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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: How the mind works

Friday November 16 2018

Time for some more horizontality:

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Click on that to get the 1000x750 original bigger picture, which I found here.

Notice the title of the posting.  Hartley really is fascinated by colour, whether present, as here (in the sky), or absent, as is the case for the black and white birds here.

Interesting that stripping out the context, which makes it that bit clearer that these are birds, makes these birds that little bit harder to see clearly, as birds.

Sunday November 11 2018

Yesterday, I went on a shopping expedition which involved boarding a train at Charing Cross, which I planned to reach by going first to St James’s Park tube.

The first of the photos below (1.1) is of a taxi, parked close to where I live, with some sort of poppy related advert on it.  I like to photo taxis covered in adverts.  Temporariness, the passing London scene, will get more interesting as the years pass, blah blah.

Then, in Strutton Ground, just this side of Victoria Street, I encountered two besuited gentlemen wearing military berets and medals.  I photoed them both, with their permission, and I post one of these photos here (1.2), also with their permission.  Sadly, the other photo didn’t come out properly.

It was only at this point that I realised that, the following day (i.e. today) being Remembrance Sunday and what’s more the exact one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice of November 1918, London in the Westminster Abbey area would already be awash with Remembrance Sunday photo-ops.  My shopping could wait a while, and I turned right down Victoria Street.

The seven other photos below mostly involve small wooden crosses and dead autumn leaves - autumn 2018 arrived at Peak Dead Leaf yesterday - but they also include another poppy related advert, this time on a the side of a bus (3.3), which I photoed in Parliament Square:

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Sadly, the plasticated documents referring to “British Nuclear Test Veterans” (2.1) were insufficiently plasticated to resist the effects of the rain.  It began to rain some more when I was arriving at Charing Cross station and it did not stop for several hours, so I’m guessing these lists suffered further rain damage.  It’s odd how little sadnesses like this stick in your mind, in amongst the bigger sadnesses being remembered.

The autumn-leaves-among-crosses photos, all taken outside Westminster Abbey, are but a few of a million such that must have been taken over this weekend, in London and in many other places.  Is it proper to include two mere advert photos, even if they are poppy related adverts, in such poetically symbolic and dignified company?  I chose to do this because one of the things I find most interesting about these Remembrance remembrances is that, as each year of them passes, they don’t seem to be getting any smaller.  People still want remember all this stuff, even though all the veterans of World War 1 are now gone.  Hence the adverts.  If the adverts didn’t get results, they’d not be worth their cost.

As to why these remembrances continue to be remembered, and by such huge numbers of people, year after year, I think one reason is that each political tribe and faction can each put their own spin on the sad events being remembered, but in the privacy of their own minds.  For some political partisans, these ceremonies and symbols are a chance to wallow in the pageantry of patriotism.  For others, they are an opportunity to rebuke such nationalists, for stirring up the kinds of hostility that might provoke a repeat of the sad events being remembered.  “Patriotism” and “nationalism” being the words used to salute, or to denounce, the exact same sentiments.  But declaring red poppies to be a warning that the defence budget should be increased, or that they are anti-Trump and anti-Brexit symbols that Trump supporters and Brexiteers have no right to wear, would be too vulgar and partisan, so on the whole this kind of vulgarity and partisanship is not indulged in, not out loud.

The phenomenon of the political meeting where all present hear the same words but where each understands them to mean different things – I’m thinking of such words as “Britain”, “freedom”, “democracy” and “common sense” – has long fascinated me.  Remembrance ceremonies remind me, on a larger scale, of such meetings.  I attended many such little political meetings myself before I decided that mainstream politics was not for me, and switched to libertarianism, where meanings are spelt out and arguments are had rather than avoided.

For less obsessively political people, Remembrance ceremonies and symbols are simply an opportunity to reflect on the sadness of history in general, and in particular the sadness of the premature deaths of beloved ancestors – or, perhaps worse – hardly known-about ancestors.  We can at least all agree that premature death, in whatever circumstances, is a sad thing to contemplate.  And until young men entirely cease from dying in wars, Remembrance Sunday will continue to be, among other things, a meaningfully up-to-date event.

And so, year after year, these ceremonies continue.  Will this year’s anniversary come to be regarded as Peak Remembrance?  We shall see.

Friday November 09 2018

Friday used to be my day here for “Cats” and then I expanded it also to “Other creatures”.  I hadn’t thought of anything creaturely to blog about, and hoped that when I went out walking today, I might encounter something appropriate.  I didn’t have to wait long.  Within yards of my home, I encountered these creatures:

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Police horses and their riders are often to be seen in the SW1 part of London, presumably just getting exercise in between riot situations.

