Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Why I like Cricinfo
Darren on Why I like Cricinfo
Tatyana on English is weird
Brian Micklethwait on New York construction cranes in action
Andrew Duffin on New York construction cranes in action
Friday Night SMoke on English is weird
Scott Morter on 55 Broadway
Ben on Incoming imagery from Antoine
Brian Micklethwait on Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
Brian Micklethwait on The new US Embassy – from my roof
Most recent entries
- Are London’s cranes about to depart for a few years?
- The new Tate Modern extension from inside Blackfriars Station
- Brexit graphics
- Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
- Referendum day graphics
- Big Things and viewing galleries in the Square Mile
- Why I like Cricinfo
- English is weird
- The Union Jack’s near death experience(s?)
- New York construction cranes in action
- Some thoughts on the Izzard effect
- Lioness eats camera
- An MP murdered
- A great new bridge in Iran
- Lions - Bears - Blackhawks
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This and that
Usually, I do quota postings in the small hours of the morning. Today, I am doing my quota posting in the big hours of the morning, to get it out of the way before a rather busy day, at the end of which I do not want to be fretting about doing a quota posting. Although, actually, this posting has now turned into something a bit more substantial than that, and I changed the title to something more meaningful. So anyway, yes, cranes:
Ah, cranes! Those structurally perfect votes of confidence in the sky. Those cranes were snapped from the south bank of the river, looking across at The City, on the same day earlier this month that I snapped yesterday’s quota photo. What that new Moderately Big Thing is, that some of the cranes there are ministering to, I do not know, but I like how it looks, in its incomplete state.
With Brexit, will the cranes vanish for a few years, until London sorts itself out and finds itself some new business to be doing? Crexit? (You can always tell when a word has well and truly caught on, because people immediately start trying to apply the same verbal formula to other things. Brexit, verbally speaking, is the new Watergate. Frexit, Swexit, Thisgate, Thatgate, etc. etc.) I thought that the cranes were going to depart after 2008 and all that, but the money people managed to keep the plates spinning on their sticks, and London’s cranes carried on. How will it be this time?
Here is a very pessimistic piece about Britain’s prospects, for the immediately foreseeable future. Does this mean that my crane photo-archive will, in hindsight, be the capturing of a moment of the economic history of London that will now pass? If the cranes do go, how will they look when they return? When the new cranes move in, in ten years time or whenever, will cranes like those above look strangely retro, like digital cameras circa 2005?
Or, will the cranes never return, but instead be replaced by magic electric guns which fill the air with muck and sculpt a building out of the muck, 3D printing style, all in the space of an afternoon?
Taken by me earlier this month:
Blackfriars Station being the one that has its own bridge.
I’ve not yet checked out this edifice, but of course I will, Real Soon Now. Equally of course, it’s what I will be able to see from it that now excites me, rather than any of the stuff I might encounter in it. That top layer of windows looks like it has an open balcony in front of them. I hope to get out there. You can read all you want on the internet about arrangements like this, but there is no substitute for actually going there and seeing for yourself.
But, there is also the matter of other photoers to photo. They may be photoing the stuff inside. If I come across them doing this, then I will, even more of course, join in.
Now that it’s been decided that we shall Brexit, Dezeen reports on what creatives have been creating to mark the event. Here are the two images they reproduce which I think are the most striking:
Both of these images are intended as expressions of regret that Britain has voted for Brexit, but neither quite say that, or not to me. What, after all, is so great for a balloon about being stuck in a whole bunch of other balloons? It’s creator says: “sad day”, but it doesn’t look that sad to me. It just looks like a change. If he was merely describing, relatively objectively, what had happened, then I guess: fair enough.
As for the disintegrating, weeping Union Jack, that would work far better as an expression of regret, in the event that Britain had voted Remain rather than Leave. It is national flags like this one one that the EU has been working tirelessly to replace with its own flag. Very odd. But, a striking image nevertheless.
LATER: I was, see below, tired and tipsy when I did this posting. By the above title what I meant was it was a brilliant talk, not that the talk was given by “Brilliant Brian”, aka me. So, to continue ...
