Waiting for the plague to arrive

Life in London and places like it is, just now, strange. It is not now like this:

But will it soon become like this?

That’s a photo taken just over a century ago in Seattle. The Shorpy caption reads:

Ca. 1918-1919. “Precautions taken in Seattle, Wash., during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic would not permit anyone to ride on the street cars without wearing a mask. 260,000 of these were made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross which consisted of 120 workers, in three days.”

Coincidence that they just happened to be posting that, earlier this month? Presumably: not. (Here is a clutch of recent Coronoavirus links.)

Shorpy, one of the many things photographic that I have learned about from Mick Hartley, is now a regular www destination of mine.

Lovebirds

Friday being my day for cats and other creatures, and today being everyone else’s day for romance, here’s a couple to celebrate the day:

Number 13 of this collection of twenty five non-human romantics. Although, some of them just look like cats that like each other without being an item.

So, do birds actually mate for life? According to this, ninety percent of bird species are “socially monogamous”, but …:

… socially monogamous birds are not necessarily faithful partners, but they care for each other and for the young of their nest. Rearing young together does not imply sexual fidelity. Studies of eastern bluebirds have found that nests with mixed parentage – that is, they have eggs by more than one father, or more than one mother, or both – are not uncommon.

A lot like us, in other words.

The artistic retreat from beauty

Like many people, I like photos like this:

Not photoed by me. I wish it had been photoed by me. But, not.

It makes me think of David Hockney, who also likes leafless trees.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (ISIBAISIA): Artistic fashion often goes where it goes not because it is leading us all into some new and exciting artistic domain, but because it is retreating from an area where it can no longer make any sort of living. Example: beauty. Of the sort you see in the above photo.

Googling is good for things describable with a single word. But something like the idea that artists now hate doing beauty is a bit harder to track down. Google tends to fixate on one of the words you use and ignore all the others until it has told you everything it has on, you know, “artists”. Then, keep scrolling, and soon you will be learning of everything there is that you can read about “hate”. The closest I could get to what I wanted was a piece at the Tate Gallery website, entitled JJ CHARLESWORTH FINDS BEAUTY, ALONG WITH A SUNNY VIEW OF THE FUTURE, TO BE SOMETHING OF THE PAST.

I agree with JJ CHARLESWORTH that artists who reject beauty do this partly because they have a gloomy view of the future. But, ISIBAISIA, there’s surely also the fact that all of us now have machines on our persons which can crank out beauty on a daily basis, immortalising everything beautiful that we encounter that we wish to immortalise. Click. And if we can’t even be bothered to do that, plenty can be so bothered, and now pile their efforts into the great global photo-gallery that is the internet, that of course being where I got the photo that adorns this posting. What chance does the average artist have when up against all that? No wonder they prefer ugliness, ugliness so ugly that the Daily Mail will supply free publicity for it, “conceptual” art, painting with shit and piss, and such like. Oh, an artist can add beauty of the sort that a regular photo won’t add, but they can’t add enough extra beauty to justify all the extra bother. And especially not in the age of photo-processing software, which can add beauty. Now, picture-making software can enable you to create beauty.

Hockney, of course, is not an average artist. He is exceptional. He is in the top one per cent. He can paint whatever he likes, and people will still pay him lavishly for it. He can even sell his photos. But for his pains, all the official art people now agree that he is very passé for still doing beauty.

So, the artists have retreated out of beauty. They call it an advance, but they’re not fooling me. And now that I’ve explained this to you, they aren’t fooling you either.

ISIBAISIA

ISIBAISIA stands for “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. As I get older, I find myself wanting to use this phrase more and more, hence my need for an acronym. Which, I note, other persons are already using also.

Anyway, the latest thing that I’ve said before and now find myself in the process of saying again (while linking back to the first version) is something which you will encounter if you scroll down in among this, at Samizdata, namely this:

Recently there was a comment thread here about modern art, about how ghastly it is, how badly it bodes for Western Civilisation, etc. etc. But I believe that to be as pessimistic about the future of the West as some of those pessimistic commenters were, merely because of a lot of stupid abstract paintings, is to fall into the trap of regarding artists in the way they like to regard themselves, as a vanguard of civilisation (an “avant guarde”), rather than as mostly a rearguard. You simply cannot understand Modern Art without appreciating that it takes place in a technological space first developed by, and then abandoned by, the industry of making pictorial likenesses. Abstract art is, in many ways, a rationalisation of the fact that likenesses are now no longer demanded, on the scale of former times, from “artists”. It is primitive picture making, done in a part of town that used to be very grand but is now either stuck in genteel poverty, or in the other kind of poverty: a slum.