Coincidentally, I recently had a discussion with someone on the subject of what work horses still do, following their replacement as transport by trains and cars and the like, and as warriors by such things as tanks.  Well, they still entertain us, by racing against one another, and by acting the parts of real transport horses or real war horses in historical dramas, mostly on the screen, but occasionally live.

But apart from that?  The only thing we could think of was assisting the police by participating in riot control.  I surmise that horses are called upon to do this because they combine being very scary to humans on foot, with their scary hooves with metal shoes on, with also being so very cute.  That way, rioters are dissuaded from trying to hurt such horses.  If rioters do actually hurt any horses, they incur the wrath of the general public in a way that rioters do not when they merely attack human riot police.  Horses combine being very formidable riot opponents with the fact that their presence at riots is very clearly not being their fault.  In a way, they are merely victims of such riots, victimised by the demands placed upon them.  We sympathise with them already, just because they have to attend riots.  If the rioters attack them, we sympathise even more.  Our sympathy may be excessive, but we feel it.  This places rioters in an impossible bind.  They like to think of themselves as heroes.  But heroes don’t torment horses.  Only villains do that.

Are there any other ways that horses make themselves useful to humans?  Perhaps my problem is that I am urban.  Out there in the country, in spots where vehicles still have problems, there must be such uses.  Transport in hilly or mountainous country?  Oh yes, cowboy horses, herding cows!  Silly me.  I can’t think of any more just now, but I bet if I continue to imagine the non-city parts of the world, more horse jobs will pop into my head, the way that cow-herding just did.

Fox hunting doesn’t count.  That used to be a real thing, when there were no other ways to combat foxes.  But now, fox hunting is just country folk having historical-re-enactment fun.

Thursday November 08 2018

This is not an advert for a book.  Well, it is, but that’s not my purpose in showing it here.  My angle is my niece, the crime fiction writer Roz Watkins, who is quoted here, enthusing about the book:

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The point being that, with what seems to me like remarkable speed, Roz has turned herself into someone whose opinion about other people’s writing is considered worth quoting.

I found the above graphic at her Twitter feed, along with her thanks for having been described as “the great Roz Watkins” by a grateful publisher.  Everything about Roz’s public and social media presence says to me, and I am sure to everyone else who is following her, that she is very serious about her writing career.  Deadly serious, you might say.

This matters, because readers of crime fiction need to know that, if they invest their time and curiosity and shelf space, to say nothing of their cash, in a leading character, this investment will pay off.  The energetic and upbeat way that Roz presents herself says that there will be plenty more books about her lead detective.  There is already a second Meg Dalton tale coming out next April, and if several more Meg Daltons do not follow, at a speed no faster than (but no slower than) is consistent with the maintenance of quality, I for one will be very surprised.

Thursday October 25 2018

Whenever I see a taxi with an interesting advert on it, I try to photo it.  To recycle what I said in this, there is something especially appealing about a large number of objects, all exactly the same shape, usually all decked out in the same bland colour, but each one instead decorated differently and very colourfully.

It would appear that I’m not the only one.  Further evidence that taxi adverts count for more, per square inch, than other adverts do, comes in the form of the meme war that this taxi and its advert is now provoking:

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The CEO of a plumbing firm has announced that his company will be paying a delivery driver to ride around London in a taxi emblazoned with the slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.

Social media gobbled this up, of course, and the responses were not long in coming.  There was this:

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And then this:

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And there will surely be many more.  I hope I chance upon the original, and get a go at photoing it myself.

More taxis with regular adverts will definitely follow here, as soon as I get around to it.

LATER: And, as I should have mentioned sooner, my friend from way back, financial journo Tom Burroughes, is giving a talk this Friday,tomorrow evening, at my place, about Brexit and all that.  I anticipate a more subtle and more elevated discussion than the one on these taxis.

Monday October 22 2018

Yes, here’s Bartok (again), from a slightly different angle, so that the tube station is right behind him:

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A regular bloke in the street.

But now look at this.  Same view, but with three newcomers, down at the bottom:

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The statue of Bartok is a lot nearer to me that you perhaps assume, and crucially, those tiles look like bricks but are actually bigger than regular bricks, which makes this scene look a lot smaller than it really is.

Which is why the additional ladies at the bottom of the second photo really are so very small.

Photos taken by me yesterday.

