Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Viewing the clutter at Centre Point
- Giant cat head worn by a human
- BMdotcom abusive comment of the day
- Made-up London detectives in real London places
- Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
- Fantastic day
- Another use for a drone
- London is getting more colourful
- Don’t mention The Wires!!
- CATable at the Building Centre
- Pepper-spraying drones
- Photoing the old London model
- The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
- Bad taste
- Ships on a roof
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Transport
At the point where the east end of Oxford Street connects to the south end of Tottenham Court Road, marked by Centre Point, there is now much building activity. Centre Point itself is being turned from offices into swanky apartments. And at the bottom of Centre Point there is to be a new Crossrail station which is being attached at vast expense to what is already a complicated tube junction stroke station.
Urban building activity is often described as being like a wound. But for me, such a temporary space is a photo-opportunity. It opens up unfamiliar views of clutter clusters, of entertaining comings together of and alignments of the temporary and the permanent, the ancient and the modern, the mechanical or the eletrical and the architectural.
Here are a few shots I recently took just to the south of Centre Point:
Mostly quite (to me) anonymous stuff, but with a couple of bits of favourite modern architecture in there, the BT Tower and that colourful Piano clump.
Soon, most if not all of these views will be gone.
Towards the end of last year, Vodacom upgraded the internet service in Suiderstrand from EDGE to HSDPA. That was great, although quite why they didn’t go all the way and make put an LTE connection in, I don’t know.
Me neither. Can’t help you there mate. If you think you know the answer put it there please, rather than here.
As for 6k’s Ships on a Roof picture, I bet he saw my horizontalisation of it coming, even as he was taking the shot.
I recently decided to keep an eye open for newspaper front pages. Yesterday, I snapped, among others, this one:
It was the airplane nearly crashing, or seeming to, that got my attention.
I tried to chase up the story, and eventually found it, not in the Times, behind its paywall, but at the Manchester Evening News, and I found a slightly better version of the picture at the Daily Mirror, in a piece about the generally windy weather we’ve been having lately:
The Manchester Evening News quoted a spokesman for Monarch, the airline whose plane was featured in this picture. He had some interesting things to say about how the camera had, on this particular occasion, told somewhat of a lie:
A spokesman said: “Over the last few days the country has experienced extremely high crosswinds.
“The image depicts a completely normal landing given the weather conditions on the day.
“The image was taken at long range and therefore is deceptive.
“The foreground in this picture is higher than the touchdown zone on the runway - proven in this case by the lower wheel appearing to be in the ground, which was not the case.
“As seen in this image, it is common practice for pilots to perform a crosswind landing in these conditions.”
After I had had a closer look at this photo myself, I was going to say half of this myself. The foreground is higher, and makes the plane look lower. What I had not realised was that the plane was actually in the air.
I notice, however, that the subheading of the Manchester Evening News report quotes the bit about how this was a “completely normal landing”, above the photo that, as explained, makes it look anything but, thus deliberately suggesting Monarchical complacency. But the spokesman didn’t just say it was normal. He explained why it looked abnormal, without actually being abnormal.
I took this picture at lunchtime, near London Bridge Station, last Saturday. I was trying to find my way to LLFF15, and getting lost, basically because I departed from London Bridge Station in completely the opposite direction to the one I should have departed in. But I did get some good snaps as a result.
Because I was in a hurry to get to LLFF15, I did not pause to identify any of the buildings in this photo. Another time. Which I will definitely contrive because there is a lot of building activity going on around there. It isn’t just the Shard, it’s the whole area. In particular there is Guy’s Hospital, now receiving a facelift.
You’re right. Rather feeble stuff, and for the second day in succession. But I am still feeling distinctly unwell. Judging by the state of the weather, had I ventured out today I would have felt very much under it, and would probably have made things worse. Lurgies these days seem to go on for a lot longer than they used to.
I see two White Vans there. One decorated (by the look of it) and one plain. Those things are everywhere.
Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
And it’s also a partial eclipse of the sun.