And here is the guy who gave it:
I usually forget to take photos at my Last Friday of the Month meetings, but this evening I remembered, and took that photo of my speaker, during the socialising afterwards. I am too tired and too tipsy to say much about the talk, but it was indeed brilliant, and Anthony J. Evans is a real rising star. I’ve heard him talk before, but this was something else again. Basic message: Yes, national crises do create opportunities to insert “neo-liberalism” into countries, and a good thing too. Persuading a political tyranny to liberalise on the economic front often leads on to political liberalisation. Example: Chile. “Neo-liberalism” has good outcomes. Unlike the policies favoured by the people (Naomi Klein, George Monbiot) who complain about neo-liberalism, which only unleash disaster.
First, this, which was the graphic on the front page of today’s pro-Remain Daily Mirror, and reproduced at Samizdata, which Natalie Solent reckons sends a somewhat ambiguous message. I agree. Because REMAIN is in the biggest letters, it looks like it could be saying that if you vote REMAIN, you’ll be sucked into a black hole. As you will, by the way, if enough people do this. This is indeed the fate that awaits us all, in the event of a REMAIN victory. One of the reasons why this graphic only works when misunderstood, is that when misunderstood, it becomes true!
The thing is, the EU is a lot nearer to being like a black hole than us leaving the EU is. For that message, they needed something more like an endless desert, or a huge tundra, or maybe some grim maritime scene, doom-laden as far as they eye can see.
The enormity of this decision is, I feel, appropriately reflected in the deranged graphics which occurred when this picture got loaded up. Samizdata usually centres pictures automatically, and also makes them smaller automatically, if they need to be smaller. That doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment.
In the comment thread on that posting, I mentioned that it was raining. Which it was, torrentially. But alas, it soon cleared up, thereby not dampening down the London (= Remain) vote as much it might have if it had rained with less violence but greater steadiness. I mean, they even managed to have a shortened game of cricket at Lord’s, after the rain had stopped.
And on the right there, Elizabeth Hurley, who will have voted Leave by now, that being the picture she Twittered yesterday along with her support for Leave. There she stands, wearing only high-healed sandals and a Union Jack cushion, or that’s how it looks. Thankyou Guido. She was probably right that this would get noticed, and would aid the cause she favours. But I bet the Leavers have been circulating their own interpretations of this rather odd picture. Is the picture recent, I wonder, or does it date from way back?
At least it is upbeat and optimistic in atmosphere, unlike that black hole.
I found a handy little graphic – of Big Things built and Big Things soon to be built in the “Square Mile Cluster” of the City of London – in this piece:
Click to get a bigger and easier-to-read version.
As you can see, the names are all very dull and stupid. The Gherkin is called “30 St Mary Axe”, the Cheesegrater is called “122 Leadenhall Street”. The “Aviva Tower”, which will (if built) be the biggest of the lot (until a bigger one gets built), is far too big and obtrusive to go on being called the “Aviva Tower” indefinitely, by anyone except dull construction magazines terrified of their advertisers. There is also no way that the angular pointy thing (5: “52-54 Lime Street") will remain “52-54 Lime Street”. And I see that they even still calling Heron Tower the “Salesforce Tower”, which got squashed by public opinion ages ago.
Have these people learned nothing from the example of The Shard? The Shard’s owners heard people calling The Shard “The Shard” as soon as they announced it, and said, okay, that’s a name we can happily live with, we’ll call it that too. That way, there is no confusion. Everyone, even its owners, now calls The Shard The Shard. But refuse to bend with the linguistic breeze, and you end up with a building that you persist in pretending is called “34 Boring Street”, but which is really called The Dildo, or some such thing.
But the particular new tower which this article is about, now called “1 Leadenhall”, could quite well remain that, because it looks pretty unremarkable. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The fundamental purpose of the City – London, actually – is to get things done, not to look pretty.
But although unremarkable to look at, “1 Leadenhall” may prove very remarkable to look from. For here is yet another City of London Big Thing which will, assuming they mean it, have a viewing gallery at the top. The views of nearby and bigger Big Things will, I surmise, be pretty spectacular.
