Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Michael Jennings on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Brian Micklethwait on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Brian Micklethwait on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
Patrick Crozier on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
kenforthewin on The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
6000 on UPS drones and drone vans
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Most recent entries
- Cat proximity awareness
- Looking up in the City
- Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
- Leake Street photo session
- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
- Azure Window broken
- Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
- New River Walk
- Die Meistersinger was very good
- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
- Today’s plan
- Photoing the faces of strangers (or in my case: not)
- England crush Scotland in the 6N – plus the hugeness of home advantage
- If Pugs could fly
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Category archive: Other creatures
My day in Highbury and Islington (and Canonbury) began with me not seeing much in the way of Big Things from
Islington Highbury Fields. But very quickly, I made my way to the north eastern end of New River Walk, and took the walk along it.
The thing is, Google Maps, what with it being so easy to change the scale of, can mislead about how far apart things are. One Google map shows you a big area, that it will take you a day to explore properly. But then, following further button pushing, another map, which looks like it is of an equally big area, is actually of a place you can be all over within less than two hours. So it was last Monday.
Everything that day was smaller and more suburban and contrived and just nice, compared to what I had been expecting and compared to what the more northerly bits of the New River are like, when GodDaughter One and I checked them out, back in 2015.
In particular, the New River Walk turned out to be a piece of miniature canal that has been turned into a tiny, elongated version of Hyde Park, thanks to some lottery money that was bestowed upon it in the nineties, complete with fountains, and ducks, and carefully manicured footpaths, and views of nearby affluent houses and apartments, thus:
It’s the sort of place I am happy to have visited just the once, to check out what it is. But it isn’t really my kind of place.
But, this is Friday, and there were ducks. And dogs. Quite a lot of dogs actually. Also lots of signs saying don’t let the dogs do dog do, or if the dogs do do dog do, then do tidy it up.
Whenever I encounter interesting vehicles, of which London possesses a great many, I try to photo them. Taxis with fun adverts. Diverting white vans. Crane lorries. That kind of thing.
In particular I like to photo ancient cars. And, I also like to photo modern cars which are styled to look like ancient cars, like this one:
This is the Mitsubishi Pajero Jr. Flying Pug. How do I know that? Because I also went round the back and took this photo:
Is a pug a non-feline creature? Sounds like a non-feline creature to me.
More about this eccentric vehicle here:
On sale for just three years between 1995 and 1998, it sold reasonably well and has been popular as a grey import. None of which explains what on Earth Mitsubishi was thinking when it devised this horror show, the special edition Flying Pug.
The Japanese have always loved old, British cars. Through the Nineties it was one of the biggest markets for the original Mini, but retro pastiches had become popular as well, led by the Nissan Micra-based Mitsuoka Viewt, which looked a bit like a miniature Jaguar Mark II.
Mitsubishi thought it would jump on the bandwagon. Out of all the cars it made, Mitsubishi decided the Pajero Jr would be the best platform. Ambitiously, the brochure said it had “the classic looks a London taxi.” In fact, it looked more like the absolutely gopping Triumph Mayflower.
The press thought it was ugly and the buying public agreed. Mitsubishi planned to build 1,000 Flying Pugs, but just 139 found homes. The deeply weird name can’t have helped, but Japanese-market cars are notorious for it; another special edition Pajero Jr was christened McTwist.
I agree that “Flying Pug” is a strange name. And I agree that the Flying Pug doesn’t look much like a London taxi. But it resembles the Triumph Mayflower even less.
I also do not agree that either the Flying Pug or the Triumph Mayflower are ugly. And they are definitely not, to my eye, “absolutely gopping”, or a “horrow show”. Each to his own.
But I do like the fact that I photoed a car of which there are only one hundred and thirty nine copies in existence.
You don’t have to believe that animals either have or should have rights to realise that people who are gratuitously cruel to animals are likely to be more cruel than usual to their fellow humans. But what of fake cruelty to fake animals leading to real cruelty to real creatures, animal or human? I imagine there is some kind of correlation there too, although my googling skills fell short of finding an appropriate link to piece demonstrating that.
