Back in England

Having spent a week appreciating the Frenchness of France, I now find myself especially noticing the Englishness of England:

1.1 (cricket in Vincent Square) and 1.2 (Prince Albert outside his Hall) were taken yesterday afternoon. 2.1 (Westminster Abbey plus Big Ben smothered in scaffolding (plus a tiny bit of Wheel)) was taken yesterday evening. 2.2 (a Handley Page Victor recently acquired by a friend) was taken earlier this evening.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Upside down chickens in a Paris shop window

One of the things about travel in foreign parts is that you regularly see things which you just do not understand.

And for me, when I was in Paris on May 5th, this photo, hastily snatched while crossing a road, definitely falls into the I Do Not Understand This category:

The buildings reflected in the window behind me introduce a note of sanity into an otherwise incomprehensible scene. Why the upside down chickens? And what has this to do with fortieth birthdays?

Shop windows are an endless source of photo-amusement for me. I can enjoy it for ever, but without paying a thing or taking up any of my scarce home-space!

Busy day today, so that will have to do.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A better hand dryer at the Gare du Nord

I believe that many of the best photoers have a touch of the perve about them, and quite a few other photoers also. At the very least, photoers sometimes have to be okay with people thinking they’re perves, which I suppose is part of what being a perve is.

So, for instance, in order to take these photos, I had to be using a camera in a public toilet:

After we had done passport and baggage checking in for our Eurostar journey from the Gare du Nord back to London, nature had summoned me to the gents. After I had answered my summons, I washed my hands, and then dried them in the hand dryer that you see above. I had to leave to get my camera, and then go back there to photo the hand dryer. Happily, nobody saw me at it.

The solidity and cleanability of the device inspired confidence. I could see everything, so it would also need to look clean, which increased confidence that it almost certainly was clean. Best of all, the heat was concentrated in a sort of horizontal sheet, if you get my meaning. And you could move your hands up and down to where you needed to, to get rid of the last of the moisture. It felt like it needed less power to do the same job, better. And that of course is what its makers claim.

Those makers being Dyson, known to me until now only for their vacuum cleaners, and this is, as my photos had already told me, the Dyson Airblade dB hand dryer.

Capitalism just keeps on getting better, tiny step by tiny step, that being why this fact seldom hits the headlines.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Angel Bear outside the Gare du Nord

When you go by train to Quimper from London, you start by going by Eurostar to the Gare du Nord in Paris. And when you step outside the main entrance of the Gare du Nord, you find yourself next to a big red bear with wings.

Although I noticed this big red bear with wings when I first got to Paris, I only photoed it on the way back, a week later, when I and GodDaughter 2’s Mum were in less of a hurry between trains and when the weather was much better.

Also, on the way back, we didn’t suddenly see the big red bear with wings. We could see it as we approached the Gare du Nord, and I had my camera ready to go, as it had been all afternoon:

I quite like this big red bear with wings, but I am less sure about whether I admire it. It seems like a mixture of too many unrelated things. The lots-of-holes style of sculpting, which I associate with 3D printing, is one thing. Making a bear look like a bear is something else. And then, there are those wings. On a bear. Wings with holes in them. The idea of the wings is that they turn the bear into an angel bear. Something to do with global warming and the melting icecaps, I read somewhere and then lost track of. The artist, Richard Texier, is not big on logic. He prefers to stimulate the imagination. To evoke magic.

The big red bear is called, see above, “Angel Bear”, and it has an inescapable air of kitsch about it, to my eye. Like something you’d buy, smaller but still quite big, in a posh gift shop, for far too much money. I prefer a bull that Texier has also done, in the same 3D printed style. No wings. Much better, to my eye. Cleaner, as a concept.

Richard Texier Artist

But still a bit gift shoppy, I think. Which is another way of saying that I bet these big old animals are by far his most popular works. I suspect that Texier may be a bit irritated by this. He likes being popular and he likes these big animals. But he also likes his more abstract less gift shoppy stuff, and wishes the populace liked them more too. Things like this:

I found both of those images at the Richard Texier website, at this page.