I actually think that they do mean it, just as they meant it with the Walkie Talkie. The City’s rulers seem to be making viewing galleries – free and public viewing galleries – at the top of new City Big Things a condition of planning permission. This is, I surmise, because they want to liven up the City at the weekend, by attracting out-of-City-ers there.
The City at the weekend is now about as exciting as the inside of a coffin. When I visited that model of the City (which at the moment is open only on Fridays and Saturdays), I stayed nearly an hour and saw only two other people there. They want to change that.
Trouble is, one of the things that gives the City at the weekend its coffinian atmosphere is its semi-darkness, on all but the brightest days. This is because of the Big Things of the City are not built with daylight in mind. They are built to create as much office space as possible, and maybe look cool from a distance, and they are now starting to cluster in a solid lump. I recently wrote about the difference between London and New York in this respect. In New York, daylight is a very big deal, and the Big Things of New York have always had to be rather further apart than these new London Big Things.
As I write, this game is boiling up nicely, following an England collapse at the start of their run chase. And then, in the midst of all the drama, there was this:
Ilanks: “Isn’t there a Ben Foakes being discussed as a potential keeper for England. If he’s selected, England could have Stokes, Woakes and Foakes in the line-up!” Yes indeed. And wouldn’t that be A Thing?
A Thing indeed. And if Chris Woakes was instead Ben Woakes, it would be Ben Stokes, Ben Woakes and Ben Foakes. An even thingier Thing.
Today Surrey had one of their best days of the season so far, given what a crappy season they’ve had so far. At the start of today, in their game against Notts at the Oval, Notts were 82-2, in reply to Surrey’s 323, following a very rainy day two. But this morning, Notts rolled over for only another hundred, and Surrey (who threw away a similar big first innings advantage in an earlier game) then built a big lead. If Surrey can do tomorrow what they did this morning, they could get their first win of the season.
I am becoming more and more of a Real Cricket Supporter, in the following sense: that my county doing well matters more to me than my country doing well. I would not have swapped Surrey’s strong position for a better England position earlier this evening, against Sri Lanka. I would still prefer a Surrey win tomorrow to an England win this evening. Although, now I think about it, an England loss would be easily corrected by a win next time, but a Surrey win would be far huger for Surrey. It could, as they say, kick start their season. So maybe I just prefer a huge win to a nice win. That could be it.
Ben Foakes, by the way, is the Surrey wicketkeeper. I knew you’d be excited. Plus, I heard indefatigable Surrey radio commentator Mark Church say yesterday that the best spin bowler in England just now, if England want a good one for their forthcoming tour of India, is Surrey’s veteran captain Gareth Batty. Batty’s bowling today: 11.4 overs, 3 maidens, 23 runs, 4 wickets. I know, I know, it’s almost too much excitement to take, in just one paragraph of one blog posting. You’d best have a little lie down.
That guy was photoed last Sunday, watching day one of the Surrey Notts game. I really should, every now and again, visit the Oval and support Surrey in person, having paid some money. It looks like I should just about be able to squeeze in.
LATER: Well. I just nipped out to Sainsburys for a loaf of my favourite sort of bread, and while there I consulted Cricinfo on my mobile, one of the few things that my mobile (as controlled by me) knows how to do non-contemptibly. (Don’t get me started on phone calls.) It revealed that England needed seven runs to win with one ball to go. So, that, I assumed, was that. But when I got home, I learned that Plunkett had hit the last ball for six, and it was a tie! As you will already know, if you followed the first of the above two Cricinfo links. Fan electronic bleeping noise tastic.
A DAY LATER: Well, well. Yesterday morning, Notts went from two down to all out, for a further hundred runs. This afternoon they went from two down to all out, for less than fifty, and Surrey got their first Championship Division One win of the season. (Follow the second link above for the details.) Finally. This time, it was the Surrey spinner whom England are likely to take to India (because he has a big future (unlike Batty)), Zafar Ansari, who did the damage. 11.3 overs, 3 maidens, 36 runs, 6 wickets. Notts lost their last eight wickets for thirty eight, and crucially, went from 119-2 to 124-6, courtesy entirely of Ansari. Ansari can also bat. Moeen Ali look out, he’s coming for you. Ansari would already be an England player, had he not bust his
finger thumb at the end of last season.
