Octopus and mantis

Friday, so cats and kittens, or other creatures, and again, I go to 6k to get my posting here sorted on what is turning out to be a rather busy day, involving claims by my computer that its Antivirus Protection has Expired. Not what I want.

So, yes, other creatures, very other creatures, in the form of an octopus and a mantis:

Originals here and here.

I love a good silhouette.

South Africa is a scary place.

Octopus and Mantis. Good name for a rock duo.

This is not a Cape Sugarbird

I’m talking about this:

What chance does Western Civilisation have if people get basic facts like this wrong?

It’s a Malachite Sunbird.

This is a Cape Sugarbird:

This being a South African bird disagreement, nobody thinks to comment on the amazing plants that the above birds are perched on. They’re just … plants.

But, if 6k (that link being to a bird photo that 6k photoed in London a while back), who visits this blog from time to time and via whose Twitter feed I learned of this Sunbird/Sugarbird confusion (now flapping about all over Twitter before the truth can even get its feathers on), can tell me about the vegetation in the photos I have displayed, I’d love to be thus enlightened. I mean, those Orange Things. That Sunflower-like flower. Amazing.

Centre Point – lit

Here’s the original, i.e. the Hartley version:

And here’s another way of looking at the same thing, i.e. cropped into a square:

I have long believed that the Le Corbusier version of the Modern Movement in Architecture has its origins in the South of France and the north of Africa for a very good reason, which is that the light there is such that it looks good there. Anything looks good there, but concrete looks especially good..

And when the light is like that in London, it looks good in London too.

The photo taken three days ago.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Bright sea foam – dark sky

I think this is an amazing photo:

Taken by 6k. Amazing colours and contrasts.

It has a sort of Paradise Lost feeling about it. Paradise is the beach. But the sky causes Paradise to be Lost, temporarily I trust.

I have a feeling 6k does quite a lot of photo-editing, based more on what he says than on how his photos actually look. For the good news is: you can’t tell for sure, just by looking at the photos. I don’t like it when you can tell for sure that there’s been lots of mucking about with a photo.

I do very little photo-editing, because I consider most of it to be cheating. The only thing I do quite a lot of is cropping, usually to cut out recognisable faces.

6k is not at his best right now, having recently been worse. Knee operation. Hope he gets well soon.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Deidre McCloskey on how genetic diversity in a rich Africa will yield a crop of geniuses

I’m reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality, the final volume of her Bourgeois trilogy. I hope that in this volume, at last, I will read evidence concerning McCloskey’s thesis about how the Great Enrichment came about, which is that it was ideological. She keeps repeating this, but keeps flying off at other tangents. Wish me luck.

Interesting tangents, mind you. Like this one, which is a most interesting prediction, concerning the future of Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 70-72):

Know also a remarkable likelihood in our future. Begin with the sober scientific fact that sub-Saharan Africa has great genetic diversity, at any rate by the standard of the narrow genetic endowment of the ancestors of the rest of us, the small part of the race of Homo sapiens that left Mother Africa in dribs and drabs after about 70,000 BCE. The lower diversity outside Africa comes from what geneticists call the founder effect, that is, the dying out of genetic lines in an isolated small group, such as those that ventured into west Asia and then beyond. The founder effect is merely a consequence, of the small samples dribbling out, as against the big sample of the Homo sapiens folk that stayed put in Africa. Any gene-influenced ability is therefore going to have more African extremes. The naturally tallest people and the naturally shortest people, for example, are in sub-Saharan Africa. The naturally quickest long-distance runners are in East Africa. The best basketball players descend from West Africans. In other words, below the Sahara the top end of the distribution of human abilities – physical and intellectual and artistic – is unusually thick. (Yet even in Africa the genetic variability in the Homo sapiens race appears to have been thinned repeatedly before the time of the modest emigrations, by population crashes, such as when the super volcano Toba in Sumatra went off, suggestively also around 70,000 BCE. It reduced our Homo sapiens ancestors to a few thousand-a close call.)

The thickness of sub-Saharan abilities at the high end of the distribution is a mere consequence of the mathematics. Greater diversity, which is to say in technical terms, higher variance, means that unusual abilities at both ends of the distribution, high and low, are more common. Exactly how much more depends on technical measures of genetic difference and their expression. The effect could be small or large depending on such measures and on the social relevance of the particular gene expression.

The high end is what matters for high culture. Sub-Saharan Africa, now at last leaning toward liberal democracy, has entered on the blade of the hockey stick, growing since 2001 in per-person real income by over 4 percent per year-doubling that is, every eighteen years. A prominent Nigerian investment manager working in London, Ayo Salami, expects an ideological shift among African leaders in favor of private trading as the generation, of the deeply socialist anticolonialists born in the 1940s dies out.” The 6- to 10-percent growth rate available to poor economies that wholeheartedly adopt liberalism will then do its work and yield educational opportunities for Africans now denied them.

The upshot? Genetic diversity in a rich Africa will yield a crop of geniuses unprecedented in world history. In a century or so the leading scientists and artists in the world will be black-at any rate if the diversity is as large in gene expression and social relevance as it is in, say, height or running ability. Today a Mozart in Nigeria follows the plow; a Basho in Mozambique was recruited as a boy soldier; a Tagore in East Africa tends his father’s cattle; a Jane Austen in Congo spends her illiterate days carrying water and washing clothes. “Full many a gem of purest ray serene / The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear.”

