Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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


Recent Comments

Monthly Archives

Most recent entries


Advanced Search

Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Transport Blog


2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
diamond geezer
Dizzy Thinks
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
Gaping Void
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Idiot Toys
India Uncut
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Publius Pundit
Rachel Lucas
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Mainstream Media

The Sun
This is London


RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0


Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Career counselling
Cats and kittens
Civil liberties
Classical music
Computer graphics
Current events
Digital photographers
Emmanuel Todd
Expression Engine
Food and drink
Getting old
How the mind works
Intellectual property
Kevin Dowd
Latin America
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Other creatures
Pop music
Quote unquote
Roof clutter
Science fiction
Signs and notices
Social Media
South America
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
This blog

Category archive: Design

Friday October 21 2016

Friday was the day here for cats, but now I have widened it to all kinds of creatures, cats included.

This week, a snake!  On a vintage car!

I took these pictures in the square next to Quimper Cathedral, in the summer of 2008:


The snake is most clearly to be seen in pictures 1.2, 2.1, 2.2 and 3.3.  I think it must be some sort of air intake, for the engine, or for something.  But what do I know?

Berliet seems to be an enterprise that makes lorries these days.  But if you scroll down through the images you get when you type “berliet” into google images, you start to see vintage cars, in among the more recent lorries.

If you scroll down at this site, you get to something that looks like the above vehicle.  And if it is the same vehicle, or something very similar, then it is a 1907 Berliet C2 Double-Phaeton, or something very similar.

There’s a number plate on the front of my Berliet, which says: 1909 VS 29.  I thought that might be a clue, rather than, you know, a number plate, so I tried “Berliet 1909 VS 29” with google images, and guess what I found.  A Berliet “Double Phaeton” at a car museum in Malaga.

I even found a photo of the car in question, with a ludicrously long internet address attached to it, which I now offer you, in the hope that it works

Well, the link does seem to work, but if it doesn’t, take my word for it.  Although this is not the same car as my one above, it is very similar.  So similar that the car in the Andalusian museum also has, just like my car has, attached to its side, with its mouth wide open, sucking in air, … a snake.  Weird.

Friday October 14 2016

This time last week, it was birds on an aerial.  Today, more birds on another aerial:


It been very aerial here of late.  What with yesterdays aerial videoers, and another aerial on Tuesday.

It’s the bright blobs of light on the TV aerial that gets me putting that here.  Taken in Quimper in June 2008.

TV aerials in France appear to be exactly the same as in England.

As with cranes, what I like is the absolute functionality of aerials.  They are as they are because that does the job best.  Aesthetics has nothing to do with it.  Yet, the result looks, to me, aesthetically most pleasing.  See also: pylons.

Thursday October 13 2016

I recently photoed this van:


What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message.  “GREY MOTH”.

My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise.  That’s what this posting was going to be about.  (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”.  I quickly learned all about VOITH.)

Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths.  (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH.  A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)

Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back.  This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as:, crucially including that all-important hyphen.  Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be.  And it turns out to be a very interesting business.  I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it.  Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.

I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while.  And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no.  If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two).  Or: not.  And I decided: not.

Drones, in other words, are not toys.  But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out.  Like Grey-Moth does.

Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.

Wednesday October 12 2016



Click at will, to get bigger, less square pictures.

Displayed in chronological order.  Taken between May 2011 and August 2014.  When I took that last one, of the bikini-wearing bottle openers, that got me collecting all the others.  That last one is definitely the one where the Union Jacks are having the most fun.

Saturday October 08 2016

Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.

See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street.  Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.

And see also, this ...:


… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square.  A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.

I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.

I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery.  And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.

But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been.  Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.

Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV.  Yes, this explains a lot.

Monday October 03 2016

This photo was taken in 2008, in France.  I took it myself, and though I say it myself, I think it’s great.

There’s a particular sort of car you see in France which is old school in its styling, but so beautifully shiny that you suspect it may be a brand new reproduction rather than the genuine old article:


Those big buses behind don’t spoil it.  The flowers in front don’t spoil it.  This is my blog, and I decide about such things.

Alas, you can’t tell what sort of car this is, and hence get agoogling about whether it really is a real vintage car or merely a pretend one.  My bet would be: real.  Which only makes its shininess more shiny.

Yes, another quota photo, but this time I’m doing it in the small hours of the morning for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.

Thursday September 29 2016

I like this photo, of Daniel Hannan, at the top of a Guardian piece about him, and about how he was and is “The man who brought you Brexit”:


I like this photo because it is exactly the sort of photo that I try to take of photoers myself.  A smartphone with interesting graphics, held over the eyes of the photoer (which of course often happens) to preserve anonymity.  Or it would if there were no other photos of Hannan in the world and no article underneath the photo, telling the world all about him.

While browsing through my archives recently, I came across those pictures I took of Brexiteer Kenny, doing his rehash of a Hannan piece in Trafalgar Square, with white chalk.  And what I discovered was that, to revise that Abba song, I never thought that we could win.  The pictures brought back the feeling I had when I took them, which was: gallant failure.  Brave effort.  Well done mate, going down fighting.  But, we won’t win.

I told myself that we might win, but mostly what I thought was that although the majority for Remain had slimmed down a bit over the years, it was still there.

As for the Brexit arguments now (quick versus careful), I am reading this guy.  He is for careful.  Every post he does says (a) that he is the cleverest person in the world and that everyone else is at best not so clever, and at worst stupid stupid stupid; and (b) something worthwhile, carefully and persuasively explicated.

