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
- Black Cat white van
- Legal eagles versus illegal drones?
- A rejected Grand Chose that shouldn’t have been
- Vans that need to look the part
- Quota caption competition
- Footbridges in the sky
- White vans in Kentish Town
- A busy day and a collection of Big Things
- A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
- A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
- A good time of the year
- 148 to Burgess Park
- A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
- Another way to photo my meetings
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Category archive: Cranes
On the same day I photoed this stuff, up there in …
…, I also photoed white vans, like these ones:
“Rimessa a nuovo e posa pavimenti in Legno” is the Italian for having sex for the first time, very elegantly (like they’re performing), on the pavement, in a place called Legno. No not really, I don’t know what that means. Something to do with wood flooring.
As for th van on the right, rather black but with a giant white painted piece of seafood on it, well, I like it. Although I do miss the times when the Wright Brothers didn’t mean that, but meant the first people to fly an airplane and land it, or whatever it was exactly that the original Wright Brothers did.
Here, on the other hand, is a white van of the sort you don’t want to see:
Graffiti, badly covered up or badly cleaned up, and then more graffiti. Not good. I have never seen a white van that was an graffiti battlefield before. Graffighting?
So, I’ll cheer myself up with another white van, this time an excellent one, photoed more recently, outside a building site in Westminster:
A white van for looking after tower cranes. White vans don’t get any better than that..
Yes, today I was in Burgess Park, which is the other side of the river from me. I took the 148 bus, to see where it would go, and once in that bus, I spent my time wondering what Camberwell Green is.
I tried to take photos out of the bus, but the best seats, at the top at the front, were taken. I had to sit right at the back. But, in the vicinity of the Elephant and Castle, I did manage this:
I got lucky with the crane shadow, didn’t I? The development is called Elephant Park.
I never did find out about Camberwell Green, because the bus got stuck in a jam next to one of the entrances to Burgess Park, and I got out at the next stop to take another look at this diverting space. I visited Burgess Park once before, and liked it a lot. Great views of Big Things. Today was also good, from that point of view:
But the shot of the day, in my opinion so far, on the same evening, is this, of a photographer photoing the sunset:
You’ll have to take my word for it that the sunset is what he was photoing, and for that matter that he was even holding a camera. But he was.
Today, went to the top of the Westminster Cathedral tower, again, to check out whether I could see the Wembley Arch. I could. Just. But, then went to a Christian Michel evening. Rob Waller speaking. Very good. But, me now rather drunk. So, cannot discuss Wembley Arch. Instead, here is a picture of west London and its cranes, from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:
Hope you like it. Sleep well. I will.
I make it eight cranes.
I have begun reading Matt Ridley’s latest book, The Evolution of Everything. Early signs: brilliant. I especially liked this bit (pp. 7-10), about modern ideas in the ancient world:
A ‘skyhook’ is an imaginary device for hanging an object from the sky. The word originated in a sarcastic remark by a frustrated pilot of a reconnaissance plane in the First World War, when told to stay in the same place for an hour: ‘This machine is not fitted with skyhooks,’ he replied. The philosopher Daniel Dennett used the skyhook as a metaphor for the argument that life shows evidence of an intelligent designer. He contrasted skyhooks with cranes - the first impose a solution, explanation or plan on the world from on high; the second allow solutions, explanations or patterns to emerge from the ground up, as natural selection does.
The history of Western thought is dominated by skyhooks, by devices for explaining the world as the outcome of design and planning. Plato said that society worked by imitating a designed cosmic order, a belief in which should be coercively enforced. Aristotle said that you should look for inherent principles of intentionality and development - souls - within matter. Homer said gods decided the outcome of battles. St Paul said that you should behave morally because Jesus told you so. Mohamed said you should obey God’s word as transmitted through the Koran. Luther said that your fate was in God’s hands. Hobbes said that social order came from a monarch, or what he called ‘Leviathan’ - the state. Kant said morality transcended human experience. Nietzsche said that strong leaders made for good societies. Marx said that the state was the means of delivering economic and social progress. Again and again, we have told ourselves that there is a top-down description of the world, and a top-down prescription by which we should live.
But there is another stream of thought that has tried and usually failed to break through. Perhaps its earliest exponent was Epicurus, a Greek philosopher about whom we know very little. From what later writers said about his writings, we know that he was born in 341 BC and thought (as far as we can tell) that the physical world, the living world, human society and the morality by which we live all emerged as spontaneous phenomena, requiring no divine intervention nor a benign monarch or nanny state to explain them. As interpreted by his followers, Epicurus believed, following another Greek philosopher, Dernocritus, that the world consisted not of lots of special substances including spirits and humours, but simply of two kinds of thing: voids and atoms. Everything, said Epicurus, is made of invisibly small and indestructible atoms, separated by voids; the atoms obey the laws of nature and every phenomenon is the result of natural causes. This was a startlingly prescient conclusion for the fourth century BC.
Unfortunately Epicurus’s writings did not survive. But three hundred years later, his ideas were revived and explored in a lengthy, eloquent and unfinished poem, De Rerum Natura (Of the Nature of Things), by the Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus, who probably died in mid-stanza around 49 BC, just as dictatorship was looming in Rome. Around this time, in Gustave Flaubert’s words, ‘when the gods had ceased to be, and Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius when man stood alone’. Exaggerated maybe, but free thinking was at least more possible then than before or after. Lucretius was more subversive, open-minded and far-seeing than either of those politicians (Cicero admired, but disagreed with, him). His poem rejects all magic, mysticism, superstition, religion and myth. It sticks to an unalloyed empiricism.
As the Harvard historian Stephen Greenblatt has documented, a bald list of the propositions Lucretius advances in the unfinished 7,400 hexameters of De Rerum Natura could serve as an agenda for modernity. He anticipated modern physics by arguing that everything is made of different combinations of a limited set of invisible particles, moving in a void. He grasped the current idea that the universe has no creator, Providence is a fantasy and there is no end or purpose to existence, only ceaseless creation and destruction, governed entirely by chance. He foreshadowed Darwin in suggesting that nature ceaselessly experiments, and those creatures that can adapt and reproduce will thrive. He was with modern philosophers and historians in suggesting that the universe was not created for or about human beings, that we are not special, and there was no Golden Age of tranquillity and plenty in the distant past, but only a primitive battle for survival. He was like modern atheists in arguing that the soul dies, there is no afterlife, all organised religions are superstitious delusions and invariably cruel, and angels, demons or ghosts do not exist. In his ethics he thought the highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain.
Thanks largely to Greenblatt’s marvellous book The Swerve, I have only recently come to know Lucretius, and to appreciate the extent to which I am, and always have been without knowing it, a Lucretian/Epicurean. Reading his poem in A.E. Stallings’s beautiful translation in my sixth decade is to be left fuming at my educators. How could they have made me waste all those years at school plodding through the tedious platitudes and pedestrian prose of Jesus Christ or Julius Caesar, when they could have been telling me about Lucretius instead, or as well? Even Virgil was writing partly in reaction to Lucretius, keen to re-establish respect for gods, rulers and top-down ideas in general. Lucretius’s notion of the ceaseless mutation of forms composed of indestructible substances - which the Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana called the greatest thought that mankind has ever hit upon - has been one of the persistent themes of my own writing. It is the central idea behind not just physics and chemistry, but evolution, ecology and economics too. Had the Christians not suppressed Lucretius, we would surely have discovered Darwinism centuries before we did.
Indeed. Today was a lot colder than of late, and a lot brighter than of late. I guess that happens when the clouds go away, in November. I was on my way out around midday today, and took these, the last one through a train window:
The first two are looking across Vincent Square, towards Victoria Street and at Westminster Abbey. The next three are of building work at the top end of Victoria Street, where there is not a lot of building work going on. And finally, Big Things, from the train out of Victoria.
I was very pessimistic about all the new stuff around Victoria Station, but that big spikey thing is looking very cool.
The first picture is the odd one out. No cranes.
Most clichés are true. Being true they get repeated and repeated, which is how they became cliches. But the cliché that it rains a lot in England is not true, at any rate not in my part of England. Rain in London is actually quite rare, and when it does rain it seldom lasts long. Heavy rain is very rare, which is why, when it happens, it causes excited headlines.
But, the weather is often cloudy and overcast. Thus for the last several days it has been almost entirely overcast, and very occasionally wet.
I have been mostly indoors, having one of my periodic attempts to tidy up. Photographically, I have done little, except remember sunnier days earlier in the year.
Here are four photos taken in June and July of this year, all of which involve sunshine in one way or another:
I love that weird effect you see when someone has been destroying reinforced concrete, combining jumbles of twisted metal rods and what can look like ancient rocks but which are really bits of concrete. The sunniest thing in that photo is me, in the form of my shadow. Nothing says bright light like a strong shadow.
All the other snaps involve - what else? - cranes. I especially like how bright light often strikes cranes. Usually, when I photo this, I get disappointingly toned down results. My camera presumably thinks that by eliminating dazzle it was helping, but dazzle is what I am often trying to photo. I want the light to be out of control and sloshing about all over the place. Bottom left is a rare exception to that tendency.