Old school art was a business as well as an “art”. …

Painting used to do likenesses. And the new point I am in the middle of making, in the next posting here, is that painting used to do beauty. But photography is now doing beauty also. (Expect a beautiful photo-illustration.) So painting has retreated out of that too. Art doesn’t “advance”. It merely ducks, weaves and accumulates, piggy-backing on technologies developed by more business-like businesses.

FaceID

Back in my Alternative Bookshop days, I and my libertarian pals used to joke about things that were both compulsory and illegal. It would appear that face masks in China are pretty close to being that, because of the conflicting demands of plague protection and facial recognition.

But at least, according to this report (at the top of which appears the above photo), I have (when displaying photos like these ones here) been getting how “FaceID” does and does not work approximately right:

Most complaints are about unlocking mobile devices. Apple confirmed to Quartz that an unobstructed view of a user’s eyes, nose, and mouth is needed for FaceID to work properly. Similarly, Huawei says that its efforts to develop a feature that recognizes partially-covered faces has fallen short. “There are too few feature points for the eyes and the head so it’s impossible to ensure security,” explains Huawei vice president Bruce Lee, in a Jan 21 post on Weibo.”We gave up on facial unlock for mask or scarf wearing [users].”

Or have I? The software used by mere people, for unlocking their mobile phones, may not now work if you are wearing a face mask. But what if the governments of the world have graciously permitted themselves to use far better software, which can easily see past a face mask?

Big Things in alignment

Are you fed up with photos I photoed years ago? Well, to make a change, here’s a photo someone else photoed years ago:

That’s the dramatic photo at the top of a piece in The Independent entitled, in appropriately dramatic capital letters, SUPERMOON 2020: HOW TO SEE SNOW MOON THIS WEEKEND.

Getty Images says, about this photo of theirs

A full moon passes behind The Shard skyscraper on 9 September, 2014 in London, England

Anyway, the point is, something similar might well, weather permitting, be happening this coming Sunday.

The first supermoon of the decade will rise over the skies of the UK on Sunday, offering the brightest and biggest view of the moon in almost a year.

It will be the first of four supermoons set to take place in 2020, and the first to occur since 20 March last year. They happen when the full moon is at its closest point in its orbit of Earth, making it seem bigger and brighter than usual.

Weather permitting, people around the world will witness the spectacle on 9 February, with the exact moment where the effect appears strongest happening at 7.34am GMT. The moon will appear full for around three days, spanning from Saturday to Monday.

The time of year means this full moon has traditionally been known as the Full Snow Moon or the Full Hunger Moon, as it often coincided with heavy snowfall and difficult hunting conditions.

Personally, I’m in favour of “difficult hunting conditions”, because I’m a townie and I hate hunting, of any animals not capable of turning around and attacking and devouring their pursuers. But I digress. I am in favour of good photoing weather.

The weather today, like the weather yesterday, was perfect. Here’s to that lasting. Which our forecasters now say it won’t. Shame.

New word

Cranebow:

Found this here.

LATER: From where I’m sitting, there is small and unwelcome gap just before where it says, below, “Monday 27 January 2020”. Can any passing WordPress experts explain this, and thereby help me get rid of it? (My guess is: Me asking this will cause this gap to vanish spontaneously.)

And I was right! It did vanish. And me writing the above paragraph enabled me to spot it, because the entire paragraph turned blue. A missing “/” was the problem, following the blue “here”, which, when inserted, abolished the gap. So, WordPress experts, forget about it.

Sneaky selfies

A sneaky selfie by me, a week ago:

And a dozen sneaky selfies by Vivian Maier, photoed somewhat longer ago:

The point being that selfies are selfies, but sneaky selfies are selfies but with lots of other stuff going on as well.

Vivian Maier being my favourite of all the photographers whose work I have got to know by being a regular reader of Mick Hartley‘s blog.

The entire British Concorde fleet in 1986

Here:

Alternative title: Five Concordes sniffing the arse of another Concorde. A Twitter commenter agrees.

As someone once said about a battleship: “This is how to waste public money.”

One of my most lasting regrets is that I never photoed Concorde, even though my first digital camera predated its demise.

Not ordinary things.

“The turquoise really was that turquoise …”

I love this photo:

For all the reasons he says, and particularly because of (see above) the turquoise bits on the left as we look.

And this lighthouse photo is pretty nice too. Again with the crashing waves.

Although, question. The acronym “RBOSS” signifies the excessive use of photo-editing to beef up photo-colours to absurd levels of colourfulness. And I also hate this. I always try to leave colours just as they came out of the camera. But what actual words do the letters R, B, O, S and S actually stand for?