Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Cyclists
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Patrick Crozier on Cyclists
Brian Micklethwait on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
rob on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
Most recent entries
- I never thought that we could win
- Matt Ridley on how (fracking) technology lead science
- The wonderful things they’re doing with plastics nowadays
- The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
- 240 Blackfriars behind some reinforced concrete that is being demolished
- John Croft: Composition is not research
- The cuddly killer
- Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
- Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
- Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
- Brittany lighthouses
- Citroen correction
- When the people are the Art
- Ghost Bus
- Cats don’t smile
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
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
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
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Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
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Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
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Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
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Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
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we make money not art
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Category archive: How the mind works
I like this photo, of Daniel Hannan, at the top of a Guardian piece about him, and about how he was and is “The man who brought you Brexit”:
I like this photo because it is exactly the sort of photo that I try to take of photoers myself. A smartphone with interesting graphics, held over the eyes of the photoer (which of course often happens) to preserve anonymity. Or it would if there were no other photos of Hannan in the world and no article underneath the photo, telling the world all about him.
While browsing through my archives recently, I came across those pictures I took of Brexiteer Kenny, doing his rehash of a Hannan piece in Trafalgar Square, with white chalk. And what I discovered was that, to revise that Abba song, I never thought that we could win. The pictures brought back the feeling I had when I took them, which was: gallant failure. Brave effort. Well done mate, going down fighting. But, we won’t win.
I told myself that we might win, but mostly what I thought was that although the majority for Remain has slimmed down a bit over the years, it was still there.
It’s good to have been so wrong.
As for the Brexit arguments now (quick versus careful), I am reading this guy. He is for careful. Every post he does says (a) that he is the cleverest person in the world and that everyone else is at best not so clever, and at worst stupid stupid stupid; and (b) something worthwhile, carefully and persuasively explicated.
I never thought that we could win, but just to be clear: there’s no regret.
The directory with all the snaps I took in Quimper and surrounding places, ten years ago, contains some fine images.
And some rather weird ones:
Okay, Citroens made of wood is not that weird. Certainly not in France.
But those really rather realistic black baby dolls is something we surely don’t do nearly so much over here. I’m guessing we have too much of a history of what you might call derogatory black dolls, unrealistically racist dolls, and that means that all black dolls are now tainted in our eyes, even much more realistic ones like the ones in that picture. They evoke a tradition and a way of thinking we would prefer not to be reminded of, or worse, to be thought to be perpetuating. When the British are being sentimental about black babies, they do it in those (I think) ghastly charity fundraising telly adverts.
But what do I know? I’m just thinking aloud. Maybe we do have lots of dolls like these in British shop windows, and I merely haven’t noticed them. But, my first reaction when I say these black babies was, as I say: weird. Certainly striking enough to take several photos of.
I refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there). And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van. The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff. The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible. It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.
But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:
I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.
The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface. Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.
But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within. Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions. That’s because it’s a van. Vans are like that. But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.
So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.
As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this. I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”. Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.
If I take a photo like this …:
… then I am liable to feel quite a lot of affection for the spot from which I took it. Big Things. Cranes. Roof clutter. A lit-up sign with news about a cricket game. Advertising, including even an advert for the excellent City A.M. (bottom right). True, it’s a bit gloomy. But that only makes the cricket score shine all the brighter.
Here, below, is a photo of the spot that I took the above photo from:
Yes it’s the Oval Pavilion. There is now sunshine, going sideways because by now it is the evening. Surrey have narrowly defeated Notts and all is well with the world, unless you were supporting Notts.
Here is another photo which I took a year later, from almost the same spot. Just sitting a bit further back:
Judging by the next photo I took, I must have surveyed the scene. 240 Blackfriars. St Paul’s. Yellow cranes. Yes, let’s take a closer look at those yellow cranes:
However, since taking all of the above (and a great many more (to say nothing of vans outside)) I have taken also to visiting another excellent Big Thing viewing platform, namely the one at the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
And when I looked more closely at the above photo of the yellow cranes, I observed this:
Still the yellow cranes, but this time we can also see the Tate Modern Tower much more clearly. And the Tate Modern Extension is right behind a new block of flats, one of the ones already referred to in this earlier posting, about how you can see right into these new flats from the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.