Bottom right is looking down Tottenham Court Road, at a crane and a Wheel, lit by sun, backed by dark cloud, a favourite effect. The strange and rather misshapen green house thing (which I like) is (I think) the top of the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail-Tube Station.
It was something to do with the fact that it was unseasonably warm yesterday, which resulted in fog this morning in London, but only in patches. And the Evening Standard, which now keeps virtually ticking over at the weekend, reported on the various London fog photos people have been taking.
This, taken by this guy, is my favourite:
Cranes (and the Walkie-Talkie) in front of the fog. Shard stabbing through the fog.
Every so often I check out Jonathan Gewirtz’s photos, often because I am reminded to do this when I read Chicago Boyz, for which Jonathan writes. Yesterday, I found my way to this wonderful photo of the cranes of Miami. Because that photo has “Copyright 2013 Johathan Gewirtz” written across the middle of it, I looked for other Miami crane photos, and found this ( by “ozanablue"):
Then, I think my finger slipped. Anyway, something happened, and I found myself looking at another terrific Gewirtz Miami crane snap, also adorned with a Copyright notice, but from which I have sliced out this:
That slice is much smaller as well as much (vertically) thinner than the meteorologically imposing original. But, as is the rule here with anything I “borrow”, if JG sees this and wants even this small slice of his picture removed from here, it will be done pronto.
Those container ship cranes will surely be looked back at by historians as one of the great visual symbols of our time, to sum up all the peaceful material and trading progress that we as a species have been making in recent decades.
Shame our cranes of this sort are too far away from the centre of London for a picture of them to be able to include our Big Things as well. Because our Big Thing’s are better than Miami’s.
Talking of cranes, another English one attracting admiring attention is this one, who bowls leg spin for Hampshire. (Another spinner nearly won it for England today, in Abu Dhabi (where they also have cranes (they now have them everywhere important that’s next to the sea)).)
Man on horseback – and cranes
As quite often happens, some of the better pictures I took on my recent Richmond expedition were taken right at the beginning, near to where I live.
When I set out last Thursday, I found that a new bike lane is being constructed along my side of Vauxhall Bridge Road, which has caused my usual bus stop for making my way to Vauxhall Station to be abolished. On my way back, I discovered that this bus stop had simply been moved back up Vauxhall Bridge Road a bit. Had I turned right instead of left at Vauxhall Bridge Road that Thursday morning, I would quickly have found the relocated bus stop. Instead, I turned left, and walked across the river to the station.
With the result that I saw the strange sight of a man on horseback, beside the river (it was the final remaining one of these four). That having got me into the swing of photoing, I also, just before entering the station, photoed a rather fetching (because of the light lighting them and the sky behind them) crane cluster, craning away between Vauxhall and Waterloo.
The cranes, I decided, needed to have some buildings to their left cropped off of them, which turned the snap into a square. And the man on horseback also worked as a square. So, squares they are. Click on them, and you get bigger squares.
What I particularly like about the cranes is how vertical they mostly are.
I spent my blogging time today starting two different postings, both of which got longer and longer and are still not nearly finished.
Which only left me time for a quota photo, taken in April of this year.
LATER: 6k borrows the picture (which I am very happy about) and tells us more about the BT Tower.
Not very busy day today, tidying up from my Last Friday meeting last night, but I neglected this blog, until now, at which point I am too tired to really say anything.
When in that state, I trawl through the archives, recent and not so recent. And I just found this picture, taken in 2009:
What (I think) separates this from your average cheesy London sunset photo is the way that what’s left of the sunshine picks out one of the cranes, the one in the middle, just to the right of St Paul’s as we look. That’s in the middle suggests to me that photoing this crane was not accidental on my part. I was aiming at it.
I often see effects like this, when the sun sets fire to something, so to speak. (Apologies if you read this far hoping that a crane would be on fire literally.) I usually photograph such brightly lit things whenever I see them, but my camera, on its automatic setting, usually then deliberately removes the fire from the picture. It wants nothing extreme. But extreme is what I want, when I do this.
But this picture left the fire at the top of that crane in.
The cloud behind the crane helps.
Jade Dernbach’s international career ended last year, amidst much derision and recrimination.
Surrey very nearly won today’s ODI Final against Gloucester. If Surrey had won, everyone would now be talking about how well Dernbach has done for Surrey this year. As it was, Surrey, having been ahead of the game all day long, instead lost three tail end wickets in a heap at the end and lost by six runs.
Had Surrey won, Dernbach would have been Man of the Match, having taken six wickets, including a hat trick at the end of the Gloucester innings and even better, at the beginning of the Gloucester innings, the prize wicket of Michael Klinger for a three ball duck in the first over of the game.