Friday October 19 2018

More and more of my photo-time is spent collating the photos I have already taken.  Last night, for instance, I went looking for (more) photos of London taxis with adverts on them.  There is something especially appealing, to me anyway, about a large number of objects all exactly the same shape, but each decorated differently.  (Some time, I must go searching for my photos of elephants.)

Equally appealing, to me, were those Gormley Men.  In that case, each Man was the same, and undecorated in the more usual and rather bland sculpture way.  But, each one was in a different place and a different sort of setting.  My Gormley Men photos did not need collating, because Gormley had already collated them, by putting all his Men in the same part of London at the same time.  Therefore my photos of the Gormley Men mostly collated themselves.

Not so the elephants, or taxis.  When looking for taxis, I am looking for taxis photoed in the course of all manner of different photo-expeditions each with their own directories.

But my point is that in the course of all this taxi-collating, I was clicking through literally thousands of non-taxi photos, and I kept coming across non-taxi photos that I particularly liked.  Like (kike as in “such as” – this is not a command) this one, for instance, taken last June:

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I like doing modified cliches in writing, and I also like them photographically.  A view, for instance, of some London Thing that has been photoed to death, but put beside or in front of or behind something that is not so usual.  Most photoers would regard the above scaffolding as a problem rather than any sort of solution, to the Eros-has been photoed-to-death problem.

The scaffolding’s wrapping has the effect of clearing away all the usual clutter from Piccadilly Circus and replacing it with something a lot like sky on a dull day.  It puts Eros in an empty field in the countryside, you might say.  And yes I know, I like clutter.  But not always.

Here is another modified cliché photo:

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The Wheel has been photoed to death, and that’s a view I regularly see – and regularly photo - of it, from the point where Strutton Ground meets Victoria Street, looking down Victoria Street towards Parliament Square and beyond.  But that sky behind The Wheel made The Wheel look amazing, on that particular day in January of this year.

Finally, one of many photos I took this year of Battersea Power Station:

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The Power Station and (if you are a craniac like me) its crane cluster are the clichés.  And if you want to take the sting out of a cliché, one way is to reflect it in something.  At that point its extreme recognisability becomes more a virtue and less of a bore.  Its very clichéness becomes helpful to the photo.

This photo was taken from the upstream side of the Power Station, where there is already a big chunk of new flats up and running, with accompanying tasteless sculpture, coffee serving places and the like.  All sparked, I believe, by the new USA Embassy.

This photo of mine turns Battersea Power Station upside down.  I’ve always thought that an upside down Battersea Power Station would make a rather good table.  But, until now I never thought to go looking for such a table on the www.  Here we go.  That took about three seconds, so I bet there are plenty more that are cheaper.  This guy had the same idea, but those two links were all I could quickly find concerning this notion.

Here is another modified cliché photo of Battersea Power Station, the modification this time being smoke.

Come to think of it, all those London taxi photos I’ve been digging up are also modified cliché photos, aren’t they?  London taxi = cliché, adverts = modification.

Thursday October 18 2018

Russell Roberts, Tweeting in response to a Tweet that has vanished, but it’s still worth quoting:

If you think the economy is a zero-sum game and getting rich makes people poor, you have trouble explaining the last 250 years. That wealth can be created and not just rearranged or come at someone’s expense is so basic but may be the single most important insight of economics.

I prefer “fixed-sum” to “zero-sum”, but otherwise, my sentiments exactly.

I am not now Tweeting, merely perusing the Tweets of others.  If I were Tweeting, this would be a Tweet.

Wednesday October 17 2018

Yesterday I was writing here about how temporariness is a great softener of visual blows.  If you don’t like it, wait until it goes away.

Well, here is news of progress in the technology of making how something looks something that can keep on changing:

Flexible electronic paper could be available in colour as early as next year, allowing designers to create clothing, accessories and other products that double as display screens.

Commonly used on devices such as Kindle e-readers, e-paper has until now only been available in monochrome, restricting its appeal.

But advances in flexible e-paper technology mean that products such as shoes, watches and garments could soon feature full-colour text, patters and images that can constantly change.

It won’t just be how people dress.

However, this will be a different kind of temporariness, because the changing, at least potentially, will never stop.  There will be no normal that gets interrupted, which you can wait for things to get back to, the way you can with scaffolding.

But, ”could be available ...” means that all this will be taking a while.

Tuesday October 16 2018

I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again.  Why do I regard most of Modern Art as silly, yet relish real world objects which resemble Modern Art?  Objects like this:

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The above photo was taken on The last really fine day of 2018, just minutes after I had taken the one in that earlier posting.

