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
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

Saturday November 28 2015

It is probably, by now, a little known fact that during January 2007 (and presumably also over Christmas 2006) there were lots of coloured plastic bottles with lightbulbs inside them outside the front of the Royal Festival Hall in London.

image imageimage image

The man responsible was a certain David Batchelor, as is explained here

All part of the funning down (or is that up?) of the South Bank.

Thursday November 26 2015

I say new.  New for me.  Old and superfluous to requirements for the people who were getting rid of them.

Audiences for regularly repeating events tend exactly to fill whatever comfortable spaces and places are offered to them.  Given that my speakers tend to be pretty good, the single best way for me to persuade more people to attend my Last Fridays of the Month meetings (there will be another such meeting tomorrow evening) is to improve the seating arrangements.  More and more comfortable chairs are the best way to make these events better.

When these meetings resumed, in January 2013, there was a rather ungainly sofa, which seats two in comfort and three in discomfort unless all three are very thin, and one other comfy single chair.  The rest was all stools and upright chairs and old loudspeakers and suchlike.

Worst of all there was this:


That picture having already been shown here, here.

But, to replace the above abomination, there is now this:


Despite appearances, these two beauties work very well as a three seat sofa.  Better yet, they cost me: nothing.  I went out shopping a few months back, and Goddaughter 2 happened to be with me.  We saw these two semi-sofas being inserted into a skip.  So we skipped the shopping and grabbed them, all this being only a couple of dozen yards from the front door of my block of flats.  Moments later, and they’d have been covered in subsequent rubbish.  No Goddaughter 2, and I don’t know how I would have managed.  Almost certainly, not.  Amazing.

And then, about a week ago in a charity shop I encountered these two little numbers, also very comfortable:


I had to pay a few bob for them, and some more bob for a taxi to get them home, but it all added up to far less than I was thinking of paying for something similar, singular, new, to see if another similar, singular, new, would be worth a further quite large outlay.

The above improvements may not seem like much, but they increase the number of truly comfortable seats at my evenings from three-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half.  So the chance of a comfy seat have now more than doubled.

All I need now is to replace that goofy original sofa, with its goofy great arm rests that take up about one and half people’s worth of space, and things would be looking even better.

Friday November 13 2015

Because of the uncannily precise weather forecasts with which modern civilisation is blessed, I know that today will be a great day to be going out, which I have not done for a while.  And I intend to check out this, which is a gas holder that has been tarted up into a big old public sculpture stroke small park inside:


My thanks to 6k for alerting me to this.  Dezeen gave this pleasing piece of urbanity a write-up, but I might have missed that.  I probably wouldn’t have, but I might have.

There are mirrors.  I like mirrors.  Mirrors make for fun photos.

Also, notice how, in this other picture, …:


... it would appear that they (Bell Philips) will be inserting a block of flats into another nearby gas holder.  Cute.

I’ll let you all know how it is all looking, at the moment.  Assuming I manage to find it and it’s not still a building site behind barriers.  With these kinds of things, the internet can only tell you so much.  By which I mean that it could tell you enough so that you wouldn’t have to go there to check it out, but it generally can’t be bothered.  So, since it’s only a short Victoria Line journey, I will go there.  To check out not only the Thing itself, but to see what other Things I can see from inside it, framed by it.

Monday November 02 2015

I think my fascination with the Union Jack really got into gear with the Scottish Referendum.  Why then?  Because then, we might have had to abandon it.  It might have become a relic.

Then, during the recently concluded Rugby World Cup, the Brits all got knocked out by the time the semi-finals came around.  But, the two nations whose national flags involve the Union Jack (for the time being anyway), Australia and New Zealand (England’s flag is the red and white flag of St George), were the two finalists.  So, the Union Jack triumphed, even if the nation that originated it did not.

So, I am now always on the lookout for Union Jacks, especially when the colours are being played with.  The shape is wonderful, I think, but the colours can get repetitious and they come alive when altered somewhat.

And today, I found just such a Union Jack, in a shop, in Tottenham court Road.  I went in and photoed it, several times.  Nobody objected, or tried to sell me furniture.  Or even to sell me the Union Jack that I was photoing.  I just did my photos, and also a few others of cat cushions, and then made my exit.

image imageimage image

If you look at a mirror, you tend to see yourself.  If you photograph a mirror, you tend to photo yourself taking a photo, unless you are a Real Photographer.  I am not, even if one of the above photos does exclude me.

£149 is what this mirror would cost you.

As I type this, Simon Schama is concluding his TV series about The Face of Britain, the final episode being entitled “The Face in the Mirror”.  He is doing selfies, or “self-portraits” as they have mostly been known, until now.  I expect that we will be shown regular folks posing with their selfie sticks, right at the end.

No.  No selfie sticks.  Instead: Gormleys.  I photoed Gormleys, way back, in London.  Schama had them photoed at the seaside.

Friday October 16 2015

More Dezeenery:

“Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architectures,” commented Bill Carter, manager of the Architected Materials Group at HRL.


“We are revolutionising lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the materials level and designing their architectures at the nano- and micro-scales,” he added.

