Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday July 28 2014

Continuing on the getting old theme, when I was young, there were these expressions used by old people that I didn’t get.  I knew what farting was, of course I did.  But why “old fart”?  I now know only too well.

And how could you be ”under the weather”?  Again, I understand this now.  It is extraordinary how much an old person’s mood depends on the state of the weather, and in particular the state of the sky.  Is the sky clear and blue, and do you strut about in the world as if you owned the entire thing?  Or are there these great piles of grey clouds bearing down on you, for you to stagger about under, in a state of gloom?  Are their benign electronic particles wizzing about energising you?  Or do other electrical influences blast into your brain and make it ache?

Just lately, London has had a lot of weather for me to be under, because it has been so hot and humid, and electrically active.  But now, here I sit, in my kitchen/office, in my blogger’s uniform (pyjamas), next to my big old computer (which is also a big old fan heater), with the window as open as I could get it (it is a huge bother either opening this or shutting it so it will now remain open), and I am feeling fine, and in particular … rather cold.

Bliss.

Here is a picture, taken from Lambeth Bridge in March of this year:

image

This is basically one of those “I just like it” pictures, that I came upon last night when trawling through the archives, although I liked it a lot more after a touch of rotation had been applied.  I particularly like the contribution of those leafless trees. 

The red brick tower that dominates this scene is something to do with St Thomas’ Hospital, but further googling made me none the wiser about its exact purpose or provenance.  It was, it seems built in 1865.  Other than that, I could learn little.

But googling did cause me to learn about this other tower, which used to be a hospital water tower and has now been converted into a home.

This sort of modernistic box-mongering can be very dull, when that’s all there is.  But put it next to some more ornate Victoriana, and both styles often look the better for it.

That is also part of the pleasure I get from the above photo.  Even if ancient and modern buildings are not next to each other for real, they can put them next to each other, with a camera.

Sunday July 27 2014

I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.

I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.

Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down.  Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise?  Look, they answered!  Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone!  Hey, we’re getting through!

Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility.  These days?  I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch.  Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.

I don’t mind junk phone calls.  If they were more frequent, they would annoy me.  As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working.  The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.

When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing.  I do not mind this.  There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally.  I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.

Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more.  In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back.  Click on it to get the crane:

image

I like cranes.  That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5.  I love how you can find out about things like this, these days.  And this time it really is these days, rather than all days. 

Here is a link to a toy version of this crane.  Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder?  As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?

It is now late morning on Sunday.  Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him?  With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.

Saturday July 26 2014

I still have more pictures to show you that I took on that Adam Smith Institute Boat Trip.

My problem was that there were so many things I wanted to photo.  There were people, many friends and many strangers, individually, in groups, and in crowds.  People taking photographs.

But this was London, from a boat, on the river.  Had there been no people on the boat besides me, I would still have been in Digital Photographer heaven.

In particular, there were also bridges, typically from angles that I had never seen them from before.  And what with it being such a very sunny evening, there was that bridge over bright water effect that I do so like, where the light bounces back off the water and illuminates the undersides of bridges:

image image imageimage image image

Those bridges are: Blackfriars Station Bridge, Blackfriars Station Bridge again, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, London Bride again (on the way back), and the Millennium Bridge (the one that wobbled).

What’s that you say?  One of these is a shot of an individual, and not a bridge shot at all?  Look again.

Inevitably, the categories here (individuals, groups, crowds, photographers, bridges) overlap, if only because, when I do photoing, I like to combine as many as possible of the things I like to photo in one photo.  In particular, four of the above six shots are crowd shots as well as bridge shots, and the other two are indeed individual shots as well as bridge shots.

There have also been Big Things to be seen in all these photos, and if you don’t know how much I love to photo those, you are very new here.

Friday July 25 2014

My latest last Friday of the month meeting was this evening.  Thank you Simon Gibbs, and all else who attended.  Excellent talk and an excellent evening.

But I spent all day fretting about the meeting instead of doing anything for here, and now that it’s over I don’t want to say something stupid about the meeting.  I’d rather think about that some more and talk sense about it.

So here, instead of proper blogging, are some cat links that I like.  Google “cats” and of course you get a ton of stuff.  These few were my favourites.

Cats in the movies.

Florida Man Holds Gun to Cat’s Head and Posts Picture to Facebook.  The www is not amused.

Monkeys fear big cats less, eat more, with humans around.

Feisty feline saves boy from bullies.  But, there is no video, so not as good as this.

And for those who share my interest in American politics, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Senate Democrats of meowing like kitty cats and enabling President Barack Obama to enact lawless executive actions like no other president before him.  I wouldn’t choose cats are a metaphor for lack of independence.

And see also the cat wheel linked to by David Thompson.

Thursday July 24 2014

Every now and again I do a posting here, to fix some fact in my memory that I am having trouble fixing in my memory.  Like: the name of someone I really don’t want to insult any more by not remembering his name; and like: the difference between Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.

Well, this is another such posting, and this time it’s a building:

image image

There are two of my favourite photos of it, and when I chanced upon them in my photo-archives, I realised, again, that I can never remember the name of the thing, or rather Thing, for it is indeed a Thing, albeit not a very big Thing.

It is called the Palestra.  I sort of knew this already (scroll down to the picture of stupid propellers on a roof), in the sense that when I googled for “that big new building outside southwark tube” and found my way to it, I realised that although I had forgotten this name, I did once know it.

Though buildings like the Tate Modern and the reconstructed Globe Theater have done an admirable job of breathing new life and interest into Bankside, venturing south quickly brings the observer into gritty residential and industrial neighborhoods with little to recommend them to the passer-by. The borough’s latest architectural projects aim to extend the revitalization south from Bankside: among these are the planned extension of the Tate Modern, the construction of Southwark tube station, and distinctive building projects by the brightest stars of modern architecture. SMC Alsop’s Palestra, an office building completed in 2006, is one of these projects. Located on Blackfriars Road just across from the Southwark station, its dramatic glazing and cantilevered structure draw the eye and stand out starkly against its dreary surroundings.

Apologies for the American spelling there, which I am glad to see my word processor underlines with red squiggly lines.

And apologies to Southwark for that stuff about those “dreary” surroundings.  This is typical architect talk based on the idea that the only important thing about buildings is how they look in photos taken on Sunday, early in the morning, with no people outside them having a good time.

The photo of Palestra on the left, above, was taken from the platform of Waterloo East railway station, and those peculiar bobbles you can see reflected at the bottom there are the pods of The Wheel.  I really like how that looks.

So, Palestra.  This posting is entitled “Palestra”.  Palestra, Palestra, Palestra.

Wednesday July 23 2014

Bizarre day today, and am only now shoving whatever I can think of to shove up.

I went trawling through the photo-archives, and came up with this weird selfie shot from 2006:

image

Two cameras I no longer use.  My previous pregnant-out-the-back telly.  Some book about Something For Dummies.

The word didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop me, or stop me from photoing others doing it.

Tuesday July 22 2014

I haven’t yet finished showing you photos from that Adam Smith Institute Boat Trip, that I got in on and took lots of photos of, at the beginning of this month, and which I have been showing here, now and again, ever since then.  I’m hardly even close.

For instance, it’s taken me three quarters of a month to get around to it, but, of course, there were other photographers present besides me:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

I chose these pictures simply because they fitted the bill subject matter wise, and because they look nice.  I did not choose them to illustrate any particular point about digital photography.

The result being that they do illustrate a particular point about digital photography.  Consider the stats.

There are two regular old school digital cameras to be seen snapping (1.1 and 1.3), three if you count mine.  There is also just the one big tablet being used (3.3). 

All the other photographers are using mobile phones.

Usually, when I photograph photographers, there are more regular old school dedicated digital cameras to be seen.  But this is because I am photographing lots of “photographers”, i.e. people like me, who see themselves as more photography-minded than regular people.

What this boat trip illustrates is how much regular people now use their mobiles to take photos, in among all that networking and connecting and chatting and socialising.  It isn’t so much that mobiles have replaced those tiny, cheap digital cameras, although yes it is that, a bit.  But it is more that mobiles can now take photos, so now they do.  A lot of photos are now being taken that would not have been taken at all, before mobile phones learned how to take photos, by people for whom mobile phones are essential, and photography with mobile phones began only as an extra.

And you can bet that many of the photos that the above people were taking were already flying off into the big www beyond, to work their propaganda magic, promoting the ASI, its Boat Trip, and the people who went on it, before the trip was even over.

Young people these days are quicker off the mark than I am.  That’s their job.  And being slower off the mark is mine.

Monday July 21 2014

I was laden with bags of shopping, but I still thought this worth photoing, late this afternoon:

image

Which do you think is better, a good photo of an okay thing, or an okay photo of a good thing?  This, I think, is a photo of the latter sort.  Digital cameras come into their own in taking such photos, because, although lacking that last ounce of phototechnicality, they are easy to have with you and easy to use, even when you are basically busy with other things.

