Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Design

Saturday February 28 2015

I just googled “3D printing” and clicked on “images”.  One of the more interesting images I encountered was this one ...:

image

… 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.

Wednesday February 25 2015

It often happens with me that, while rootling around in the archives for one picture, I stumble across another which strikes me as worth showing to the massed ranks of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom’s readers.

Pictures like this, for instance, which I took at the top of the Monument, in November 2012:

image

Small, blurry, totally recognisable.  Definitely a Big Thing.

As for all that wire netting (which I believe dramatically lowers the cheese content of the above shot), well, here is another shot, of how matters at the top of the Monument used to be not so long ago:

image

I took that in July 2007.  (Note the pleasingly dated camera.) The change from prison bars to wire netting, which happened soon after that, was presumably because of different versions of health and safety.  Originally there was neither, just some waste high railings.  See this hand-done photo “by Canalleto (after)”, whatever that means.  (His production line, but not him, maybe?) And see also this picture.

Tuesday February 24 2015

This blog is where, among other worthier things, I boast about what a clever fellow I am, given that not many other people are in the habit of saying this.  A recent incoming email from Michael Jennings, entitled “You told me about this 12 years before the New York Times did”, gives me another opportunity thus to indulge.

The New York Times piece is this, which is a about how rich people have less stuff than poor people, because stuff is now so cheap.

And I said this in this, just over twelve years ago, as Michael says.

I’m guessing it’s the BJT Bosanquet reference that he particularly remembered.

Wednesday February 18 2015

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:

image

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:

image

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.

Monday February 16 2015

Incoming from 6k, with apologies for taking so long to post it:

Re your Bayeux Tapestry post, please find attached a 500x18px copy of that very wide/long (9917px) version on the site you linked to.

image

Would a photo thinned to 18px in height be a record for BrianMicklethwaitDotCom?

Probably.

For some idiot reason, when I first came across the big image, sideways scrollable, at that site liked to above, I couldn’t seem to manage to download the image, and gave up, hence my request.  All I got was the entire page.  Just now I tried it again, and succeeded at once.  That kind of thing often happens with me.  6K mentioned a resizing site.  But of course, resizing images is something I do all the time, with my regular photoshop-clone.  My problem was not having the image file in the first place. (I now realise that I did download the image, several times.  I just didn’t realise where it had gone.  That also happens to me a lot.)

6k also mentions another Bayeux Tapestry sighting he recently made, of bits of it redone with Lego.

Sunday February 15 2015

While half-watching the rugby yesterday I was also half-rootling-around in my photo archives, and I came across a photo of a carpet.  I had put it in a special separate directory, on its own, but then forgotten about it.  It had a rather interesting message to impart.

Click on this …:

image

… to get the bigger carpet.

But whose carpet was this?  This is where the internet comes in.  I googled “true hearts and warm hands” and immediately learned that this is the motto of the Worshipful Company of Glovers.  Turning to images, I found no other pictures of the actual carpet, but scroll down to the “Glover’s window” here.  The same graphics as on the carpet.

As for my picture, I took it on November 6th 2006, at an event organised by the Globalisation Institute, now long gone.  The event was attended by, among others, the Prime Minister.  Most of the pictures I took, including those I took of the Prime Minister, were very bad, because my camera was no good in poor indoor light, such as prevailed that evening, somewhere in the City of London.

Did you know that Shakespeare’s father was a glover?  If you didn’t you do now.

Thursday February 12 2015

Last night, seeking to illustrate a point made in the previous posting about how things on the ground look like toys, when viewed from an airplane, I failed to find any pictures of my own to illustrate the point, but I did come across this:

image

Triple Chess!!!  I did not know that such a thing existed, as a serious thing, until last night.

I took this photo in 2008, but it was one of those photos that I took and then instantly forgot about.  Then, later, when looking through the photos I took, I skipped straight over this one and concentrated on others taken at the same time, so I did not actually learn of the existence of Triple Chess, in 2008, when I photoed it, even though I had just photoed it.

