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
- UPS drones and drone vans
- 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
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
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Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
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Greg Mankiw's Blog
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Here Comes Everybody
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House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
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Laissez Faire Books
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My Boyfriend Is A Twat
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Never Trust a Hippy
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Signs and notices
I like London’s (England’s?) long, thin, very vertical, outdoor maps. Whenever I am out and about photoing, I photo them:
There’s nothing like a photo of a map with “You are here” on it, to tell you exactly where you were. That’s where I was, early on, on the day I later took these pictures.
Seriously, it is often quite difficult to work out exactly where I was when I look through the products of one of my photographic perambulations. This kind of snap turns it from difficult to obvious.
Especially if you can actually see the bit where it says “You are here”, like this:
I’ve recently been on several expeditions to this intriguing part of London, with its convoluted waterways. Maps are nice, but there’s no substitute for actually being there. With a camera.
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.
I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV. Very good.
The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes. Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are. (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie. Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism. You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash. Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera. Yes. They literally do not perform Wagner. If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.
What Opera North have done is film a stage performance. The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen. And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening. Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about. (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.
The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them. At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing. I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night. This time, it was not ridiculous. That’s how very, very good this production was.
I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor. He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.
Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer. His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.
I love signs. So tedious to copy in writing. So easy to photo. And I was photoing signs yesterday, at Victoria Station.
Here are two of those signs that go well together:
I was just about to stick these up late last night, but discovered that BMdotcom was malfunctioning.
This is not the kind of sign I love to see, when trying to add stuff to this blog, or for that matter just to look at this blog:
Error Number: 1194
Description: Table ‘exp_throttle’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired
Query: SELECT hits, locked_out, last_activity FROM exp_throttle WHERE ip_address= ‘220.127.116.11’
But, as you can see, it’s now sorted. Unless you can’t see and it isn’t.
And until the next time something like this happens. Partly because of such cock-ups, I am, thinking of doing what all other bloggers who still exist did long ago, and switching to Wordpress, which The Guru also suggested. Comments on the wisdom of that from other gurus would be very welcome.
Meanwhile, while waiting for sanity to be reasserted here, I did a Samizdata posting, entitled Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour. It has.
When I make my way, as I do from time to time, to Gramex (which is near to Waterloo) to get another fix of classical CDs, I tend to use the 507 single decker bus.
Many bus stops have become a lot more customer friendly in recent years by having electronic notice boards which say what buses are arriving, where they will go, and when they can be expected to arrive. Very soothing, especially if you are not in the habit of tracking buses with your mobile, as many are, but not me.
My 507 bus stop sports no such signs, probably because the 507 is the only bus that stops there, and there will be another one soon because they are very frequent.
But inside these 507s, I am starting to see signs looking like this:
Again, very soothing. You get to see progress. You get to learn when you need to be making a move towards the door, if you are seated far away from the door, so you wont be barging past people in a hurry. It all adds to the sense you have that buses are nicer to be on than they used to be.
Tragically, this afternoon, what one of these signs was saying was merely this:
Not even the one item of information it did still offer was right. It was not 6.28pm, nowhere near.
But, I am anything but scornful about this little setback. New kit needs the bugs worked out of it. Things get tried out, and they go wrong. The significant thing here is that these kinds of notices are being deployed, not that they don’t yet work as well as they should.
Here is an earlier posting I did about the bus stop signs, also with photos. And that bus stop sign was malfunctioning also, hence that posting also, and that didn’t stop them pressing ahead with installing those signs either. Quite right too.
Click on TRUMP to get the Opera House.
This fantastically cost-effective piece of political signage reminds me of the stuff that Julian Lewis MP used do to CND demos in the eighties. They’d put however many hundred thousand pro-Soviet bodies on the street, and he’d put one big sign across the top of Whitehall for them all the walk under, saying something like: SOVIET STOOGES. His sign would get about half the news coverage. Drove them nuts.
Today will be the forth consecutive day of clear skies over southern England. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the first two of these four days, I journeyed to East London, and today I plan to do the same. (Yesterday, I just couldn’t make myself do this. Instead I got a haircut.)
Living and working on my own, to my own schedule, creates problems as well as solving or abolishing them. Being old, I basically have to get up as soon as I wake up, in order to squirt urine where it needs to go rather than where it doesn’t. And, having woken up, getting to sleep again can then be difficult and time consuming. Either I do this, eventually, which takes a big bite out of the beginning of my day. Or, I stay awake, which means that by the early evening I will be asleep in my chair. I am staying awake today, to make maximum use of all that sunlight which even now I can see outside. But, if I leave my self-imposed blogging duties for today to the evening, I will find this very difficult. This evening I will be both sleep-deprived and exhausted from my wanderings. Also, I want to be at an event this evening. So, I am blogging now, before journeying to East London.