We had this in London, earlier in the week. All I remember is that I, one of the seemingly small minority of people who realise that Britain’s next day weather forecasts are accurate, ignored it, knowing that it would be clouded out of view.
Which it was.
A routinely good way to photo something which is only quite interesting is to line it up with something else that is similarly quite interesting. The result can be very interesting.
First, an outstanding White Van photo snapped from what looks like the inside of a cafe, by Simon Gibbs, to whom profuse thanks:
I’ve been photoing White Vans for a month and more, but have never got three of them in one go like that. That arrived chez moi first thing this morning.
And then, to my amazement, this was this at Guido, also today:
That’s right. Labour have launched there very own White Van! You wouldn’t dare make that up. I knew I was onto something with all this White Vannery.
The problem for the Labour Party here is that Essex White Van Man, the original beast, doesn’t work as an employee driver for Wellocks, or for Office Revival or for Yate Supplies (these being the enterprises who own and whose glory is proclaimed by Simon’s three White Vans above), and certainly not for the Labour Party. He has his own White Van, which is entirely white, as you can see when you peruse that original tweet that got all this fuss started:
That snap being a recent one of mine. And, as Guido points out, a proper Essex White Van is not a Merc, as the Labour White Van is. He doesn’t go on to say that it should be a Ford Transit, as above, but it should. The White Van in the original tweet is a Transit.
This new Labour White Van is supposed to separate Labour from the la-di-da world of London and to assert its connection to the common (i.e. non-rich-London) man. But it fails to do this, because, as these recent White Van postings of mine have been explaining, White Vans covered in poncey graphics are now quintessentially London. I assume that they have also become quintessentially Wigan and quintessentially Rotherham and for that matter quintessential Dagenham. But I further assume that when true-blue Wiganians and Rotherhamians and Dagenhamians look at them, they see, not their local culture, but cultural imperialism by bloody London.
(Damn. I did everything to this posting put actually post it “today”, so I’m leaving the date I originally attached to it. Cheating I know but it talks about Monday as today, so Monday it is.)
Following on from yesterday’s White Van, here is another White Van, which marks the moment when I first started really noticing these things. It was parked outside an office just round the corner from my front door:
Let’s take a closer look at the driver’s door of this White Van. Because the exact moment when the whole White Van thing clicked inside my head was when I saw, and photoed, this:
There you go. They’re having a laugh about White Van Man. I told you it was a thing.
This happened on December 17th of last year, which was about a month after the Shadow Ministress did her tweet that cost her her shadow job. But they’ve been driving around in that joke since well before all that, as this blog posting from April of last year proves.
And I know this got me thinking about White Vans, because the very next photos I took were of this:
I had been noticing this other White Van hanging around near my home, but until that moment I had not considered it something worth photoing. Then, I did. And, off an on, I’ve been photoing such vans ever since, although few of them as lavishly decorated as that one.
Ever since that ruckus when a Labour Shadow Cabinet Ministress got into hot water with a tweet which involved a White Van, I’ve been photoing White Vans. And, in fact, I think I have been doing this since before that little drama. This White Van, photoed by me today in the Covent Garden area, is one of my favourites so far:
The point is, White Vans have rather gone up in the world. Lots of them now come with much carefully designed décor and info. London now abounds with fleets of White Vans thus decorated, white being the preferred colour by far. It’s like an automotive uniform.
It’s as if White Vans have a sort of macho-stroke-ironic appeal to those who drive them, and to the rest of us. The drivers, when asked what they do for a living, can say: I drive a White Van. Oh, ha ha ha! But no, not one of those White Vans, the sort they have in Essex. Oh no.
Or alternatively, if the driver is a genuine White Van Man, with no irony involved, of the sort that lady politician was having a go at, he’s happy too, even if he would probably prefer plain white, rather than all that poncey verbiage. And he’d rather have sacks of cement or tubs of plaster in the back there, rather than nerdy SF stuff.
