo-devotion.