LATER: Cricinfo agrees.
I just heard someone, in a TV documentary I recorded, using the phrases “slow up” and “slow down”, in the same sentence. He used these phrases to mean exactly the same thing, and in fact they do seem to mean pretty much the same thing. Neither of these meanings have much to do with “up” or “down”.
It is fun, though, ruminating on when you’d use one and when the other, and why. They aren’t exactly the same, or both would not persist.
One of the more intriguing consequences of the not-now-so-very-recent (what with another one coming along) Scottish independence referendum (which happened in September 2014) was that, rather suddenly, the world (by which I really mean: I) suddenly found itself (myself) contemplating the idea of the Union Jack flag disappearing into the history books. Had Scotland gone separate, the Union Jack would surely have had to be redesigned. I would not have regretted Scotland detatching itself from England, in fact I would have voted for this if I could have. But, I would have regretted the passing of the Union Jack, if only because it is such a great design, so recognisable that it is capable of being endlessly mucked about with, while still remaining the Union Jack.
The new, non Scottish version of the Union Jack might have looked a bit like the bag on the left here, as we look:
That snap was snapped in 2015, after the Scottish referendum, but I don’t think those designs have anything to do with politics. They’re just simplified and rather dull variations on the Union Jack theme. The one on the left just happens to look a lot like the Union Jack minus the Saltire. (Saltire is the Scottish flag, right? Yes.) But what does the one on the right signify? In terms of the flags that go towards the Union Jack, it takes the blue stripes from the Saltire and turns them into a background for the red bits of the Welsh and English flags. So actually, it’s just a blue bag, with bits of red Union Jack-ish stuff on it. Maybe there was also a red one with white Union Jack-ish stuck on, to complete the red white and blue set. I might never have bothered showing the above photo here, if it hadn’t been for the Saltire subtraction angle.
I had already been snapping Union Jack snaps, since quite a while before that moment of the Union Jack’s possible moment of disappearance. I long ago added “funny things being done with the Union Jack” to my mental photo-category list, alongside such things as bald blokes taking photos, utilitarian and commonplace footbridges, taxis covered in adverts, Big Things seen from a long way away in among foreground clutter, and so forth and so on. But, since that earlier referendum, I have been taking photos of Union Jacks with particular zeal.
Here are a couple of very recent Union Jack snaps I did. The first is of some flip-flops, on sale at the Parliament end of Westminster Bridge:
I reckon it’s the cellophane that gives that its artistic effect.
And here is a London taxi wing mirror:
That taxi décor isn’t part of an advert. It is just a taxi decorated with the Union Jack.
And then, while I was ruminating on a posting along these lines, came this piece of graphic Union Jackery, from the Spectator, to decorate their decision to back the Leave campaign in the forthcoming EU referundum:
This reminded me of a picture I took in East London five years ago, of some Art:
I could continue, with yet more Union Jack snaps, but I will end with some more Brexit propaganda. Still on the flying theme, just before I took the above snap of how fabulous Britain will be and will feel if we Leave, here, taken just moments earlier, is another Artistic-type picture of how ghastly things will be and will feel if we Remain. That’s the EU there, trying and failing to take wing, because its bureaucracy is far too big and heavy and its wings far too feeble and misshapen, crushing us as it plummets to earth:
Are you thinking that there really needs to be a Union Jack on that car, to make this point even clearer? But that’s exactly point! The EU scrubs out the Union Jack. Look! The Union Jack is nowhere to be seen! The EU has totally obliterated it! What could be clearer?
Slightly more seriously, the EU’s rulers will not be happy until they have driven the Union Jack into the history books, not by breaking up Britain, but by swallowing it and turning it into either fuel for itself, or shit. The only Union they want, and want celebrated with a flag, is their own.
