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
- Mr Ed has some metaphorical fun
- A picture of a book about pictures
- To Tottenham (8): Zooming in on some Big Things
- Playing golf versus following cricket
- Quota bicycles
- Another Capital Golf car
- Battersea Power Station then and now and soon
- Timing shits instead of forcing them
- Lincoln Paine shifts the emphasis from land to water (with a very big book)
- Classic cars in Lower Marsh
- Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
- A selfie being taken a decade ago
- Gloucester Road with evening sun
- Lea River footbridge
- “Yeah, no …”
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
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My Boyfriend Is A Twat
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we make money not art
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This and that
Yesterday evening, just as the place was closing, I spotted (and took bad photos of) a promising sofa, hiding in among lots of other clutter in something called the Futon Centre, in Tottenham Court Road:
Staff were trickling out the side door, even as I was seeing this for the first time. Can I take a closer look, just for a second? Yes, just a quick one, they said. But, look on the website, they said.
So I did, and this is what I found:
Three hundred and fifty quid. As you can see there is a choice of colours. If on closer inspection (tomorrow?) I find that I like it, and that it is not too deep front-to-back, I am in the mood to take the hit. After all, a sofa is for life, not just for the next few weeks, and I think I do like it already. Deep it may be, deeper than I would like. But almost all of the other sofas I’ve looked at are hideous monster sofas with arms on them like the arms of a person starring in a television show called Embarrassing Arms. I already have a monster armed sofa like this and could not bear another. Those arms are two extra people.
The question is: Can I get it up my stairs? Because of Health and Safety the people who deliver it won’t do that. How the hell does that make the world any safer?
Wish me luck. If this suits, then I will win that fifty quid, in the limited sense of not having to give it to anyone else.
And here is a photo I took yesterday. I once thought that these Evening Standard headlines would by now be a thing of the quite distant past, but they are still with us, for the time being anyway, along with the Evening Standard itself, which has survived being given away and as of now shows no sign of disappearing.
There is something charmingly antiquated about the word “swoop”, isn’t there? This swoop took place - when else? - at dawn, yesterday morning.
Yes, welcome to Operation Octopod. Truly:
Detectives set up a specialist team which worked in secret for months to gather evidence against the gang in an inquiry codenamed Operation Octopod. Most of the 200 officers involved in the raids were not even told of the targets, only given the addresses they were raiding.
This sounds like it might eventually become quite a good story.
Interestingly, this Evening Standard story goes out of its way to say that the family being arrested have not been named. But the link to the story contains these words:
And later they changed the headline above the story on the website, to include the word “Adams”. And indeed, it seems that the arrested family really is called Adams. Expect the phrase Adams Family Values to crop up a lot in the next few days and weeks.
And in a few years, another movie, about London’s own Adams Family and their dastardly deeds.
Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:
But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist? There is no website. The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.
So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.
My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign. But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence. And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.
Mick Hartley’s latest little clutch of photos illustrates one of the things I particularly like about his photography, which is his relish of colour. He even points spells this out in the title of his posting. I have nothing against black and white photography, especially in the decades when it was that or nothing, and neither does Mick Hartley. But there is something rather fetishistic and fake-arty about how black and white photography continues to be worshipped, long after colour photography became easy to do.
Often colour is deeply embedded in the story that the picture tells, as in this photo. This is not one of Hartley’s own, but he constantly picks up great photos done by others on his radar (this one being number nine of these twelve):
No prizes for seeing why I particularly like that one.
But it’s not just the photography aspect that I like. I also like that the anonymity angle is also covered. I more and more tend to prefer anonymity in the pictures I take myself of other photographers, and post here. Often it happens because the camera covers the face of the photographer I am photoing.
I went rootling through my archives for a snap of someone whose face is partially hidden, and found this snap, of which I am very proud. Here, the anonymity job, albeit only partially, is done by a big pair of sunglasses.
I also like the colours in that photo. Snobbery about blackness and whiteness, and especially about blackness, also extends to what colour cameras ought to be, doesn’t it?
The Six Nations has been its usual unpredictable self this year. Italy lost to Scotland to claim the Wooden Spoon, or so it looks. Can either of them win any games during the last two weekends? While above them, Ireland, England, Wales and France are all played three won two. All the results are here.
Those top four provide us with a typically delightful Six Nations circle of scores. France beat England 26-24. But last Friday, Wales hammered France 27-6. In round two, Ireland crushed Wales 26-3. So, did England then lose to Ireland by a margin of 2 + 21 + 23 points? No, they beat Ireland 13-10.
England’s winning try against Ireland was a thing of beauty. I recall saying here (here) that England’s loss to France didn’t really bother me, and that England actually looked pretty good. Against Ireland they proved me right.
A clue to that strange circle is, however, that of the first nine games, seven have been won by the home side, including all four games in that circle. The only home defeats were when Italy lost to Scotland, and when Scotland lost to England.
Meanwhile, the cricket series going on between South Africa and Australia is terrific. The games all kick of at 8.30am England time, which makes them the perfect cure for Ashes Lag. Australia won the first game, and I made a point of tuning in promptly for the start of the second game. Sure enough, Australia soon had South Africa reeling at 11-2. But from then on it was all South Africa. They won inside four days, having been desperate to stop it going to five, because the forecast for day five was rain, rain, rain. But was it? I just tried to find out what the weather was like on Feb 24th, but all you get on the www is forecasts. No reports of the past. The weather of the past is another country, it seems.
It may be that the Australia win at Centurion, an away win, will be the exception. England beat Australia 3-0 in England. Australia smashed England 5-0 in Australia. Meanwhile NZ were beating India in NZ. Now South Africa to beat Australia in South Africa? Mitchell Johnson won the first game for Australia, then did nothing in the second, but I think I heard that the pitch for the third game will suit Johnson, so maybe it will be an Australia win.
LATER: I nearly forgot about this, this being Afghanistan Under 19s beating Australia Under 19s, at cricket.
Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.
So anyway, here’s the link.
And here is the quota photo:
That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos. It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.
I like the water on the window.
One of the things I did today was copy, from one TV hard disc to another, a documentary (fronted by Richard Hammond) about the D-Day fighting that took place on Omaha Beach.
One of the shots at the end of the programme looked a lot like this:
That is one of the photos at the bottom of this page.
I recall flying over the Normandy Beaches, on the way to the South of France. Later in the journey, I took snaps like this one, of the Millau Viaduct, but I don’t recall seeing anything like that cemetery.
When I saw this camel, this afternoon, in Station Approach Road, on my way to meet someone in Waterloo Station, I was baffled. I photoed it, but I was baffled:
But now, through the magic that is the www, I can tell you that this camel is to be found round the back of a pub in Lower Marsh, called the Camel & Artichoke. I walk past this pub a lot, on my way to Gramex, in Lower Marsh, but had never really registered that its name involved a camel, or that when I saw the camel, I was round the back of this pub.
Blog and learn. Photograph and learn.
I don’t know how it works for you, but when I am waiting for a bus, I can think of nothing except the bus. When will it arrive? I need to know in advance, or I might not realise it has come and then miss it, by reading a book and ignoring it, for instance. So, I squint obsessively into the distant place where the bus will first be visible.
When a bus does appear, the next question is: Is that the right bus? I need to know. But, my eyesight is terrible. I can just about see that it’s a bus. But what number bus? Is it a number that will suit me?
Last Tuesday evening, I was waiting for a bus to arrive to take me to Chateau Samizdata. For several long minutes, no bus appears, to replace the one I had just missed by about fifteen seconds. Finally, one does appear, emerging from Parliament Square and preparing itself to make its way up Victoria Street, about half away along which I was standing in wait. The usual paroxysm of infuriated uncertainty begins. Will it be a bus numbered in a way that suits me and my intended journey. The bus approaches with its inevitable and inevitably ridiculous slowness, waiting with an absurd deference to legality at the traffic lights next to New Scotland Yard, by which time I am finally able to discern that the number on the front is not the kind of number I want. The wrong numbered bus arrives, and continues up Victoria Street, with me not on it.
Then, another bus appears in the far distance, and that is when inspiration strikes. I realise that certainty regarding the suitability or unsuitability of the bus will come a whole lot sooner if I make use of my camera’s superior eyesight, compared to mine. So, I cranked up the zoom to its maximum, and took this photograph:
That won’t win any photo-of-the-year competitions, but I had my answer just about straight away, what with my camera being able to zero in on the destination and number on its little digital screen. Yes, a good bus. It was another minute or more before I would have been able to confirm this information with my mere eyes, and that was a minute during which infuriated uncertainty was replaced by contented anticipation.
So, another impact of digital photography. Bus stops, for me, are now slightly more fun and slightly less annoying.
