Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- Guess what this is
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- An important game and only a game
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This and that
Here is another for the Digital Photography Imitates Art collection. I encountered this scene in the Tachbrook Street Market earlier this week, off Warwick Way, just as they were tidying up at the end of their afternoon.
I am sure the guy in the van clocked me as more than somewhat of a perv, but in my opinion photographic talent has a large dose of not caring what others think of you while you’re taking the picture, and another big dose of caring only about the picture.
So here it is:
It was only when I got home that I realised that I had one of those now-you-see-it-this-way-now-you-see-it-that-way pictures. One moment, I am seeing this as the back of a headless, legless, nude mannequin, which is what it was. Next thing I know, I am seeing it as the front of a headless, legless, nude mannequin, but very weirdly lit (from below) and very badly photoshopped into the picture, with strange white lines around it where a much less obvious join ought to be, which is what it was not, but still I see that. Do you agree? Course you do.
Here are two more snaps, just to show more unambiguously what was going on:
I think it’s the superior road surface that makes all this look like art. If it had merely been somewhat crumbly tarmac, it just would have been a few coat rails and a mannequin. Not art at all.
Last night I attended a book launch, of two books, one by Madsen Pirie, and the other by J. P. Floru.
I took lots of photos, but literally just the one came out half decently. All the rest were too blurry.
So, what was special about this one? Seriously, see if you can work it out:
That’s J. P Floru, looking up for the cameras while signing a copy of his book. There’s a clue there.
I hope to be saying more about Floru’s book at Samizdata, Real Soon Now, but I promise nothing.
A while back, I had an enthusiasm for posting thin, horizontal pictures, of a sort that are ideally suited to the blog format, because they don’t provoke a lot of annoying scrolling up and won (the way the rest of this posting actually does), like this one:
I took that picture near South Kensington tube station, earlier this week. It tells you that the sign is on the outside of a restaurant called “Gessler at Daquise”, which is an odd name for a restaurant, but there you go. Gessler is a Polish family, and Daquise is ... what? A place in South Kensington? A building? There is a Gessler at the Daquise website, and it would appear that “Daquise” is a legendary restaurant, so legendary that they didn’t want to drop the name when the Gesslers took over. Or something:
Several decades of hard work and evolution have produced what arguably is the best Polish food offer in the world. Our U Kucharzy restaurant in Warsaw has gained both national and international acclaim, and was awarded a Bib Gourmand status by Guide Michelin for two years running - the only restaurant in Poland to be awarded such accolade. Now we are running a legendary Polish address in London - Daquise in Thurloe Street, which has been around since 1947. Our aim is to make it great again and we hope to see you there in the process!
Here is another snap of the outside, that shows what it looks like:
I didn’t eat that much, but what I did eat, a pancake, was delicious. The menu looks enticing, as do the prices. I shall return.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed the ambience. Not too loud for intelligent conversation, which restaurants often are, even if there’s no music.
Above all, given the excellent light that day, I loved the look of the place.
Here are two more photos, in the Digital Photography Imitates Art genre.
First, a still life:
Perhaps rather too much stuff there for a proper still life, but I liked it, especially the string of lights and all the little signs. Maybe you had to be there.
And second (note the Rothko influence on the décor in this place) an abstract:
With added mirrors, showing me from the neck downwards.
Most fun of all was the staircase down to the basement toilets:
That’s right. It’s in the front window!
Either it was the London air (my preferred story) or my camera, but I wasn’t able to do very spectacular panoramic views. Or maybe panoramic views show regular computer screens at their worst. (I recall being delighted by panoramic print-outs in the past. Wow, it was that good a photo!) Some combination of all that means that I prefer zooming in on distant objects. And you will notice that in the first and the last of this first lot of pictures, when getting near my destination and when leaving it, I included nearby buildings. This made for prettier photos, I think.
It was a bit of while back when I chose those pictures, and now I realise that although they show what you can see from Blythe Hill Fields, they supply only a limited idea of what Blythe Hill Fields is. It’s a big, but quite gently sloping, hill. Covered mostly in fields, with a few footpaths and benches to sit on and admire the view. Surrounded by inner suburbia.
So here are some more pictures I took which show a what those Fields actually look like:
Another look through the complete set, and still there are significant views missing:
Left: the Crystal Palace tower, way off to the left of the big central London views. Centre: looking in the opposite direction from London over … Kent? Somewhere like that. Right: looking out over Far East London to the right of the Docklands Towers view. The views really are panoramic.
And that about covers everything. I think the reason I am being rather completist about showing these pictures is that since I’d never heard of Blythe Hill Fields until about a month ago, I’m guessing the same might apply to you. It certainly is a lovely spot.
I’m still on about last Tuesday, and about what a fine day it was to be taking photographs, and about what sort of photographs I took.
I confirmed that the weather was going to be just as fabulous as the weather forecasters had been saying for the best part of a week that it would be, from the moment I stepped out of my front door. Because, what I then felt was that very particular early spring experience, namely: feeling warmer than I did indoors. It comes from the bricks in my home being a heat store, or in the case of winter a cold store. To be more exact, the sun outside is hot and it warms up the air outside a treat, but it will take way longer for it to warm up those bricks, still busy sucking the heat out of my indoors.
