Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Tim Marshall on the warming of the Arctic
- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
- Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East
- Opera North’s Ring
- An important game and only a game
- Making blue by copying tarantulas
- An old person television set
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Category archive: Advertising
On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings. The subject was: The Meaning of Life. To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”
So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood. Which might explain why I took this photo:
This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking. Those little hearts put me right off. But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations. This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored. I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices. You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.
This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station. Those sermons are impossible to avoid.
See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play. Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.
The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful. It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap. Modern Art is also mostly crap. But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes. Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored. Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it. Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.
Sport yet again. And yes, I’ve still got plenty to tell you, in January, about one of my favourite days out last year, which was on November 28th, which I have already written about five times already. There was the shining moment described in this, and the three earlier moments linked to from there. And there was this next shining moment. And now there is the Spurs Shop, which looks like this:
Not very exciting, I think you will agree. But the stuff inside, the sort of stuff I have never ever seen before gathered together in one place, was, for me anyway, a remarkable sight:
So, what do we see there?
1.1: is a cardboard model of the old Spurs stadium, the one they are about to trash and replace, yours for £30, but you have to construct it.
1.2: Spurs clothes. Lots of Spurs clothes. Plus big Spurs slogans.
1.3: Spurs cards to tell your associates that this is your room. Really. Very blurry. Only realised that this was what they were just now.
1.4: Spurs mugs. It says everything about the state of the Premier League that I looked at this photo, and read Kane as “Car Nay”, like he’s from Africa. Alli, like Kane, also plays for England.
2.1: More Spurs mugs, this time with the tasteless cartoon cock, rather than the tasteful and elegant proper one. AIA is an Asian insurance company.
2.2: Spurs clocks.
2.3: Spurs wall stickers and, click and look on the right, Spurs flags.
2.4: Spurs luxury rugs. (And more Spurs clothes.)
3.1: Spurs luggage tags. And I don’t know what those yellow striped things on the right are, if you click on that. Some kind of Spurs bags, I think,
3.2: Spurs 5M retractable dog leads and Spurs dog collars. For actual Spurs supporter dogs, I mean. Not Spurs-supporter priests.
3.3: Spurs doormats and Spurs thermometers. Like a lot of the stuff in these pictures, I only noticed the Spurs thermometers now.
3.4: Spurs tea towels and Spurs trays.
4.1: Spurs fridge magnet pens.
4.2: Spurs jelly babies and Spurs “snowies”. (Learn more about snowies here.)
4.3: Spurs white teddy bears.
4.4: Spurs flipflops.
5.1: Spurs footballs. So Spurs supporters actually play this game?
5.2: Spurs scarves.
5.3: Spurs sterling silver earrings.
5.4: Spurs iPhone cases.
Out in the open, there were also Spurs cranes, although there was no price tag on any of them:
No, not really. Not Spurs cranes for sale, just Spurs cranes working away on constructing the new Spurs stadium.
So, you like photoing photoers. And you like photoing people wearing rock tour T-shirts. So, obviously, you spend years rootling through your photo-archives, looking for photos of photographers wearing rock tour T-shirts, and then you find two, taken within the space of one hour, in September 2013.
There was this photo, celebrating this tour, ...:
… and there was this photo, celebrating this tour:
And, bonus, the Iron Maiden guy is a bald guy.
But, no, I wasn’t really looking for these photos. I just found them.
It’s not that I am a hair fetishist. It’s more that I dislike faces, as in: I dislike photoing the faces of my fellow photoers, by which I mean photoing the faces of strangers. And then sticking their faces on the www. Or merely looking as if I might be doing that. Bad form. Not done. Especially with face recognition just getting bigger and bigger as a thing people worry about.
One way to not do this is to wait until they hold their cameras in front of their faces. Another is to simply photo them from behind. I do that a lot.
Which means that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, and a lot of hair styles.
And that is how I found myself noticing the deliberately bald look, so often sported by gentlemen these days.
And that is why I photoed this advert, which I chanced upon recently in a tube train:
I was standing up at the time. Which was lucky, because I was consequently able to take this photo without even the appearance that I might instead have been photoing the face of the man sitting underneath the advert. Many is the amusing tube advert I have refrained from photoing, in order not to arouse such fears, and maybe then cause A Scene.
More information about this impressive looking product here.
Last night, I promised I’d keep an eye and a camera open for Merry Christmas signage during my walking about today, and I did, but I didn’t find any such signs. But I did find another sort of sign, which I liked because it contained lots of London’s Big Things, and I photoed it. And then, when I got back home after dining out with my mates, I discovered that it had the words “Merry Christmas” at the top of it. How about that?!?:
Here is the website of this enterprise. I have a vague recollection of having gone inside this place, once upon a time. It was, of course, shut today.
I am collecting these graphic renditions of London’s Big things. You see them everywhere, if you look, frequently on the sides of white vans.
Merry Christmas. As in, I hope you had a good Christmas Day, and are having a good Christmas break because it almost Boxing Day now.
I like the roof clutter reflected in the window.