Being cruel to a fake animal that another human loves is clearly very cruel, to the human.
As was, I think, this demonstration of fake cruelty that recently hit the internet. That link is not for those who are squeamish about beheaded teddy bears.
And what of people who are nice to fake animals?
Here is a picture I took in my favourite London shop, Gramex in Lower Marsh, in which there currently resides a teddy bear who was recently rescued from sleeping rough, by Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland:
If you consequently suspect that Roger Hewland is a kind man, your suspicion would be entirely correct. I agree with you that kindness to fake animals and kindness to real people are probably also correlated.
I sometimes drop into Gramex just to use the toilet. Never has the expression “spend a penny” been less appropriate.
Yesterday I told you about a photo I took on January 20th of this year. Earlier that day I had journeyed to Bromley-By-Bow tube station, then walked south along the River Lea, and ended my wanderings at Star Lane Station. It was a great day for photoing, and I especially enjoyed photoing this witty sculpture:
But who did it? This evening I realised that I seemed to recall Mick Hartley having something to say about this, and so it proved.
It’s by Abigail Fallis, and it is called DNA DL90. Well, I say that’s what it’s called. That’s what Abigail Fallis called it, but I bet nobody else calls it that. I bet what most people call it is more like: Shopping Trolley Spiral. I’m guessing further that Abigail Fallis regards her sculpture as some kind of critique of late capitalist consumerism. But such ArtGrumbling need not stop the rest of it thoroughly enjoying the thing, and also continuing to relish our trips to the supermarket, there to sample the delights of early capitalism. Because you see, Abigail, capitalism is just getting started.
Yes. I was right. Says Hartley:
It is, says Fallis, a symbol of modern society’s consumer culture, which has now become entwined in our genetic make-up. They can’t help themselves, can they, these artists?
The usual bitch about Artsists is that they are predictable, and indeed they are. But this was something else again. I literally predicted this, before I read it. How predictable is that? Very, very.
As regulars here will know, I am interested by the phenomenon of colour. I don’t mean people of colour, and all the arguments around that. I mean the colours of things like paint, walls, modern architecture. Red, blue, green, yellow. Actual colours. (Plus also: black and white.)
So, I was greatly intrigued by a piece that I recently encountered, about how blue tarantula spiders are inspiring techies to make 3D printed blue.
Tarantulas aren’t usually known for having a striking blue color, but the ones that do recently inspired new technology that can produce vibrant, 3D-printed color that will never fade.
Back in 2015, a team of researchers led by the University of Akron marveled at the spiders’ blue hue and concluded that it was created not from pigment but from nanostructures in their hairs. In other words, these tarantulas are blue because of structural color, which is produced through light scattering caused by structures of sub-micrometer size features made by translucent materials.
I love grand histories of everything, which look at the past, present and future of mankind through just the one lens. Weapons. Communications. Spices. Potatoes. That kind of thing. I recently purchased a book called The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World. Well, one of the next books I am going to purchase is likely to be a history of the world seen entirely in terms of mankind’s quest for colour - natural and artificial, or, as above, and I suspect very typically, a combination of the two.
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.
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.
Indeed. Photoed by me in the Victoria Station branch of W.H. Smith, last week.
And here is Where to Find Them. Well, it’s one of the places to find them:
All the Penguin Modern Classics that they are selling occupy just the one alcove. Thirty books to read in a lifetime, one alcove. And Fantastic Beasts, one alcove. The J.K. Rowling juggernaut rumbles on.
And that’s not even to mention Robert Galbraith.
Alice Robb writes about the strange relationship between humans and cats:
When a stray cat wandered onto the tracks of a midtown 7 train last month, the MTA halted the entire subway line until the animal was out of harm’s way. At the same time, the U.S. government euthanizes millions of stray cats each year. They’re a disaster for the environment: One conservancy organization has called cats the “ecological axis of evil.” ...