Despite my reservations about the big red bear with wings and my preference for other Texier works, I can, when I look at his big red bear with wings, feel Paris trying. Trying to become that little bit less of the big old antique such as, compared to London, it now is. I mean, you can’t miss the big red bear with wings. Personally, I don’t find it to be wholly successful. But it is holey.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Uninterrupted France blogging feels wrong so here are some football results

I had in mind that the whole of this week would be about my recent trip to France, but I find that doesn’t suit. It feels wrong. This blog usually bounces around between different times and different subjects, and putting that on hold for a week feels, as I say, wrong.

There is also the problem that I don’t like doing long and complicated postings every day, and all the things I want to say about that French trip are quite long and quite complicated, if only because I want to attach copious photo-illustration to each of them. So, today, no France, apart from that observation.

Instead, I will today confine myself to noting with satisfaction that, following a disastrous last weekend, when their rivals Chelsea won and they lost, Tottenham Hotspur, the football club that I like to do well (“support” would be to exaggerate ridiculously – I never actually go to games), earlier this evening defeated Newcastle, while Chelsea could only draw against Huddersfield. All of which means that Huddersfield will not be relegated and Spurs will play in the early stages of the next Euro Champions League, until such time as they get eliminated. But, bright side: Spurs finished top out of the London clubs. Chelsea we’ve covered. Arsenal also got beaten this evening, and are far behind, hence them firing their noted French manager, Wenger.

One of the subheadings in this has Spurs managing to “limp” over the line, by which is meant guarantee to finish at least fourth and definitely ahead of Chelsea. The Spurs pattern seems now to be to have a basically good season, but to end it falteringly. Sounds to me like: they’re tired. Their manager apparently trains them extremely hard, which means they do well. But towards the end, they run out of puff.

I do that every day, just before I go to bed. One other thing about my France trip, I’m going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, than I was, I mean. And I’m trying to keep it that way.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The internet is no longer a nice place

I remember when the internet was nice. My part of it, the blogosphere, was nice, anyway. Every blogger, no matter what he thought about things, was a comrade. Every commenter, ditto. In those magic few years from about 2001 until about 2008 at the latest, when a whole generation of people the world over found themselves short of cash, the internet was a nicer, more trusting place than it is now. Since then, less and less. Now, the internet is not to be trusted further than it can be spat, and it can’t be spat at all, can it?

Which is why, when I go on holiday and leave my flat unattended, I tend not to broadcast the fact on this blog, by posting postings which are clearly from this or that holiday location.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: broadcast? This blog, a broadcast? Well, no, not to regular humans. But to all those cash-strapped desperadoes out there, it is a potential opportunity.

I don’t know if there are any internet creatures who spend their time working out, from blog postings and social media postings, that this or that person has left his home unattended, and then selling lists of such trusting persons on to people who might be able to do something bad about that, but this is not a chance I now care to take. I prefer only to be telling you about photo-expeditions after I am back home.

Also, as you get older, you get more easily scared. The less you have left to lose, the more you fear losing it. This may not make calculational sense, but does make evolutionary sense. The young need to be willing to take risks, to be willing to bet everything for the sake of their gene pool. The old have less to offer in such dramas. Or something. What do I know? Anyway, whatever the reason, we oldies get more timid as we grow older.

So yes, I was on holiday last week, in Brittany, and then yesterday, on the way home from there, I was in Paris, as I yesterday reported once I had got home.

I took enough photos while in France to last me a month of blogging, and I expect about the next week of postings here to be about nothing else. Here is just one photo from my travels:

That was my first view, again, this time around, of Quimper Cathedral, seen through the rather sunglassesy front window of my hosts’ car, on what was already quite a dreary afternoon, the day after I arrived, Sunday April 29th. Quimper Cathedral – to be more exact, one of its towers – was responsible for the timing of this visit. I’ll tell you more about that in a later posting.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Lunch in Paris

I’m back home now, but yes, earlier today I had lunch in Paris.

I don’t normally do food photoing, but I reckon this one came out pretty well:

This photo was an afterthought, but that helped because I photoed the food while it was being eaten rather than before we started, which worked out better, I think. And it tasted even better than it looked. It’s liver of some kind, and it didn’t come cheap, but boy was it tasty, and it kept us fueled for the rest of the day.

