Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
MarkR on Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
Brian Micklethwait on Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Rob Fisher on Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Rob Fisher on A bridge in Narbonne
Rocco on Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Friday Night Smoke on Safe cracks in an airplane window
6000 on The view from the roof
Darren on Second childhood
Tom on LON DON
Kim Bergstrom on Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
Most recent entries
- Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
- More South of France bridges
- Played 6 – Won 0 – Drawn 3 – Lost 3
- I want to write more here about music
- South of France signs
- Keeping up appearances at One Palace Street
- Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
- Incoming imagery from Antoine
- A bridge in Narbonne
- South of France electronic clutter
- Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
- Bird takes off from a TV aerial
- Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
- Horizontal French signs
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Category archive: Signs and notices
I have already shown you some horizontalised signs that I snapped in France. Here is a selection of the more regularly shaped sorts of signs, in the order I snapped them:
I love the ambiguity of the very first (1.1) of them, with the French for bread being pain.
Whoever thought that theatre (1.3) could be so dangerous.
That T-shirt (2.2) is a reminder of how many Brits there are in these parts, and the “Tattoo and piercing” sign (3.4) of how French people think English is cool. The French go to England to work. The Anglos (apart from those going there to sing) go to France to unwind, as I was doing. I’m guessing that’s roughly how it is. France specialises in being nice. England specialises in being busy.
I like how the French for cul-de-sac, which you would expect to be “cul-de-sac”, is actually “impasse” (4.1), which in English means something rather different.
I like (4.2) how on building sites, everyone gets credit, like at the end of a movie.
And then there are all those street name signs, that double up as history lessons. 2.4 and 3.1 are too famous to need a date, but one (3.1) still needs a brief explanation. But I love how the guy who does need a date (3.2) would probably have been awarded dates no matter what, because look at those dates! I only just noticed this.
I like how the French for diversion is deviation (4.3).
That Crack sign (4.4) was actually not in France but in a big shopping centre in Spain.
2.1 is reminder that not all signs in France are as informative as most of them are.
Today I attended Deirdre McCloskey’s talk for the Adam Smith Institute. I know what you’re thinking. Okay, okay, photos, as per usual. But: What did she say? Fine. Go here, and you can find out. What I can find no link to is any information about the event – when, where, and so on. It’s all now gone. Maybe it was never there in the first place.
But the Man from the Adam Smith Institute told me to send in some of my snaps, and these are the ones I sent them:
McCloskey’s basic point was what is rapidly becoming the libertarian orthodoxy, to the effect that (a) the world started getting humungously rich in or around 1780 (Yaron Brook‘s preferred date for this is 1776 (to coincide with America starting and Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s getting published)), and (b) we did this. Our enemies tried to stop us and they failed. We know how to make poor people rich, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Our enemies only know how to make rich people less rich and poor people more poor. Bastards.
My recent favourite example of enrichment is a very tiny one offered at today’s talk by McCloskey, which is that you can now use your smartphone as a mirror. Better yet, McCloskey said, before the talk she was giving, she spotted Steve Baker MP doing this exact thing with his smartphone, while perfecting his appearance prior to doing his MP socialising bit.
The reason I particularly like this is that I just recently learned about this trick myself, when I saw someone doing it, and took a photo of it:
If you photo someone looking in a mirror, they can see their face, but you can’t. (Unless it’s a crap movie, in which case the audience sees the face and the person with the face doesn’t. I know. Ridiculous. But this is truly what often happens.) But, if you photo someone using their smartphone as a mirror, both you and they can see their face.
McCloskey’s point was that enrichment doesn’t only come in the form of more money, but also in the form of the ever more amazing things that you can buy with your money. Like a phone that is also a NASA circa 1968 supercomputer. And a face mirror.
Finally, here are a couple more photography-related photos. On the left is the official photographer for the McCloskey talk:
And on the right there is a photo which I also took at the venue for the McCloskey talk, which I will not name, because then the people in charge of this place might then learn of this blog posting and see this picture and then who the hell knows what might happen? Are you wondering what I am talking about? Click on the picture and work it out. I only realised what I had photoed after I had got home.
Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference. Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs. And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:
Conference programme here.
1.1: An attender. 1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden. 1.3: Syed Kamall. 1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides. 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro. 3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook. 3.2: Brook. 3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books. 3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window. 4.1: Anton Howes. 4.2: Howes and Brook. 4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.
I love signs. They communicate a lot, by their nature, but they are not considered Art, so they aren’t preserved. They come and go, and stuff that comes and goes is how a photographer who is only an okay photographer makes his photos count for something.