Well, not sure about that. But White Vans are definitely, as they say nowadays, a thing.
Late this afternoon I went walkabout near to where I live, and in particular to photo my local ballerina, at the top end of Victoria Street. There’s lots of building going on around her, so the nearby and behind scenery keeps changing. My favourite shot of her today was this:
At the time, that bus driving by seemed like it was an interruption, but now I think it definitely adds something, to a part of the shot which wouldn’t have been half so interesting without it.
I just googled “3D printing” and clicked on “images”. One of the more interesting images I encountered was this one ...:
… which I found here. The point being that this is one of those technologies which lots of people are getting excited about, perhaps as something they might be able to do themselves, for fun but also for profit. But most of the significant early applications of 3D printing seem now to be by businesses which were already making stuff, and now have another way to make it. Regular thing makers (for those not inclined to follow links that’s a link to pieces about the use of 3D printing by the aerospace industry) have a huge advantage over “home” 3D printers, which is that they already know what would be worth making.
And making in quite large quantities, which means that they can acquire or construct highly specialised 3D printers for those particular items, which use their own very particular material inputs. 3D printers, if they are to pay their way, must surely specialise. Which means they’ll be applied first by businessmen, rather than by mere people in their homes.
I have yet to hear about any 3D printing killer app which will kick off the much talked-of but yet-to-occur home 3D printing revolution. It will come, I’m sure. But it hasn’t come yet.
Today was the first first day of spring, so to speak. By this I mean that it was the first day of 2015 which made in clear that winter would eventually end and that summer would eventually arrive. Cool, but blue sky and sunshine. Meanwhile, winter may soon resume but spring at least is now officially on its way, and will happen.
As a technically rather incompetent photographer, heavily dependent on good light, I rejoice. The season of rootling through the archives is nearly over. The season of adding to the archives is getting started.
And, also today, I went to a funeral, in Salisbury, which is about an hour and half out of London by train, in a south westerly direction. The last time I ventured out of London into that part of England that is not-London for a ceremony, the weather was similarly excellent.
As soon as we stepped out of Salisbury station, strange and exotic sights presented themselves, such as this Stonehenge Tour Bus:
But there was something odd about it. It appeared to be leaning over somewhat, away from us. When I got round to the front of it, I saw that appearances had not deceived. It was leaning over:
How can a bus do that? Was the suspension malfunctioning? Was the Stonehenge Bus leaning over on purpose, in order to help a wheelchair bound passenger to embark? Was it partly parked on the pavement, and was a suspension computer overcompensating? Was there a kink in the road, downwards, next to the pavement?
I couldn’t hang about to investigate or to ask. We had a funeral to get to. But, odd.
I just came across this Economist piece from last November (I think that link will keep on working), saying that there may soon be ultra-cheap trans-Atlantic flights. I did not know this.
Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier that has been expanding rapidly across Europe, has begun flying across the Atlantic and to Thailand. Next March Wow Air, an Icelandic carrier, will start flights on routes such as Boston to London, via Reykjavik, with introductory prices as low as $99 one way.
Time was when …:
… the fuel burned by long-haul planes made up a large proportion of the cost of operating the flights. That made it hard for budget carriers to find enough cost savings elsewhere to cut prices sufficiently to tempt flyers to switch from carriers offering more comforts.
This is now changing, with the launches of some new and far more fuel-efficient planes: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, already in the air, Airbus’s A350, which will start flying within weeks, and a revamped version of Airbus’s A330, coming in 2019. Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, recently reiterated a promise that he would eventually sell transatlantic flights from as little as €10 ($13) one-way and with average return fares of around €200-300. The full-service airlines will also be ordering these new planes, but their cost disadvantage compared with the nimble budget carriers (because of such things as their legacy pension schemes and labour agreements) will become more stark.
Perhaps I will one day set foot in the USA after all.
As for that Economist link above, no, unless you subscribe. You have to google “making laker’s dream come true”. Then you can read it.
Or: this link seems to get you straight to a recycled version of the piece.