In the new film released by Boeing earlier this month, HRL research scientist Sophia Yang describes the metal as “the world’s lightest material”, and compares its 99.9 per cent air structure to the composition of human bones – rigid on the outside, but with an open cellular composition inside that keeps them lightweight.

All of which has obvious applications to airplanes:

Although the aerospace company hasn’t announced definite plans to use the microlattice, the film suggests that Boeing has been investigating possible applications for the material in aeroplanes, where it could be used for wall or floor panels to save weight and make aircraft more fuel efficient.

And it surely won’t stop with wall and floor panels.

These are the days of miracle and wonder.

Thursday October 15 2015

Maybe one day I will get tired of seeing The Wires! In photos of new Japanese buildings, at Dezeen.  But I am not tired of it yet:


Other Dezeenery I have recently liked: colourful buildings for an ugly square in Eindhoven; a big sculpture that looks like a giant tooth, made (by a robot) entirely of pebbles and string (which means the pebbles can be used again and again); packing more people in an Airbus; scepticism about the creative class theory of urbanisation.

Also: a cardboard car.  Lexus.  Drivable.  But not with a cardboard engine, surely.  No, they cheated there.  It has an electric motor, housed in an aluminium frame.  This is not an exercise in engineering.  It is advertising.  Caused by the fact that in car adverts you are less and less allowed to say anything sensible, with mere words.  Car adverts now remind me of cigarette adverts in my youth.  They were like that for the same reason.

Monday October 12 2015

I’ve been photoing a lot of taxis-covered-in-adverts lately, and this is one of my recent favorites, both because if came out so well in such discouraging light (my camera is not called “Lumix” for nothing) and because it is of that generic thing, an advert for adverts.  You want to stick an advert on your taxi.  This is who to contact:


I also like the big old advert behind.

As for the adverts on taxis, the thing I notice is that they are now often very temporary.  You associate adverts on vehicles with permanence, or I do.  On a taxi, you advertise a product which isn’t going to change for the next few years, like a drink or a holiday destination or an estate agency, right?  Well, not so much now.  Now, you often see adverts on taxis that are for events.  Here, for instance, is one I have been noticing recently:


Now that I look at this carefully, I see that although a big fuss is being made of London Fashion Week, this is actually an advert for one of its sponsors, Sunglass Hut, which didn’t vanish on September 22nd, just because London Fashion Week folded its tents on that date.  Nevertheless, if this London Fashion Week advert hangs around for a few months, it will look very out-od-date, and Sunglass Hut with it, which is surely not what they will want or will allow.  It will be interesting to see if this advert is still to be seen, say, around Christmas or after.  My guess would be not.

While doing this posting, I actually found out about Verifone Media for the first time.  Blog and learn.

Friday September 25 2015

Yes, because that was when I took this photo:


One of the ways I have got (I think) better as a photographer is that I have gradually identified more classes of object or circumstance to be worth photoing.

This often starts with me just photoing something, because, what the hell, I like it, or it’s fun, or it’s interesting, or it’s odd, or it’s getting more common, or nobody else is noticing it and talking about it, or whatever and I just photo it, without even telling myself why, in conscious words.

Later, often much later, the conscious, verbalised thinking starts.  Perhaps because, as in this case, someone else starts talking about it. Guido having a go at that Labour politician was what got my conscious brain into gear on the subject of White Vans.  And I then decide to get more systematic about photoing whatever it is.

Mobile Pet Foods is still going, and if that link doesn’t convince you, then note the date on the latest piece of customer feedback here.  (That this feedback may be fake doesn’t alter the fact that the dates are recent.)

There is, of course, a cat angle to this.

Wednesday September 09 2015


It’s been a week since I clocked this glorious contraption, via Instapundit, I think (yes).  But I want to make sure none of my readers miss such a thing, before I also forget about it:


Picture from here, and the title of my posting from here.

The Telegraph says if it’s manned it can’t be a drone.  Whatever.

Saturday August 15 2015

Time today only for three rather antiquated Citroens.

First, a Citroen DS23, photoed by me in Lower Marsh this afternoon, 3.45 pm:


Second, a second Citroen DS23, photoed by me in the Kings Road this afternoon, 5.06 pm:


To see one of these beauties is a beautiful thing.  To see two, within the space of less than two hours, is to be doubly blessed.

I know they were both DS23s because I also photoed where they both said they were DS23s, at the back.

And then, before the two hours were up, I also snapped this:


It just turned off the Kings Road, right in front of me.

Magnifique.  J’aime Londres.

That last one reminds me that I also took this photo, earlier in the week, in Strutton Ground:


A form of transport that is even more antiquated than are the automobiles pictured above.  See also: this.

By the way, I rather enjoyed it when I just image-googled automobile.  All I was doing at first was checking the spelling.

Friday August 14 2015

That’s not my punctuation.  That’s their punctuation:


This is sort of a wedding photo, in the sense that I took it just before the wedding of Ayumi and Richard, last Saturday, just outside the Church, where there is a market.

There was nobody manning this particular stall, selling miniature pub signs.  And I have a rule about signs that say No Photos, or for that matter No Photo’s.  That rule is: I take a photo of all such signs that I encounter.  Their rule: No Photos.  My rule: Photo of their rule.

