Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rob Fisher on Footbridges in the sky
Rob Fisher on Footbridges in the sky
6000 on Quota caption competition
Michael Jennings on 148 to Burgess Park
Esteban on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Brian Micklethwait on Zooming in on the workers
Rob Fisher on Zooming in on the workers
Brian Micklethwait on David Pierce on what it's like using an electric scooter
Rob Fisher on Zooming in on the workers
Rob Fisher on Big Things on Boris Bikes
Most recent entries
- Someone Legal eagles versus illegal drones?
- A rejected Grand Chose that shouldn’t have been
- Vans that need to look the part
- Quota caption competition
- Footbridges in the sky
- White vans in Kentish Town
- A busy day and a collection of Big Things
- A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
- A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
- A good time of the year
- 148 to Burgess Park
- A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
- Another way to photo my meetings
- Quota Pavlova
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
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Category archive: Movies
The practice of facadism emerged in the 1980s, when construction technology made it possible to retain a mere sliver of a frontage, and as the rise of the conservation movement increased pressure to preserve the historic streetscape – even if it didn’t care much for what happened beyond the surface.
And more to the point, there are some great photos. Photos like this:
Wainwright is of course angry about this unequal style collision. He writes for the Guardian, and being angry about capitalism (aka everything except Guardianism) comes with the job. But I actually quite like it when big modernism rises up behind smaller ancientism. To put it another way, in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, the architect-hero Howard Roark is disgusted when a committee seeks to stick an ancientist front door at the bottom of his modernist skyscraper. But I think this front door, at any rate as shown in the film they made of The Fountainhead, improved things. It certainly made it easier to see where the front door actually was, which is often hard with totally modernist buildings, and used for about a decade to be impossible. Ancientism evolved a way of handling front doors in a way that makes sense to all, and there is no more virtue in destroying these ground-level conventions than there is in abolishing English and trying to replace it with Esperanto.
Besides which, buildings are often hated, to begin with, for the very thing that causes them at a later date to be loved, namely their distinctiveness and their oddity. Think of the Eiffel Tower, which at first was greatly disliked. My guess is that much the same will apply to the above Cardiff oddity.
I also believe that the Carbuncle-Cup-winning Walkie Talkie will in the fullness of time mutate from Carbuncle to National Treasure. I visited that building today. More about that visit Real Soon Now, maybe, I promise nothing.
I’m still catching up with some of the things I did last summer, even though it is now next year. My gaff my rules. In particularly, I still have finished reporting on Richmond Park.
Richmond Park is the very picture of unthreatening sweetness and light, especially on the sort of day it was when me and GD2 paid our visit to it. But, as regulars here will know, I like to photograph signs, and maps, so that I will know where I’ve been.
In Richmond Park, there are big maps of Richmond Park, like this one:
This map is covered with the names of all the various places in Richmond Park. Most of these names are quite nice, as you can see if you take a closer look (by clicking on it), at this closer-up view of the middle of the above map:
Prince Charles’s Spinney, Thompson’s Pond, Sidmouth Wood, and Queen Elizabeth’s Plantation, they all sound nice enough, in keeping with the suburban niceness of the place. Although, I suppose “plantation” might suggest slavery.
But some of these names speak of a different and grimmer past. How about, to take a closer look at some of them, names like these:
Suddenly, Richmond Park becomes more like the sort of landscape that brings to mind, say, Vincent Price’s chilling enactment of the Witchfinder General.
Names like those two suggest interpretations that are probably far worse than the truth, of names like these:
Spankers are probably just people who chase deer so that the upper classes can kill them for sport. A saw pit is probably just a pit where sawing (of tree trunks) was done. And Peg’s Pond is probably just the pond which Peg owned, and fished in. But, I couldn’t helping thinking that Peg’s Pond was really the pond where Vincent Price made poor Peg swim, thereby proving that she was a witch. And then she got hanged in one of the two hanging locations named above.
And how about these two names:
Bone Copse? Killcat Corner? What on earth was that about? Googling told me nothing, but that proves nothing.
I did a Samizdata posting earlier today, soliciting help in decyphering a piece of text in a photo. Earlier this month I photoed this lady holding up a message for the lady she was videoing to read. Trouble is, the text was in something that looked like it was Russian.
According to Samizdata commenter Alex, the text is Kazakh. It would appear that the lady being videoed was making a video message for her sister. I expect further details to follow.
Ah, Kazakhstan. Known in Britain mostly for being the home of Borat.