LATER: More Merry Christmas designage (dezeenage) here
On my way to Tottenham, a week ago today, my first stop was Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line, where I changed to the regular railway in order to travel onwards:
But who, I wondered while I waited for my next train, were those Seven Sisters? I made a note to self – written only on my brain cells, but it worked nevertheless – to search out the answer. Which is easy these days.
The name is derived from seven elms which were planted in a circle with a walnut tree at their centre on an area of common land known as Page Green. The clump was known as the Seven Sisters by 1732.
In his early seventeenth-century work, Brief Description of Tottenham, local vicar and historian William Bedwell singled out the walnut tree for particular mention. He wrote of it as a local ‘arboreal wonder’ which ‘flourished without growing bigger’. He described it as popularly associated with the burning of an unknown Protestant. There is also speculation that the tree was ancient, possibly going back as far as Roman times, perhaps standing in a sacred grove or pagan place of worship
The location of the seven trees can be tracked through a series of maps from 1619 on. From 1619 they are shown in a position which today corresponds with the western tip of Page Green at the junction of Broad Lane and the High Road. With urbanisation radically changing the area, the ‘Seven Sisters’ had been replanted by 1876, still on Page Green, but further to the east. Contemporary maps show them remaining in this new location until 1955.
So: trees. I was hoping for actual sisters.
Friday is the day here for cats and other creatures, so here, among other things, is a panda:
What this photo illustrates is the perennial problem of trying to chuck stuff out, which is that all too often, stuff is just too nice to chuck out.
I recall, a year or two after the Berlin Wall was dismantled, meeting an Eastern European lady, who complained about how the packages and pots and bottles in which produce was suddenly now sold was too good to chuck out. Bloody capitalism. Capitalist rubbish was better than what they had previously had as actual stuff.
In a modified form, I now suffer from this syndrome. It has crept up on me more gradually, but throughout my lifetime, packaging has been getting ever better, probably because it is the sort of industry that politicians disapprove of, and have hence left to its own devices, an industry’s own devices invariably being better than any device devised by politicians. The packaging industry, not having been “helped”, has thrived.
Beer bottles (the one in the picture still has beer in it so that will be consumed first), I have learned not to miss. But even they are sometimes so artfully designed that it seems wrong to throw them away.
The coffee jar I will keep, because coffee jars are so structurally impressive.
But that panda has got to go.
Or maybe it has been invented and the answer is it’s called lots of little flat screen televisions.
This thought was provoked by seeing this picture, at Mick Hartley‘s:
There’s nothing wrong with this Big Thing that painting it entertainingly wouldn’t put right, in fact very right indeed. It could become a well-loved landmark, if only it was spruced up a bit, with some bright colours. This Big Thing is called the Edificio Torres Blancas, and it is in Madrid. In Spain they like bright colours, right?
But, what bright colours? The answer is to copy what they now do in Trafalgar Square, with that Fourth Plinth. In Trafalgar Square, they have solved the problem of what to put on the Fourth Plinth by keeping on changing it. That way, everyone gets to like some of the objects they put on the Plinth, and that way everyone who dislikes what is there now can comfort themselves with the thought that it will soon be gone. All can photo the ones they like and ignore the rest. Eventually, a winner may be declared. Eventually, a thing will be put there that seems to right, to so many people, that it will be decided to keep that thing there for ever.
That’s what they should do with the colouring of the above Big Thing in Madrid.
So, techies, get to work. What we need is a new sort of paint that you just slap on, but whose colours, down to the minutest detail, can then be controlled by a big old computer at ground level.
Or, this is already possible, as the advertisers are now proving with their changeable screens, and all that it missing is that this is, for a mere building, as opposed to a commercially profitable message, for the time being, too expensive.
Also, maybe the architect is still alive and vetoing any such notions, insisting that his masterpiece remain blancas, or failing that then at least grey all over. Time will soon correct this sorry state of affairs, if state of affairs it be.
I took this photo …:
This rather alarming message was displayed in the Waterloo Station concourse area, in rather large lettering, and you can see more of that if you click on the above horizontal visual slice.
All it was was part of an advert for the Top Gear replacement that Clarkson, Hammond and May are now doing for Amazon. But photography sometimes does this. But “this”, I mean that it can snatch messages out of the flux of everyday life – especially everyday advertising – and bestow upon them a portentousness that they don’t really radiate, when they are merely doing their job. Now that adverts can change their screens, there can be one message, and then another, like a TV advert. And the result is these snatches of text that can pack far more of a punch than they do in real life, so to speak.
Incoming from Michael Jennings: One for you.
It certainly is. Apparently, in Mexico, Uber is using drones to advertise itself, by having them hover, with signs, over traffic jams:
Drones to carry adverts, or signs. But of course. The possibilities are endless, and the probability is: lots of complaining, drone destruction, car crashes blamed on drones carrying adverts or signs, etc.
Imagine it. You are going at a speed considered too fast by the Big Computer in the Sky, so it sends a drone out to fly out in front of you, telling you to slow down or be fined. Or more probably, just telling you that you have already have been fined. Ah, modern life. Science fiction just never sees it coming.
By the way, what is that sign saying?
