Quota Roller


From the I Just Like It collection. Photoed somewhere in the Piccadilly Circus Leicester Square region, in December 2013.

One of those photos where I moved my camera to keep it on the object of my attention as it rolled by, thereby keeping the object in approximate focus and the background not.


I love luxurious cars driven by the ostentatious nouveau riche. (Is there another kind of nouveau riche? Probably, yes.) I would hate to have to actually look after such a vehicle throughout its life, but I love being able to photo such things, on my wanderings in London, where there are just enough of such vehicles to be amusing, but not so many that you stop noticing and stop enjoying.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

How Pablo Picasso (and Picasso’s wife Jacqueline) saved the life of Lucien Clergue

I am continuing to read Martin Gayford’s conversations with Hockney book, and it is proving to be most diverting.

Gayford begins the chapter he entitles “Seeing more clearly” with this intriguing anecdote about Picasso, which was related to him by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson:

Lucien Clergue, the photographer, knew Picasso incredibly well. The other day he said to me, ‘You know, Picasso saved my life.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, it was after a bullfight, in Aries.’ Lucien said he had been feeling fine, had lost a bit of weight but wasn’t worried. Out of the blue Picasso said to him, ‘You go instantly to a hospital.’ Lucien asked ‘Why?’ Picasso said ‘You’ve got something seriously wrong with you.’ Lucien was damned if he was going to do it, but Jacqueline [Picasso’s wife] added, ‘When Pablo says that, for God’s sake go.’ So he went, and the doctors had him taken straight into the operating theatre. They said he had an extremely rare type of peritonitis, which is lethal. The bad thing about it is that it doesn’t manifest itself in pain, it just kills you. …

Hockney’s reaction to this is to say, yes, this is because Picasso spent a huge amount of time looking at faces, really looking, the way you only do if you are someone who paints pictures of faces. Picasso could therefore see signs that others wouldn’t.

I’m not the only one to have found this a very striking story.

If it’s right, it occurs to me that maybe face recognition software ought to be able to make similar diagnoses, if not now, then quite soon. Excuse me while I try to discover if the www agrees.

Partially. It seems that face recognition software can already spot rare genetic disorders. Whether it can spot the onset of rare diseases in people previously unafflicted, I could not learn. But I bet, if it doesn’t yet perform such tricks, that it soon will.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quota dragon

By which I mean an urban dragon, like this one …:

… which I photoed this afternoon, stuffing a few of the remains of the old New Scotland Yard, now deceased, into a skip, for a lorry to take away.

There is something very primitive and savage about machines like this one, destroying reinforced concrete, i.e. destroying just the sort of concrete that is designed to be indestructible.

I had a busy day today, by which I do not mean that I accomplished anything. Merely that I did a lot of pleasurable things, out there in Real World.

And then, BMdotcom was misbehaving, when I first tried to post this. But it seems now to be back working again, albeit – alas – with its customary lethargy.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The most popular England and Wales birthday date is my birthday date

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.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Solving the puzzle of pictures

Martin Gayford’s book A Bigger Message: Conversations With David Hockney, seems very promising.

Hockney is an interesting and likeable man, I think, although I imagine he turns a bit nasty if you in any way get between him and his work. 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.

Here’s an early nugget from this book (from the Introduction, on page 10):

The savants of the eighteenth century were much exercised by the question of what a person blind from birth, whose sight was suddenly restored, would make of the visible world. Amazingly, the experiment was actually performed. In the 1720s, William Cheselden, a London surgeon, removed the cataracts from the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy. The latter gradually came to associate the objects he had known only through touch with what he now saw. One of the last puzzles he solved was that of pictures. It took two months, ‘to that time he consider’d them only as Party-coloured Planes, or surfaces diversified with Variety of paint’. And that of course is exactly what pictures are, but they fascinate us and help us understand and enjoy what we see.

When I’m done reading that book, I will be moving on to Gayford and Hockney’s more recent magnum opus, entitled A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen.

I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between photography and painting. As has Hockney, it would seem. The very fact that this title talks about “pictures” rather than merely “art” or “painting” is, to me, highly promising.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

More light on water

Photography is light, and light loves water:

Photoed under another bridge, five years before I photoed that X. Which was different, but similar. Both have a slice of light shaped by two bridges right next to each other, over water.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The electricity meter man photos my electricity consumption with his mobile

Indeed. And, I got him to hold the pose while I photoed it:

Okay, mine’s a rubbish picture, but: you get the picture, and in any case the fact that you can’t read the numbers is a feature rather than a bug. I’m sure he got his picture. He has already typed into his other little machine a note of my address and electricity score. So it will be entirely clear to him which number he is confirming, or conceivably correcting, with his photo.

Just another example of what mobiles contribute to the economy, not just by doing newsworthy stuff like transmit big gobs of money or send portentous messages to and from people on the move, but simply by helping workers to do little bits of work. Often, mobiles and their cameras are used to record the progress of work. This is using mobiles and their cameras actually to do the work, because this particular work is recording.

I know: smart meter. Well, someone recently tried to install one, but for some reason it couldn’t be done, or not yet.

To really appreciate this, you have to have experienced what happens to your electricity bill when your electricity consumption is recorded wrongly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A busy day that never happened

Today I had a taste of what my life would be if I had the Sky TV cricket channel. (It would be over.) I watched Surrey play Somerset on the live feed from the Oval which comes complete with the BBC’s sound commentary. I had all sorts of plans for today, but managed to get very little else of consequence done.

Surrey spent their day trying to ensure that they avoided all possibility of being relegated from Division One of the County Championship. When they finally managed to defeat Somerset, they found themselves lying second in Division One. Division One contains eight teams, two of which will be relegated, and it’s all rather close, apart from Essex, who have already won, and Warks, who have already been relegated. So, a very strange day, but ultimately a very good one.

So, quota photo time:

Yes, it’s a still life, with condiments instead of old school food in old school containers. Little Big Things, you might say. Photoed five years ago, in a cafe only a very short walk away from the Oval.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog


Click on the thumbnail on the right to see why I’m presenting this photo to you, as a thumbnail.

Photo taken outside (as you can probably work out) Westminster Abbey in December 2015.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Un autre quota photo

This evening I started contriving what I hope will be the first of quite a few excerpts from The Judgement of Paris, the book referred to in the previous posting. But it all took far longer than I had thought it would. Those Frenchies and their accents! Also, lots of numbers referring to endnotes had/have to be removed. It has a lot of endnotes.

So, meanwhile, another photo taken by me in Paris, in the frigid February of 2012:

That’s one of the modernistical buildings of La Défense, reflected in another of the modernistical buildings of La Défense. (Even organising those accents was a bit of a bother.)

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog