BMNB QotD

Kassy Dillon:

I’m voting for Trump but I wouldn’t be friends with Trump. I’m not voting for Yang but I’d definitely be his friend.

I have no idea who or what Kassy Dillon is, but I think this is an important distinction.

Which is not the same as saying that I would definitely like having this “Yang” character as a friend, or wouldn’t like having Trump as a friend. The point is that voting for someone and befriending someone are two different things.

Trump tweets: “I’m OK with that!” Which is how I heard about this.

Links to a Rothbard piece on libertarian tactics that Antoine Clarke will be referencing in his talk tomorrow about Saudi Arabia

Tomorrow evening, as mentioned at the top of the previous posting, there’ll be a talk at my home given by Antoine Clarke. The subject will be the efforts of the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to liberalise (libertarianise?) his country.

During this talk, Antoine will be referring back to an old Libertarian Alliance pamphlet I remember publishing, way back before The Internet, by Murray Rothbard, entitled Four Strategies For Libertarian Change.

I have already supplied a link to my email list of potential attenders to the pdf version of this piece.

I simultaneously apologised that there was no html version to be accessed. But now there is. One of the intending-to-attend attenders tomorrow (thanks Andrew) has converted the pdf file of Rothbard’s piece into this html file.

This was either easy, in which case I congratulate Andrew for being clever. Or, it was hard, in which case I think Andrew for being industrious. I’m guessing, a bit of both. There are a few punctuational oddities that the software I used to read this got a bit confused by, but if that happens to you, there’s nothing that can’t be read past pretty easily.

LATER: The above niggle about punctuation seems now to have been entirely corrected by Andrew, with a revised version of the file. Andrew, thanks again.

Michael Jennings on China – as seen from Nepal and from Australia

I have one of my Last Friday of the Month talks at my home tomorrow evening. See the next posting for news about that. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts that Michael Jennings jotted down, concerning the talk he’ll be giving in the same series on October 25th. While writing this, he didn’t know he was writing a blog posting. That only happened when I asked him if I could stick it up here, and he said … okay, yes:

In April and May this year, I spent a month in Nepal. I spent a fair portion of this in very remote areas – places (such as the region of Upper Mustang) that were almost literally medieval kingdoms only 30 years ago. These places are no longer medieval and no longer kingdoms, but they are still very poor, agricultural communities. At least, the ones without roads connecting them to the outside world are very poor, agricultural communities. Communities with roads connecting them to the outside world are different. Still poor by international standards, but much richer. The roads are being built with Chinese money and expertise.

These places are also very close to the border with Tibet. These places have always been close to the border with Tibet, but of course, these days this means the border with China. As China has become economically more powerful in recent years, the Chinese influence on these places has become stronger. The locals have mixed feelings about that. The Chinese have resources and get things done, whereas governments of Nepal – and governments of their nearer and friendlier neighbour India – are not known for this. On the other hand, if you cross the border you had better not be carrying a picture of the Dalai Lama, and if a Chinese policeman tells you to do something, you had better do it. (Nepali policemen are fairly amiable, mildly corrupt, and not people to worry about that much). The Chinese are building roads and power stations, which is making people richer. This is generally considered to be good. The Chinese bring money and wealth, but they also bring an extremely authoritarian political model with it, and you can see this in one small, poor country of a very different culture to theirs

This is one relatively small, poor country case of the interactions that a rising China is having with much of Asia and much of the world. At the other end of this are things like the interactions of my native Australia with China. Australia was always rich, but is now very rich due principally to selling iron ore and coal to China for the last 20 years. Australia has a large Chinese community, that has arrived in the country mostly in the last 50 years. 30 years ago, Australia would have been unequivocal in its support for the present demonstrators in Hong Kong, if events such as that had been happening then. These days, the Australian government says nothing. Meanwhile, Chinese students in Australia are spied on by Chinese secret police, Chinese language newspapers in Australia – there are many – are intimidated into taking a pro-Beijing line, and other similar things. Do Australians like this – not much, although Australians do generally like Chinese people and Chinese immigrants individually. Australia is now in an uncomfortable position of gaining much of its prosperity from people with an extremely authoritarian political model that we don’t particularly like.

Two extreme examples, but a great many countries in Asia and Africa (and elsewhere) face the same questions, to varying degrees. I will be giving a talk in which I discuss what this means for the world and where this may all lead.

