Displacement

So much for logic. More World Cup torture, for England anyway. By the end, it wasn’t even close.

Looking back on it, it seems to me that what England did in this tournament was what France have done more than once in the past. England amazed everyone by beating the All Blacks and thus cleared the way for someone else to win it. Too bad it wasn’t England. I trust South Africans are suitably grateful.

I funked it again, in the sense that I watched it, but couldn’t bear to listen to what the commentators were saying. But on the plus side: my bowels were emptied more thoroughly and rather earlier than usual; I managed to set the date on a newly acquired camera; some washing up got done; various other displacement activities were accomplished, including reading early bits of this rather good book about Shakespeare; I listed more carefully than usual to parts of Record Review, which is still going now (a suitably agonised Shostakovitch string quartet). I mention such personal trivia because this is my blog, but more to the point because I have nothing to add to the rugby expertise that rugby experts will now be lavishing on this event. In a year’s time the only person reading this posting will be me, maybe.

From the look of it, England made too many mistakes, and South Africa just played better.

I’m photoing in the rain

Contrary to English myth, and myth elsewhere for all I know, it doesn’t actually rain that much in England, and when it does, it doesn’t usually rain that heavily. The reason we fret about rain so much is that there is just enough for it to be a nuisance, and not enough for us to get properly organised to deal with it effectively. See also: snow.

Photoing rainy weather is a whole speciality in itself, caused by such things as the fact that rain makes things shinier and more reflective. Personally I don’t enjoy photoing in the rain. The light is less good, and you are liable to get rain all over the front of your lens. And yourself. For which I will not (see above) be properly organised. So, showable-here photos photoed by me, taken in rainy weather, are rare.

Nevertheless, here is a recent rainy weather photo that I photoed that I quite like:

This was photoed the same day I photoed that lady photoing her ice cream. This lady was photoing her mere companion, so not so fascinating on that front, but I do like the umbrella, the wheely-suitcase and the all round shininess of everything, reflecting the various colours bouncing around in that part of Soho, which is where I was. (Hence the massage advert top left.)

You can even see the green bike reflected in the smooth but wet pavement upon which it stands.

But the mere fact that this lady was content to have her suitcase out in the open like this is proof that this was not serious rain.

For what that is like, let us again consult a recent blog posting by 6k, who lives in South Africa:

It’s been raining for about 12 hours now, it’s still raining, and we’re already approaching an incredible 100mm. The pool is overcapacity, the gutters overflowing, the drains overwhelmed and the beagle is …

Well, it turns out the beagle wasn’t that bothered, because he was indoors. But you get the point. There’s rain like in London, in my photo. And then there’s rain, like that.

And remove dentures

6k and I continue to amuse one another. Most recently I amused him with this. And, even more recently, like: just now, he amused me with this:

It’s one of these, which he linked to from this posting.

Today being Friday, I was doing displacement activity (see below) looking for exotic creatures, which he often photos. Very well, I think. (Or: have a browse here.) But this sign was even better.

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