I’m guessing that what they mean by a photo is a carefully composed photo of just one of these signs, so I don’t believe that, in the unlikely event that they find out about me posting this photo here, they’ll care.  Besides which, maybe they have discovered that if they exhibit all their signs for sale, and stick “Sorry! No Photo’s!” in among them, they get free publicity from photographers like me.

I didn’t really compose the shot.  I just grabbed it, on my way into the wedding.  But I do like how it says “Queen Vic” and then “England”, right at the top.  And, top left: “London”.

This had to go up today, because as you can see, cats are involved.  And my rule about sometimes having stuff here about cats on Fridays has mutated in my head into a rule that says that I may only mention cats on Fridays, otherwise they’d overrun the entire blog.

Speaking of cats, I also recommend this video, which I found when I visited, after long absence, Norman Lebrecht’s site, this morning.

And see also: Fossils reveal felines drove 40 species of canines to extinction after arriving in North America.

And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.

Thursday August 13 2015

Yesterday’s posting was about, among other things, a photo I failed to take.  But not long after that failure, I succeeded in taking these snaps.  Which were a lot easier because nothing was moving:

image imageimage image

Not long ago, I photoed another selfie stick clutch.  But the selfie stick clutch above came out better, I think.  Less clutter in the background.  Better light.

That joke card was obviously composed and printed and sold by people who take it for granted that it is the government’s job to make you rich, because the implication is that government cuts make you poor.  But if you have an honest job, then government cuts will make you richer, especially if they knock it off the income tax.  And the graphic design should have been more deadpan.  As it is, it rather draws attention to itself and spoils the comic effect.  But I like it anyway.  Not enough to want to buy it, you understand.  But enough to photo it.

Strictly speaking, that scaffolding is not in Oxford Street, merely visible from Oxford Street.  But when it comes to scaffolding, rules don’t apply.

Monday August 03 2015

I like this:


Which is why I put the picture in my “I Just Like Them!” directory, and why I am putting it here now.

The picture was taken by me, on July 11th 2007, assuming my camera at the time was not lying to my computer at the time.

I see several of my photography recipes already in action.  Recipes like: by all means photo cliché Big Things like The Wheel, but put The Wheel in front of or behind or next to something else interesting, otherwise all that the picture of The Wheel will be is just one of the many million pictures already taken of The Wheel.

And actually there are two interesting things besides The Wheel in this picture.  Obviously there is the stellated whateverhedron that dominates the picture, which is the kind of thing that constantly comes and goes from the strange little space behind the Royal Festival Hall.  The Royal Festival Hall being the grey lump on the right as we look.

But now, take a look the far end of the roof of the Royal Festival Hall.  There’s a little figure standing up there.  And, I can tell you at once that it is one of those Gormley Men.  It is also clear to me that I was jiggling my camera around to as to get that particular Gormley Man standing in a good place to be seen through the stellated whateverhedron.

I still remember those Gormley Men fondly.

Saturday August 01 2015

Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank.  And with this, I thought, I had struck gold.  This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:


I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006.  At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos.  A … well, a camera.  But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.

Whatever that is.  I have no real clue.  Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?

The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale.  I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.

Friday July 31 2015

Here comes another of those Don’t Mention The Wires!!! stories, at favourite-internet-place-of-mine, Dezeen.

imageI have rather unkindly sliced a vertical slice out of one of the photos, of a truly extraordinary post (I mean a physical post in the road - not a piece of internetting), which is covered from the top almost to the bottom in The Wires!!!

But, maybe this is an oblique reference to The Wires!!!:

“The reason we constructed frames was to filter the surrounding environment, which changes fast in an unforeseeable manner,” explained architects Hyoungnam Lim and Eunjoo Roh.

They constantly take away some The Wires!!!, and install new The Wires!!!, in different places.  Could that be what architects Hyoungnam Lim and Eunjoo Roh are, rather delicately, referring to?

What all these Don’t Mention The Wires!!! stories suggest to me is that these are countries (the other big one being Japan) where electronic communication arrived when people were still very poor in other ways, and any politician who tried to restrain The Wires!!! to make them prettier, but more expensive, would be hanged by them.  Western trained aesthetes don’t like it, but know there’s nothing they can do.

I also recall hearing once about how in Japan, all buildings tend to be more temporary, because of earthquakes and all timber construction and suchlike, and that even religious buildings get torn down and rebuilt in another spot from time to time.  And if it’s temporary, who cares what it looks like?  If they want to make it pretty, fine.  If not, also fine.  If The Wires!!! will soon be different The Wires!!!, no worries.  Let The Wires!!! go where they want.

But what do I know?  I’m only babbling on like this to make entirely sure that this posting is longer than the post.

Looking at this some more, I do wonder if those architects maybe persuaded the electricians to rearrange these particular South Korean The Wires!!!, so that they are less visible from the Architecture, and if those frames, mentioned above, are as they are so that The Wires!!! cannot be seen through them.  They act like blinkers, in other words.

If so, it should have been explained more clearly.  As it is, we can only guess.