There’ll be another talk about China on the last Friday of November, which is November 28th, by Hong-Konger-now-based-in-London Katy Lau. No apologies whatever for the “duplication”. First, it won’t be. These will be two completely different takes on China. And second, could any subject in the world be more important just now, or more vast in its scope and significance?

The Temperate House

On August 24th 2018, exactly one year ago, GodDaughter2 and I visited Kew Gardens I of course photoed photos, of central London from the top of the Great Pagoda, of some inflated plastic dragons, and of the Great Pagoda and the dragons on the Great Pagoda.

Here are some more photos I photoed that day, of something called the Temperate House, so called because it contains plants from temperate climates:

But my favourite photo that I photoed that day of the Temperate House was this one that I photoed from the top of the Great Pagoda:

At the back there are some dreary concrete towers, which architects make a great fuss of, and of the sort that the rest of us mostly shrug our shoulders about and just put up with.

This was the photo that caught my attention when I looked again at my KewGardens Aug24-2018 directory today, and which got me doing this posting.

My fourth task was photoing the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery

Late this afternoon, I went out walking, within walking distance of where I live. I had four tasks and I accomplished all of them, and then some. I have reached the age where getting four out of four in this sort of way is reason to self-congratulate. The and then some being that I took lots of photos that I hadn’t planned on photoing.

The first task was to stock up on some canned drinks that I can only buy at one shop. The second was to stop by a cash machine. The third was to photo a building, a detail of which I needed to know about for a blog posting. And the fourth was to photo this:

This being the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery. (Interesting that the Queen’s Gallery has no website.) I have arranged to meet someone there next week, to see the Leonardo da Vinci show they are showing. And I needed to check that saying “entrance” as the place where we’ll meet is clear and unambiguous. Better yet, I needed a photo of the entrance, so I can say: there.

Don’t you just love it when a piece of personal admin can double up as a blog posting? Well, no, you probably never do that, or feel that way about it. But I do and I do.

Yesterday in Euston Road

Yesterday I met up with a friend in Kings Cross, and afterwards, what with the victoria Line being all over the shop, I walked along the Euston Road, to places where other tube lines could be easily reached.

Here are a few of the photos I photoed:

My usual preoccupations are on show. Signs (ph4 ph5), sculpture (ph5), things that look like they could be sculpture but are not, like scaffolding (ph8) and like those strange yellow things (ph7). There’s even a photoer photo (ph3), outside St Pancras. And a taxi advert (ph2, about how you can “ID yourself”.

ANPR, I now learn, refers to Automatic Number Plate Recognition, which it would appear that motorists don’t need to have explained to them. But what are the strange yellow things? Weights to stop the fences being pulled over, is my guess.

Plus, note the surveillance camera, top left, in the last otherwise oh-so-pretty photo.

More pleasingly, I like how that glass penthouse-like (pentoffice?) addition has been added to the slightly older brick structure (ph6). The opposite of roof clutter. A lot of architecture is about adding stuff to already existing buildings these days. Which makes a nice change from smashing everything down every time, which they of course still do a lot of.

Adding stuff includes adding paint, to an already existing building (ph1). That building always amazes me whenever I see it. It’s a bank. There seems to be an architecture rule that the more flamboyant the building, the duller the institution that occupies it. Vice versa often applies too, I think.

Food photos as prayers of gratitude

This from the American Spectator seems to me to be saying something rather true:

It is easy to be cynical. We might dismiss these photos as brazen self-promotion or a symptom of millennial self-absorption. Headlines like “Instagram Food Is a Sad, Sparkly Lie” and “Instagramming Millennials Are Burying the World in Food Waste” capture the standard sentiment. Slurs such as “foodgasm” and “food porn” often taint these photos with the suggestion of lechery. Perhaps, though, a more sincere explanation is possible. As odd as it sounds, I do not see pornography in these images. I find prayer.

