Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Cyclists
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Patrick Crozier on Cyclists
Brian Micklethwait on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
rob on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
Most recent entries
- Matt Ridley on the educational discoveries of James Tooley
- The Dome and Tower Bridge aligned
- I never thought that we could win
- Matt Ridley on how (fracking) technology lead science
- The wonderful things they’re doing with plastics nowadays
- The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
- 240 Blackfriars behind some reinforced concrete that is being demolished
- John Croft: Composition is not research
- The cuddly killer
- Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
- Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
- Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
- Brittany lighthouses
- Citroen correction
- When the people are the Art
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Design
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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 www.fantasycleaners.com. 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.
I 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.
And in other bridge news …
I earlier linked to a Dezeen report which reported:
But now comes this:
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.
Nowadays, footbridges tend only to spring to life and to try to be entertaining to walk across, rather than just functional, when water is involved. But as the world’s economy slows and big new bridge projects become scarcer, I believe we can expect many more smaller and hitherto more mundane bridges to be similarly “designed” rather than just built. Like this one in Beersheba, which is over some railway tracks.
The time is not far away when I will almost cease from adding to my photo-archives, and will spend most of my photo-time trawling through the archives that I already having.
And coming upon photos like this:
That’s a Big Thing alignment that you don’t see very often. It is, of course, the Wembley Arch and The Wheel. I took this shot in Eltham, quite near (I think) to Eltham Palace, on (definitely) December 23rd 2015. The posting at the end of that last link mentions this expedition, to meet up with my good friend Alastair, but the only picture it shows is a picture that Alastair himself took some weeks earlier, of the Walkie Talkie, and I never subsequently showed here any of the pictures that I took that day. The above is one of them.
However, it is typical of many of the photos I take in including things, in this case a Big Thing, that I was unaware of photoing at the time. I think I realised that I was photoing The Wheel, when I took the above photo. But I do not believe I realised at the time that I had also photoed the Wembley Arch. For this reason, the picture above zeroes in on this alignment. But if you click on it, you get the original photo that I took, where the above alignment is only one of many potentially interesting things.
The Wembley Arch often surprises me like this. It’s like one of those idiots who deliberately pops up behind TV sports reporters, except not idiotic or deliberate. It is very big. And it is quite a way away from the centre of London, in a rather confusing direction. So it has a habit of suddenly looming up in the background of the photos I take, even though, not knowing exactly where it is, I am seldom trying to photo it. Unless of course I actually see it, which I typically don’t. Until I look at my photos. (E.g. the final photo in this posting earlier this week, about what I saw from Epsom. From Epsom, the Wembley Arch is way off to the left of London Big Things.)
Earlier today, underneath the Wembley Arch, the Rugby League Grand Challenge Cup Final took place. Hull FC came from behind to defeat Warrington.
So far as I can tell, though, this is not a glass bridge, more a metal bridge with lots of windows in its floor, which I don’t think is the same thing. But, it’s still a step in the right direction, towards the day when they build a bridge entirely out of glass.
Or to give it its official name, City Hall.
I took this photo of City Hall in April of this year, from the other side of the river, outside the Tower of London:
Until this evening, I thought of this photo merely as the most flattering photo I have taken of this mostly rather ungainly, and frankly, frequently rather dirty looking building.
But, I just noticed that quite aside from it being such a flattering view of this edifice, my photo reveals that there is a spiral staircase in there. I’m right. Look closely, and you’ll see it too.
And here, by way of further proof, is a very artistic type photo of this same staircase, taken by Aaron Yeoman. You have to scroll down quite a lot at the end of that link to reach this photo, so if you want quickly to see it bigger, click on this instead:
If you are outside a building, this is the kind of thing you only see at dusk, when natural light and artificial light are in a state of approximate equality. You wouldn’t be able to see that staircase in the bright light of the day, because you wouldn’t be able to see the lights inside the building.
Plus, with me, you need to allow a few months for me to realise. My camera sees far more than I do, and I discover new stuff in my old photos months and often years later.
So far as I can work out, from looking at the what you can visit bit of the City Hall website, regular members of the mere public are not allowed to go up this staircase to the top. But you never really know about things like this until you actually go there, and ask. Next time I’m there, I might drop in and do exactly that.
Proof that the day that Darren and I saw Surrey beat Gloucester was a great day out is that I have already done three postings about that day here, and have hardly scratched the surface of how much fun I (for only one) had, on that day.
Posting (1) about that day concerned vans. Posting (2) was about cricket, and in particular about the emerging cricket superstar that is Jason Roy. Posting (3) was about the Oval’s contrasting architectural Big Things, and about seeing (or not seeing) London’s biggest Big Things from one of the Ovals Big Things.
The final test match between England and Pakistan is now under way, at the very same Oval that I have been going on about. (England are getting stuffed, as I write this. Go here to be sure.) So it is appropriate that this posting takes us, those of us who are interested, back to cricket, and in particular to the photoing of a cricket scoreboard. Sporting scoreboards make for great photos, packed with memory-triggering information. Not just obvious things like the score of a particular game, but, as the years pass, forgotten names, and forgotten moments in remembered games.
I didn’t take many pictures of the old scoreboard that day, the one way off to the right of the Pavilion (as you look at it), but here is one of the pictures I did take of it, along with a lot of other stuff all around it:
You can’t really see the scoreboard there, unless you look rather carefully, so here is a close-up:
This looks to me rather like an eighties style computer screen, the sort that started you off with cryptic messages like: “A:>“. Such old screens often had orange letters or numbers on a black background. No doubt there have been suggestions that this scoreboard be replaced by something more twenty first century, but no doubt also, the old fogeys of the Surrey County Cricket Club drew the line at such vandalism. Cricket is, after all, a game typically played before an audience made up mostly of oldies. And as you can see from my pictures, this audience is too sparse for cricket people to be able to ignore the tastes of those who do show up.