But now? I’m now knackered and am off to what will by my tardy standards be an early bed. More about all this tomorrow, unless there’s some unignorable drama.somewhere, like someone dropping an H-bomb or some similar foolishness.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Super selfie taken on a sky slope

I reckon that, if there were some kind of competition for selfie photography, this selfie would, if entered, be a definite contender for a medal spot:

I am fond of arguing that you should judge a new technology or communicational device or software application, not by its merely average, everyday uses, but by its most significant uses. So long as the average uses do no great harm, then if the highly significant uses are very good, that’s proof of the extreme goodness of the thing. Don’t judge telephones only by all the silly but harmless chitchat they transmit, judge them by those life-saving 999 calls. Don’t judge Skype by people just gibbering at random even though there’s no big problem with that, judge it in particular by how it connects people with relatives who are dying on the other side of the world. Judge it when doctors use it to do long-distance and life-saving diagnoses, or when an absent father, working abroad, is able to keep in touch with his kids back home.

The same applies to selfies. Most of them don’t do any harm, even if they aren’t great works of art. But some are terrific. See above.

As you can see very clearly, this one was taken with a mobile phone. Look closely, and you’ll see that there is a perfect shadow of the photoer, just to the right of the mobile phone.

Found it here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

But are we any happier?

A tweet reminded me about this wonderful rant from Louis CK:

That’s the version of it, with dots inserted by him, that Steven Pinker quotes in his new book about the Enlightenment.

Pinker is concerned to explain why increasing affluence doesn’t seem to make everyone ecstatically happy. Deidre McCloskey, in her Bourgeois trilogy, is fond of talking about how the Great Enrichment has made regular people as of now nearly three thousand percent richer. So, why aren’t we three thousand percent happier? Because we don’t seem to be.

Lots of reasons. First, you are happy not according to your absolute level of affluence, but rather according to how affluent you get to be and how meaningful your life gets to be compared to what you were expecting, and compared to how well everyone else seems to be doing, because that tells you how well you could reasonably have expected to do. You may well have been raised to expect quite a lot. Second, although technology hurtles along, for most this hurtling is both pleasing and rather unsettling, the less of the former and the more of the latter as time goes by. We don’t experience, in our one little life, how much better things like Twitter are than is looking after cows, out of doors, all year round, with not enough food or heating. What we experience, as we get older, is how confusing things like Twitter are, or alternatively, if we ignore something like Twitter, how demoralising it is that it has defeated us and denied us its benefits. Or how tedious air travel is, compared to what we’d hoped for rather than compared to a horse drawn wagon in a desert. Yes, I live three thousand percent better than that wretched cowherd three hundred years ago, and if a time machine took away my life and gave me his life, I’d be three thousand percent more miserable. But that’s not the same as me being three thousand percent happier than he was. Happier, yes, definitely. But not by that much.

It’s because we don’t feel that much happier that Louis CK has to rant, to remind us of how lucky we are. And that Steven Pinker has to write his book, to make the same point.

But what if progress continues to hurtle forwards? What if someone reads this posting, centuries from now, and he says: Good grief, those Twenty First Centurions were very easily satisfied. Five hours to get from New York to California?

It must have been hell.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

My camera is not turning photos yellow – it’s Windows Photo Viewer that is turning photos yellow

Yes, panic over. The situation seemed very bad, but instead is as described above.

Consider this photo, of the roof of the long snakey shed that looks like it’s for growing tomatoes, where the Euro-trains used to arrive and depart from:

I was viewing that in Windows Photo Viewer, but then I found myself simultaneously viewing that same photo in in my photo-editing software, thus:

Do you see? Of course you do. Windows Photo Viewer, on the left, has introduced, from nowhere, a cream background, and shoved it behind and into the photo. On the right, Photoshop(clone) has ignored this cream under(over)lay, and has restored the pure blue of that Waterloo Station roof and has taken the ominous yellow tinge out of the dark grey sky. The white bits of the roof are back to being white. Put the photo in some different software for viewing my archives, and it is similarly cleansed of yellowness. All was well with the original photo, as it emerged from my camera. Windows Photo Viewer is the problem and the only problem.

So, no panic about my camera. Just a question about Windows Photo Viewer. How do I get that to behave itself? I have worked out how to change the brown at the top and bottom of the photo to any other colour you or I would like. But can I get it to stop with the cream? Can I random-punctuation-marks-in-an-angry-little-line. Suggestions anyone?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog