Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Michael Jennings on Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
6000 on Red arrow?
Michael Jennings on Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
Maria Adams on Amusing cats versus important people
Brian Micklethwait on Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
6000 on Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
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- Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (aka Spaghetti Junction on Sea)
- Photographing while on a skateboard
- National Theatre Boo
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- Ten years ago today
- Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
- Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
- VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
- Vauxhall bus station now – and when it was being constructed
- Painted people
- A slightly foreign part of London
- Spot the owl
- Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
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Category archive: Design
Follow the link above, and you’ll read the headline “China build the World’s Longest Bridge - Jiaozhou Bay Bridge”. But bridges like this, across huge chunks of sea and with hugely long approaches over that sea, are fairly common now, even if this particular one happens to be the biggest in this genre, for the moment. The photo has it right. The bridge is just another bridge, and is rightly stuck away in the distance. The motorway junction is in the foreground, and quite right too. Is there, anywhere else on the planet, a motorway junction resembling this one, all at sea?
Ordinary bridge, astonishing approach. Reminds me of this.
So I was in Lower Marsh this afternoon, where I photographed this:
Odd. Why are most of them red, but two of them blue? And why are the three to the top right seemingly not properly aligned?
At first I thought I was looking at a flock of birdcages. But following closer inspection, of the things themselves and of the photos I took of them, my bet now would be that these are light sockets, and that they will very soon be covered by a giant illuminated arrow, pointing towards the entrance to a new cafe. But this is only a guess.
I know that you are all now very excited about this. So, I will be sure to keep you informed, with further photos and reportage.
The pictures below were taken on April 16th 2004, in (on?) one of my regular snapping zones, Westminster Bridge, from which, then as now, you get great views of both Parliament and the Wheel, depending on which way you look.
Most of the things I was photoing then haven’t changed that much, but … I was just then starting to realise that my fellow digital photographers were an object worthy of my detailed and prolonged attention, which they have been ever since. That summer of 2004 was the moment when I first got seriously stuck into this category of photo. There are still lots of pictures of people just wandering around, being people. But, the photographers were just tarting to figure strongly in the archives. It took me a while to realise that the cameras mattered at least as much as the people using them, that aspect getting steadily easier as zoom got zoomier.
The privacy concerns associated with just shoving recognisable pictures of strangers up on the internet have only grown since then, but I reckon that pictures this old are not such a problem in that way. Recognisable pictures taken yesterday, that I tend not to do these days, or not so much. But pictures of people taken a decade ago, well, I’m more relaxed about that.
The little squares zoom in on the cameras. Click and get the original pictures as taken that afternoon, which would appear to have been exactly as sunny as today is.
Mostly silver rather than black, mostly much bulkier than the equivalent cameras look now. But of course there is one exception to all that. Picture 3.1 shows a kind of camera that looked then pretty much exactly as it looks now. Black. Shaped like an old school camera. These are the cameras that are actually just regular quite good digital cameras, but which enable you think of yourself as the beginnings of a Real Photographer. My kind of camera, in other words. Cameras in this category look now exactly as they looked then. Nothing has changed with those.
Except what they can do.
Literally about three people whom I spoke with at LLFF14 may now or soon be flooding in to BrianMicklethwait.com, expecting, perhaps, libertarian profundities. But this is not that sort of place, is it? No it is not.
Here, I do things like display photos of London, like this:
On the left, a shot taken by me on May 19th 2004, showing how Vauxhall bus station looked when it was under construction. On the right, how the same building looked when completed, photoed by me last Christmas Eve.
What a very odd object this is.
The 2004 photo was taken with my second digital camera, which was a Canon PowerShot A70.
Incoming from 6000, aware of my Feline Friday habit, about a 16th century plan to use cats and doves as weapons of war:
Asking for trouble, I’d say.
Thus encouraged on the cat front, I went looking for other weird stuff, in the cat category.
I found this, which is a camera decorated with a logo that is part Hello Kitty and part Playboy Bunny. Weird:
I guess the Kitty is wearing those big pretend rabbit ears.
And weirdest of all, beauty bloggers are decorating cat claws:
It seems that doing crazy things with cats is a permanent part of the human condition. Although to be fair, the excuse for the pink claws above is that they stop your cat from scratching the furniture. And I suppose making them brightly coloured means you can see at once if the cat is wearing them, or has managed to get rid of some of them.