One of the better kept secrets of the popular entertainment industry of the modern world is how very good certain people are at faking reality, with quite small but very well made models. Thoughtless people say they can always spot such fakery. But the truth is that they only spot what they spot. What they don’t spot, they don’t spot. Obvious, if you think about it. The same principle applies to things like men wearing wigs. We can only see them when they are done badly.
So, I’m guessing that not everyone in Hollywood will be pleased about the internet presence of this guy, who contrives pictures like this ...:
… by doing this:
I found out about Michael Paul Smith from this Colossal posting, which is also where I got the above photos.
Much of the success of such fakery is to do with the camera being in the right place. In particular, it needs to be low enough to see things from the same angle that a human would see them if the scene was real.
I remember first working this out when, as a kid, I went through a model railway magazine phase, a craze I caught from my best friend just a few doors away in Harvest Road, Englefield Green. Most of the pictures in those magazines were obviously of models, but this was not because the models were always badly made. It was because the camera was looking down on the scene, just as you do when you are looking at a model. On the few occasions when the photographer would take the trouble to get his camera at real eye level, so to speak, it was amazing how realistic everything could suddenly look.
By the same token, and being only an occasional flyer, I have never yet tired of the thrill of looking down at the ground, preferably at built-up areas, from an airplane in the process of taking off or landing. Everything looks like toys. Really, really well made toys. Your frequent flyers have got used to the idea that this is really just boring old reality, seen from above. But to me, what I see from an airplane is something totally different from reality. It is an entire world, painstakingly faked in miniature, for my personal entertainment.
Lexington Green, here:
What if … ?
What would a history of the British Empire look like if it did not use the “rise and fall” metaphor?
What would that history look like if it examined not just the political framework or just the superficial gilt and glitter, or just the cruelty and crimes, but the deeper and more enduring substance?
What if someone wrote a history of the impact of the English speaking people and their institutions (political, financial, professional, commercial, military, technical, scientific, cultural), and the infinitely complex web of interconnections between them, as a continuous and unbroken story, with a past a present … and a future?
In other words, what if we were to read a history that did not see a rising British Empire followed by a falling Empire, then a rising American Empire which displaced it, but an organism which has taken on many forms over many centuries, and on many continents, but is nonetheless a single life?
What if we assume that the British Empire was not something that ended, but that the Anglosphere, of which the Empire was one expression, is something that has never stopped growing and evolving, and taking on new institutional forms?
What if it looked at the unremitting advance, the pitiless onslaught, universal insinuation, of the English speakers on the rest of the world, seizing big chunks of it (North America, Australia), sloshing up into many parts of it and receding again (India, Nigeria, Malaya), carving permanent marks in the cultural landscape they left behind, all the while getting wealthier and more powerful and pushing the frontiers of science and technology and all the other forms of material progress?
What if jet travel and the Internet have at last conquered the tyranny of distance which the Empire Federationists of a century ago dreamed that steam and telegraph cables would conquer? What if they were just a century too early?
I recall musing along the same kind of lines myself, a while back.
The important thing is, this mustn’t be advertised first as a plan. If that happens, then all the people who are against the Anglosphere, and who prefer places like Spain and Venezuela and Cuba and Hell, will use their ownership of the Mainstream Media to Put A Stop to the plan. What needs to happen is for us to just do it, and then after about two decades of us having just done it, they’ll realise that it is a fate (as the Hellists will describe it) accompli.
Because, guess what, we probably are already doing it.
Indeed. Behind the photographer is a coach:
Passing buses and lorries make fine backdrops for photos I find. I especially like this because the picture on the coach (in aid of this enterprise, I presume) is so bizarre. This is exactly how the picture emerged from the camera. No cropping, no rotating, nothing. It was taken last September, outside Westminster Abbey, looking away from the main entrance and towards Parliament Square. None of which is even at bit clear, because of the coach. Unless you are a railings spotter.
I spent the day building CD shelves, hence the need for a quota photo.