So, if I could see parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform from the top of the Oval Pavilion, it ought also to be possible to see the top of the Oval Pavilion from parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.
And so it proved. On my first expedition to the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform, I had given no thought to the Oval Pavilion. But on my second visit, having scrutinised my Oval photos in the manner described above, I tried to photo the Oval Pavilion. A lot, because I couldn’t myself see it properly.
On the right, in green, the famous Oval Gasometer.
Here, in case you are in any way unsure, is the Oval Pavilion:
For the last few days, I have been asking myself why I so much relish little visual duets of this sort. Liking A, liking B, seeing A from B, seeing B from A. Why am I so diverted by this? Rather than answer this question, I will just leave it, for now, at putting the question. I have the beginnings of some answers meandering about in my head, but they can wait.
Or to give it its official name, City Hall.
I took this photo of City Hall in April of this year, from the other side of the river, outside the Tower of London:
Until this evening, I thought of this photo merely as the most flattering photo I have taken of this mostly rather ungainly, and frankly, frequently rather dirty looking building.
But, I just noticed that quite aside from it being such a flattering view of this edifice, my photo reveals that there is a spiral staircase in there. I’m right. Look closely, and you’ll see it too.
And here, by way of further proof, is a very artistic type photo of this same staircase, taken by Aaron Yeoman. You have to scroll down quite a lot at the end of that link to reach this photo, so if you want quickly to see it bigger, click on this instead:
If you are outside a building, this is the kind of thing you only see at dusk, when natural light and artificial light are in a state of approximate equality. You wouldn’t be able to see that staircase in the bright light of the day, because you wouldn’t be able to see the lights inside the building.
Plus, with me, you need to allow a few months for me to realise. My camera sees far more than I do, and I discover new stuff in my old photos months and often years later.
So far as I can work out, from looking at the what you can visit bit of the City Hall website, regular members of the mere public are not allowed to go up this staircase to the top. But you never really know about things like this until you actually go there, and ask. Next time I’m there, I might drop in and do exactly that.
I continue to hoover up White Van pictures whenever an interesting one presents itself. And this one, that I encountered yesterday evening in Victoria Street, is surely a classic of the genre:
What I enjoy so much about this van is how this enterprise clearly started out in a state of in-your-face honesty. Yeah, we do lavs. Our boss is Dave. Workplaces need lavs. You got a problem with that? Everyone needs to piss and/or shit every now and again.
But then, as business expanded, the euphemisms crept in. Changing the website was too complicated, but the surrounding verbiage got more polite and decorous. That’s my take, anyway. Have you ever seen the word “welfare” used like that? I haven’t. “Welfare Vans” sounds a bit like something laid on by the Japanese Army during the war, providing you-know-what to the soldiery, and for which they still refuse to apologise to the women thus made use of.
Go to www.davlav.com and it’s all explained:
These self-contained welfare vans offer independent diesel heating, washing, toilet and kitchen/eating facilities. Also included are auxiliary power microwave, hand wash and water boiler. Our welfare vehicles offer superior standards and are completely mobile, providing staff with all the facilities required by current employment law. All parts comply with the new legislation for Whole Vehicle Type Approval.
I might have guessed there’d be government regulations involved.
Indeed. Photoed by me yesterday, inside the original bit of Tate Modern:
Actually, if you look carefully, you see that these people aren’t exactly the same distances apart. The ones further away are a bit further apart. Which only adds to the effect.
More fundamentally, my picture shows people, but no Art. The contrast, between the bigness of these buildings - Tate Modern, Tate Modern Extension - and the almost complete absence of Modern Art in most of these huge spaces, is truly bizarre. Modern Art dwarfed by Architectural Modernity, you might say. There are these pokey little collections of stuff in medium sized spaces, off the big main spaces, and I looked in on one of these shows. I thought it was downright pathetic. Not offensive or nasty, you understand. Just feeble and totally underwhelming. It looked like a few giant toys, that someone had forgotten to tidy up, lying about in a giant nursery. And I don’t think it was just me. I heard others commenting along similarly underwhelmed lines.