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Everyone can now do beautiful “art” with one click

The relationship between, and influence of, photography on artistic painting has always been intimate, and profound.

I can remember when landscape and figurative painting was everywhere. That would be about fifty years ago and more. But now? Do any “important” artists do this any more? Not many, is my distinct impression. If there is any “realism” involved, it is usually realism with a twist, and often some kind of violation or distortion. That guy, who was perfectly capable of terrific realistic painting, was one of the leaders of art out of mere realism. “Psychological”, instead of literal, truth.

A big part of why this trend out of realism happened is to be found in pictures like this one, of a fire, done recently by 6k. 6k didn’t even have his “camera” with him, when he photoed this. But, says he, “my phone did ok”. More than ok, I’d say:

I recall speculating along these lines recently, at a party. Painters don’t do the “beauty” of the “real world” any more (I said), in fact (I said) they don’t really do “beauty” at all any more, because now everyone can do great pictures, just by going click with their phones, and everyone now has a phone.

My companion illustrated my point for me by immediately taking out his “phone” and showing me some amazing landscape photos on it that he had taken that very day. They were stunning. His point, and mine, is that this required no very great skill on his part, just a half decent and half alert eye for something worth photoing.

So it is that “art” has not so much “advanced” into its various alternative realities of abstraction and conceptualisation, but rather has retreated into these things. Chased out of doing beautiful recreations of reality by technology.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Strange home decorating photo

This is a strange photo, which looks somewhat like Modern Art, but which actually isn’t (a pleasing phenomenon which I referred to in passing in this recent posting of mine). What it is is a photo of some home decorating:

Aren’t you supposed to put the glue on the wallpaper, rather than on the wall? Perhaps both? Personally, I chose my wallpaper by not caring what it was when I moved in and thus keeping it as was, so I have never done anything like this.

Also, what are those peculiar white marks on the right? They look like random smudges of white paint. But why are they there? Very strange. Presumably something else was being painted before the wallpaper went on.

All is explained here. It’s number nine of those thirteen photos, which I found out about here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The RSC’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Barbican

GodDaughter One’s Mum and Dad are members of a theatre-going gang, who take it in turns to organise for them all to go to the theatrical performance, about every month or so. Tonight it was Antony and Cleopatra by the RSC, at the Barbican. But GodDaughter One’s Mum was otherwise engaged, helping out with a jewellery show done by GodDaughter One’s Sister, so I went to the Barbican instead.

As so often, when I really pay attention to a Shakespeare play (and if you are seeing it in a theatre there is not a lot else to be doing), I learned a great deal about it.

I did not catch every word. Much of the support acting, especially by the young men playing various Roman soldiers and messengers, was decidedly school-play-ish, to my old eyes and old ears. These brand-X guys simply did not fill the auditorium properly. Since we were at the back, we suffered. Nor did it help that I for one could not see their faces properly, from that far away. But Antony and Cleopatra were both pretty good, as was Enobarbus. But honestly, only the music came over loud and clear.

I will be investigating this play further on the screen. YouTube offers this, which looks like it could be pretty good. I quite like north American accents in Shakespeare, given that it probably sounded more like this originally than it sounded like modern Posh English.

As for DVDs, this and this both look promising. Also: cheap.

Back in the Barbican, Josette Simon as Cleopatra yanked the verse around a lot, but that all added to the impression of her being a force of nature. Antony, played by Peter Byrne, was a very prosaic figure by comparison. I especially like the line in this Guardian review about how “Simon is excellent in the closing passages suggesting that Cleopatra is living out a fantasy of an idealised Antony”. Yes. So, best of all might well be a DVD of this RSC production.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Mugabe knows best

I was once briefly acquainted with a quite close relative of Robert Mugabe, and that person was truly remarkable in being utterly incapable of understanding how anyone could possibly disagree with the truth that he saw so very clearly. This person also looked exactly – spookily – like Robert Mugabe. (It was asking about this resemblance that got me the information that he was a close relative of Mugabe.) I have never known a more deeply stubborn person, ever. But it was not a stubbornness made merely of the desire or the determination not to change his mind. No. He was simply unable to change his mind. The idea of him ever having been wrong, about anything, was simply impossible for him to grasp.

If Robert Mugabe is anything like this relative of his, and everything I know about Robert Mugabe tells me that Mugabe is, in this respect, exactly like him, Mugabe may find himself sacked, imprisoned, or even executed, but he will never resign, or ever change his mind about the wisdom of anything he ever said or did. That he has not yet resigned has, according to the Guardian headline linked to there, has “stunned” Zimbabwe. I was not stunned.

They’ll have to force him out, like King Richard II was forced out by King Henry IV. But if Mugabe is forced out, there will be no scenes like the closing scenes of Shakespeare’s version of Richard II, where the deposed Richard comes to see the world and its ways differently, and to understand things more deeply. Simply, Mugabe is right, has always been right and will always be right, and if everyone else disagrees with him, it can only be that everyone else is, was, and will be, hopelesslyl wrong. Mugabe is literally incapable of understanding matters in any other way.

Mugabe is indeed now a rather confused old man. But his confusion concerns only how it is possible for so many people to be so completely mistaken.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog