Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Along the river towards Battersea
- Lovely light
- Animals not understanding cameras
- The Wires get mentioned! (But it makes no difference!)
- More Big Olympic Thing photos
- Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
- Going from knowing a piece of music to also knowing what it is
- Don’t mention The Wires!!!
- White Van Brians
- A Shiny Thing by Frank Stella Hon RA
- Richard J. Evans on how evidence can become more significant over time
- Another from the archives
- Big 4
- Another quota sign
- Magic clarified
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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This and that
For much of yesterday, the world economy teetered on the edge of chaos, on account of this blog being out of action. In the USA, people from all walks of life complained that, without this blog, sneering at Brits and celebrating the defeat of Britain in the revolutionary war of 1776 or whenever became too difficult, without this blog as an explanation for their otherwise incoherent resentment.
Australians wanting to find out who won the Ashes in 2011 had to look elsewhere for news.
And all over Europe, policy makers, seeking light relief from their self-imposed task of ensuring that the EU goes out with a huge bang rather than with an orderly and rational recognition of what ought really to be done, looked to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom for solace. But it was not there.
How can we be expected to lead the European economy over a cliff in the proper manner, exclaimed Big European Cheeses, if we can’t divert ourselves every now and again with pictures of London bridges, and of new London towers, like the big spiky one and the one with the three holes in the top? After a hard hour fretting about Spaniards who are about to riot and then die of starvation unless we print some more money and give it to ourselves, we need to be able to contemplate roof clutter, stuff about something called “Samizdata”, and photos of London tourists taking photos, another Big European Cheese added.
Fortunately, BMDC came back on line yesterday afternoon, and the happiness of the world and the orderly progress of Europe towards self-inflicted ruin was reestablished in the nick of time.
One of the best things about making the territory right near where you live, in my case London, the principle object of your photographic devotion, is that if you find some particular place that you especially like, you can go back there and have another go at it.
So, for instance, having found my way to the top of One New Change on May 5th, I went back there on May 22nd. And the pick of the new crop of photos I took from there was definitely this one:
That this building does reflection so well just adds to that invisible-to-radar vibe.
In the forecourt of the Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road is a big 4, which gets variably decorated from time to time. This is the latest variant, photoed by me this afternoon:
That must be a guy in a wheel chair, there to flag up the Paralympics coverage on C4.
And yes indeed, perfect summer weather.
So, for instance, I saw some weird looking flyswapper thingies on the top of the MI6 Building, sparkling away in the sunshine at the outer limit of my field of effective vision, when on my way to Vauxhall Station the other night. I supposed them to be some kind of magical telecommunicational devices. I photoed them, only to discover just now, perusing the snaps of them at home, the much more prosaic reality.
I gave the word “Railings” a separate paragraph there, and this explanation of that another seperate paragraph, on account of the text before these changes being insufficient to accommodate the picture.
There is something a bit ostentatiously irrational about the structure of these railings, however. They are just asking to be bent out of shape. So, an easy rather than a silly mistake to have made.
I couldn’t decide which of these two recent snaps I like better, so here are both of them:
The one on the left was taken first. The sky is lighter, later, because I mostly use automatic, and that big lump of darkness at the bottom of the right hand picture lightened the sky above it, so to speak.
They were taken on Tuesday evening, just before it got dark, from Southwark Bridge, looking over Cannon Street station, which sticks out over the river.
Last night we had a Transport Blog dinner, dinners every now and again being all that is now left of Transport Blog.
As I told the guys last night, if we did still have Transport Blog, then this would have gone up there, rather than here:
Forget about train privatisation. What the world needs is giant motorised shopping trolleys.
If you are a regular partaker here, you may be starting to suspect that I am back to my one a day or maybe ever more but not less rule. Something, however threadbare, every day.
I too have begun to suspect this. But, I promise nothing.
With his latest Samizdata posting title, Perry de Havilland puts his finger on a real problem with blogs that have been around since the year Dot. The feeling that you’ve said it all before:
I may have said this before but ...
Because, you have.
Say it anyway mate. One of the major rules to follow to be an effective propagandist is that you must be willing to repeat yourself. Say it again. And again, and again and again. And again.
This guy is one of the most effective propagandists on the planet just now. Central to his success is his willingness to say, again, something he said only minutes earlier, and again, and ...
“This is a guy who literally is walking around in a dark room trying to find the light switch of leadership.”
Ouch, says Instapundit. Indeed. But what Instapundit means is that this denunciation of President Obama by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie really hits home. I don’t think the pain he feels is caused by that “literally”.
Literally used to mean: this is not a metaphor. Now literally means: I am really serious about this metaphor and I really want you to listen.
Much as I have enjoyed digging out and showing to you various London photos of mine that don’t feature any Big Things, the fact remains that my favourite of all my recent photos is of precisely one of these Big Things, seen through some trees:
This was taken on March 20th of this year.
It’s Strata of course. That being a posting with a couple of other favourite photos I took.
As I said there:
One of the symptoms of a great London Big Thing is that you can recognise it at once in a photo, even if it is very blurred, ...
April in London was a horrible month, weatherwise, and I did hardly any wandering about and photo-ing. May has mostly been pretty awful too, but there have been breaks in the weather badness, and things seem finally to be brightened up, so the Misc May file already contains some fun stuff.
Most of the following, like most of the earlier Misc March snaps, were taken in Southwark, between Waterloo, Southwark tube and the the river:
Click for the bigger pictures.
Note in particular that really, really ugly building, top right, which is in central London, right next to the river (to the north). How people can moan about Things like the Shard in a city that contains that, well … you get the picture. I hope to return to that monstrous lump, take more photos, and say more about it, although I promise nothing.
I also like to oriental god, bottom right, in a building supplies back yard. What it is doing there I have no idea.
Some of the photos I take are of big and photogenic Things. But like many, many photographers, I also like to take photos of insignificant things, unconsidered trifles, weirdnesses and oddities. Most such snaps tend to get filed in directories the titles of which include “Misc”, as in: Misc for miscellaneous.
Here are a few such snaps I took in March of this year.
Click on a square to get the big picture.
As you can see, I like roof clutter, and roofs generally.
The thing about buildings is that when it comes to their facades, huge efforts are made to make them look just so. But on the roof, it seems you can do pretty much what you like. You can have a roof garden. You can have a clump of radio transmitters and radio receivers, for phones and suchlike. You can have stupid wind turbines. In former times, you could put whatever twiddly diddly spikes and spires you liked. Roofs are the aesthetic wild west, a visual anarchy.
I’ve got a photo-essay up at Samizdata about One New Change, which maybe should have had a more compelling and informative title than “One New Change”. Something like: “The roof of One New Change and what you can see from it”.
When on my way to One New Change, walking there from Lower Marsh (i.e. from this shop), I took many other photos, including the ones that follow of bridges. The sky was especially photogenic that day, which was about one week ago. The weather then was generally horrible, but that afternoon seemed like a break in it, and so it proved.
First, a favourite London footbridge (one of many favourite London footbridges), the one that helps to take travellers from Waterloo railway station to Waterloo East railway station:
I love the adhoc-ness of it. I bet when they first put that up, they didn’t think it would still be there however many decades it is later.
Next, one of London’s great out-in-the-open dramas, namely those mysterious columns that used to support an earlier version of Blackfriars railway bridge, and have been there ever since, just standing there, doing nothing but look mysterious. The drama being: what will happen to them? Obviously something. But what? When? ( Will I live to see it?)
There is now much activity on and next to these columns, because, as already noted here, they are rebuilding Blackfriars railway station on the revised and still busy version of Blackfriars railway bridge, all the way across, with entrances on both sides of the river:
But, are they only using the columns to help them build stuff on the old bridge? Will anything permanent be placed on the columns? Little walkways across to Blackfriars road bridge? A couple of little shopping places? Or will they just be left there, again. Like I say, they ought to make something of these things. It’s the kind of thing that architects and designers happen, just now, to be doing really well. So, do it, I say.
Next, how the new Blackfriars railway station is looking, with me looking back into the afternoon sun, which makes it all seem rather foreboding and funereal:
The big metal thing in the foreground is because this was taken from the Millennium Footbridge, the one that joins Tate Modern to St Paul’s.
Finally, from the same spot but looking the other way, down river, which totally cheers up the lighting because now the afternoon sun is behind me, a
classic Shard shot, complete with a couple more classic London bridges, Southwark, and in the distance, Tower:
Between Southwark Bridge and Tower Bridge, there is another London bridge, namely London Bridge. But you can’t see much of that.
As I say at the end of my Samizdata piece, I think the Shard now looks great. I think it is the best London Big Thing of the last few years, edging both the Gherkin and the Wheel into also rans. I also think it may be the best thing that Renzo Piano has ever done, judging by what I have seen of his other stuff.
By the way, I would have liked rather more than just the one somewhat-beside-the-point comment that it has attracted so far, on that Samizdata piece about One New Change. Vain and selfish and silly I know, but there you go. So if anyone reading this cares to oblige with something pertinent, there, I would be most obliged.
Incoming, from Nicholas I. Kierniesky, to the Samizdata team:
Says Perry de Havilland:
Talking of Jobs, Michael J recommended this, about the good one of the three. I still haven’t read it, but have been carrying the print-out with me on my travels. I will read it, Real Soon Now.
As for all the irreverences now circulating about Obama, well, like it says, it’s the economy.
If Romney wins, will he also be a one term President? Worse, far worse, if that happens, would Samizdataism, so to speak, get the blame?
As I think I’ve said here before, I often don’t know which of my photos I like best until I have completely forgotten taking them, and then find them again, months later.
This didn’t seem anything very unusual at the time. But now I find I like it quite a lot:
That’s the new entrance to Blackfriars railway station, done in the now familiar structure-as-decoration style. I like all those shadows.
During the depths of Modern Architecture, concrete monstrosity style circa 1965, they often didn’t bother with big front doors on the front of buildings, that you could tell was the front door I mean.. Now they really like them, and spend money on them like they’re building a stately home.
I took that photo on the same day as these.
I’m trying to write a big old piece about how hard cricket is to organise these days.
Meanwhile this evening at the IPL, this just happened, to Dale Steyn!!!:
6 2 4 6 4 1
The batsman doing this was AB de Villiers, which explains it.
An earlier over by Steyn was a maiden. Against Chris Gayle. Maiden overs are rare in the IPL.
Now Simon Hughes is calling AB de Villiers a genius. Like he says, Steyn is now the best bowler in the world. What’s more, AB kept the bowling for the final over, thus making sure his team won.
The second 6 in that Steyn over was particularly amazing. It was a yorker on middle and leg that would have splattered most batsmen’s stumps. AB smoked it over extra cover into row … about Z. Shot of the tournament for me, that I’ve seen. Steyn just smiled.
In the previous game West Indian Dwayne Smith, playing in his first ever IPL game, had to hit 14 off the last 3 balls to win it. He did exactly that. 6 4 4. Off Hilfenhaus, who is also no mug at bowling. The first three balls of that last over had gone dot wicket dot.
Best day of the IPL yet.
It’s been a while since I’ve featured a viaduct here. Time to correct that:
More aerial photos by Hawkes here.
Presumably these exoplanets are inhabited by gods.
Or perhaps by very rich socialite ladies. “My exoplanet is simply divine, my dears.”
I know, silly. Divine means identify. But I laughed.
Two interesting early comments (two of many that follow) on this posting, which vividly (i.e. with lots of vivid photos) describes an idiotic Occupy occupation (with thanks to David Thompson for the link).
Given that the University of California, which owns this now-”Occupied” farm tract, is largely responsible for teaching the “Occupiers” the idiot theories under which they’ve undertaken this action, isn’t this really an instance of the chickens coming home to roost?
The vast majority of the “Occupy the Farm” buffoons are not Cal students; it’s mostly composed of losers who didn’t get into Cal, so in jealousy and frustration, they’re stealing the research equipment of the students who actually did well in school.
UC Berkeley is actually two completely distinct universities; the “liberal arts” half is thorough and irretrievably contaminated with Marxist ideologies; but the “STEM” half (“science, technology, engineering, math”) is very rigorous, hardcore, not politicized (and mostly Asian).
The College of Natural Resources, which does research at the farm, is mostly in the STEM half of the school (though there is a politicized component). Notice that the professors who joined the occupiers are all from the Anthropology and Gender Studies departments, not from Natural Resources.
So, this may not be a clear-cut case of chickens and their roosting behavior.
That “mostly Asian” bit makes me very pessimistic about the future of the West.
For how long will the best Asians feel they have to go West to get the best sort of education? Will they keep coming, and after their rigorous Western educations, will they stay in the West? Or, at a pivotal point in the nearish future, will they take their rigour back to Asia and plant it there, leaving what remains of Western education at the mercy of the “humanities”?
And I just bumped into a video of American actress and entertainer Victoria Jackson singing a song called exactly that.
What’s so cunning is it starts off like she’s sending up all the unthinkably dimwitted people who are so unthinkingly dimwitted as to believe such an unthinkably dimwitted thing.
And then the evidence starts piling up. Good grief. Victoria Jackson actually means it. And she has a case.
Also, she’s so quiet, and gentle, and apologetic about it. She is not strident. She is just very, very surprised about it. And surprised that so many others can’t seem to see it.