Here is a photo taken by a friend with her mobile, of a construction site in New York, complete with cranes:
I love it when friends send me snaps of things they know I will like.
I am particularly glad to see New York construction cranes in action. After doing that posting about how there has been no construction in the southern end of Manhattan, mentioning absence of cranes as evidence of no construction, I started to wonder if, in New York, they do things differently. I wondered if they built skyscrapers without using cranes, but just lifting all the stuff up the building, as they built it. Or something. But of course they use cranes in New York, same as everywhere else.
Just to be quite sure about that, I googled “construction cranes new york”. And I was greeted with scenes of crane carnage like you would not believe.
Apparently cranes in New York occasionally fall over, and this is the one time when the average person is interested in them. As a result, the average person has a totally distorted idea of the positive contribution made by construction cranes to modern society.
I am currently spending all my blogging time, apart from the late night hour or so that it took to bash out this, working on a summary of a talk given to Libertarian Home by Mark Littlewood, about Brexit. Lilttlewood used to be for Britain staying in the EU, but has since changed his mind. I hope to be sending that summary in to LH some time tomorrow.
Meanwhile, my understanding of the referendum is that the Jo Cox murder has made a bit of a difference, in favour of Remain, but that a stronger swing towards Leave has also been happening.
The whole immigration argument, now being pressed hard by the Leavers, is obviously making a big difference. But I reckon some other forces are also in play.
I was struck by the news that Leave was appealing to Labour voters by saying that voting Leave would wipe the smile off the faces of Cameron and Osborne. I think that’s probably proving to be very persuasive. In a General Election, you can hate Cameron and Osborne all you like, and vote against them. But, against you are all those people who think that a Labour Government would be a catastrophe. They all vote for Cameron and Osborne despite not liking them. But in this referendum, all those Labour voters whose overriding emotion is loathing of Cameron and Osborne can actually cause Cameron and Osborne to lose. I’m guessing that’s a very appealing idea.
I also think that Eddie Izzard’s bizarre appearance – literally his appearance – on shows like Question Time destroyed with one viral image the claim that all Remainers are normal people and only the more unhinged of the Leavers are a bunch of nutters from some other planet. Izzard reminded me of that bonkers woman in a beret that the late Victoria Wood once did, to such comic effect.
To be clear. I’m not saying that everyone now thinks that those arguing for Leave are all normal. Leavers have long been reckoned by normal people people to be, many of them, about as sane as a sackful of drunken badgers. What Izzard did was say to the nation: Lots of us Remainers are barking mad too.
Izzard, in other words, completely changed a widespread and very influential idea. If everyone had been supposing that all Leave freaks are actually not freaks at all, any of them, than the Jo Cox murder would also have changed things, a lot. As it is, this horror story merely confirms what most people already know about Leave freaks. They’re freaks. Meanwhile, the mainstream politicians arguing for Leave are not nearly such freaks. They are fairly normal looking. They look normal in the way that Farage looked normal, when he was sitting next to Izzard on Question Time. The Jo Cox murder doesn’t change that.
Izzard, on the other hand, actually changed things. The murder of an MP is a much bigger deal than Izzard. But that murder, horrible though it was, does not change what most people think about Leavers. Many Leavers are freaks. But what Izzard did was use his small national presence to suggest a really rather big change, and not in a way that helped the cause he was arguing for. He said that many Remainers are freaks too.
That’s the problem with showbiz people. They confuse showbiz popularity with being popular with the entire nation. If you find a comedian to be annoying or just not very funny, you can simply ignore him, happily leaving those who adore him to carry right on adoring him. The comedian makes a good living. You are not bothered. Problem solved. Everyone happy. Personally, I think Eddie Izzard has one joke - “Hey, I’m completely random in what I say!” - and I’ve heard it enough not to want to hear it again. So, I now ignore Izzard.
But politics is, by definition, the stuff that comes for you whether you want it or not. Politics is like having to sit and listen to a performer whom you don’t like. When Izzard steps forward, dressed like that, spouting political opinions, he then provokes, from those who do not like what they are seeing, not a mere shrug of indifference, but active opposition. Izzard made people want to vote against what he was saying.
