Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Europe

Sunday March 10 2019

Here:

image

It reminds me of the scene at the end of Starship Troopers (a scene which I may now be imagining (but I think it happened)) where the victorious Starship Troopers celebrate their capture of The Queen Bug.

Wednesday March 06 2019

Yesterday, as already noted, I was out and about in London.  And another interesting thing I photoed was this, also healthcare-related:

image

I photoed this photo with his permission, by the way.

I guess that the purpose of this gizmo is to enable the knee-joint to keep moving, while remain in its correct state, without putting any (or at any rate undue) strain on it, the strain being taken by the gizmo and the bits of limb it is attached to rather than (only) by the joint.

But, truthfully, I don’t really know.  What I do know, just from looking at this photo, is that there is a definite plan in action, and that it is helping a lot, far more than one of those big old rigid plaster caste monsters would have.

Here is a close-up of the name of this contraption …:

image

… which enabled me to find some produktinformation.  What the gizmo does is Führung und Stabilisierung des Kniegelenks.  Which is, I rather think (guess), pretty much what I just said.

Wednesday February 27 2019

Patrick Crozier and I have just fixed our next podcast, which we will record early next week.  Read about and listen to earlier ones here, and in due course this next one will go there too.  And for this next one, we will talk about … Brexit.  I knew you’d be excited.

Many claim that they are bored by Brexit, and maybe many are.  Although I suspect some are really just pissed off with not getting exactly what they want.  (And who is getting exactly what they want?) Either that, or actually only bored with other people’s opinions, but not with their own.  Me, I find the whole process rather fascinating, now that I have got over having been so wrong about it.  I thought that Brexit would lose the Referendum, but it won.  And I thought that once it had won, it would happen without too much fuss, because the Conservative Party leavers would mostly bow to the inevitable.  As of now, that hasn’t happened, and doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

Brexit is a subject that Patrick has strong opinions about, which is good because although this will not stop me interrupting (I’m afraid I always interrupt), it may at least mean that some of the times when I do interrupt, he’ll interrupt back and shut me up until he’s finished the point he was making before I interrupted.

Here is a Brexit photo I recently photoed, of a bus driving around and around Parliament Square, saying Believe in Britain and LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, but with nobody in the bus apart from the driver:

image

They all left, I guess.

Monday February 11 2019

The Guardian quips:

You wait decades for a city …

The city in question being London.

… to get a world-class concert hall and two come along at once.

GodDaughter2’s family used to live in Wimbledon, back in the last century.  Something tells me I will be back there quite a lot in the next few years.

The first of these two halls is, I should say, this one.

How about another superb state-of-the-art concert hall somewhere in the Thames Estuary, out East.  That would be very cool.  Something like this.  Maybe later, eh?

Saturday January 26 2019

This looks promising.  I’ve been waiting all my life for a really good orchestral concert hall, to replace the abominable Royal Festival Hall, and it looks more and more like the City of London is going to oblige.

Here’s how they are now saying it will look:

image

Well, maybe it really will look like that.

Here’s what the outside will look like:

image

Combines being boring with being ungainly and awkward.  But then, that was what I thought when I first saw the fake-photos for the Walkie-Talkie, and now I love that Thing.  Maybe this Thing will play out the same.  Hope so.

This is how the top of it will look:

image

This is apparently where the horror that is Jazz will be perpetrated.  Sorry, if you like Jazz. If you like it, like away.  But I hate it, ever since it stopped being pop music.

But, that view looks great.  So, the question is: Do I like great views out over London, more than I hate Jazz?

A good way to learn more about this building, what it consists of and where it is, is to watch the video in this Classic FM report.

As for their report, I particularly like when they quote Simon Rattle, whose musical castle this will surely be:

At the press briefing for the new concept designs, Simon Rattle batted away concerns surrounding Brexit, saying: “It’s important for us to remember there are other things going on in this country other than Brexit.

“It won’t make anything easier, but we are trying to deal with something else at the moment. I think we also have to place our confidence in the extraordinary cultural life of this country, and support it.”

Life goes on.  I sense that Brexit Acceptance may now be setting in.

They say it’s going to cost a mere £288 million.  You can double that.  But The City will surely find the money, and I am very glad that The City is having to find the money.  I love classical music, more than life, but nobody who is indifferent to it should be forced to pay for the likes of me to listen to it being performed.  (Any more than I should have to pay for Jazz.)

Monday January 21 2019

This:

Baffling insanity to read more attacks from People’s Vote types on Norway this morning. What in the bowels of fuck are you doing? In what possible world is that an appropriate target right now?

I have very little idea of what this Twitter-storm is about, other than Bexit in a general sort of way, and frankly I don’t care.  But I love that “bowels of fuck” bit.

He’s mixing “What the fuck” with this famous Cromwellian utterance.  Just the one word, “bowels”, makes this unmistakable, because there is surely no other famous quote with this word in it.

I love the fun you can have with the English language, mixing it and matching it like this.  Do other languages work just as well for this kind of thing, or is English a bit special in this regard?  Sadly for me, English is the only language I know at all well, for purposes like this.

Wednesday January 02 2019

I just posted something at Samizdata about a talk I’ll be doing for Christian Michel this coming Sunday, i.e. January 6th.  A rerun of this, basically, but with my thinking somewhat further advanced.

In the course of my homework for this posting, and for the talk itself, I came across these two rather fine images, which nicely illustrate the two history dates loom large in my story, the invention of the printing press …:

image

… and the invention of the electric telegraph:

image

I found these images here, and here.

Note how all the books are German.  A major impact of printing being nationalism.

Tuesday January 01 2019

Happy New Year to all my readers.  Every time I go out to a party, I encounter people who read this thing, despite all its technical stupidities and despite the fact that the subject matter is just me musing aloud.  So good morning to you all and I hope that not only I, but also you, have a good 2019.  (Yes, I’m managing to keep up, approximately speaking, there also, where my musings are more structured and disciplined.)

This being Jan 1st, I offer you a sunrise:

image

Usually when the sky is that colour in my photos, it’s a sunset.  But it all came back to me when I chanced upon these photos, of an expedition to Alicante.  Basically, I visit all the bits of France and Spain that my ex-Quimper friends have or have had bits of property in.  And they had a place in Alicante, or they rented it, or something.  Maybe they still have it.  So, I went to Alicante, in January 2010.  And, the above photo was taken by me at a bus stop in Vauxhall Bridge Road, looking back across Vauxhall Bridge, while waiting for a bus to take me and all my holiday clobber in the opposite direction along Vauxhall Bridge Road to Victoria Station, where I eventually caught a bus to the airport.  With much confusion, as I recall it, about exactly where the damn bus departed from.  Had I not happened upon another traveller who knew, I might have missed that airplane.

All of which clarifies a fact that has for me become more and more clear over the years, that although blogs are not diaries, photo-archives are.  I have photoed many photos which I would not even consider sticking up here.  But they have all piled up on my hard disc.  I live, you might say, a double life.  There’s my, you know, life.  And then there’s my photoed life, which I can relive any time I want, and see all my friends and relatives and remember all the private things we said and did, the way you people very rarely get even to hear about, never mind learn the private details of.

This blog, meanwhile, is a severely edited subsection of my diary, with some added words, added in a way that I hope doesn’t make me appear too ridiculous.  Very different.

To add some words to the above photo, I realise that in addition to loving roof clutter, I am also becoming ever more fond of street clutter, which, due to the anarchic and non-mutually-communicating nature of London’s public sector, London possesses an abundance of.  Much of it is, like most modern roof clutter, severely utilitarian, which I like, because nobody is trying to make it look pretty.  But much ground clutter is very beautiful, especially London’s more showy street lamps.

Love the new keyboard.  So solid and strong.  Happiness is being able to check all the letters and symbols on your keyboard, as you type.

Monday December 24 2018

Here is Renzo Piano’s design for a new bridge in Genoa to replace the one that collapsed:

image

Nice, I think.  Does the job, with no fuss and much elegance.

A lot of the “photos” make this look like the Millau Viaduct.  However, the spikes on the top are light fittings, not structural columns.  All the load bearing is done by the columns under the roadway.

Saturday December 15 2018

Well, it’s official.  I care more about cricket, as played by anyone, than I care about football, as played by Spurs, the football team that I tell myself I support.

If I truly support Spurs, how come I only bothered to wonder the next day how badly they had lost to Barcelona recently, in their clearly doomed attempt to qualify for the last sixteen of the European Champions League, or whatever they call it?  Answer me that.  On the night, I was so concerned about when the next test match between Australia and India would start, and whether I could hear any commentary on it, that I completely ignored Spurs.  When you consider that this Barca/Spurs game was on Tuesday night, and that the Australia/India game didn’t start until the small hours of Friday morning, you can see what a crap Spurs fan I am.

It was only some time on Wednesday that I internetted the news that Spurs had got a draw against Barca (thanks to a late equaliser), and that because Inter Milan had also only got a draw in their game, Spurs had squeaked through, but only after an agonising wait for the Inter result caused by that game going on for a couple of minutes longer.

While all this drama was going on, I was oblivious to it, and was instead scratching about on the internet chasing that cricket game.