Fact about London that is little known by those who don’t live there or don’t go there: black cabs, at least as likely as not, aren’t.
Here are four that I photoed recently:
The Easyjet taxi is orange all over. The other three have adverts only on their sides, but two out of three of them aren’t even black on the bits of the taxis where the adverts aren’t. Only two of these “black cabs” are even partially black, and the RAW taxi is only partially black (ish) because the advert is (ish).
Quite a lot of taxis can be seen which have no adverts, but are just a different plain colour. White, grey, blue, red, whatever. I realise that those who live in London or who visit London from time to time know all this, but the world does contain people who do not fall into this category, and maybe you are one of them. Unlikely, I know, but there are people like this who do read this blog, even if most of them are only spam commenters.
Adverts on vehicles strike me as very photoable, because in a few months the adverts will be replaced, and even the enterprise itself is liable to be gone in a few years.
Speaking of taxis which aren’t advertising anything, but are just not black, how about this one?:
I spotted that one recently, outside Victoria Station. I was in a hurry to meet someone, so I had no time to scrutinise it carefully to see if an advert is actually buried in there, somewhere. But, I rather think that if that is an advert involved, it is an advert for the artist who did it. Maybe the artist was paid, or maybe the artist paid.
It might make sense for the artist to pay. I recently asked a black cabbie how much he got paid for his black cab to be embraced by an advert, and he said it was around seventy quid a month. That might be worth it for an artist, to put himself about, by flashing pictures of the cab that he had unblackened around amongst his mates and potential customers. But, what do I know?
I recently photoed this van:
What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message. “GREY MOTH”.
My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise. That’s what this posting was going to be about. (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”. I quickly learned all about VOITH.)
Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths. (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH. A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)
Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back. This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as: www.grey-moth.com, crucially including that all-important hyphen. Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be. And it turns out to be a very interesting business. I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it. Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.
I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while. And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no. If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two). Or: not. And I decided: not.
Drones, in other words, are not toys. But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out. Like Grey-Moth does.
Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.
I’ve spent all my blogging time today trying to write a couple of things for Samizdata, so once again it’s quota photo time, this time in the form of a photo of Tom Cruise that I photoed recently, just a few minutes before I took this footbridge photo. To be more exact, it is a photo of a photo, of Tom Cruise:
That photo that you see in my photo is to be seen outside the Duchess Theatre in the West End, where the play being shown Goes Wrong, every night, without, although this may not be quite the way to describe things, fail.
I assume that you can only exhibit a picture of Tom Cruise like that if Tom Cruise gives his permission. If that’s right, Tom Cruise proves himself to be a good sport. Or, perhaps, a greedy bastard. But for now, I’m going with good sport, if only because if he got greedy, they couldn’t afford it.
Yesterday I was reminding myself that we live in an age when pub quiz questions have instant answers. So when, soon after posting that posting, I came across this photo I took a while back, of a boat, …:
… with the words “THAMES RIB EXPERIENCE” written on it, I set to work to find out what the “RIB” bit means. I had vaguely supposed that this was some sort of steakhouse sponsorship deal. The world is now full of ridiculous arrangements of that sort, sponsored by commercial enterprises whose only way to sell more of their stuff is to cause even more people to have heard of it. The mere merits of the product being irrelevant, for their purposes. “Yes it’s bad for you but it tastes really nice” not being a message they want to be too publicly and explicitly associated with, because then they’d have the health fascists all over them.
So “Thames Rib Experience” as an exercise is boosting meat consumption? But which ribs should we be consuming. Just ribs generally? The British Rib Council, a combined consortium of ribbers, combining to boost ribs in general? It didn’t seem very plausible. So, what does RIB really mean?
It turns out that RIB means rigid inflatable boat.
This is a triviality, of course, unless you are in life-threateningly urgent need of a rigid inflatable boat trip on the Thames. But the change in the world towards a state where it is much easier to find things out is not trivial. The story that lots of people mention in this connection, and lots of people are not wrong, is the ease with which a formerly dirt poor farmer now can, in the depths of the African countryside, keep himself informed about the prices he can expect to get for his products, when he takes them to market.
Quicker and better answers to questions is all part of why all this stuff has been happening lately.
How do you know if a cat is happy? Answer, mostly: from the sounds it makes and from its bodily movements. It purrs. It shoves its face against your legs, or your face. These are the strongest signs.
A still photo of a happy cat, or any kind of realistic picture, is not likely to communicate feline happiness nearly so definitely. And that is particularly true if you are only allowed a picture of the cat’s face. It’s eyes may be nearly shut, but that could just be because it’s resting, rather than especially happy. And anyway, good pictures of faces, the sort that really get our attention, have eyes which are wide open.
I’m guessing that this may have been the thinking behind the above, to me, rather unsettling image. There are no eyes-wide-open eye-catching photos of happy cats, so they slapped a smile on a cat in a drawing.
But, as I often say of rather peculiar things that I show photos of here: it got my attention. Click on the above for a bit of context. I took the photo in the Earls Court area, rather than Notting Hill, and it was of a bike.
There is, of course, that Cheshire Cat, but that’s rather unsettling also.