In this recent piece in the Independent, it was claimed that how Izzard had been arguing was the problem. I wonder if even the anonymous editors who signed off on this editorial really think this. They carefully avoided saying that Izzard looked like a freak. Which is fine for late night telly fun. But it is not fine when the subject being argued about is the manner in which our country should be governed. There is a reason that ambitious politicians do not, any of them, present themselves as Izzard just did.
If the Brexit referendum result is as close as it could well be, Izzard’s contribution to the Leave cause could prove to have been decisive.
This has been a been a rather muddled and repetitious piece of writing. This is because I was working out what I thought, as I wrote. The point about how the Jo Cox murder doesn’t change how anyone feels about Leave Freaks, but that Izzard’s pratting about does change what lots of people feel about Remainers, and that lots of people now reckon that a lot of Remainders are Freaks too, only emerged as I wrote. But, me thinking aloud is one of the things this place is for.
And I’m back to trivia-mongering. Any day now, I’ll be back to opinion-mongering too:
It’s the first picture of these.
Engineer Thomas Selig, 28, set up his camera on a tripod 100 metres away from a cluster of female lions and cubs in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. He then retreated to a safari vehicle to take pictures with a remote control. A lioness decided to make off with his camera, and proceeded to chew it!
Lucky someone had a second camera, to show what happened to the first camera.
Actually, according to what I am now reading, a lot of people never stopped opinion-mongering.
All over the British bit of the internet, opinion mongers and trivia mongers are struck dumb by … this, the murder of a young woman, with a husband and two young children, who happened also to be a Member of Parliament.
Saying anything else, about anything else, is – and for once the word is apt – inappropriate. It feels inappropriate to me, anyway. So, we all say, pretty much, nothing, unless we know something that is relevant, like if we once met her or knew her or something, which of course I did not.
Obliged to comment, my comment would be: what she said. She being a wife and mother herself.
I also think that this posting, at a website usually distinguished by its willingness to be wondrously inappropriate, was good. It’s video of a most eloquent speech that Jo Cox gave in the House of Commons. It’s good that, nowadays, more and more people can be remembered in this sort of way, saying and doing the sorts of things they said and did best.
New, big and impressive bridges have been somewhat rare here, recently. All the great bridges of my time seem to have been done at least a decade ago, or of course longer ago. Very recently, not so much. Financial crisis, I guess. Not so much “infrastructure”.
But, feast your eyes on this (that being a link to a recent posting about it at Dezeen):
Click on that to get it bigger.
The Guardian has more:
Tabiat ("nature") bridge, the largest of its kind in Iran, was architect Leila Araghian’s first project. She designed it five years ago while a student, winning a local competition for a plan to connect two parks separated by a highway in north Tehran.
It was built over two years and was unveiled in late 2014 by Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. It has since become a popular place for hangouts and morning sports. Last month, as Iranians celebrated an ancient festival of outdoor picnicking, thousands flocked to the bridge.
“I didn’t want it to be just a bridge which people would use to get from one park to another,” said Araghian, who is now 31. “I wanted it to be a place for people to stay and ponder, not simply pass.”
Built on three large pillars, the 270-metre curved structure has broad entrances, multiple pathways and three floors of restaurants and cafes and sitting areas. It was recently named among the winners of the Architizer A+ awards, a global architectural competition based in New York.
I love it when bridges are not just things to go across, but places to be in. London used to have a great example of such a bridge. It should again.
So I photo this guy outside Westminster Abbey who is wearing a Chicago Lions shirt:
Later I ask him what sport the Chicago Lions play. He doesn’t know, but the magic WWW in the sky knows, because it knows everything that there is to be known. Turns out the Chicago Lions play rugby. I couldn’t find any Chicago Lions shirts looking like that one, that colour. But I could find no other Chicago sports team called that, so that must be it.
In the course of googling I also came across some Lion statues in Chicago, and further news of how these Lion statues were made to wear Chicago Bears helmets (American football), and Chicago Blackhawks helmets (ice hockey):
Such is the world. Such is Chicago. Such is the internet.