The only popular enthusiasm that I observed was being expressed for the view from the top of the new Extension building. London is as fascinating and variegated to gaze out upon as Modern Art, to judge by the stuff I saw, is dreary and banal.
This computer upheaval I’ve been having lately was caused by me running out of computer storage space and my existing computer storage space having to be replaced. All the informational clobber that had been stored on the old two terrorbite disc had to be shifted onto a new four terrorbite disc. This took longer than was anticipated. That is what was happening over the weekend.
Today something else happened. The new computer arrangementspent the whole day noisily chuntering to itself, about something or other, in a way that I found most troubling. Was this chuntering the new normal? Is this it? Is the new four terrorbite disc just permanently noisy? And then, finally, early in the evening, the chuntering suddenly stopped. And my computer sent itself an email saying that it had been doing some backing up, of the sort that happens at the beginning of every month. Thank goodness for that. There has since been no more chuntering. There will presumably be occasional bursts of chuntering in the future, but when they happen, I will be able rationally to hope that the chuntering will soon cease.
In amongst all this chuntering, I went on a short photo-expedition. It was short because I forgot to take my camera. There was chuntering when I left. There was chuntering when I returned. But thanks to being back so very soon, I got to hear the blessed moment when the chuntering ceased, and to note the email that manifested itself at this wondrous moment of incipient silence.
My today has been complicated by me having to wait to get my computer back, and then having to do other stuff with it. This left blogging, if not to the last minute, to about the last hour or so.
Last Friday I mentioned an advantage to you of me posting photos here, rather than words, which is that photos take up less of your time if you decide you don’t like the look of them. Another advantage, to me this time, is that posting photos is probably easier, for me, when I am knackered. Writing when tired involves dozens of things that might go somewhat wrong, but posting photos is a simple matter of doing an easy task, or failing to. There are no degrees of success or failure involved. With each photo, I either get one out of one or nought out of one, and even when I am tired, getting one out of one, although tiring, is entirely doable, and getting nought out of one is entirely correctable. If these words are confusing you, somewhat, this is because I am now tired.
The above photos were also taken last Friday, just before that earlier one was taken, of beautifully covered and nicely lit scaffolding.
The crane in the first picture (1.1) is the same crane as in the last picture (2.3). The scaffolding in the first picture (1.1) is the same as the scaffolding in the third picture (1.3). The picture featuring lots of chimneys and TV aerials was taken from near Victoria, but the crane and the new Big Thing in that picture are both on the other side of the river.
Indeed. Taken by me, earlier this evening:
If you do not share my fondness for scaffolding, or my particular fondness for scaffolding when it is covered up, rather hastily and imperfectly, with huge stretchy plasticky sheeting, or my extreme fondness for all of that when it is hit hard by bright sunlight, well, never mind. You can quickly tell from a photo whether you like it or you don’t like it, which means that if you don’t like it, only a very little of your life is consumed by this thing that you don’t like. I’m not sure if a picture is worth a thousand words. Certainly not in all circumstances. But a picture takes up far less time that a thousand words does, except if you want it to. Which explains a lot about this blog.
Last weekend and all through this week, despite still not being totally well, I have been doing lots of socialising. I now face more. This Friday I have a meeting at my own home (Michael Jennings speaking about Australia). Today, my cricket buddy Darren and I are going to see Surrey v Gloucs at the Oval. Plus, The Guru and I are, in the midst of all this, trying to fix a visit by him to see to my big old home computer ("Dawkins" is the name I think I gave it), in time to beat the Windows 10 For Free deadline, which I think is on Friday also. So, blogging here during the next few days may be more perfunctory than usual. It may not, but it may.
On the other hand, blogging doesn’t need to take that long, and while doing this apology-for-not=blogging posting, I also concocted another blog posting. See below.
This is why I make a point of promising nothing, so very frequently. Once I have promised nothing, my immediate inclination is to break that promise. Whereas, if I promise something, that is all too likely to be the promise that will get broken.