So, I gathered together all the sign photos I took, to do a big collection. But that was taking too long, so I picked out the long thin ones, and here are those ones, in chronological order. I really did take the first one first:
Click on each to get the bigger pictures.
No coincidence that two of them - arguably three of them - are in English. There’s quite a bit of English to be seen in French shops, just as there’s quite a bit of French in English shops.
Byrrh is the local drink of Thuir. It’s a lot like Port. I’d link to the website, but it makes noises that you have actively to silence. I hate that.
What “lefties” means, when on the front of a shop, I have absolutely no idea.
LATER: This was all done in great haste, and I neglected to mention that the “lefties” sign is actually in Spain, in a big shopping centre we visited (and got stuck in because of traffic jams all afternoon (don’t ask)). But, I still like the sign and am still baffled by it.
Indeed. Photoed by me yesterday afternoon:
Learn more about the service at one of the places featured on the van door, such as this one.
The early version of this posting had a title with the word “verbose” in it, but that was inaccurate. This is more words that you’d see on a van twenty years ago, but it’s all good stuff.
A new crossrail station is being completed, and Centre Point is being given a makeover. I doubt it will look any different, but you never know.
Any decade now, Centre Point’s exterior will burst into colour. But Centre Point right now, temporarily wrapped in this and that, is as colourful as it is likely to be for a decade or two yet. A generation of monochromist modernist architects still has to die, before colour can really start happening in London. At present (see the previous photo) Renzo Piano is the only fashionable architect being colourful.
While I’m showing you pictures of that rather angly station entrance, here is another, taken moments before the one above:
Lots of signage of various kinds there.
For another view, looking down Tottenham Court Road, of this strange station entrance, see photo 3.2 of these.
Circumstances had placed me at the Angel Tube. My business was concluded and the weather was wondrous. So, where to next? There is a canal near there, but I didn’t fancy another canal walk, so instead I just walked along whatever road presented itself to me, in the general direction of the Big Things of the City (one of them (the Heron Tower) having been turned blazing gold by the early evening sun). The road turned out to be Goswell Road. A place of slightly down-at-heal struggle, where you felt that for some, the struggle wasn’t worth it, but for others, maybe. That kind of in-between sort of a place. Not as affluent as you’d expect for something that close to the City, but trundling along as best it could. Big, shabby-modern university buildings. Building sites. Ethnic shops.
And then in amongst all this middlingness, a glimpse through what looked like a shop window, into a world of money-no-object designer gloss and nouveau riche ostentation. What is all this stuff?
It all looked rather Zaha Hadid, especially this shiny but strange object, presumably for sitting on:
And hey, look, there’s a picture of Zaha Hadid. This is obviously a place that takes Zaha Hadid pretty seriously, and is very saddened by her recent death:
Zaha Hadid, I should explain, is the world-renowned starchitect and designer, who recently died at the shockingly young age of 65. When a starchitect dies at 65, that’s like a rock star dying at 22. At 65, starchitects, rather like classical conductors, are just getting started. The thing is, starchitects need power, and their target demographic is old decision-makers, so they tend to be old too.
What was this rather strange place? I stepped back to see if there was any clue on the outside.
Here was a clue:
Good grief. This is an actual Zaha Hadid place of work.
I crossed the road, to photo the whole thing:
To be more exact, this is not the one place where Hadid and all her underlings did everything. This is the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, which opened in 2013 (I now learn), which would perhaps have been open for me to walk into had I encountered it earlier in the day. The place displays many of Hadid’s numerous designs for Small Things, like furniture, lamps, sculptures, jewellery, paintings, and suchlike.
Considering what a wacky designer Hadid was, that’s a surprisingly prosaic building, isn’t it? I’m guessing that it was not built specifically with her in mind, but was adapted.
So, no wonder that this place now contains memorials to Zaha Hadid, like this:
There is some reflection of the outside in this next snap, but it gives you an idea of what the place as a whole is like, and what kind of stuff is in it:
Frankly, for me, all this indoor small stuff does not show Hadid at her very best. For that, I think, you have to go outside.
Her only building in London so far is the Aquatics Centre, which I photoed, very hastily, when I visited the top of the Big Olympic Thing. Had I know then that Zaha Hadid had been about to die, I would have taken more photos of this building, and more carefully:
I would, for instance, have placed it in a gap in that safety netting, rather than just randomly. Another time.
But notice that even in that casual photo, the beauty, I think, of the building still asserts itself. It’s like a sports helmet, of the sort worn by cyclists, and by some cricketers.
Even more remarkable is this amazing ancient-modern juxtaposition:
This is now, apparently, nearing completion. It might be worth a trip to Antwerp, just to see it.