Also in this photo is another strange contrivance: the Four Wheeled Pedal Board.  How the hell does that work?  Judging by the absence of any feedback at the other end of that link, the Four Wheeled Pedal Board never caught on.  Perhaps because nobody else could see how it worked either.  And perhaps also because it actually did not work?  “How far”, asks the box, “can you go without falling off?” I’m guessing that for most the answer was: not very far at all.

Despite the instructions for the Four Wheeled Pedal Board being in English, this photo of stuff in a shop window was taken in France, in Quimper, a city which regulars here will know that I often visit.

And look, there is a website. Does the fact that this Four Wheeled Pedal Board seems to be an Anglo invention reflect the continuing interest of Anglo culture in pointless gadgets, in mucking about instead of doing serious things?  Because in Angloland we think that mucking about can lead to serious things?  Perhaps.

Some might seize on all this as illustrating the fact that photography is a substitute for really looking at things.  I photoed it, but I didn’t actually look at it!  But, I am looking at it now.  And, do people who do not take photos look carefully at everything that they see?  Of course not.  The real problem with photography (as I recall mentioning in this talk I recently gave about photography) is not that you don’t look at things, but that you are liable to spend your entire life looking at things and never doing anything else.

Note also the red, white and blue accordion, bottom right.  Confirmation of the Anglophile inclinations of this shop?  Well, no, because the French are also big on red, white and blueness, aren’t they?

Wednesday February 11 2015

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 ...:

image

… by doing this:

image

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.

Tuesday February 10 2015

Lynn writes about English history, and recommends this book about the Norman Conquest of the eleventh century, which sounds good and which I immediately ordered from Amazon, together with this book, which also sounds good.

Lynn mentions the Bayeux Tapestry, which is apparently one of the key sources for what happened during the Norman Conquest.  I knew very little about this, but the Internet answers all questions and answers most of them quite quickly.  Lynn herself links to a site about a Victorian copy of the Tapestry (in Reading (I had no idea about that)), in her next posting.

It turns out that the Bayeux Tapestry is the ultimate in horizontalised (that link is to a clutch of horizontalised viaducts here) graphics, as in wide but thin top-to-bottom.  It is 230ft wide.  And it is 20 inches high.  You want wide and thin?  I do.  That’s wide and thin.  Here is a picture of the actual Bayeux Tapestry, as it is now displayed, that makes it look like a giant Metro advert.

In a perfect world, I would be able to find a giant long and thin graphic of the entire thing, which you could scroll through horizontally.  And, guess what.  It is a perfect world.  Thank you note 3, here, towards the end.

Anyone know how I could shrink that down to 500 pixels wide?

Saturday January 31 2015

My Last Friday meeting last night went, from where I sat, very well.  The speaker (Professor Tim Evans) gave a bravura performance.  Not everyone was convinced, and said so, but that’s fine.  That’s a feature, not a bug.

Best all, the exact right number of people attended.  The room was full. Every seat was taken.  Nobody had to stand.

From my personal point of view, the rearranging I did to the furniture set-up turned out beautifully.  From when they resumed at the start of 2013 until last December, these meetings have suffered from the presence of a sort of sideboard thingy, that sticks out from the wall of CDs, to your right as you step into the room.  From this sideboard, drinks and nibbles have been served.  But this didn’t work.  Most people couldn’t easily reach for sustenance during the meeting, and the sideboard broke the circle of seating, in a most ugly and unsatisfactory way.

But last night, food and drink, rather than being stuck away at the side, were instead dispensed from a central table, made of three big plank-like objects bolted together for the evening.  It worked much better, because everyone could then just reach out for their junk food and junk drink, instead of either pining for it in frustration or else traversing the room.

And, the intrusive sideboard thingy was replaced with what God had always intended should be there instead, more CD shelves:

image

There is always room for more shelves.

Details of this sort may seem very foolish, but they are what the craft of hospitality consists of.

imageAnother personal highlight for me was the wine I found at Sainsbury’s in the afternoon.  The only way it could have been improved upon, for my purposes, would have been if it had come from Tesco.