I love before and after pictures. Here is another, showing how the world looked before Blackfriars Bridge Railway Station was built (photo taken in 2004), and after it was built (photo taken a few weeks ago).
What the two pictures have in common in those ghostly red columns, left over from an earlier Blackfriars railway bridge.
I seem to recall once upon a time speculating that the ugly lump next to the Shard made the Shard possible.Yes:
The Ugly Lump with the gasometer in front of it, on the right, is Guy’s Hospital. The other day I heard myself surmising that maybe if Guy’s Hospital had never been built, the Shard might not have been built either. As it was, there was no nearby neighbourhood or particular bit of the London skyline to ruin, aesthetically speaking, because that job had already been done by Guy’s. As it was, any aesthetical objection to the Shard was, as far as the immediate locals were concerned, a non-starter.
I still think that’s right. And what I now wonder is: did something similar happen with the new Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge, that you can see in the right hand picture above, but not in the left had one? What I’m thinking is that the view that you see on the left, looking over Blackfriars railway bridge to the towers of the City is perhaps not a view that London’s rulers were especially proud of, what with those columns. Personally, I love the columns. For me, they are classic London at its weirdest and most eccentric. But you can imagine Powerful People being a bit uneasy about this oddity, and about the fact that Something Should Have Been Done About Them, by, you know, them. So, a railways station which spoilt this view, while not doing too much violence to views across the top of the bridge from further away, might not have been unwelcome. Without the columns, however, there was a view that they might not have been so ready to see interrupted.
This is just a speculation, just a thought, just a suggestion. I’m sure lots of other thinking besides that sort of thinking went into the building of this weird and eccentric railway station. (I added the word “more” to my title after first posting this.) But, I think there might be something to this.
Perhaps those Powerful People also hoped that something new and more constructive might be done with the columns, what with the new railway station being built. Maybe such a use was even promised, but later abandoned, for some reasons or other.
LATER: Actually, what I am now realising is that there used to be three disembodied rows of red columns, but that the right hand row as we look got swallowed up in a widened version of the original bridge. My pictures show this rather well, which is why I finally noticed.
Have I ever shown you this photo? I don’t believe I have. If I have, well, I think it’s good, and here it is again, slightly rotated and cropped into a square:
That was taken from the top of Hotel ME, in January 2014. On the left the Spraycan. On the right, the Millbank Tower, with its glorious roof clutter crewcut.
I definitely showed a clutch of other photos I took on the same day (Jan 25), but no, not that one.
This is why I like to trawl back through the photo-archives. I see things I didn’t see at the time.
My entire day today was bent out of shape by a cricket match, between Surrey and Hampshire. Surrey were trying to bowl out Hants and win, but the pitch was a belter and a draw was the likely result all day long. Nevertheless, every time the day looked like it had died, Surrey took more wickets. It reached six down, and Surrey were in with a chance. But then there was yet another long stand, by two Hampshire guys, in a match distinguished by long stands. The game had begun with a stand of over two hundred by the Surrey openers, and the Surrey first innings ended with another two hundred stand, unbroken, between the Surrey wicketkeeper and the Surrey captain, Gareth Batty. So today, Hampshire six down, with the game nearly over.
But then, Batty suddenly got a couple more wickets in the same over, bringing his total for the innings to six and his total for the match to eight, and then Stuart Meaker got another, and suddenly Hampshire were nine down. Could Surrey finish it? Earlier in the season, they got another side nine down but then got beaten by a big tenth wicket stand, so nothing was done and dusted until it was done and dusted. But then Meaker got the final wicket, and it was done and dusted.
The two photos I showed at Samizdata were chosen for their content, not their artistic expression. Here is one of my favourite photos, from the artistic expression point of view, that I took yesterday:
Mmmmmm. Cranes. And roof clutter. And The Wheel.
While out and about taking snaps like that, I was also following the Hampshire v Surrey game on my mobile. When I left my home, Hampshire were nearly all out in their first innings, and Surrey were on course to get them in again and get stuck into their second innings. But while I was drowning my sorrows in photography, Hampshire’s last wicket pair were frustrating Surrey for the last hour and a half of the day, and Hampshire still hadn’t lost their last wicket at close of play. This morning, the stand went on, only ending with a run out. Like I say, this was a match which Surrey always deserved to win, but you never thought they actually would. And then: they did.
