Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Friday January 25 2013

When journeying across the river to Vauxhall, as I often do, I now tend to take the bus, in fact I have been doing this ever since I got my Old Git Pass

Which means that I have tended to miss out on shots like these:

imageimage

Mere clutter, you say?  Not for me.  For me, these are Big London Things, with clutter in the foreground.  On the left, Strata.  On the right, the mighty Shard.

The circumstance which caused me to shun the bus, despite the extreme coldness of the weather, was all the drama to do with the – see immediately below - cranes.

The Shard one reminds me that I have been watching a lot of Wagner on DVD lately, specifically Gotterdamerung (add double dots to taste).  Operas like Gotterdamerung bring out the worst in European stage directors and stage designers.  They tend to set the thing, not in the mythic world indicated by Wagner, but in a modern aircraft hanger, space station, hydro-electric power station, typically rather run-down or collapsing.

The architectural clutter in the foreground is provided by a piece of New Brutalism that is now being demolished.  Reinforced concrete sometimes looks at its most dramatic when they are trying to remove it.  It really puts up a fight, doesn’t it?

Monday January 21 2013

Yesterday I waited until it was nearly dark for it to stop snowing, but it never did and I went out anyway, back to see whether the new crane that I spotted last Friday on lorries was up and craning.

As soon as I got to Vauxhall Bridge Road, I had my answer.  Here is how things looked from Vauxhall Bridge, and then from closer to:

imageimage

That I was able to get closer was down to the fact that they have now cleared up sufficiently for traffic to be flowing again.  Fast work.

Which meant that I could, without interrupting anything more important, take a closer look at where the helicopter actually hit the ground:

imageimage

If you click on that left picture, you will see, in line with the two broken windows, a diagonal blue line, which tells you roughly what happened.  The helicopter struck the edge of the roof of the building, and then landed in front of it.  Wreckage and flames than spread to the front of the building on the right.

So, life in Vauxhall is rapidly getting back to normal, as these next two gents illustrate.  In the second of these two pictures, I include the towers and the cranes, visible beyond the smaller blocks in the middle distance.  Helicopter crash?  What helicopter crash?

imageimage

Digital photography has, I surmise, caused more snowmen to be created.  Because now you can snap them and boast about them to your friends.

Snow is both good news and bad news for photographers like me.  The good news is that (in addition to increased numbers of snowmen) it creates wonderfully oil-painting-like effects out of the most commonplace of circumstances, such as this coil of barbed wire on top of a covered footbridge, there to stop people using the top of the footbridge as a way to get across it and plunder:

imageimage

The bad news is that if you point your camera upwards, which is hard to avoid if you are photographing tall cranes from very close, you get blobs of snow on your lens.  Not all of the photos from which these four are selected were the successes that they would have been, had there been no snow still descending:

imageimageimageimage

I was able to get these shots because, when retracing my steps towards home, I found that I could actually get closer to the cranes than I had earlier thought.  Those shots were taken outside one of the St George Wharf flats front doors, right next to the cranes.

I would describe myself as a “craniac”, but googling tells me that the word is already taken, not by us crane lovers, but by people bothered about improving their craniums, or something.  Pity.

As you can see, the wrecked crane is still up there, the new crane only just having been erected.

Despite the weather, and despite the grim circumstances that I was photographing, this was a most satisfactory little expedition.

Sunday January 20 2013

Here is a joke tube map of London, send in by Michael J:

image

If you google “joke tube map” you get lots of stuff like this.

But, and I realise that I will probably be revealed very quickly as humiliatingly stupid, what does “XXL” mean?  All the others make sense.  Although “France” I only get a bit.  Is that where all the French in London live these days?  Anyway, I at least know what France is.  It’s a country.  But what is XXL?  Not a clue.  Is it something to do with the South Bank, or the Wheel or Waterloo Station?  That’s roughly where it is.  But what is it?

