Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Javier on Droneverts
Alastair on Wembley Arch lighting contrast
Rob Fisher on What does Thames "RIB" Experience mean?
Heathrow Transfers on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on So shiny it looks fake
Patrick Crozier on So shiny it looks fake
Patrick Crozier on So shiny it looks fake
Natalie Solent on Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Most recent entries
- Batman consults his smartphone
- The art of taxi advertising
- Drones are not toys
- Snake on a car
- A particularly good panoramic view of central London
- Coastline politics at Samizdata
- Wembley Arch lighting contrast
- A blown up airplane and a dodgy internet connection
- Rereading a Rebus
- Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
- More birds on a TV aerial
- Van – grey but very interesting
- Union Jacks having fun
- Another TV aerial
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Category archive: London
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.
Fact about London that is little known by those who don’t live there or don’t go there: black cabs, at least as likely as not, aren’t.
Here are four that I photoed recently:
The Easyjet taxi is orange all over. The other three have adverts only on their sides, but two out of three of them aren’t even black on the bits of the taxis where the adverts aren’t. Only two of these “black cabs” are even partially black, and the RAW taxi is only partially black (ish) because the advert is (ish).
Quite a lot of taxis can be seen which have no adverts, but are just a different plain colour. White, grey, blue, red, whatever. I realise that those who live in London or who visit London from time to time know all this, but the world does contain people who do not fall into this category, and maybe you are one of them. Unlikely, I know, but there are people like this who do read this blog, even if most of them are only spam commenters.
Adverts on vehicles strike me as very photoable, because in a few months the adverts will be replaced, and even the enterprise itself is liable to be gone in a few years.
Speaking of taxis which aren’t advertising anything, but are just not black, how about this one?:
I spotted that one recently, outside Victoria Station. I was in a hurry to meet someone, so I had no time to scrutinise it carefully to see if an advert is actually buried in there, somewhere. But, I rather think that if that is an advert involved, it is an advert for the artist who did it. Maybe the artist was paid, or maybe the artist paid.
It might make sense for the artist to pay. I recently asked a black cabbie how much he got paid for his black cab to be embraced by an advert, and he said it was around seventy quid a month. That might be worth it for an artist, to put himself about, by flashing pictures of the cab that he had unblackened around amongst his mates and potential customers. But, what do I know?
I already showed here some pictures I took in August, in and from Epsom.
Here is another, which shows the whole of central London:
Click to get that original size, 4000 pixels across, but the sky, as above, removed.
Most of the well-known views of London are from the north looking south or from the south looking north. This is from the south west looking north east. Given that quite a lot of the river, the bit between Vauxhall Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, actually flows south-north rather than east-west, you get some rather unfamiliar ordering amongst the Big Things, with the Post Office Tower, for instance, being quite a way to the left of most other Big Things, on account of it being further “north”, but actually a bit away to the north east. I knew you’d be excited.
Here is what the original shot looked like, with the sky kept in. Not a cloud in the sky. Ah, summer. It’s amazing how abruptly the summer seems to have ended. One moment it’s daylight until nine in the evening, now it’s dark at six, and the clocks haven’t even gone forward yet.
Yesterday I again went to the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, but the early onset of the dark surprised me, and the light (which I depend on rather a lot) was too dark and too horizontal and shady for very good results. But I still like these two shots, of the new Wembley Arch, testing my zoom lens to its outer limits:
I particularly like the version on the left, with that little bit of sun slashing through a gap in the clouds, off to the left as we look. I include the one on the right because of the contrast. In itself, it would not really have deserved a showing. For once, a crane intrudes, in the left hand picture, and I am not happy.
It occurs to me that when people started taking photos like this, just as blurry but in black and white, maybe it got the painters thinking. They could both imitate the blurriness, but also do it in colour, as the photographers for a long time couldn’t. Et voilà. Impressionism.
What the tower on the left is, I do not know.
I recently photoed this van:
What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message. “GREY MOTH”.
My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise. That’s what this posting was going to be about. (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”. I quickly learned all about VOITH.)
Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths. (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH. A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)
Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back. This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as: www.grey-moth.com, crucially including that all-important hyphen. Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be. And it turns out to be a very interesting business. I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it. Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.
I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while. And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no. If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two). Or: not. And I decided: not.
Drones, in other words, are not toys. But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out. Like Grey-Moth does.
Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.
Click at will, to get bigger, less square pictures.
Displayed in chronological order. Taken between May 2011 and August 2014. When I took that last one, of the bikini-wearing bottle openers, that got me collecting all the others. That last one is definitely the one where the Union Jacks are having the most fun.
A perhaps not very much known about vantage point from which to take photos out over London is from the top of John Lewis, in Oxford Street. Although, it seems that, as of now, this Roof Garden is closed. It will be opening again soon.
I went up there last summer, and looking at the photos I took then, I particularly like this one:
That’s the artistic version.
Here is the more informative version:
That makes it a bit clearer what the background is. But I think that’s also rather artistic.
Big Things: tick. Cranes: tick. Roof clutter: tick tick tick.
Big Things plural, because in addition to The Wheel, we can also observe, hiding behind chimneys and crane on the right is the top of the Strata, the three holed tower at the Elephant and Castle. You can see the Strata in the top picture also, bottom right.
I don’t know what that ecclesiastical looking spike is on the left, and nor do I know what the black jaggedy roof is.
But I like the pictures anyway, whatever the jaggedy roof is. Maybe, any month now, I’ll go looking for it. I find that Google Maps, the aerial (hah!) photo version, can be useful for things like this. Maybe later, although I promise nothing.
I’m becoming rather fond of aerials.