Yesterday, I was opining that you shouldn’t let yourself be at the mercy of popular culture, to the point where you start getting angry about sequels and remakes, in this case the remake of Ghostbusters. But this is the fate of every true sports fan. He is at the mercy of events entirely controlled by others, and is doomed to constant disappointment. But, I suppose, there are enough good days, like today was for me, to make it a satisfactory bargain.
And I really am a true Surrey fan. While Surrey were piling up the runs on the first day of this game, England were busy being bowled to defeat by Pakistan. And while this was happening, I was wondering how many Surrey wickets I would surrender to cancel out England wickets. It turned out: hardly any.
So here, to celebrate, is another photo I took, last year, when I actually went to watch Surrey play:
That being Gareth Batty. Man of the Match, and Surrey’s Man of the Season so far.
LATER: Cricinfo agrees:
Batty was not so much leading from the front as picking up those around him, yapping under the helmet and then getting the job done himself. A century in the first innings began his work before two for 78 in the Hampshire reply was bested by a sensational six for 51 in the follow-on. Throw in Stuart Meaker’s reverse swing addled 18 overs of four for 40, and you wonder where the doubt in obtaining a result came from.
But with 10 overs left in the day, hope had all-but gone. At the end of Batty’s 24th over (56th of the match) he walked duck-footed to mid off, shoulders slunk, cap in hand, dreading what might be. Of all long-form cricket’s gut punches, the handshakes after a drawn fixture take the most out of a skipper who has spent the last few hours on top. And Batty’s side had been ahead for the last three days.
Summoning one last push, Batty returned to take two in his next over. Lewis McManus, having started the day with bat in hand, looked like he would finish it, too. But, after six hours and 21 minutes of crease time across both innings, he was finally dismissed to a fast arm ball. Three balls later, Andrew’s outside edge was found with a perfect off spinner. It was left to Meaker to finish things off. Late movement into the right hander did for Gareth Berg, before Mason Crane was the recipient of a bouncer that would haunt the most weathered opening batsmen, let alone a 19-year-old number 10.
Surrey currently sit outside the relegation zone, 10 points away from Nottinghamshire, who have replaced them in the bottom two. Even if Hampshire were to win their game in hand with full bonus points, they would only go one ahead of Surrey. It bears reiterating: rarely will you see a side work so hard to achieve a four day win of this magnitude.
Read the whole thing.
I have been slightly ill for quite a while now. About three weeks. Not properly ill, just slightly ill.
One of the symptoms of being ill is that I don’t like coffee. Normally, I do like coffee. But when ill, I don’t. And for some reason the experience of being slightly ill has thrown this effect into sharp relief. Every morning for the last few weeks, I have asked myself: do I want coffee? Each morning, I have said to myself: yes, I do. Not as much as I do when healthy, but I still want it, more than I don’t want it.
This is because I am mostly well, but a bit ill. Mostly, I still want coffee, but I slightly don’t. Because I am slightly ill.
Maybe it is the constant decision making which has made me so very aware of this equation, that being healthy means I can drink coffee, but that being ill means I don’t.
What this shows is that there is a definite connection between regular coffee drinking and a healthy lifestyle. But, for me at least and probably for quite a few others, the causal arrow goes in the opposite direction to the one usually assumed.
Every so often, Instapundit does a posting about how coffee is good for your health. Drink three cups of coffee every morning and live to be ninety five, that kind of thing. The clear implication is that it is the coffee that is causing you to live so long.
My surmise is that this is wrong. Your healthiness is what is causing you to be so healthy that you live to be ninety five, and your healthiness also causes you to drink lots of coffee. You drink it because you can. You are healthy!
Sickly people, the sort who die younger, cannot stomach coffee. But it is their sickliness that kills them, not their failure to drink coffee.
I can’t be the first person to say all this. I am slightly ill, and so can’t be bothered to search out all the other people who say such things. But, I bet they are out there.