There was no single, obvious reason for cats to have been domesticated, says Robb, like meat, or milk, or fur. They are famously unbiddable. And they can be very nasty to us. So, how did it happen?
As I talked to scientists, it dawned on me that we weren’t necessarily the ones who were driving this relationship. House cats sidled up to our first settlements 10,000 years ago, because of big changes we started making to the environment. All of these animals crept into our settlement and were eating our trash - animals like badgers and foxes, in addition to small wildcats. They got into this new niche and exploited it.
So how did they trick us into feeding them and taking care of them?
For a long time, it was probably just an accident. But there are reasons that cats made the transition, but we don’t have badgers or foxes as pets today. One reason is that cats have a set of physical features that, for completely accidental reasons, remind us of human babies. Cats have big round eyes located right in the middle of their faces, because they’re ambush predators and need good binocular vision. They have little noses, because they don’t hunt by smell. They have round faces because they have short, powerful jaws. This set of features, which is actually just an expression of the way the cat hunts, looks to us like our infants. That gave them a leg up on the competition, and made them an intriguing and charming presence, rather than a straight-up nuisance, like a raccoon.
I always assumed that cats were made welcome by our ancestors because they killed rats and mice, which gobbled up our crops. But, says Robb, cats often can’t be bothered to kill rats, because of all the garbage humans emit.
There’s plenty of garbage for everybody. Cats and rats have been photographed sharing piles of trash. Why would these animals fight and risk their lives, when they could just comfortably graze together?
As for the suppose health benefits of keeping a cat, these, says Robb, are highly dubious.
It all adds up to a pretty good summary of the cat/person relationship.
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.
Ah the countryside, where the other creatures - other than cats, I mean - live:
And contribute about as much to the world as most cats do, by the look of them.
Actually this is not really the countryside. It is north east London. To be more exact, it is the gap between the King George’s Reservoir and the William Girling Reservoir, which is named after William Girling, who was the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board at the time of the reservoir’s opening.
I found myself in this spot in the summer of 2015, and don’t worry, I had a destination in mind that was nothing to do with horses. I was on my way to Yardley Hill, to take photos like this:
As I made my way towards Chingford Station, I also came upon a horse, wondering whether to kick a dog or run away from it. And I also encountered an Indian elephant, outside an Indian restaurant:
But I kept well clear of the cattle.
I’ve already shown a very similar picture of this building …:
… at this blog, in this posting. The above photo is only very slightly different, in that it includes the Spraycan on the right, but excludes the Walkie-Talkie. Also, I was able to compose it because I was on the platform of Battersea Park station, rather than in a train and just taking a chance.
I show another shot of this thing, because, well, I just like it. There’s something about the way it gets lighter at the top, and how photos of this thing end up looking like they’ve been faked up by an architect’s office before the thing has even been built. Photos of it don’t look real. They look like Photoshop.
When I started doing this posting, I had it in mind for tomorrow (which is a busy day), having already done a rather perfunctory posting about a cat, Friday being my day for cat-blogging. But it turns out that this blue building is also all about cats and other creatures. I tried googling it for that earlier posting, without success. But I just gave that another go, this time typing “"blue new building Battersea” or some such word combo into the great computer in the sky, and this time it worked. This blue building is the recently opened Battersea Dogs (and now also Cats) Home Veterinary Clinic & Centre of Excellence.
Blog and learn.
The human eye comes with a brain attached, a brain which continuously works out what is actually there, as opposed to how things merely look. But the camera is stupid. It sees everything but understands nothing. It does not cut out what doesn’t matter.
So, when a camera takes a picture like this ...:
… it shows the sign, but it also shows all the stupid lighting effects that are messing with the sign.
It also shows weird lighting effects above and beyond the sign, which perhaps you hadn’t noticed, until I told you to look for them. Your brain may have cut that out, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the sign and you were concentrating on the sign.