Saturday January 19 2013

Yesterday, again, I ventured back across the river to see whatever I could see in the vicinity of that helicopter crash

I couldn’t get near to where the worst of the drama unfolded on Wednesday, and I couldn’t yesterday, which is not a circumstance I would dream of complaining about.  But today, as on Wednesday, I was able to gaze upwards again at that stricken crane, this time from the other side:

image

If you compare that picture with my earlier picture (immediately below), you will see that nothing up there has yet changed.

Other than the weather.  Yesterday, and today, very grim and snowy.  Also, I took the above picture just before it got seriously dark.  The pictures below having been taken somewhat earlier.  I did quite a bit of wandering around before I got that shot of the crane, but was very pleased when I finally got it.

On the ground, it is an entirely different story.

A whole new crane has arrived:

image

You can just see the edge of the tower there, above the road sign.

And that’s not the half of it:

image

Altogether, about a dozen different articulated lorries had arrived, presumably earlier yesterday, and parked themselves in the roads at the other end of the new bus terminal from Vauxhall railway station.  When I got there, there were still drivers in the cabs of several of these lorries.  In total there were about a dozen lorries.  These cranes are big.  I’m guessing the economic situation means there were plenty of spare cranes to choose from.

And I further guess that these things have something to do with this crane:

image

I assume that this new crane is about to be erected alongside the old and broken crane, to dismantle the broken crane, and then to finish the job of building the tower.  How exactly will that look, I wonder?

Things are moving a lot faster than I guessed, to get the tower-building going again.

The tidying up from the crash seems to be taking place a bit further along the road, crucially not right next to the tower, and that process is happening simultaneously with getting the new crane in.  The two jobs don’t clash.  On the contrary they go together.  Then, when the old crane is gone, and when the crash is cleaned up, the road will open again.

Is the plan to open the road again,after a weekend of feverish activity, on Monday morning?  Definitely asap, it would seem.

Thursday January 17 2013

imageYesterday I posted a short photo-piece at Samizdata about the Vauxhall helicopter crash, but had difficulty with the photos.  Not having posted any photos on Samizdata for about a month, I had to rediscover how to do it.  I am definitely not going to be switching to Wordpress here any time very soon.  Although, come to think of it, maybe I will switch soonish, if only to be able to practice posting photos on Wordpress, here.  Given that here I allow myself to do any damn fool thing I feel like doing.  Like not post anything for a week, for no good reason.

So anyway, here is a photo (a slice out of the photo I did post at Samizdata) which I tried to post at Samizdata yesterday, late last night, but got in a muddle with and gave up on.  Now, I will embed a link to this, from there.

The problem with photoing this ruined crane is, for me, getting into a good position.  This was the best shot I could get yesterday, given that I was in a hurry because of fading light.  What I may now try is photoing it from one of the platforms of Vauxhall Station, which is the other side of the crane from where I was yesterday.  Station platforms being long, you can move back and forth until you get the best shot.  Today looks like nice weather, so maybe I’ll try that this afternoon.

I need more text here, to fit the photo into this posting without it bashing into the previous posting.  So, what else to say about this?

Well, one thing I can say is that I am extremely curious about how they will sort this out.  I guessed in my Samizdata piece that it will be a while before they get around to sorting out this crane, because on the ground they have other things to sort out, involving thousands of commuters going to and fro every day, on the road onto which the stricken helicopter fell, spreading flames everywhere.  The builders will just not be first in the queue.  The builders will be needing the road when they bring in whatever other cranes they need, to remove the ruined crane, and to put up another crane, so I’m guessing they’ll have to wait until the road is sorted and back in business.

Plus, do they mend the crane, or replace it?  Does anyone kinow what the routine is for fixing a crane in this state, on a site like this one?  As I understand it, the entire tower-building job depends on that crane, and now the entire job comes to a shuddering halt, until they can get that crane mended, or another crane into that same spot.  Heaven knows what that delay will cost, per hour.

I hope I get really lucky and get to photo them sorting this out, but am not optimistic.  Building contractors are not in the habit of drawing attention to themselves when they are busy building.  They just want to be left alone to get on with it.  The press-releasing, attention-grabbing phase only gets under way when the building is good and finished.

That ought to be enough text.

Thursday January 10 2013

Indeed:

imageimage

On the left, the Wheel, snapped from my side of Vincent Square, in June of last year.  On the right, the Wheel, snapped from the same spot (with added railings), a few days ago.

Excellent roof clutter in the relative foreground.

Friday January 04 2013

Yes, my Last Friday of the Month meetings are starting up again, with the first new one being on the 25th of this month.  Speaker: Sam Bowman.  Subject: libertarianism and “unknown unknowns”.

More about why the meetings, again, and about what Bowman will be saying in this Samizdata posting.

If interested, please get in touch, with an email, or with a comment here, or there.

Wednesday January 02 2013

Here.  Another cricketer who wouldn’t have played test cricket under Apartheid doing well.

And: Good to know.  I’m improving myself.

At exactly the time when I started getting un-ill yesterday afternoon, but moments before I realised it, Michael Jennings rang to ask my opinion, about photos on Samizdata.  Still believing myself to be ill, as perhaps I still was at that precise moment, I cut him short.  Now, here is an answer.

My opinion is that photos, lightly sprinkled on a blog, send an important message to readers beyond the obvious one that here is a medal, or a strange toy airplane, or a funny media mistake, or whatever.  That message is: this blog is something the people who do it care about.  Shoving up text is the easiest thing in the world, but adding a photo requires a bit of pausing and considering.  These people want their blog to catch your eye as well as your mind.  They are putting themselves about a bit.  Not only is this blog regularly updated, it looks regularly updated.  Even if you don’t read this, others will.

But as those three links illustrate, there have been rather a lot of photos on Samizdata lately, and there is a danger that it will look like photos are being used as a substitute for thought rather than being a mere signifier of blogging seriousness.  Besides which, the mystery of sticking up photos is hardly much of a mystery any more, is it?  Most people know that sticking up photos is now as easy as sticking up words.

What Michael was asking about, before I told him I was ill and to postpone it, was, in particular, or so I surmise, photos like the one this sign, and like these ones of Samizdata jollification over Christmas.  What do I think of those?

Well, they are clever.  Notice how, if you narrow your window, to the point where the text rearranges itself to fit in a narrower column, the photo also narrows itself.  Cute.  Well, I’m impressed.  I’m guessing that’s especially good for Samizdata accommodating itself onto smaller media like tablets and smart phones, which (commenters say) the new set-up does very well.  These big new photos are also the result of Samizdata having become more tablet- and phone-friendly, because a tablet is where Michael has been doing them from?

The trouble is, however, that by making photos expand to fit the space available for their display, you risk (I think) making photos look like the point of the whole exercise.  They cease to be mere seasoning, and become the meal.  So, much as I like the expanding and contracting thing, I think that these potentially very big photos would be better if smaller, with the option to expand but not the routine habit of doing this.

Samizdata is all about concepts.  It is about, as Perry de Havilland never tires of saying, the metacontext.  For that you need words.  Even if many of those words don’t get read or are only skimmed over, it needs to be clear that, at Samizdata, it is in the words that the real message is to be found.

Does that answer what was going to be your question, Michael?

At least the whispered question of a few months back, about whether Samizdata is dying, is now well and truly answered.  No.  (The comments on that posting now make even more interesting reading than they did when posted.) Perry de Havilland may not have written that much lately, but as a leader he remains very much in place and swinging.  The makeover proves this.

Here, it doesn’t matter what I do about pictures.  This is a kitten blog.

Tuesday January 01 2013

Indeed.  My own happy new year was delayed by illness.  During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this).  But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering.  I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache.  But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.

So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.

I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio.  Lovely, albeit mad.  (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing.  The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work.  I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.