I can remember scoreboards far more primitive even than this, where you hung the numbers on hooks. I even helped to operate such a scoreboard occasionally, when Englefield Green played nearby teams like Egham, Staines and so on, on … Englefield Green. Because yes, there really was an actual Englefield Green. There still is.
All that that old scoreboard showed was, as I recall, total runs scored, wickets down, batsman number this, this much, batsman number that, this much. And, if the other side had already batted, the other side’s total. Batsmen would not have been identified with numbers like 58 or 59, i.e. with the numbers on the backs of their shirts, because they wore no such shirts. Their number would be their place in the batting order, which is actually far more informative about the state of the game. If, say, there are seven wickets down, and batsmen 8 and 9 are batting, both with smallish scores, that’s one sort of game. But if batsmen 3 is still in with a decent score to his number, that’s a much better prospect for the batting side. “59” doesn’t tell you anything about whether the guy can bat or not.
Here is a much newer scoreboard, to be seen on the other side of the ground from the old scoreboard:
Here we learn who batsmen 58 and 59 actually are. Yes, they are the Curran brothers. They came together at the fall of the sixth Surrey wicket, and a lot depended upon them.
T(om) Curran is about twenty, and S(am) Curran is eighteen. On the day I took these photos, the Currans came together with the Surrey innings struggling for adequacy. There had been a flurry of wickets. More wickets now and not many more runs, and Gloucester would probably chase down the Surrey total easily. More runs now, and more wickets not so quickly surrendered, and Gloucester would have a fight on their hands.
For a while, the Currans “rebuilt” the innings, in other words scored rather slowly. But then the younger Curran (S(am)) stepped on the gas. Soon, this Curran partnership had become a …:
… and then, seemingly in no time at all. S(am) Curran had brought up his personal …:
… and the partnership was looking like this:
S(am) Curran got out soon after that, and was duly thanked by the scoreboard:
We can see the Surrey total on the old scoreboard …:
... the Surrey total being just about the only thing that the old scoreboard did tell us, during the interval. That’s the thing about old-school scoreboards. When they’ve nothing to tell you, they are unable to tell you anything else instead.
Surrey had done well. Although there had been no outstanding innings in the manner of Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 166 back in September 2015, Surrey had actually made more in their first innings this time around. Besides S(am) Curran’s fifty, there were also substantial scores from Davies and from Burns, and it all added up. The stand-out moment of the innings, the sort they call a “champagne moment” on Test Match Special, was when Surrey captain Gareth Batty hit a ferocious six that went smack into the middle of the new scoreboard. With no apparent harm done to it at all. Which was impressive on both counts.
Gloucester made a bad start:
That’s twice I’ve watched Surrey in a 50 overs game, and twice I have seen Jade Dernbach do decisive things.
There followed a promising stand, but it ended too soon, for Gloucester’s purposes:
I will end with a burst of horizontality. Darren was kind enough to say that he especially liked the posting I did after our previous Oval expedition which featured lots of adverts piled up in horizontal slices.
Here, which I hope Darren will also like, is another pile of horizontal slices, this time of Gloucester’s last six wickets falling in a rather humiliating heep, and the time at which each wicket fell:
As you can see, Surrey won easily in the end, with Batty again distinguishing himself with five wickets. Story of the day: Surrey got in a bit of a mess, but recovered. Gloucester got in a bit of a mess, never recovered and instead crumbled. If you’re there, your team winning narrowly may be better, but winning easily is pretty good also.
On Tuesday of this week I did a posting about the view from Docklands ten years ago, which featured a shot of central London taken from one of the Docklands towers. While concocting that posting, I of course looked at other pictures taken from the same spot, on that same photo-expedition. Here is one of those other pictures:
What got my attention in this snap was those bits of stuff, floating on those two flat, floating box/barges? Let’s take a closer look:
Could that perchance be some kind of footbridge? Yes it most definitely could.
Googling “docklands footbridge” and clicking on images soon got me to the bridge that these bits subsequently turned into. It’s the South Quay Footbridge, which is just round the corner from where I snapped its bits. I’ve probably got shots of this bridge that I subsequently took myself, but here are a couple that I quickly found on the www:
On the left is a photo of this bridge that I found at the WilkinsonEyre website, WilkinsonEyre being the guys who designed it. On the right is another shot (which I found here) of the same bridge. Less dramatic, and in a way that wrongly suggests that it is a railway bridge, but making it clear beyond doubt (with its particular view the sticking up bit of the bridge) that this is definitely the bridge I was looking for.
What all this illustrates is that the pictures I take of London contain far more information that I can possibly hope to process straight away. I later spot things. In this particular case, I spot things ten years later.
I definitely intend to seek out this particular bridge and take some photos of it for myself. It’s not a bridge style that I especially care for, with its ungainly non-vertical spike, but I guess it makes quite a bit of structural sense. Maybe I can find an angle that makes it look really good, as some of the other WilkinsonEyre pictures also do, I think.
And while I’m about it, here are some more footbridges, already in place ten years ago, for me to check out:
Finally, my thanks to Michael Jennings for contriving to take me to the top of this tower, which he was able to do because at the time, as I recall, he was working in another part of it.
I’ll end this posting with one of my favourite pictures of Michael, taken on that very same day and in that very same spot, as he looks out across East London – the Victoria Docks, City Airport and beyond – in a pose that suggests that he personally owns at least half of what he is looking at:
Sadly, not. But I still like the picture, which I think is very Ayn Rand heroic.
More pictures of Michael in this posting today at Samizdata.