In the latest manifestation of the original Friday ephemera, there are no cats. Not this time. But 6000 included the weaponised cat notion in an ephemeral collection of his own. His final ephemeron was an octopus photo. That also just about qualifies as feline, if you focus on the final three letters.
From the Preface of Christopher Barnatt’s 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution:
Within a decade or so, it is likely that a fair proportion of our new possessions will be printed on demand in a local factory, in a retail outlet, or on a personal 3D printer in our own home. Some objects may also be stored and transported in a digital format, before being retrieved from the Internet just as music, video and apps are downloaded today. While the required technology to allow this to happen is still in its infancy, 3D printing is developing very rapidly indeed. Some people may tell you that 3D printing is currently being overhyped and will have little impact on industrial practices and our personal lives. Yet these are the same kinds of individuals who once told us that the Internet was no more than a flash in the pan, that online shopping would have no impact on traditional retail, and that very few people would ever carry a phone in their pocket.
In 1939 the first TV sets to go on sale in the United States were showcased at the World Fair in New York. These early TVs cost between $200 and $600 (or about the same as an automobile), and had rather fuzzy, five inch, black-and-white screens. Most of those who attended the World Fair subsequently dismissed television as a fad that would never catch on. After all, how many people could reasonably be expected to spend a large proportion of their time staring at a tiny, flickering image?
The mistake made by those who dismissed television in 1939 was to judge a revolutionary technology on the basis of its earliest manifestation. Around 7S years later, those who claim 3D printing to be no more than hype are, I think, in danger of making exactly the same error.
I’m guessing that what I saw in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, was the 3D Printer equivalent of those “rather fuzzy, five inch, black-and-white screens”, at the New York World Fair, the first stumbling steps.
I haven’t read much of this book yet, but I have already learned one excellent application of 3D printing, which is to print not the Thing itself, but the mold for making the Thing. You then make the Thing itself in the regular old way. Clever.
LATER: Here is Barnatt’s description of that last thing (p. 9):
A particularly promising application of 3D printing is in the direct production of molds, or else of master ‘patterns’ from which final molds can be taken. For example, as we shall see in the next chapter, ‘3D sand casting’ is increasingly being used to print molds into which molten metals are then directly poured to create final components. As explained by ExOne - a pioneer in the manufacture of 3D printers for this purpose - by 3D printing sand casting molds, total production time can be reduced by 70 per cent, with a greater accuracy achieved and more intricate molds created. In fact, using 3D sand casting, single part molds can be formed that would be impossible to make by packing sand around a pattern object that would then need to be removed before the mold was filled with molten metal.
Like I say, clever.
My scanner turned “molds” into “maids” throughout that piece of scanning. Not clever.
Yesterday evening, just as the place was closing, I spotted (and took bad photos of) a promising sofa, hiding in among lots of other clutter in something called the Futon Centre, in Tottenham Court Road:
Staff were trickling out the side door, even as I was seeing this for the first time. Can I take a closer look, just for a second? Yes, just a quick one, they said. But, look on the website, they said.
So I did, and this is what I found:
Three hundred and fifty quid. As you can see there is a choice of colours. If on closer inspection (tomorrow?) I find that I like it, and that it is not too deep front-to-back, I am in the mood to take the hit. After all, a sofa is for life, not just for the next few weeks, and I think I do like it already. Deep it may be, deeper than I would like. But almost all of the other sofas I’ve looked at are hideous monster sofas with arms on them like the arms of a person starring in a television show called Embarrassing Arms. I already have a monster armed sofa like this and could not bear another. Those arms are two extra people.
The question is: Can I get it up my stairs? Because of Health and Safety the people who deliver it won’t do that. How the hell does that make the world any safer?
Wish me luck. If this suits, then I will win that fifty quid, in the limited sense of not having to give it to anyone else.
Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.
So anyway, here’s the link.
And here is the quota photo:
That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos. It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.
I like the water on the window.
There are some spectacular pictures now up at English Russia, taken from the air over the Russian Far East, i.e. Vladivostock and surrounding parts.
Here is a good one (scroll down at page 3 of the posting):
What’s good about that is that it shows how roads stop fires. On the right, fire! On the left, the other side of the road, no fire.
Other pictures in the set include several of two rather spectacular bridges in Vladivostock, of which this snap is my favourite (scroll down at page 2):
That is the bridge over the Golden Horn Bay. The other and bigger Vladivostock bridge joins Vladivoskock to Russkiy Island. See this Guardian report. This map, if you reduce its size and go north a bit, shows where both the bridges are.
However, when I copied and pasted it into my word processor, it started out looking like this:
How did that happen?
In my youth, I would have panicked, but with age comes experience, and faced with dramas like this, I now do nothing, and then do the sensible thing. Which in this case was to try reformatting in “Default Formatting”, which at once turned it into normal writing again.
Presumably, my copying had picked up on some weird Bonzo Dooh Dah Dog Band font of some kind. But how?
I thought it must be that one called “Dingbats”, but it turns out it was “Open Symbol”, I think. How do the above hieroglyphics get called Open Symbol? (I was going to put higher oh gliffix, and now I have, but in the age of google and its “did you mean …?” feature) there is no excuse for such behaviour.)
Is there a rock band called the Dingbats? Of course there is! Is there a rock band called the Open Symbols? My googling says not. Shame.
Tonight on BBC4 they just showed a programme about Carl Faberge, blingster to the Czars.
I learned a lot. Next up, a show done by Jonathan Meades, about Brutalist architecture. He’s for it.
This seems an appropriate juxtaposition, and I am recording both. The insanely ornate and extravagant trinkets unleashed by Faberge, and all the other riche and nouveau riche junk that flooded into the world in and around 1900, had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the anti-ornamental puritanism of architectural brutalism. Many, including me, some of the time, react to Faberge eggs not just with indifference but with aggressive hatred.
I also beheld Brutalist architecture for most of the last half century with even greater loathing. This loathing is only now abating, as the buildings themselves start to diminish in number.
That building used to adorn the roundabout on the other side of the river from Parliament. It is now no more. I photographed it. Then, I photographed its demolition. I did not mourn its passing.
Meades is now, as promised, rhapsodising about Brutalism. Why, he asks, does architecture have to be nice? He is likening it to Victorian architectural oddities of earlier times.
What he misses, or is missing so far, is that Brutalism’s aesthetic aggression went hand in hand with huge collectivist power grabs. Brutalism was the architectural face of state centralism. For me, Meades makes a big distinction between “Brutalism” and regular modern. I don’t really see this. Both went hand in hand, I’d say.
Meades’ injunction that people should not hate Brutalism is rather like expecting conquered Europeans not to be such philistines about the obviously beautiful design of Junkers 87s or Tiger Tanks. Ah, correction. Now he is acknowledging quite explicitly the roots of Brutalism in second world war concrete bunkers, most notably those constructed by the Nazis. “Forget” that the Nazis built these things, says Meades. But I suspect that the Brutalists actually liked the very quality that made the Nazis do this kind of thing. Nazis conquered twee old Europe. Brutalism assaulted the twee architecture of post-war Europe, the Europe that is still awash with Fabergerie. There is a deep affinity here.
The show is still going as I post this, and is in any case only part one of two. This was live blogging.
I returned to the Radio Bar at the top of the Hotel ME on Saturday 7th of this month, when the weather was brighter and breezier. I was in a hurry to be back for an appointment at home, and did not have time to really look at what I was photographing, and anyway, my eyesight is poor and I can’t see a lot of it if I want to.
So, for instance, when I took this picture, …:
… I thought I was photographing just the one big, obvious bridge, the one with the towers. But it turned out that I was photographing seven bridges. Newcastle eat your heart out. Sorry about that big white circumcised cock in the foreground, getting in the way. It looks like it’s doing radar, but I doubt that.
Moving on quickly from that, let me itemise the bridges, from nearest to furthest away.
Here is a google map which shows how this picture was possible. Where it says ”ME” (photo manipulation is not my strong suit but I did manage to add that), at the far left, is where I was standing, so ME means both me and the hotel of that name. Click on this map to get it bigger:
So, first, nearest to me, on the right of the big white cock, we can see pedestrians crossing the river on Blackfriars Bridge, the road version.
We cannot then see the isolated, do-nothing columns of the Blackfriars Railway Bridge that isn’t, so that doesn’t count. But just beyond those columns, we do clearly see, second, the Blackfriars Railway Station Bridge that is, with its long line of slanting roofs.
Third, we can see the upper parts of the Millenium Bridge (featured in the bottom three pictures here, where there is also another snap of those weird Blackfriars columns), the footbridge that famously wobbled when first opened, which does about half the job of taking pedestrians between Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Fourth, slightly green despite being in the shade, is Southwark Bridge.
Fifth, there is the severely functional railway bridge that takes the trains from the south east over the river to Cannon Street Station. You can just make out a clutch of signals at its left hand end as we look at it.
Sixth, we have “London Bridge”, and I can help adding sneer quotes. What a come-down that bridge is from how London Bridge used to be. No wonder so many people think that Tower Bridge is London Bridge. The actual London Bridge is so boring.
One of the reasons I especially like the new Blackfriars Railway Station Bridge is that it sets a precedent for putting buildings on a London bridge, and makes it more likely that London Bridge itself might one day be rebuilt in something like its former glory. Maybe not quite as tall as it once was, but with buildings on it, like Ponte Vecchio. What would be particularly cool is if, just as in former times, a new London Bridge could be built, strong enough to be a platform for buildings, but if it was then left to individual plot owners to decide exactly what to put on each plot.
And finally, seventh, there is Tower Bridge, at the far right hand end of the map.
London. It just keeps on getting better.
Here are an extraordinarily large number of photos of the Airbus A380, showing off at a Russian air show.
Here is one of my favourites, in the photoing-planes-from-above-and-yet-also-from-the-ground genre, that the A380 so likes to encourage, when showing off at air shows, the point being that for such a big airplane, this is a bit surprising:
I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think a slogan like that – “Own the sky” - would be used in the primmer, prissier West, now so much more environmentally hesitant about jet airplanes. Not environmentally hesitant enough to actually stop flying them and flying in them, you understand, but environmentally hesitant enough for everyone to pretend they feel bad about it.
I got a very similar shot of the A380 when it performed the same kind of dance routine at Farnborough, in the summer of 2010:
No mention of anyone owning the sky then, there.
Another difference you can see there - see planely, you might say - is the difference a better camera makes. Happily my 2010 camera is not the one I use now, which is rather better.
In New York, when 432 Park Avenue has been built, the views from it, from 1271 feet up, will look like this.
The City of London is also known as the Square Mile, so I have cropped out the City with the automatic square tool in my photoshop clone.
The people who concocted this rather commonplace piece of visual extrapolation have assumed that there will be no outbursts of history to complicate the picture. This may be wrong, but it makes a nice change from a few years back, when people were faking up pictures of London under thirty feet of sea water. That kind of thing is not just not believed any more. It is not even being thought about any more. It never occurred to any of the people now spreading this story around, about London building lots of new towers, to mention Rising Sea Levels, Climate Chaos, etc. etc., blah blah blah.
This is often how big arguments are won and lost. In silence. The people talking tripe stop talking it. And the people who have been explaining why the tripe is the tripe that it is, and have been in the habit of denouncing it in loud voices, no longer have any tripe to denounce. So they also go quiet.
That talk I gave at Christian Michel’s was really just a ragbag of different thoughts I have had over the last few years about digital photography and its effects and uses. One of the effects I speculated about - having already done so beforehand, here was that digital photography has encouraged temporary art, such as graffiti, ice sculpture, and the like, by rewarding it with a permanence and swankableness that would, pre digital photography, have been hard to contrive.
Yesterday, following one of David Thompson’s Friday Ephemera links to some bizarre hyper-realistic painted wood sculptures, I came across yet another variant on the theme of artistic temporariness, in the form of some particularly fine sandcastles, done by someone called Calvin Seibert:
I chose a sandcastle picture that included the sea in it, to emphasise the fact that this wonderful creation will very soon be swallowed up and turned back into beach. In King Canute’s time, that would have been that, but we now live in the post-Canute age. Waves can be stilled, and sandcastles can stand on beaches for ever.