My wine-savvy guests laughed, but were also curious.  Yes, I’ll try a glass, they said, one after another.  And the verdict?  “I’ve tasted worse!” One of them said that in a loud voice, and the others concurred.

The cheapest wine usually costs a minimum of £4 in London, but this was £2.50.  Don’t you just love that it came in a plastic bottle (photoed by me afterwards, empty and with no top).

The attenders were as fine a bunch as I and my speaker have ever managed to assemble, being greatly improved by the presence in our midst of Goddaughter 2 and a couple of her Royal College of Music friends, a soprano and a baritone.  Word is that they had a good time.

I also personally enjoyed both the beginning and the end of the evening.  I always like it when the first person to arrive is a particular friend, rather than someone I only half know and am fretting about impressing, or failing to impress.  And last night the first person to arrive was a friend.

And, I like it when the last few people are also friends, or at least people I am not in any way anxious to be rid of.  Last night, two especially agreeable people (they know who they were) were the last to leave, but not before we had discussed the whole business of the scarcity of sociability, and the consequent possibility that I might, rather suddenly, wish to be alone.  The point is, knowing that I could tell them this without causing offence, I found that I did not want to.  My sociability was running very low, but an ordeal that you can switch off at any moment can often cease entirely from being an ordeal, and so it was last night.  Instead, we had an extremely interesting conversation.  They left in time to catch the last train, having absolutely not outstayed their welcome.

So all in all, everything went very well, for me personally.

Will I have anything to say about the speaker, Tim Evans, and what he actually said? Well, on that, time will tell.  I’m still thinking about that.

Saturday January 17 2015

When it comes to Micklethwait’s Laws, the best one undoubtedly is and will always be Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery.

But there is also a Micklethwait’s Law of Shelves.  On the face of it, Micklethwait’s Law of Shelves is not that fundamental, but, writing about it now, I do think it explains quite a lot about the world, and about why there is so much stuff in the world, clogging it up.  It is a law that, unlike with (so far as I am aware) Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery, many others have discovered the truth of, even if I’ve not been able to find it spelt out in so many words on the www.  Micklethwait’s (or Whoever’s) Law of Shelves states that …:

image

… there is always room for more shelves.

That’s my bedroom.  Imagine what the rest of my place is like.

Thursday January 15 2015

Here’s a nice coincidence.  There I was writing about how I went from being, in my teens, a bad pen-and-ink picture-maker to, from around 2000 onwards, a far happier digital-photographic picture maker.  And here is a picture that captures that kind of metamorphosis perfectly:

image

It’s one of these pictures by Christoph Niemann.  Niemann’s pictures bring to mind that phrase used by one of the alter egos of Barry Humphries, Barry McKenzie, who described paintings as “hand done photos”.  These pictures really do only work as photos.  Until they are photoed, the job is not done.  But the hand-done bit is essential to what they are.

One thing about these pictures that I particularly like, apart from the basic fact that I like them, is their very favourable effort-to-impact ratio.  For my taste, too much of the picture-making displayed at Colossal consists of stuff that is quite nice to look at, but which took an absurdly huge amount of time and effort to contrive.  Also, there is often no logical or even meaningful connection between how the pictures are contrived and how they end up looking.  So, you’ve made a table cloth out of seeds.  Clever you.  But, why?  Niemann’s pictures answer this question perfectly.

But then again, the internet being the internet, if your elaborately pointless pictures catch people’s fancy and thousands glance at them, then I guess that, if you put in a lot of time and effort, you may well reckon than all the time and effort was worth it, especially if you had fun spending it and doing it.  And of course it is digital photography that transforms a laboriously produced one-off item of visual art that took far too much time and effort to do, into a mass experience that it made sense to spend a lot of time and effort doing.  But, most of these intricate sculptures and pictures at Colossal are just sculptures and pictures that were then photographed.  Niemann’s pictures are real Hand Done Photos.

As for me, between being a bad pen-and-ink picture maker and an okay-to-good digital photographer, I endured a big interval during which I made hardly any pictures of any kind.  My pictorial enthusiasm expressed itself in the design of pamphlets, and graphic design generally.  Basically I became a desktop publisher.  (I even earned money doing this.) First I just did publishing, on a desktop, paper-scissors-glue-photocopier.  Then computers arrived, and I was an early adopter of “desktop publishing”.  Then the internet arrived, and drew a big line under all that stuff.  I shovelled all my pamphlets onto the internet, and became a blogger.  And, I bought my first digital camera.  At first, blogging and digital photography did not mix very well.  Now, they mix very well indeed.

Wednesday January 14 2015

Dezeen reports that the Walkie Talkie Sky Garden is now open:

image

Note this:

This feature helped the project win planning permission, despite being outside the City of London’s main skyscraper cluster.

It seems that I am not the only one who believes that new buildings like the Walkie Talkie are good not only because they improve the views by being in the views, but by being a new place to look at the views.

And to repeat, I especially like how the Walkie Talkie looks from a distance.  The point being: it looks, not just like any old anonymous lump, but like the lump that is the Walkie Talkie.  The Walkie Talkie is, just like the Shard and the Gherkin and St Paul’s and Big Ben and the Wheel, recognisable, this being why it needs a special jokey name.  That means that it makes me happy whenever I see it.  It makes me feel at home.  It may not be beautiful exactly (although from nearby I happen to think that it is very beautiful).  But neither is the rest of London beautiful exactly, and I think the Walkie Talkie fits right in.

LATER: Diamond Geezer is way ahead of me.

Tuesday January 13 2015

From time to time I go looking for pictures of bridges, preferably new ones, but seldom find anything I don’t know about.  And then, quite by chance, while clicking through these old photos, I chance upon this:

image

It’s the Golden Gate, being built, in 1937.

I recall doing a pen-an-ink type sketch (as opposed to something theatrical like a comedy sketch – odd double meaning that), when in my teens, of the Severn Road Bridge, when it only had a chunk of road in the middle, suspended in glorious isolation, going nowhere in either direction (like in the photo here).  This photo reminds me of those times.

I never actually drew any decent pictures, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about composition, by which I mean that I chose quite good pictures to do, but actually did them very badly.  Now I take good pictures, rather less badly.  How I wish there had been digital cameras when I was a teenager.  My cycling expeditions around France, and then Scandinavia, and then Iceland, would have been far more fun, and now far easier to remember.  The old cameras, with “film” in them, were ridiculous.  You had to “develop” all the damn pictures, very expensively, just to find out that about three of them weren’t total crap.  But you tell young people this nowadays they think you’re mad.  And if you did all this, guess what, you were mad.

I have never shared the contempt that most people show - or pretend to show - for Adolf Hitler’s paintings.  Okay, so they aren’t Rembrandts, but even so, I would have loved to have been as good hand-done picture-making as he was.  Could it be that people just can’t bear to accept that he ever did anything well or anything good?  Just a wild guess.

Monday January 12 2015

Here, as promised, is a big clutch of photos of signs that I took at the Trafalgar Square demo yesterday.  If you want to, click on a square to get the original photo.  The squares have, in quite a few cases been fiddled out with to make them a bit clearer, but the originals you’ll get to with clicking are exactly as taken.

There were, of course, lots of signs (including many mobile phones and at least one tablet) saying “I AM CHARLIE”, in fact you can see quite a few such if you do some clicking.  But, here are all the signs I photographed that said something else as well, or instead:

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Of all of these, my two favourites are “Team Civilization”, and “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended” (in French).  But demos are at least as much about quantity as quality, and I trust the sheer number of signs shown here (there were plenty more that I didn’t get to photo) makes the bigger point.  There were a lot of people turning out to denounce these horrible attacks.

Even the rather or almost completely illegible signs are an encouragement, I think, because what these signs tell us is that quite a few people were present, and feeling strongly enough about it to want to wave a sign, who had never been anywhere near such a demo ever before.

Feel free to reproduce any of these images at will, with or without attribution.  If you’d like bigger versions of any of the pictures, my email can be found here, top left, where it says “Contact”.