As it happens there’s a Borat photo I’ve been meaning to stick up here, of Borat on the back of a bus. Here is that photo, on the right below, together with another Borat related photo which is one of my all time favourite snaps. I took this Borats-plural photo, on the left here, in Piccadilly, on March 9th 2007, and it has been shown here already, on the day after it was taken. The Borat on the bus photo was taken on March 14th, and is being shown here for the first time:
Click to see these photos bigger.
When I googled for more serious Kazakhstan information, the most interesting info I found was definitely this. Blog and learn.
The plan was that this week, I would be catching up with myself on the blogging front. Instead I have found myself going out and doing things, and I have got even further behind.
So it is again this evening. After another busy day doing things, I have time and energy left now only to show you a snap I took of a shop window display somewhere in Oxford Street:
Yes, it’s a Star Wars stormtrooper facing a communications crisis, and improvising, with some obsolete and inconveniently large equipment.
I love shop window displays, especially at Christmas Time of course, when they erupt into Vesuvii of invention. Again, these are not things that you would want to buy, even the bits of them that are for sale. But I do enjoy photoing them. Not least because they are usually very well lit.
As I published this, I made another mental note to look up a bit of the history of this place on Cambridge Street. I also made a mental note that my mental notes seem not to be working at reminding me to do things.
This is a big part of what blogs, and now Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of it, are for. Never mind all those damn other readers. What proportion of internet postings of various sorts are there not for anyone else, but for the poster himself to remember whatever it was? This of course requires you to trawl back through your own output from time to time, which I do do from time to time.
Here is another internet posting vaguely relevant to the above, about people who find it impossible not to remember things, the things in this case being faces. Most of us have heard of those unfortunates whose brains have been smacked and they can’t remember faces that ought to be familiar, like their children’s. This is about people who have received a different sort of smack, from their own DNA, which makes them super-good at remembering faces, even ones they don’t want to. When someone says to you “I never forget a face”, it just might be true.
The piece includes gratuitously irrelevant pictures of that actress who was in that favourite TV comedy series you know the one and of that other actor who was in that James Bond movie from way back, called whatever it was called I don’t remember. It’s on the tip of my … that thing inside my face … you know, that hole, under my eyes …
Going back to 6k’s bon mot above, this only got typed into the www on account of his rule, and mine, of trying to do something every day. You start doing a pure quota posting, and then you think of something truly entertaining to add to it, which you would never have put on the www had it not occurred to you at the exact moment you were in the middle of typing in a blog posting that was in need jazzing up a bit, e.g. with a bon mot.
How much you learn from something that you just read depends not only on what it says, but on what you knew before you read it. And for me, this short paragraph cleared up several big blurs in my knowledge of Olden Times:
The new technique of fighting which had won the battle of Hastings for the Normans was also adopted in England; instead of standing or riding and hurling the lance overarm, these new warriors, the knights, charged on horseback with the lance tucked beneath the arm, so that the weight of both horse and rider was behind the blow and the weapon was reusable. Though it required discipline and training, giving rise to the birth of tournaments and the cult of chivalry, a charge by massed ranks of knights with their lances couched in this way was irresistible. Anna Comnena, the Byzantine princess who witnessed its devastating effect during the First Crusade, claimed that it could ‘make a hole in the wall of Babylon’.
That’s from the second page (page 8) of the first chapter of Agincourt, by Juliet Barket.
That bit in school history where they explained what a knight was and what knights did and how the knights did it … well, I missed it. And ever since, everyone talking about such things has assumed that I knew it very clearly, when I didn’t. It’s so obvious. How would someone like me not know it?
Oh, I sort of knew it, from having seen a hundred films where film actors did this, in film battles and in film tournaments. But I had not realised that it was a military innovation like the phalanx or gunpowder or the tank or the airplane or the atom bomb. I had not properly realised that the essence of Knighthood was collective action rather than mere individual virtue, the point being that it was the former which required the latter. And I had not realised that it was what won the Battle of Hastings. Or, even more interestingly, I had not realised that it was what won the First Crusade. (After which, I’m guessing that the Muslims then copied it.
Medieval society did not give rise to Knights. The Knights technique of fighting gave rise to Medieval society.
I remember reading Tom Holland’s Millennium, and being presented right at the end with the result of the First Crusade, without there having been any mention (that I recall) of how a European military innovation was what won it. (That doesn’t mean Holland does not mention this, merely that I don’t remember him mentioning it.)