But now do what I did next, when I realised what was really going on here. Having acquired the photography habit, I have become visually stupid, which means that I now see more, almost like a camera does.
Feast your eyes on this:
I am not sure if the above photo was the best I took of this effect, or the below photo. So I post both:
This was, I think, the single most remarkable thing I saw on my walk from Battersea Park station back to my home, last Wednesday afternoon.
From the above photos, you may be able to deduce what is causing this, but I’ll save you the bother of working it out. Here is the next photo I took:
And here is another photo which makes everything even clearer, that I got from the internet:
It’s the curvature of the surface off which the sunlight is bouncing that does it. That separates the blobs of light from each window into distinct columns, creating a parthenonic magnificence that would, with a flat wall of windows, have been just a big jumble. That would have been pretty good, but what we actually see is something else again. And yet, when I was photoing this, I was the only one paying attention to this amazing light show. Everyone else just walked past it, like it wasn’t there. This was because, thanks to their brains, it actually wasn’t there.
The internet ought to be able to correct such failures to notice. But the strange thing is, if you google the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, all you get is a lot of stuff about dogs and cats. No mention at all of this amazing special effect. The modern world has its priorities badly skewed.
I have photoed similar lighting effects before, such as the one reported in this posting. But that one is put completely in the shade by this one.
Categories below include Transport. That’s because all this drama was to be seen on a manky old railway viaduct. Which I actually think made it look better. (All everyone else saw was a manky old railway viaduct.)
It’s for lots of other things, for other people, like: a telly. But that is definitely one of the things that the internet is, for me.
Whenever a new kind of information storage or information transmission comes along, people fret that it will replace all the previous ones. And the others, which when they started were things that people fretted about, become good for you. When reading by the masses got started, there was concern that the masses were doing too much of it, getting addicted to it, enjoying it too much. Dear oh dear, can’t have that. But then telly came along, and reading suddenly became good for you. Telly was the thing that people were enjoying too much, wasting their lives on, etc. etc.
And now that the internet is here, you even hear people moaning that Young People These Days don’t spend enough time watching telly, because they are, you’ve guessed it, addicted to their smartphones (on which they watch telly).
My own feeling is that Young People These Days spend far more time than is good for them gadding about in the open air and watching tiny screens and not enough time sitting at home watching proper telly and proper computer screens, big enough to see what’s going on, the way God and Nature intended. But that’s a feeling, based entirely on which exact generation I happen to be a member of, not a real opinion. Young People These Days, as always, have better eyesight than oldies like me, and, unlike me now, they like to get out and have fun. When I was a (moderately) YPTD, I loved small screens, like the one on the Osborne. (Look it up. Another thing the internet is is a machine for telling you things like what an Osborne was.)
The thing is, new methods of information storage or information transmission typically give the old ones a new lease of life, rather than the kiss of death, at any rate at first and often for ever. Printing didn’t stop people talking to each other, it gave them interesting things to talk about. Trains caused a surge in horse transport, to get people to and from the station. The telly adapts books into telly-dramas, and people buy the books to find out what’s going on and who these people all are. Telephones, email and now smartphones make it easier to organise face-to-face meetings. The first big internet business sold books. And lots of telly shows now consist of bits from the internet, for those who like telly.
And now, for me, one of the most useful uses of the internet is enabling me to keep track of what’s on the regular old telly. Recently, for instance, I recorded a whole stash of Columbo episodes onto DVD. But, which episodes were they and what order should they go on the DVD in? The Radio Times only tells you so much? How many Columbo episodes were there? Who else besides Columbo himself was in them? Step forward, the internet, to tell me all about that.
See also this other blog posting that I just did, in which, among other things, I give a plug to a face-to-face meeting that I will be hosting tomorrow evening.
Or should that be smart batphone?:
He is also holding a weapon, a knifey thingy. somewhat like this.
Photoed by me in Trafalgar Square last Friday.
Keeping things nice and face-recognition-hostile.