I’ve spent all my blogging time today trying to write a couple of things for Samizdata, so once again it’s quota photo time, this time in the form of a photo of Tom Cruise that I photoed recently, just a few minutes before I took this footbridge photo. To be more exact, it is a photo of a photo, of Tom Cruise:
That photo that you see in my photo is to be seen outside the Duchess Theatre in the West End, where the play being shown Goes Wrong, every night, without, although this may not be quite the way to describe things, fail.
I assume that you can only exhibit a picture of Tom Cruise like that if Tom Cruise gives his permission. If that’s right, Tom Cruise proves himself to be a good sport. Or, perhaps, a greedy bastard. But for now, I’m going with good sport, if only because if he got greedy, they couldn’t afford it.
Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.
See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street. Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.
And see also, this ...:
… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square. A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.
I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.
I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery. And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.
But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been. Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.
Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV. Yes, this explains a lot.
Photoed at the same time I took this.
LATER: It occurs to me to wonder why all the pigeons are pointing in the same direction. It’s like they are all watching TV. It was a windy morning. Maybe they were all pointing away from the wind. Or maybe they were all pointing at ninety degrees to me, so that they could keep an eye on me. Not both eyes, because (guess) that’s not how most bird eyes work. (Owl eyes, yes.)
Yesterday I was reminding myself that we live in an age when pub quiz questions have instant answers. So when, soon after posting that posting, I came across this photo I took a while back, of a boat, …:
… with the words “THAMES RIB EXPERIENCE” written on it, I set to work to find out what the “RIB” bit means. I had vaguely supposed that this was some sort of steakhouse sponsorship deal. The world is now full of ridiculous arrangements of that sort, sponsored by commercial enterprises whose only way to sell more of their stuff is to cause even more people to have heard of it. The mere merits of the product being irrelevant, for their purposes. “Yes it’s bad for you but it tastes really nice” not being a message they want to be too publicly and explicitly associated with, because then they’d have the health fascists all over them.
So “Thames Rib Experience” as an exercise is boosting meat consumption? But which ribs should we be consuming. Just ribs generally? The British Rib Council, a combined consortium of ribbers, combining to boost ribs in general? It didn’t seem very plausible. So, what does RIB really mean?
It turns out that RIB means rigid inflatable boat.
This is a triviality, of course, unless you are in life-threateningly urgent need of a rigid inflatable boat trip on the Thames. But the change in the world towards a state where it is much easier to find things out is not trivial. The story that lots of people mention in this connection, and lots of people are not wrong, is the ease with which a formerly dirt poor farmer now can, in the depths of the African countryside, keep himself informed about the prices he can expect to get for his products, when he takes them to market.
Quicker and better answers to questions is all part of why all this stuff has been happening lately.
I took this photo from the roof of my block of flats this morning, of a brick tower, out beyond Victoria, with a rather startled expression on its face:
What is that?
We now live in a time when questions like that have pretty much immediate answers, and I went looking.
And I was reminded that the internet can be wrong as well as right about things, even about things which ought not to be a matter of opinion. Which I already knew, but it’s interesting to get caught up in the wrongness, from time to time.
A shot tower is a tower designed for the production of shot balls by freefall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin. The shot is used for projectiles in firearms.
But more confident and more numerous internet places persuade me that this is actually a pumping station tower. Or rather, it was.
Apparently, over there in Chelsea, there used to be a canal, the Grosvenor Canal. Bits of it are still there, but most bits, it would seem, not.
A remaining waterworks building, known as the Western Pumping Station still remains beside the site of the canal and its chimney is something of a landmark in the area. However, the chimney now acts as a ventilation shaft for sewers rather than its original purpose of being the chimney for boilers.
So, never a shot tower. Once a pumping station tower. Now a ventilation chimney.
This scaffolding is recent. I photoed it today:
That’s Waterloo, the new bit, the bit where the Eurostar trains used to arrive and depart, into that big New Thing that looks like a big, elongated greenhouse. And what I think we observe here is the start of getting those Eurostar platforms-that-were back into business. Not before time.
Here is an Evening Standard piece from March, when this refurbishment was announced. From that, a visual of what the new concourse area will look like:
Memo to self. I’ll take a look inside Waterloo, Real Soon Now, to see how this is looking from there. Although I doubt there will be much to see. But, maybe that raised-up shopping mall will make it easier to see what’s happening.
More about the revamp in a later ES piece, from July, here.
Is there another such in London?:
Well, probably yes, quite a few such. But, there is definitely that one. It’s the top of the restored guess version of the Globe Theatre.
As seen, of course, from the top of the Tate Modern Extension. It’s right next to Tate Modern (the thing on the left of the picture), and you need to get right to the back of the viewing gallery, or you don’t see it.
I reckon it’s already starting to look a bit threadbare.
All regulars here (such people do exist) know that I love an alignment, of two London Big Things.
So. Tower Bridge. You see that in plenty of photos. The Dome. Ditto. But how often do you see them in the same photo, right next to one another? I just tried googling “Tower Bridge The Dome”. Nothing. All I got was pictures of each, separately, (mostly Tower Bridge), and lots of instructions about how to get from one to the other on foot, on the tube, etc.
So, take a look at this:
Just to be sure we know what we are talking about, here is a square of detail, from another closer-up shot of the same alignment:
In the middle there we see the top of the northern tower of Tower Bridge. And just to its left, as we look, through a gap in the big Docklands towers, we see a clutch of cranes, yellow, red and grey. Except, the yellow cranes are not cranes. They are the spikes of the Dome, and the Dome is the white expanse below the cranes and the spikes.
It took me quite a few visits to the top of the Tate Modern Extension, from where these shots were taken, and quite a few looks at the photos that I had taken, to work out that this particular photo was there to be photoed. I don’t claim that my photos are photo-perfection. They merely prove that all you Real Photographers out there, who might want to improve on the bridge camera quality of my efforts, can now get up there and do just that.