So, at the heart of the European years between Hastings (1066) and Agincourt (1415 (when I now suppose the Knights to have met their nemesis in the form of the next big military innovation, the Archers (hence the picture on the front of Agincourt))) was a technique of fighting. Like I say, I sort of knew this, but have never before isolated this fact in my head, as a Big Fact. Instead, I have spent my whole life being rather confused about this Big Fact, reading a thousand things where the Big Fact was assumed, but never actually explained.
Why did I not correct this confusion decades ago? Because, not knowing it properly, I had not realised what a huge confusion it was.
It’s not much of a mystery why I like old cars, with round headlights. They date from the time of my childhood. The more closely an old car resembles the cars I was gazing at adoringly circa 1955, the better I like them.
This old car, which showed up in Tottenham Court Road late this afternoon, just when I happened to be there myself, looks like it dates from that exact time.
The light was dim and fading, but I got a few shots of it before it had vanished:
Click and enjoy. That’s if you enjoy old cars somewhere near as much as I do. If not, well, there’s the rest of the internet. There must be something in it today that you would enjoy.
What I particularly like is the way the rear wheels of this jolly green giant are encased down to ankle level, in line with the car body, if you get what I mean. That and all the chrome, which is in remarkably good nick. Some of it right on top of the headlights.
I don’t know what brand of car this is. It looks very American, but Brit cars of those times were very American-influenced. (Now the influence seems to go more the other way, from Europe to America. Or maybe it’s just everyone being influenced by Japan.) What settles it, for me, is (see the first two pictures) that the car is left hand drive. Got to be American. But what variety of American?
It looks like a coloured version of the sort of black cars that they had in the Godfather’s funeral, in The Godfather.
Certainly in London and I presume everywhere else in Britain, when you see lots of verbiage attached to the outside of a building site, it tends to be health and safety stuff, of the sort shown in this posting, which I did here in February 2011. (That was the very first posting I did with the category “Signs and notices” attached to it.)
In the summer of that same year, I was in France, where I took the picture that follows. But I never got around to displaying it here. Here it is now:
This is a sign that I saw adorning the outside of a French building site.
To me, it resembles nothing so much as the credits at the end of a movie. Every imaginable contributor to the building process is painstakingly listed. Click if you want to be able to read everything more clearly.
Although I am sure I might be persuaded otherwise (for instance by people with knowledge of the relative merits of the actual work that tends to be done in each country), I think the contrast is rather in France’s favour.
In France, everything that has been done, and by whom, is listed. Presumably it has been done in a manner to make the people who did it glad to have their names in, as it were, lights. In Britain, every imaginable thing that might go wrong is listed, in the form of an imprecation that people not do this. It’s the difference between being proud of what is being done, and being nothing but apologetic about it.
Right at the end, though, it does say: “chantier interdet au public, port du casque obligatoire”. This means (unless the internet has gravely deceived me): “access forbidden to the public, helmet obligatory”. So, a bit of health and safety nagging there. But that’s all there is.
In Britain, you also sometimes get a rather shorter list of the grander and more professional of the enterprises and people who are doing the job, but not nearly so much is made of this, compared to all the stuff about being ever so, ever so careful.
I need to get out less, and this weather is not helping.
Tomorrow, the weather will be helping very much:
This is perfect. My life today, in the last few days, and for the last few weeks, has been one mad social whirl after another, my contented solitude being having been violated seemingly every other evening and sometimes more often even than that, which is all fun and all that, but I find that an evening out puts a blight on creativity for the entire day, because what if I start something, want to finish it, but then don’t have time to, because I have a social whirl to attend and to get ready for and to find my way to and to find out about finding my way to? Last night I whirled out to watch theatrical stuff in an unfamiliar and transportationally complicated part of town with a theatrical friend. Tonight, I face another social whirl, to meet Perry II. Every time I go out I take photos, but because of all this going out I have no time to show them to you people or not with the sort of insightful commentary that I want to attach to them without which what’s the point? - They’re just pictures.
So tomorrow (a day during which I have nothing else planned), I will stay in all day, and try (although I promise nothing) to do here a mammoth day of catch-up blogging, showing you a tiny fraction of the pictures I have been taking lately, all properly explained, and anything else I’ve been meaning to put here for some time that I decide to put here tomorrow, in not one, not two, but many postings.
We shall see.
Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen? Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights? I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.
The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward. Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync. Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person. Many sportsmen feel the same. By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone. The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early. Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.
Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people. But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me. This is it.
Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short. Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.
Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances. The match was called off.
I learned about this in an odd way. Cricinfo was doing basic commentary. Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened. No frills. No explanations. And then, the commentary just stopped. What was going on? A complicated run out. Rain? But they usually say if it is raining. Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.
Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits. Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names. Surrey is their county. At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club). So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen. But now that seems unlikely:
One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.
So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die? What do I know?
Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.
More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV. I know - how does that work? - time travel. The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America. So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm. He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him. He says:
“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”
Old joke? Maybe so, but first time I heard it.
I had no idea how Secretariat would end. But I know the end now. Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since. Even I know that’s a lot of lengths. I did not see that coming.
LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries. Henriques: seriously broken jaw. Nobody died or is going to.
LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity. Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan. Such are the downs and ups of sport.
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.
Recently, circumstances took me up from the South Bank walkway onto Waterloo Bridge. As I recall it, the idea was to walk across the bridge to one of the District Line tube stations on the north bank. But before I did that, I took pictures from the south end of the bridge, from which a lot can be seen. This isn’t the half of it, but it is some of it:
Time was when I’d have taken only pictures like that last one, of Big Ben through The Wheel. Note that all the other pictures contain things that will soon pass. Cranes. And two adverts for entertainment, one for this and one inside the Thing the advert is on the outside of. Also, in among taking these shots, I also took this one, which was very temporary indeed.
That Big Ben shot is through a gap between, I think, the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery. Between two of those South Bank concrete lumps, anyway. I do like gaps. And then I moved a few yards south, and through the same gap between the lumps, or maybe through another gap, I saw this:
Here are two pictures I took a few days later, to explain what the above roof clutter is, both taken outside Westminster Abbey:
As you can see, the spikey bobble is on the top of Methodist Central Hall. And the roof clutter is one of London’s great roof clutter clusters, on top of top of New Scotland Yard. As so often with roof clutter, such a bland facade. With such a crazy hairdo.
The man scratching his back is, I think, St George, commemorating the Crimean War. But that could be quite wrong.
As I get to know London better, I learn to connect distant views to close-up views, not just of obvious stuff, but of everything.
When in France, I have no particular desire to do as the French do. I have my own agendas. So, for instance, French people do not make a point of photoing French posters advertising British or American films in the Paris Metro. But, I like to do this:
I am using an alien computer. Contriving the above photo-display took some doing. Were I using my own computer I might have cropped that photo. As it is, it is as it was when it came out of my camera.
Mostly, I just like the thought that we are making movies that they consider good enough to show in Paris. But I think I am also interested in what sort of picture of my country they are seeing. I’m guessing it is one that they want to see. In this case, for example, they are see us Anglos being, although quite good looking, also boring, disgusting, uncultured and gross, and generally behaving like people upon whom wealth is wasted. Not wanting to see Anglos in this light myself, I have not seen this movie, so I may be entirely wrong about what it is like.
But if it is not like that, they shouldn’t have called it that. As a general rule, it is surely good business to take your movie look in the posters (and sound in its title) the way it actually is, because that way the people who will be attracted to it by the poster will then enjoy it, and the word of mouth will be good. Many a movie is not what they first advertised it as, and hence was denounced by its early audiences, but was good in some other way, and ended up appealing to quite other people. Had they advertised it more accurately to start with, they’d have done better business.
Photoed by me earlier in the month, outside Green Park tube station:
Is this fair? Publicising these two face-recognisable guys, after they’ve had a hard day hard selling something that looks like it was a rather hard sell? Well, they’re in uniform, a uniform donned precisely to attract attention, which is what I am giving them. They are public figures. Insofar as they are rather letting the uniform down, that too is a public matter.
They remind me somewhat of Dan Aykroyd’s drunk Santa in Trading Places.
In this clip, Aykroyd (a) answers questions about Trading Places, and then (b) plugs his vodka-in-a-skull-bottle. Really.
I am, however, puzzled by those strange looking marks in the wall, at the top of the picture. Anyone?
Yes, I think so. Shot by me last Easter time:
If Hitchcock had ever made a movie called “The Rabbits”, this is the kind of shot that would have been in it.
So, a while back, I copied that shot over into the I Just Like It directory, all the time lamenting that I had no idea what the rabbit was doing in that particular part of London. I still don’t really know, but today I found a picture that I had taken one minute earlier, from which the rectangle below was cropped, in a way that removed people, kept the rabbit, and also kept the writting underneath the rabbit:
“London Eye presents Bunnies on the Run” proved more than enough to get an answer from Google, but really, I am none the wiser. Were there other bunnies dotted around London that I could have photoed? Who knows?
But, I do like my bunny photo.