It is for times like these that I collect photos that I just like into special directories, of photos that I just like. Since today is Friday, my day for cats and other creatures, here is an other creature:
A rather blurry photo, so no clicking for anything bigger there. That’s it. But click on this, of the sign under the elephant, if you want to read more about it:
Having to get up every few hours when trying to sleep is a penalty of old age, but a better thing about being old right now is that the indiscriminate inquisitiveness of oldies like me is now more easily answered, without me having to pester any actual humans. Getting old used to mean remaining permanently confused by more and more random stuff, but less so now I can just ask the www. Time was when a photo like the one of this elephant in my archives would have remained for ever mysterious. Now, I can learn all I want about to about it.
Here is a better elephant sculpture photo, which I found here
But why is the union jack elephant a different shape to all the others? I could find this out, probably. But can I be bothered? Do I care? No.
But why is the union jack elephant a different shape to all the others? I could find this out, probably. But can I be bothered? Do I care? No.
I took the photo with this marriage proposal in it in March of 2009, in Sheffield. All I thought I was photoing was a footbridge (I like footbridges) with graffiti on it. Did I even clock it was a marriage proposal? Maybe, but if so, I immediately forgot about it.
Click on that, and you actually get a different picture, which shows two footbridges rather than just the one, which means I prefer it. Two footbridges on top of each other is a bit strange.
Pictures are hard to google, or hard if you are me. Can you now say to Google: “Show me all the pictures you have like this one”? Maybe you can, but I can’t. But words I can do. And I just typed “clare middleton i love you …” (helpfully, the graffitist supplied a name) and google immediately got what I was on about, and, well, here‘s the story:
One spring day in 2001 a tall man walked into Sheffield’s Park Hill flats and along a street in the sky. He strode past the brutalist flanks, out on to the footbridge. He thought: this’ll do.
Jason didn’t look down; he gets vertigo and he was 13 storeys up. He leaned over in his yellow Puffa jacket and sprayed her name. “Clare” came out haphazardly and “Middleton” hit the ledge. He planned to take her to the Roxy on the facing hill, to show her. So now he began again, bigger, clearer: “I LOVE YOU WILL U MARRY ME”. It was his two-fingers-up at the social services office opposite. He scarpered. Seeing it, Grenville, one of the estate’s caretakers, said to the on-site office: “How are we going to get that off?”
They didn’t. The graffiti stayed, high above the city, while the city argued about what to do with the flats. Park Hill, the concrete estate behind the railway station, had become notorious. The city projected abandonment on to Park Hill, so the graffiti started to look like love yelling at the top of its voice in an estate thought to be desolate.
Soon it was also looking like PR. ...
It wasn’t a happy story, ever, and it had no happy ending.
Park Hill, Sheffield, is one of those famous bits of architecture that the architects go on and on about, but which the public hated, until such time as this public said to knock it all down, at which point it became clear that a different part of the public had grown quite fond of the thing.
One of the architects of Park Hill was a man called Ivor Smith, in whose office I worked, briefly, when I was trying to be an architect. He was personally a hugely likeable man, with a delightful family who put up with me when I was at maximum unputupwithability. But, his politics did not appeal to me, and those Park Hill buildings were all part of that.
The trick with photography is knowing what to photo in the first place. In particular, you need to be photoing things that are not going to be the same if you come back later. Photoing captures the ephemeral, far better than it celebrates the eternal. This being why people like photoing their kids. Soon, they’ll be different. But, a photo of Big Ben? It’s been done. A lot. No point in another of those.
Or what about something else that changes, like the price of a piece of electronics? I took this photo of such a price, in February 2005:
I have helpfully picked out the price and photo-enhanced it, so you can read it without any clicking. That’s a terrible photo, technically, but no other photo in that directory ("miscFeb05") is anywhere near as entertaining.
I love how it is reduced from £7,999.99. So if you had bought it then, you’d have saved five hundred quid! Now five hundred quid is the entire cost. (Which you can now save by not buying it.)
Photoed by me, earlier this evening, in Leicester Square:
Somebody gave me a leaflet, about this, while I was photoing. Maybe this was what the demo was about. Maybe not.
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.
I’ve spent my day pondering my talk on Friday evening, so here, it’s quota photo time, four of them, taken last October:
What we are looking at is the building activity now happening between Waterloo Station and the river, photoed from the Waterloo Station side.
I fear that this buildings are going to have looked prettier when being built than when built.
Hope I’m wrong.
Indeed. But they weren’t so particular about where they dumped their rubbish:
Photoed by me on Christmas Day.
Busy day preparing to entertain. Busy evening entertaining. Tomorrow: another busy day entertaining.
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
Indeed. I have the rest of today set aside for other things, maybe even including a little more tidying up, which I have been neglecting of late, but need to get a lot of done by the end of the year.
So here is a particularly diverting white van:
My rule for paying attention to things is to pay attention to things that intrigue me, without necessarily knowing why these things intrigue me. So it has been with white vans. Partly it is because they are politically symbolic. But partly it is because, actually, white vans span the entire social spectrum, in the atmospheres they radiate. There are as many different ways to make a white van look as there are ways to wear your clothes.