Zaha Hadid’s underlings are going to try to keep the Zaha Hadid enterprise going, at least the architectural bit. Good luck people, but you’re surely going to need it.
The rumour I heard is that Hadid was “difficult” to work for. Maybe this was just an example of that law that says that bossy men are masterful, but bossy women are bossy. But maybe she really was difficult to work for. If so, this difficulty looks like it was all of a piece with the sorts of designs she created.
The thing is, Hadid was not some logical, everything-has-a-reason systematic, machines-for-living in, presider over a system of architectural problem solving. She was the kind of architect who unleashed drama, excitement, at vast extra expense, if what you’re comparing it all with is a big rectangular box. You only have to look at her stuff to see that any logic involved is just an excuse for a cool looking design. Why does it look that way? Because I, Zaha Hadid, say so, and I’m the boss, that’s why. I make beautiful shapes. Other people like them and buy them. Deal with it.
That’s going to be a hard act to replace.
People talk about how “nothing says London” quite like … and then they say something that happens quite a lot in London or gets eaten quite a lot in London, or some such very London thing, assuming you already know that that’s what it is.
I contend that nothing says London quite like a big sign, saying “LONDON”. With that, there’s no ambiguity.
Here is a LONDON sign – well, more like a painting – that I photoed in Goswell Road late this afternoon:
That particular sign saying LONDON is a bit cleverer than your usual LONDON sign. The more usual sort of sign saying LONDON would say LONDON even more clearly, by just saying LONDON.
A bit more seriously, I’m surprised you don’t see that particular game played with the letters of the word LONDON more often.
Goswell Road is not a familiar place for me, in fact I don’t believe I’ve ever walked along it before. It’s all rather arty and designy, in an urban decay kind of way. That big LONDON sign has a definite Pop Art feel to it. Unlike the sign saying CAR PARK. Arty signs and car parks both being what you do when an urban site becomes temporarily vacant. The usual rules about what is proper don’t apply.
Recently I wrote about footbridges, one in particular, in theatreland. As that posting illustrates, I especially like footbridges that join buildings (in that case theatres), rather than merely convey members of the public who are on a journey through the city, even though I myself cannot cross such bridges, because I too am only a member of the public.
The London epicentre of such footbridge action is situated near Tower Bridge, on the south side of the river. Footbridges of greatly varying heights above the ground and almost beyond counting connect the tall brick buildings on each side of whatever the street is where all these footbridges are to be seen.
I knew that on various journeys along the river I had photoed these bridges, but where were such photos to be found? Oh well, I thought. They’ll turn up.
Last night, they did turn up. I was idling through photo-directories past, looking for something entirely different which I may, or may not, be telling you about Real Soon Now, and suddenly I came across a clutch of photos of the very footbridges I had in mind. I immediately copied all these photos across into the rather recently created Footbridges directory. Photos like this:
None of the photos I took that evening of these bridges were technically very accomplished. The light was tricky and I think I was rather tired by the time I took them. But, there they were, the bridges, and the photos of the bridges.
I chose the above photo from the half dozen or more that I had not because it is the best of these photos, but because it contains this vital piece of information, in writing. Close up:
Le Pont de la Tour? Google google. Apparently it’s a posh eatery, for the kind of posh people who now live in these now very posh buildings. And immediately I had the name of the street.
Don’t ask me how you are supposed to say that. Shad? The Shad? Shad Thames? I don’t know. But there’s the name. Shad. Sounds like Sean Connery saying Sad. (Do you suppose that the reason Sean Connery pronounces S as Sh is because of how Sean is pronounced? Jusht a shuggeshtion.)
Armed with this address, I could pin down exactly as opposed to approximately the location of this footbridge clutch, so that I can return there, and take better photos, and look them up on the www some more, and generally celebrate these striking structures.
And the moral is: when you are (I am) out and about taking photos, always get wherever you are (I am) in writing, by photoing writing. Photo signs of shops, signs outside places, street signs, or, in this case restaurant signs. That way, you can work out where everything was, even years later. The above picture was taken nearly six years ago.
One of the best things to have happened for the Old Gits of London tendency lately has been the arrival of those count-down signs which tell you how many more seconds you have to cross the road before the traffic lights change. I love these. (More about them here.)