I believe these pictures are a new incarnation of an ancient instinct: the ritual of tableside grace. Derived from the Latin gratia for “thanks,” grace is a specific type of prayer given before or after a meal to express gratitude and to invoke a blessing. It is an exercise in devoting reverential attention to life’s bounty, and through this enriched attention, achieving an expanded sense of belonging. “It becomes believers not to take food … before interposing a prayer,” Tertullian wrote in the third century, “for the refreshments and nourishments of the spirit are to be held prior to those of the flesh, and things heavenly prior to things earthly.” Grace is more than gratitude — it is gratitude ascendant, aimed above the earthly appetite toward a higher vocation. The Catholic Catechism defines prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” Thus grace gives our gratitude wings that lift the mind from the necessities of the flesh toward the nourishments of the spirit. For many people, photographing their entrées fills the same social role as grace: a ritual of aspirational attention that elevates bodily sustenance into spiritual refreshment through the simple power of a genuine “thank you.”

I often find myself describing my fellow digital photoers as “worshippers”. They see something which seems to them meaningful and express that feeling by photoing whatever it is. I do this myself of course, constantly.

On the other hand, this piece also helped me to understand the widespread annoyance at the way food photoing is such a big part of social-media-ing. Saying grace is fine. But it’s a shared moment for those present (God included, if you think He’s the one to be thanking), and then you get stuck in. Do you record this expression of gratitude and then expect your friends to listen to it? No.

But on the other hand, two of the things that twenty-first-centurions now have to learn are: not to pay attention to everything that your friends put out there; and: not to expect your friends to pay attention to everything that you put out there. If a friend posts lots of food photos and you think it’s too much, just pay less attention.

Also, this:

More about this wondrous concoction here.

And while I’m on the subject of food photoing, take (or not (it’s entirely up to you (if we are friends, our friendship will not be affected))) another look at what I think is one of my best-yet food photos, here.

Strange Things on a tree

I recently attended a picnic in a London square, the sort with a small park in the middle, and photoed this strange tree with its extra bits. Left to right: lots of context, some context, and just the Things:

I image-googled the London square where I photoed these photos, mentioning the strange Things on the tree, and got nothing. I’m guessing the inhabitants of the square, who include my hosts, would probably like to keep it that way. So, no name of the square. Just the fun of seeing the Things, and a question: What are they? Any suggestions?

Reflections at the top of the Shard

Two years ago to the day, GodDaughter2 arranged for the two of us to visit the top of the Shard. I paid. She organised.

Sadly, she couldn’t organise a bright cloudless day for us. It was muggy and dim, instead of bright.

I got quite a few good photos, but the photo I remember most clearly from that expedition was this nearly great near miss:

That’s the original, no cropping or photoshop(clone)ing. That was it.

And, it badly needs an extra slice of land at the horizon, so I could rotate it into perfect horizontality, and crop it to have just a small slice of land. As it is, there’s no saving it.

What I still like about that photo, and what I would have loved had it been the masterpiece that actually got away, is the way that one of the biggest problems of photoing from the Shard, the shininess of the windows, has become a feature instead of a bug. Oh well.

But now look at this. I only (re)discovered this one today, while searching out stuff that was exactly x years ago to the day where x can vary. This one was also photoed on that very same expedition and from the top of that same Shard, and it also features a reflection:

Once again, no editing, no messing. That is it, straight from the camera. And how about that?!?!

We are looking out across the River, in a north easterly direction to the Tower of London (bottom left) and beyond. But, wondrously reflected, unmistakably, bang in the middle (so I must have been doing this on purpose): the Walkie Talkie. Click. Forget. On to the next one. And I only just rediscovered it. Had no memory of this at all.

The rule with photoing, or at any rate a rule I follow, is that there can be as much confusion as you like, the more the merrier, so long as at least something is clear. And the Walkie Talkie is clear, because it is such a distinct shape. Other photos I photoed by photoing straight at the Walkie Talkie tell me that this is a genuine reflection of the thing itself, rather than – I don’t know – just picture of it or something.

And I know that you could probably do this very easily with your photoshop(clone). But, I couldn’t. And I didn’t.

Oscar on high

Incoming from GodDaughter2’s Dad:

It’s a cat called Oscar, on a roof. But photo any creature from that low angle and it acquires a dignity and even a spot of master-of-all-he-surveys grandeur that it would otherwise not exude.

I took a few photos of Oscar on that roof when I was there in the south of France last April, which I have yet to show here. And I photoed other Oscar photos in other places which I have shown here. Some were quite entertaining, and a few of them even proved to be rather important. But all the Oscar photos I just linked to were from above, and none were as imposing as that recent one by GD2D, to whom thanks.

Looking at that photo some more, I think it greatly helps that the roof, its true roofness masked by the dark, looks more like a rock formation than a regular roof.