I never thought that we could win, but just to be clear: there’s no regret.

Tuesday September 27 2016

Sunday was a good photography day.  After lunching with a friend in the Waterloo area, I made my way, as reported yesterday, to the Tate Modern Extension.  When up at the top of this I took many photos, and some quite good photos.

But none, for me, was better than this, which I spied just before getting into the lift from Floor 10 back to the ground:


I can’t remember exactly when the change happened from plaster casts to … that, but happen it did, and I am impressed.  I’m guessing that one of the many advantages of this system is that you can take it off and put it back on again, to do things like assess progress, or deal with skin discomforts.

I’m further guessing that you can dismantle one of these things, give it a good wash, and then use it again.

More from me on the subject of plastic and its newly devised applications in this at Samizdata earlier today.

Friday September 23 2016

I collect footbridges.  (Well, photos of.) Footbridges famous.  Footbridges not so famous.  Footbridges not even built.

Recently I came upon another for the collection:


This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel.  I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos.  This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know.  And he did.  What about that bridge? - I asked him.

Yes, he said.  That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be.  These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in.  So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it.  But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard.  These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding.  But the bridge stays.

That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows.  Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we.  Fair dos, actually.  A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither.  So, I do get it.  And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows.  I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.

imageI will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge.  As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2.  I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do.  Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule.  But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did.  I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it.  I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous.  My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible.  My point (b) is that it is now very easy.  Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.

I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.

Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail.  In London, these things are now everywhere.  Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.

Thursday September 15 2016

Mick Hartley celebrates the addition, now complete and in business, of a slide to the Big Olympic Thing, with some pictures of it that he has taken.

He of course shows the whole thing.  Me, I am more and more coming to see that the quality I most value in these Big Things is their instant recognisability.  Hey, look at that.  That can only be … That!

So here is another photo of the Big Olympic Thing from my archives, showing hardly any of it, but still (for me anyway) instantly recognisable:


Click to get the bigger original.  Rather artistic, I think.

Taken the same day, and from the same place, that I took this photo of the Shard and the Gherkin directly in line.

Tuesday September 13 2016

If you reckon that the two van designs referred to in my previous posting are both as much of a muddle as each other, on account of the ins and outs of the surfaces of the vans colliding with the pictures, well then, I give you a van design that you will surely prefer:


What Miguel did was make sure that everything he said was aligned with the van’s design.  The frames on the van became frames for the pictures Miguel wants us to see.  And the writing all fits in perfectly.

It helps that he chose a van that was all horizontals and verticals, rather than indentations at weird angles, like you see on lots of vans.

Question: is the fact that vans double up as complicated adverts causing the actual vans to be designed differently nowadays?  To suit people like Miguel, who want the van and the message to line up?  It would make sense it that was happening.

I notice that Miguel doesn’t seem to have a website.  I’m guessing that, from where he sits, his van is his website.

Monday September 12 2016

imageI refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there).  And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van.  The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff.  The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible.  It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.

But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:


I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.

The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface.  Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.

But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within.  Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions.  That’s because it’s a van.  Vans are like that.  But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.

So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.

As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this.  I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”.  Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.

Friday September 09 2016

Yes, I photo a lot of white vans, but fewer pink ones.  So, at the end of last month I was able to correct this imbalance a little:


I also try to photo roller-bladers, and the fox on that pink van is a roller-blader, which speeds up the service he is offering.

One of the quite numerous things that I like about white vans, or in this case not so white vans, is the great variety of styles in which they are decorated, all the way from ultra-refined to ultra-trashy, with this one being a bit on the trashy? - well, make that amateurish - side.  (This is another thing vans have in common with websites.) But, trashy or amateurish or whatever, this van certainly got my attention.

Talking of websites. Fantasy Cleaners had a particular problem deciding where and how to put  The website is where all these graphics originated that they had such trouble fitting on the van.  They changed nothing.  The roller-blading fox is there, with the pink background.  Everything.  In general, many more professional van decorators than whoever did this van have problems aligning their messages with the indentations on the sides of the vans.

Wednesday September 07 2016

imageI think it looks like they’re giving someone two fingers, rather than two kangaroo ears.  At least it’s not pointing at us.  It’s more like we’re doing it.  Weird.  It will be interesting to see if it survives.  Quite apart from anything else, I just think it is extremely ugly, in the same kind of way that the 2012 Olympics logo was ugly.

Monday September 05 2016

And in other bridge news …

I earlier linked to a Dezeen report which reported:

The world’s tallest and longest glass bridge opens in China

But now comes this:

World’s tallest and longest glass bridge closes after just two weeks

The more appealing the bridge, the more of a muddle its opening is liable to be, so this is not a particularly terrible thing.  This bridge, for instance, has opening problems because many more people than they expected want to walk upon it:

Thousands flocked to the attraction when it opened on 20 August 2016, but less than two weeks later its popularity has led to its closure.

The bridge is designed to hold up to 800 people and receive up to 8,000 visitors in a day, however demand has far outstripped capacity.

“We’re overwhelmed by the volume of visitors,” a spokesperson from the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon’s marketing department told CNN.

The spokesperson said that 80,000 visitors had attempted to visit the bridge each day, leading to its closure for improvement works on 2 September 2016.

There are no reports of when the attraction will reopen.

Whenever.  There’s nothing as cheap as a hit.  Especially if your target demographic is: China.  And then, when the word gets around, which the above story will hugely help it to: The World.