So anyway, this was almost the last photo I took last night, after visiting Victoria Park:
As so often with my photos, I did not know at the time what I was photoing. What I thought I was photoing was a rather cheesy sunset outside Mile End Tube Station. But it turns out that I was photoing a cheesy sunset outside Mile End Tube Station, and one of these count-down signs. That “02” came out brilliantly, did it not? No cropping, to make the 02 more central. There it was, right in the middle, in a pleasing yellow that contrasts nicely with the cheesy pink. Yeah, yeah, cheese is yellow not pink, so it’s the 02 that’s cheesy. Whatever. You get the picture.
Anyway, the plan is to post, once I have acquired them, a set of ten photos, featuring each number, of ten different signs, with entertainingly varied London backgrounds. I promise nothing, you understand, but I have found that these memo-to-self postings can work rather well.
As soon as I did that first posting this morning, about blogging early, I was freed from any obligation – self-imposed, but still an obligation – to blog any more today. At which point the idea of putting more up here, today, became fun, rather than any sort of chore. Hence the next posting, the one immediately below this one.
This one is here mostly so I can have postings called “Blog early” and “Blog often” up here on the same day.
Earlier this evening I attended a Libertarian Home meeting, addressed by Tim Evans.
One definite improvement over previous LH meetings in the same venue is that on the blackboard behind the speaker, it said his name, rather than the names of lots of things you can eat.
So, behind Tim Evans, underneath where it says “Specials” it also, this evening, said “Tim Evans”:
Better. In particular, better than this:
The speaker in that picture was Allum Bokhari, last August, and that picture of him is most unflattering. Alas, this is the picture I took that night that best shows all that food. Go here to see Allum Bokhari looking better, even if he is wearing headphones. To hear him also, talking about the “censorship” (if that’s what it is) of the social media, by the social media.
So, the video of Tim Evans talking will look better, in this particular respect, than did earlier videos, of LH speakers in front of that blackboard. You build an ideological movement one step at a time. This was a small step, but a definite step. Nice one.
Sadly, I am not so confident about the likely sound quality of any video that transpires. Tim has a way of talking rather quietly when in a smallish room such as this one is, but the hinges of the door to the room had no such inhibitions and were squeaking something terrible, every time anyone came in or out, as happened quite often. We shall see, and we shall hear. Hope I’m wrong about that.
Photoed by me, when I visited Barcelona in the summer of 2005:
This began like as an advert, but has mutated into Art. It seems to be quite a big deal, over there in Barcelona. My picture is of it supported by a structure which has since been replaced.
I have been a bit ill. Still am, rather. Hence this rather random posting, even by my random standards, and hence also the fact that although I tried to find out what this owl originally advertised, I pretty soon gave up. Anyone?
I was going to put up a picture I took of the Sagrada Familia (the big spikey Gaudi cathedral), with cranes. But the internet is full of pictures of the Sagrada Familia, without cranes, and also with cranes.
Another oldie from the I Just Like It directory:
Taken last July, in the City of London, during a quiet weekend as I recall it.
It’s this one.
I still fondly remember a posting I did on Samizdata, over a decade ago now, about a banged-up police car that was claiming to be Working for a safer London. Well, the white van below, photoed back on December 29th of last year, isn’t as big a PR clanger as that was, but it is a bit bad:
I know, I know. You can’t really make data insecure by damaging the van on which it says “secure data management”. This is the enterprise in question. Look at where the green lines cross the phone numbers, and you will see that, in the picture there, it is not the same van. So, they have more than one van. And by the look of it, what these vans do is transport documents. Nevertheless, this blemish suggests a certain sloppiness, or maybe I mean a certain willingness to seem sloppy, that does not sit well with handling data securely. If I was them, I’d want it sorted soonest.
On the same day, on the same photo-expedition, I also photoed this van:
Not nearly as white as the secure data van, but more to the point: not a scratch and squeaky clean. Which is appropriate, because this is also a business which needs to look like it is taking care when it is doing its business:
With paramount importance placed on quality and support, all equipment is thoroughly cleaned, tested and checked by our experienced engineers ...
Here’s another van, also snapped on that same expedition, that is both white and clean:
White vans often get rather dirty, but not this one:
Calabash are the No.1 commercial cleaning and washroom services company in London. Since 1992 we’ve been ensuring our clients maintain their premises to the highest standards ...
This, in other words, is a van that also needs to be maintained to the highest standards, and by the look of it, it is.
Today I have been what passes with me for busy. By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others. Oh no. But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.
There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football. England defeated South Africa. England defeated Scotland. And Spurs defeated Watford. So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian. Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.
On my way home from that talk, I took a photo. Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train. It is of an advert at a tube station. But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:
That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.
The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.
I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower. I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway. If they didn’t recommend it, who would?
Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.
Tomorrow: Super Bowl!
LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:
“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”
We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.