You don’t need to go to an exhibition of sloppily painted abstract art, when the regular world contains wondrous looking objects like that.  And what is more, they are wondrous looking objects which have worthwhile purposes.  This wondrous object is for supporting and protecting workers as they work on a building.

Here is how that same scaffolding looked, unwrapped, about a month earlier:

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I particular enjoy how the sky changes colour, in my camera, when a big white Thing is inserted into the picture.  (This afternoon, I encountered this, by Real Photographer Charlie Waite.  Same effect.)

Thank you to the (to me) invaluable PhotoCat, for enabling me to crop both of the above photos in a way that makes them more alike in their scope and which thereby points up the differences.  I’m talking about the invaluable Crop But Keep Proportions function that PhotoCat has, but which PhotoStudio (my regular Photoshop(clone)) 5.5 seems not to offer.  (I would love to be contradicted on that subject.)

Despite all my grumblings about how silly most Modern Art is, I do nevertheless greatly like the way that this Big Thing (the Reichstag) looks in the pride-of-place photo featured in this BBC report, an effect which presumably makes use of the same sort of technology as we see in my photo, but on a vastly grander scale:

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I have to admit that this is several orders of magnitude more impressive than my scaffolding.  (Maybe that was the last really fine day of 1994.) My scaffolding looks lots better than some badly painted little abstract rectangle in an Art gallery, but it’s not nearly as effective as the Reichstag, as wrapped by Christo and Partner.

Because this Big Wrapped Thing was so very big, and because it is such a very interesting shape, it really does look like it added greatly to Berlin, in that summer of 1994.  I entirely understand why all those people assembled to gaze at it.  Had I been anywhere in the vicinity, I would have too.  And had there been digital cameras then, I would have taken numerous photos, as would thousands of others.  Thus giving permanence to this vast piece of temporariness.

Because, what I also like about this Reichstag wrapping is that, just like my scaffolding, and just like all the other wrapping done by Wrapper Christo and his Lady Sidekick, it is temporary.  That BBC report calls it Pop-Up Art, and it is of the essence of its non-annoyingness that any particular piece of Pop-Up Art by Christo will soon be popping down again.

This Reichstag wrapping happened in 1994, but is now long gone.  Did you disapprove of what Christo and his lady did to the Reichstag?  You just had to wait it out.  Soon, it would be be gone.

Do you think scaffolding, especially when wrapped, is ugly?  Ditto.

Friday October 12 2018

That’s the plan anyway.  Read about it in a Dezeen posting entitled Urban Nouveau wants to save Stockholm’s Gamla Lidingöbron bridge by building homes in it:

Urban Nouveau has designed the scheme in response to Lidingö Municipality’s plans to tear down the Gamla Lidingöbron bridge, which links the Swedish capital to the island of Lidingö, and replace it with a modern structure.

I like the sound of this, and the look of it:

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Oh, sorry, no, that’s the old version of London Bridge.  (I recommend having a browse of that full-size. (it’s 6144 x 1024.))

The thing is, a bridge, for all the grand vistas you can often see from it, can be a rather forbidding and even boring thing to walk across.  It’s like walking along a huge boulevard.  Sounds good, but too little changes as you progress.  To make bridges pleasurable to walk across, you need stuff on them.

Which is why I am prejudiced in favour of this Stockhom scheme, even though what I know about it is only what I have skim-read about it in this one Dezeen posting.

There’s a Petition.

Somewhat over a year ago I wrote about When what I think it is determines how ugly or beautiful I feel it to be, in connection with this building:

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This is described, at any rate by its owners and its various occupants, as The Peak.

And that photo of mine above, taken from the top of the Westminster Cathedral Tower, is my Peak photo which best illustrates the oddly deceptive appearance of this decidedly odd-looking building.  It looks like a 60s rectangular lump, to which 90s or 00s curvatures, on the right as we look, and on the top, have been added.  But, as I discovered when concocting that previous posting, the whole thing was built all at once.  It looks like a two-off building rather than a one-off building, but looks deceive, or deceived me, for a while.  Two-off good, one-off bad, was how I had been thinking.  It was two-off, so (aesthetically) good.  Organic, additive, blah blah.  But, what was I supposed to think, on discovering that it was really an inorganic and un-additive one-off?

Now, buried in my photo-archives, I find this photo, taken on October 28th 2008, which confirms that The Peak is indeed a one-off, because here it is (here it was), all being built in one go.  There really is no doubt about it:

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When I took this photo, I was a lot more interested in the anti-pigeon spikes on top of those street lamps, and on top of the railway sign, than I was in the building work in the background.