So, I was in a fine mood from the start, and duly ticked off my official objective (plus second semi-official objective close by), so that the other half of the fun might begin. For me, the point is to get out there, preferably to places I have not visited lately, on a fine day, and to make sure I set forth with appropriate resolve and soon enough for it still to be light, I need an official objective. Those coloured buildings served that purpose very well. But then, there followed the unofficial pleasure, so to speak, of just meandering about and noticing things.
If you only click on one photo of those below, click on the first one, top left. That scene was actually quite a long way away, but thanks to the brightness of the sunshine and the power of my zoom lens, it looks like I’m right next to it.
Otherwise, there are my usual preoccupations. There is scaffolding, the other scaffolding being on Blackfriars Bridge, middle middle, where they are still finishing the new station on the bridge, with its oddly fluctuating roof. There are cranes, the same cranes each time, I suspect, on the top of a new erection arising somewhere on the other side of the river, between Waterloo and Tate Modern. And there is a particularly choice reflection effect, this time (I am almost certain) Tower 42 (the NatWest Tower that was) torched by the evening sun and reflected in the glass at the top of Tate Modern. There are bridges, no less then three in the picture bottom left, and five different bridges if you also count the ghostly columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that never was, next to Actual Blackfriars Bridge. And seven if you could the three views of the Millenium Footbridge as three different bridges. There is the Wheel, twice. And photographers of course, thrice.
I sought out the river because, as the light began to fade, by the river there would still be a huge (completely cloudless) sky full of the stuff to sustain me, in contrast to the streets north of the river where the light struggles to reach ground level.
“Grubbings” is a word I inherited from my late father, along with his fondness for the thing that grubbings describes. Grubbings are big building projects in their early, especially below ground level, stage, when they are … well: grubbing, rather than building upwards. My father loved grubbings, and so do I.
It’s often hard to photo grubbings, because they often put a high fence around them and there’s no convenient high-up spot nearby to look over. But at this site, you can climb up some steps (top left) to a Centre Point entrance on the first floor, and photo through the mesh that you see in most of the other pictures.
Even with the internet, it can be hard to know how these kind of things are going to end up. Okay, here are these computer fakes of how they had in mind two years ago for it to be, but who knows if that’s still what they’re thinking.
There is also the fact that there are often so many images of how, at various stages in the design, they envisaged things looking, that it’s hard for a more casual onlooker to keep up. Simpler to just wait and see.
It reminds me of how the Brits confused the Argies during that Brits versus Argies war. Instead of not telling the Argies their plan, the Brits did tell the Argies their plan, and all the other plans the Brits might just as likely be following. The British newspapers were full to the brim with every imaginable plan. And the Argies were baffled, trapped in the headlights of too much information, all of it suspect of course. That’s sometimes how I feel when trying (admittedly not very hard) to find out how some big grubbings in a big city like London are going to end up looking.
Ever since I was reminded of those highly coloured buildings near Centre Point I have been meaning to check them out.
Yesterday, as I had been intending to do for several days, having known for several days of the excellent weather that would prevail yesterday, I did this.
Almost as striking as the buildings themselves are the reflections of their bright colours in nearby windows, and in fact my first clue that I was in the vicinity of my architectural prey was just such a reflection.
Here are some of the pictures I took, in the order I took them in:
I really liked these buildings. I had feared 70s style vulgarity. They are better than that, much better.
And I came to this conclusion before I learned, this evening, while concocting this posting, that they are the work of Renzo Piano. That’s right, the very same man who also designed the Shard:
You might also have once said the area was grey, but not any longer. If you go there now you will see a series of slabs of colour - orange, red, apple green and lemon yellow - vibrant as a row of casseroles in a Conran shop, rising 12 storeys into the sky. These belong to Central St Giles, a nearly complete office development by celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano. “I wanted to make a building that smiles,” he says in explanation.
And to my eye he as succeeded. He hasn’t just supplied bright buildings. He has brightened up the whole area. I hope they don’t fade, or that if they do, they will be easily restored to their current brightness.
When photoing these colourful slabs of modernity, I concentrated on their sunny side, the south side. When the weather is warmer, I will surely return and check them out some more.
Recently I recycled, at Samizdata, some thoughts about Art from favourite blogger of mine Mick Hartley.
On the subject of “as found” art, the sort when it’s Art entirely because the Artist says so, without having done anything else himself besides stick the thing in an Art gallery, Hartley said this:
The logical conclusion to this line of thinking would be that if anything can be art if its maker wishes it to be art, then anything or everything can be art – and we don’t need artists any more. Curiously this is an argument that artists themselves seem reluctant to make.
I just know that there is a connection between what Hartley says there, and Hartley’s (and my) habit of taking photos (and showing the photos of others) of industrial clutter, outdoor gadgetry (such as the communications kit you see on roofs), decaying infrastructure, etc., that resembles abstract art.