What I like is how totally different each of the nine shapes are, like they are nine different pictograms or something.  Only the one bottom right rather lets the side down.

Also, the car wasn’t helping.  Had that not been there, I would probably have done it from right in front, and it might have ended up being a good photo of a good thing.

Sunday July 20 2014

As of right now, late afternoon, there is rain and wind outside my window, and not long ago there was thunder.  That’s in London SW1.  And yet over in St John’s Wood, there is a test match going on, and there is no mention of any weather getting in the way of things.

Oh, as if to prove me wrong, Nasser Hussain has just talked about how the rain is staying “east of Regent’s Park”, in other words travelling northwards from me.  North east and Lords would be getting a little bit of moisture some time around now.

It’s very tense, with England 62/1 and chasing just over three hundred, with an hour and a bit this evening and then all of tomorrow, weather permitting.  Ballance and Cook have put on fifty, with Cook batting like his life depends on it.  Which it does.  He won’t die if he gets out soon, but how well he does today and tomorrow could have a big impact on how he lives from now on.

NOT MUCH LATER: 80/4.  Cook just got out, for 22.  Ballance and Bell already gone.  England are not playing at all well at the moment.

Yesterday, someone emailed or tweeted Test Match Special, saying that the Notts captain, Chris Read, could be drafted in, to replace Cook as captain and Prior (who is now dropping catches) as wicketkeeper.  It may eventually come to that.  Continuity of selection is all very well, but what if the continuously selected team keeps on continuously losing?

See this earlier piece.

Saturday July 19 2014

You don’t see many of these these days:

image

I’m talking about round headlights on cars.  About ten years ago, and I have photos that notice the moment, car headlights, having been round for about three quarters of a century, went absolutely mental, with silver moldings and weird shapes of all kinds.  It’s been like that ever since.  Now, a car with round headlights is an old car.

Like this one, the car with the above headlight:

image

It appears to be one of these, or if not then something very like it.  I photoed this car this afternoon.

A while ago, I started photo-collecting round headlights, and the cars that sport them.  There may accordingly, although I promise nothing, be a huge spread of them here, any month, or year, or decade, now.

Some new cars these days have pretend round headlights, such as the new German Mini.  But they are only pretend round.  Look carefully, and they are not properly round, like the one above.

Friday July 18 2014

Here is a London picture, with the River Thames turned into a floor, very badly carpeted with very bad carpet tiles:

image

It’s Google Maps’s 3D-isation of London.

Despite the bad river carpeting, I would like to explore this Virtual London.  But none of the reports I read of this exciting new virtuality tell me how can do this.  Can I?  And if I can, will I have to pay?

BrianMicklethwaitDotCom Feline Friday heaven, in other words:

image

Click to get it twice the size.  Go here to see where I found it.  Colossal again.

The internet is altering the balance of power between Art as Silly Complaints About The Bourgeoisie and Art as Fun For Everyone.  In a good way.

Thursday July 17 2014

The are two photos which I took last Monday.  The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street.  The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.

They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory.  But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:

image image

The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world.  It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.

Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject.  The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hut us down and burn us at the stake.  But, we refuse to talk about them.  We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look.  We will not see them.

Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:

image

Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about.

Really, really weird.

I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.

What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane.  The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on.  All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.

But those aerials are profane.  They don’t register.  They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer.  That sales pitch is profane.  Forget about it.  Don’t even think about it.

Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane.  And hence invisible.  Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves.  But they are not designed to be looked at.  They are a pure case of form following function.  Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers.  But they don’t because what is there for architects to add?  Nothing.  The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.

Well, I don’t know.  I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway.  Which is all part of why I have this blog.  At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong.  This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins.  This is, you might say, a profane blog.

Wednesday July 16 2014

The reason to do crowd scenes is to show what a big crowd it was.  Yes, it matters who was individually present.  But the sheer number of individuals present also counts, a lot.  It counts that they are too numerous to count conveniently.  Think what some of them might accomplish, in the years to come.  The law of averages says it’s bound to add up to something.

Crowd scenes also show the venue, which, if impressive, ought to register in the photos taken.  And could there be a more impressive venue than London on a fine evening, from the river?  Earth has not anything to show more fair.

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

What’s that you say?  One of these pictures is just a head shot?  Not a crowd scene, you say?  Look again.