How I now feel about The Peak, aesthetically, is that I still rather like it, if only because I have paid so much attention to it over the years, and feel sort of proprietorial towards it, as you would towards a somewhat clumsy child that you have adopted.  (That feeling applies, for me, to a great many London buildings.)

Also, whatever else you think of it, when you see it, you at once know where you are.  It is very recognisable, recognisability being a quality in buildings which I appreciate more and more.  “Iconic” is the rather silly word that estate agents and suchlike use to allude to this quality.  But they have a point, even if they use a silly word to point to their point.  That “you could be anywhere” feeling is not a good one, in a city or anywhere else.

“Other creatures” (see below) because of the pigeon scaring.

Monday October 01 2018

Not really, I don’t suppose.  But that’s how it looks.

I can’t recall how I came across this amazing bridge, but I think it was my Twitter feed.  My first reaction was that this was some very high class Photoshopping.  But no.  Here’s a report from July of this year.

This Thing is for real.  It is in Vietnam:

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I found that photo here.

Given that the flood of big and impressive new bridges now seems to have receded (and given that big “new” bridges are now starting to collapse), the emphasis has switched to small and impressive new bridges.  Of which this one is by far the most impressive, in my opinion.

These giant hands are going to trigger a flood of similarly inventive small bridges, with sculptors and engineers collaborating to outdo each other.  Not all will be beautiful, but all will very recognisable and distinctive, which is the next best thing, I think.

People love bridges.  It’s not just me.  Look at all the people on that bridge.

Does the bridge have a giant figure beside it, who is holding the bridge, or are there just hands?  If not, maybe that will happen soon.  A statue holding a bridge.  Why not?

How about London getting the man who did these sculptures to design a London footbridge, somewhere, in which two more such guys are holding it up?  Or four?  Or six?  I’ll leave that to him and his engineer.  But, London, do this.

All over the world, now, people - people like me - are seeing the bridge in the photo above, and are saying: Why can’t we have something like that?

And others are saying: Oh no, how ghastly.  But to hell with them.  Put the first such bridge in your area somewhere really ugly, where there’s nothing to spoil.  That should silence the grumblers.

Thursday September 27 2018

For the last four days I have been following Surrey v Essex at the Oval, on Cricinfo mostly.  The scores alone were remarkable, hence my title above.  Those who do not know cricket should know that, to those who do know cricket, the mere numbers above are truly astounding.

Famed Surrey commentator Churchy couldn’t take his eyes off it:

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That’s him on the left.  Don’t know who the other bloke is.  Kevin Howells?  See also this (about the effect on the face of photoing someone from really close-up).  And the second of these two guys (both saying: well done Surrey) is another in-your-face face.

Given how good the weather forecasts were (and given how good weather forecasts are) I thought about going there.  But I still suspect that, had I done so, a cascade of butterfly effects would have been set in motion, and Surrey would have lost by an innings and about three hundred early on day three, instead of by a mere one wicket on the afternoon of day four, having looked, towards the end, well capable of snatching a win.

Anyone who thinks that only winning matters in sport should ponder how much happier a Surrey fan like me is about this game as it finally turned out, compared to how grumpy I would have been if it really had ended early on day three.  Still an Essex win.  Same number of Championship points to both sides.  Surrey still win the Championship anyway.  But what an abject anti-climax that would have been.  And what a great actual-climax to the season it actually was.

Had the County Championship still been at stake, and had it depended on this result, I could not have endured it.  But, if the Championship had been at stake, it would, I think, have been an entirely different game.  Intrinsic to the amazing Surrey recovery was that this was … only a game.  Thus did it end up being a great game, because only a game.

I really want to remember this one, hence this posting.

This phenomenon continues to trouble me.  Intellectually, I know that the people supervising these circumstances have them all under control.  If ever there was a trade in Britain that knows what it is doing, it is the big city building trade.  Things get done on time, all according to plan, and the results work as intended.  And cranes do not fall over.  (The financing can go all over the shop, which means that plans can change dramatically, but that’s a different story.)

But it still feels to me as if this crane might fall over.  It still feels to me that, at any moment, something near the ground, on the left as we look, just might … SNAP!!!!:

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So, another for the collection.  Photoed by me the day before yesterday, from the Rooftop of John Lewis.

I don’t generally do Photoshop(clone)ing, but some rotation was necessary with this one.  In my original, the crane was completely vertical.  And everything else: not.