The point of such pictures is that you do not only perceive the objects you are photo-ing as things doing a job of some kind, that is, the way their original creators mostly, presumably, perceived them. You see them almost as disembodied effects, quite distinct from what the kit was originally built for, and often no longer even seeing what the objects once were or still are. You see them the way you see abstract art.
(Related to all this is that I like cranes, but what I really like is how they look (like very superior sculpture), rather than: how they work, which is best, which sort does what, etc. (Here is a Hartley crane snap I just found.))
I say you see all this stuff “almost” as disembodied effects. But I think a lot of the fun is that you can also see what they are originally, even as you observe their aesthetic pleasingness or oddity, or resemblance to some particular work of art or type of art. The pleasure you get is a bit like with those pictures which could be two different things, like an old ugly woman or a beautiful young woman, depending on whether you see that bit as an arm or a nose, or whatever. Is it what it merely “is”? Or is it Art?
Hartley is particularly fond of bright colour effects. As are many more recent sculptors.
In connection with all this, here are four snaps taken by me on Tuesday Feb 19th, when I went on a trip to check out Blythe Hill Fields:
Top left was taken on the way, through a train window. Bottom right was taken on the way home, at Whitechapel tube. The other two were taken in the Blythe Hill Fields vicinity.
Those Artists surely do still have a role in all this, because we photographers of abstract-art-like stuff are responding to their challenges. We are saying: We don’t need you. We can see our own Art, thank you. Mondrian rectangles? I’ll give you rectangles. Big crazy sculptures made of industrial waste? Why not photo … industrial waste? And so on. We are both acknowledging the power of and (some of us – like me and Hartley) seeking to diminish the power of the Artists.
The artists have been telling the rest of us to see and enjoy the real world in new and interesting ways, and we are doing that. They started this.
The question is not so much: Are the Artists necessary? They have been, to the process I have described. But: Can they stay ahead? Can they keep on setting new challenges, or do I and Mick Hartley and all the other As Found Art photoers end up being our own artists?
I am groping my way into this subject. The above may be a muddle. But there is something interesting in among all this, I think.
A final Hartley photographic link that also seems relevant.
I recommend trawling back through his blog, as I just did.
LATER: And, as if he’s determined to illustrate all of the above further, there is now this.
Bosses moving three of the world’s largest quay cranes cannot give an exact arrival date as they could be delayed en route from China.
The 138m tall, semi-automatic cranes are taller than the London Eye and weigh 1,848 tonnes.
Semi-automatic? Does that make them assault cranes?
They are to go here. I smell photo ops.
One of the about seventy seven signs of aging is definitely being more sensitive to the weather, and in particular the cold. I remember feeling this way as a small child, when first compelled to travel every morning to school. Now, I feel it again. I actually “caught a chill” earlier this week, and had to take to my bed for a whole day.
However, I will soon be getting out from under the weather, if the next ten day weather forecast is anything to go by, which it is. As of today, it looked like that (see right).
Talking of short range weather forecasts, James Delingpole did a silly piece in the Daily Mail a while back, saying the Met Office is a total waste of space. But it is precisely because the Met Office’s short-range weather forecasts are generally so spot-on that its mad opinions about the weather in the more distant future are taken so seriously. If the short-range forecasts were as bad as so many unthinking idiots say, the Met Office wouldn’t be half such a menace on the C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming) front. This Delingpole article played right into the hands of CAGW-ers. Asked the News Statesman: Was there ANYTHING in James Delingpole’s Daily Mail piece which was true? Yes. The Met Office is bonkers about CAGW. But Delingpole’s attempts to prove that the Met Office never gets anything right were indeed ridiculous, and did the anti-CAGW team no favours at all.
But I digress. To more serious matters. There is another reason I am glad the weather is going to perk up soon, which is that rugby matches are far more entertaining when the weather is nicer.
The Six Nations began with what the commentators were all telling each other was one of the best Six Nations first weekends ever. All three games were full of tries. England won. Okay, only against Scotland, but they won, and actually Scotland are looking a bit better now, with some backs who can actually run fast. Ireland and Wales scored lots of tries against each other. Italy beat France. It doesn’t get much better for an England fan.
But then the weather turned nasty and the games turned attritional. England beat Ireland, but nobody scored any tries. England beat France, with one fortuitous England try which shouldn’t have been allowed. Italy reverted to being … Italy. The one truly entertaining thing about the next two weekends, after the entirely entertaining first weekend, is that now it’s England played 3 won 3 and France played 3 won ZERO! Arf arf. Sorry Antoine.
Talking of England v France, I’ve been reading (and watching the telly) about the 100 Years War. And it seems that towards the end, the French cheated by having guns. That explains a lot.
So anyway, no more 6N rugby until the weekend after next, and I really miss it, just as I did the weekend before last. The Six Nations takes seven weekends to get done, with weekends 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 being occupied with games, and weekends 3 and 5 being skipped. During weekends 3 and 5, I pine, and watch ancient rugby games, the way I never would normally, to fill the rugby gap.
The best ones I recently watched were two epic Wales wins against France, in 1999 (France 33 Wales 34) and 2001 (France 35 Wales 43), on VHS tapes. Sorry Antoine. But the next one I’ll be watching will be 2002 (Wales 33 France 37).