As regulars here will know, I was at the semi-final at the Oval that got Surrey to today’s final. (It was probably my day of the year so far.) Dernbach did well in that game also.
Sangakkara hit 19 runs off Surrey’s penultimate over of batting. Notts, needing 19 to win in their last 2 overs, could only manage 5 and a wicket off their penultimate over, bowled by Dernbach. The wicket was Notts captain Chris Read, bamboozled by Dernbach’s disguised slow ball. Read is the kind of batsman who could have got Notts home with balls to spare, but Dernbach did him. Those two penultimate overs were the difference between the two teams that day.
As for me, I photoed the first of these two penultimacies:
But when I should have been photoing the equivalent scoreboard description of the second penultimacy (you can read about it by scrolling down here), I was instead busy taking this photo:
Which just goes to show that photoing cricket matches, like photoing anything else, is a skill. Everything you have to do - which actually means everything you have to remember to do - at the right time and in the right order - is easy and obvious, just commonsense really. But, doing seventy three bits of commonsense at the exact right time and in the exact right order adds up to uncommon sense. Or, as it is commonly known, knowledge.
I digress. But the point of my digression is that I also digressed in my photography at that cricket game, at what was clearly, at the time I digressed, a critical moment. There really is no excuse for the above photographic omission, except for me to say that I have not photoed very many cricket matches and am not very good at it.
After my day at the Oval, I am now strongly tempted to correct that, given what else you can see from the place, if you are a member. A crane and a Shard are a bug, when you should be photoing the scoreboard. But normally they would be a feature.
LATER: In other sports news, Perry de Havilland has a strange dream, and I had the exact same dream myself.
It’s been a very bad last few days here at BMdotcom. First there was the domain name fiasco, and then last night and into this morning there was another interruption, caused by a power cut in a totally different part of London to me, which was in its turn caused by all that rain we had recently. And then the interruption was prolonged by the mishandling of this power cut by my rather creeky and out-of-date version of Expression Engine. The two events were unrelated. I think there’s a Macbeth quote that deals with this kind of thing. One of those plays about a king for whom things are starting to go badly wrong. But rest assured that there is no sign that BMdotcom is about to be dethroned permanently.
So anyway, here is one of those photo-postings made quick and easy by my “I just like them!” directory.
I just like this, taken in 2007:
And I just like this, taken a month ago:
That second one was already edited and ready to post, with its new name, but I don’t believe I ever got around to actually displaying it. If I did, well, take another look.
I do not promise more substantial stuff tomorrow, but I do hope for it.
Just under a week ago, last Wednesday, there was rainbow weather over London. I was in my local laundrette, which is just at the corner where Horseferry Road stops going at a right angle to the river and does a sharp right towards Victoria Street. But even thought I was lugging a big bag of shirts with me, I followed my camera rule, which goes: always have it on me. Consequently, I had my camera on me, and was able to take photos.
Not as pretty a foreground is it might have been, and must have been for many others who were out and about in London at that time, or who were told to get out and about by others. But: cranes, scaffolding, a tree with no leaves cluttering it up, that chess board building I like, the Millbank Tower and its classic roof clutter (see the right hand one of these photos). I wasn’t complaining:
Whenever I photo a rainbow, I am pessimistic about how good it will end up looking in my pictures. This is partly because a rainbow is pure light. There are no sharp edges for your camera to grab hold of, and inevitably the original somewhat blurry thing tends to come out just that fatal bit more blurry, and to look fatally less striking than the original did.
But, even more fundamentally, everyone knows that a rainbow is a photo op. Indeed, I saw several other people taking photos, and the only reason I didn’t photo them photoing was that we all had our backs to the same wall, and I couldn’t get behind them, in such a way that I could have got them and the rainbow in the same snap.
Anyway, my point is that because rainbows are universally regarded as ultra-photogenic, rainbow photos are really rather mundane (because so very common), compared to actually seeing the thing itself.
The best photos tend to show you things that you are not already used to seeing in photos.
But, I enjoyed myself. And I certainly like that in the final one, bottom right, you can make out a second and much fainter rainbow, above the main act.
On a sunny afternoon in June, this was the big picture, complete with Big Things, and a bridge, in the background:
I homed in on that photosession, down by the river there.
There were making a bit of a spectacle of themselves, so their recognisable faces would have been fair game, but I took lots of pictures of them, and am able to show you only faceless pictures like these:
My favourite faceless photo being this one:
There was a big crowd looking down on all this. They really can’t complain, and I don’t believe they will, in the event they see those pictures.