Which is still going on.  Day 3 will be getting underway in a few hours, on Radio 5 live sports extra.  My sleep is already deranged, in a way that usually only happens when England are playing in Australia.

Today, I did keep track of the Spurs Burnley game, which Spurs won (thanks to a very late winner).  So: more drama.  But although I was aware of this while it was happening, I was again scandalously relaxed about it all, despite this game being billed as a Spurs Must Win If They Are To Stay In With A Chance To Win The League sort of a game.  Oh well, I was thinking, as it remained 0-0 right up until extra time.  Oh well, that’s how it goes.  Maybe next year, when they have their own stadium to play in.

Maybe the reason I am not shouting at Spurs in my kitchen, urging them on to glory, is that they are indeed engaged in building themselves a brand new custom built headquarters, in the form of that new White Hart Lane stadium.  So according to my way of thinking, they shouldn’t now be doing this well.

However, it would seem that all the money that the new stadium will bring into the club has caused Spurs to do something now that they haven’t been doing for several decades, which is keep their best players.  I’m talking about the likes of Kane, Deli Alli, Moura (who scored the late equaliser against Barca) and Eriksen (who got today’s very late winner).  Such stars might still make more money if they went to Real Madrid or some such even richer club.  But, at Real, they might not do as well on the pitch as they are now doing for Spurs.  They might then fall off the football pyramid of greatness, never to climb back on it again.  Footballers are interested in money and glory, not just in money, not least because glory turns into more money later, when they later try to get football jobs without being players any more.  Spurs look like they could be about to do both money and glory rather well.

The same goes for the current rather-hard-to-spell Spurs manager who is masterminding all this.  Many now assume that he will shortly move to Madrid.  I’m not so sure.

I mean, if this is how well these Spurs guys can do while the new Spurs HQ is still being finished, think how well they might do when they get really settled in in the new place and are able to concentrate entirely on football.

Or maybe it’s that a new stadium is not really a new headquarters building, more like a huge new factory, for something like a brand new airplane.  Boeing bets the company every time they launch a totally new aircraft.  A football club bets itself whenever it moves into a new stadium. But this stadium is actually for doing football, rather than just a place to do lots of headquartering.

Monday November 26 2018

As I earlier said, about this taxi, and various photoshopped variants of it:

I hope I chance upon the original, and get a go at photoing it myself.

Well, yesterday, in Warwick Way, I did chance upon it:

image

I speculated recently that photoing sculpture might be easier to do well in cloudy light.  I also recently speculated that something similar might well apply with brightly coloured vehicles.  The above bright yellow taxi would seem to confirm this.

Next advert-taxi target, this very cute Swarovski taxi.  I have already spotted one of these taxis twice, but my first sighting was in the dark with me burdened with laundrette stuff, and my second sighting was yesterday morning, but after I had been shopping and was thus similarly burdened.  I tried to photo it, but it had moved on before I could.

Photoing taxis is a lot easier when they are parked.  It is also easier if the driver is not present.  If he is, I say I am interested in his advert, and ask permission to photo first.  Once they know you aren’t snooping on their parking habits, they’re usually very agreeable.

I often find the Tweets at Market Urbanism baffling, because they concern obscure American political disputes.  But even as I am baffled by the second half of this (what on earth does “filter hard and fast” mean?), I agree with the first half.  I also unironically love these:

image

The Tweet contains a link to this Bloomberg report, which is where Market Urbanism and I got that photo, and which notes (rather gleefully/) that the builder of these things has gone bankrupt.

I do unironically love these gloriously unfashionable little stately homes, but I do not totally love everything about them.  Because what is about each one of these fake chateaux, is lots of others that are identical.  A lot of the point of living in a building like this is surely that there is nothing else like it in the vicinity.  Such a pile should be uniquely recognisable, and architecturally victorious over all the neighbours in the “my house is the poshest” contest.  If there is going to be a herd of these things, let there be a bit of variety.

But despite all those nitpicks, I do think that the world could use a lot more fake antiquity of this kind.  In particular, I wish more of this sort of stuff was allowed in England.  Uninterrupted “honest” modernity can get very dreary, I find.  I love those London Big Things that I bang on about here, but a lot of the fun of them is how, closer up, they often tower over buildings erected a couple of centuries earlier.

However, the trouble with newly minted fake antiquity is that this too can look rather dreary and soulless.

When fake antiquity really comes into its own is when it has been around for a while, and people can no longer see how fake it is.

The world seems to be full of well-connected, in-power aestheticians - who demand that every new building be modern, and badly-connected, out-of-power aestheticians - who hate modernity.  I want lots of both, all muddled together.

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:

image

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:

image

And then this:

image

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.

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:

image

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:

image

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:

image

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:

image

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.