This posting also explains why I so greatly appreciate those electronic bus stop signs that tell you exactly what buses are due, approximately when.
You were not slow. I am in the habit of arranging blog posts on a daily schedule, but fumbled the date and 19 became 9 so it appeared to be ancient when it was in fact early.
You must have seen it rather quickly, I’m flattered.
Actually what I saw quickly was the automatic email that I automatically got from Libertarian Home about the latest posting there. I clicked on it, read the Sermon, was impressed, shoved it up at Samizdata, then blogged about the process here. In among all that, I noticed that the posting was dated Feb 9th, and mentioned that I had been rather slow to notice it in the posting here, but not there. All this in the space of about an hour and a half.
The upshot of which is a posting that now declares itself to have arrived at Libertarian Home on Feb 19, but which has meanwhile already become the SQotD for Feb 18.
A while back, I wrote here, at the start of a posting about Manx Cats, this:
Inevitably, this blog, if it persists much longer, will become more and more concerned with the experience of getting old, ...
That posting was about the thing of “sort of” knowing stuff, as you get older. I “sort of” knew that Manx cats don’t have tales. You vaguely remember having once known something. That kind of thing.
This posting now is also about that aging process. Because, when the above email arrived, I should have realised that something bizarre was happening over at LH with regard to dates. I mean, if this Rob Waller Sermon had really been up for the last ten days, how come I had missed it all that time, even though I regularly visit LH? And how come I was only now receiving an automatic email about it?
I never consciously thought it through, but my “sort of” thought process was that either LH was confused or I was, and I just assumed without thinking about it that the confusion must be mine, on account of me having now entered the years of frequent and soon perpetual confusion, about everything. You are now reading prose written by a man who has started to forget, while in the bath, whether he has stood up and washed his private parts yet, or not yet, and who has hence started to do this either twice or not at all. Simon Gibbs, on the other hand, is a smart young guy. He has a smart young wife and a smart young home. He has a paid job and a life. That he might have got his blog posting dates in a muddle just did not occur to me.
There are some spectacular pictures now up at English Russia, taken from the air over the Russian Far East, i.e. Vladivostock and surrounding parts.
Here is a good one (scroll down at page 3 of the posting):
What’s good about that is that it shows how roads stop fires. On the right, fire! On the left, the other side of the road, no fire.
Other pictures in the set include several of two rather spectacular bridges in Vladivostock, of which this snap is my favourite (scroll down at page 2):
That is the bridge over the Golden Horn Bay. The other and bigger Vladivostock bridge joins Vladivoskock to Russkiy Island. See this Guardian report. This map, if you reduce its size and go north a bit, shows where both the bridges are.
However, when I copied and pasted it into my word processor, it started out looking like this:
How did that happen?
In my youth, I would have panicked, but with age comes experience, and faced with dramas like this, I now do nothing, and then do the sensible thing. Which in this case was to try reformatting in “Default Formatting”, which at once turned it into normal writing again.
Presumably, my copying had picked up on some weird Bonzo Dooh Dah Dog Band font of some kind. But how?
I thought it must be that one called “Dingbats”, but it turns out it was “Open Symbol”, I think. How do the above hieroglyphics get called Open Symbol? (I was going to put higher oh gliffix, and now I have, but in the age of google and its “did you mean …?” feature) there is no excuse for such behaviour.)
Is there a rock band called the Dingbats? Of course there is! Is there a rock band called the Open Symbols? My googling says not. Shame.
I think that this piece by Megan McArdle, entitled Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators is good.
Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.
This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not - indeed, probably won’t - be the best anymore.
If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
That last pararaph certainly rings bells for me. Which is why I find that the cure for blogger’s block is the opposite of self-esteem. Self-esteem, as McArdle says, gets in the way. Self-abasement can get you going again. I’m a crap writer, so anything I do manage to put now won’t make me any worse. And hey, it may even cheer me up by making me better!
As for that thing about having it too easy in school, I recall Geoff Boycott saying the exact same thing about cricketers. The ones who were effortlessly good as kids, and who therefore didn’t have to scrap, later often came second best to others who did scrap when they were kids.
Of course, sportsmen don’t procrastinate, because they have a set timetable when they have to perform. Instead they just do badly.
And I also recall Malcolm Gladwell throwing older brothers into the mix, in one of his books. Ace basketballer Michael Jordan had an elder brother, who he had to scrap against when young. I think it was Jordan.
I wrote this just before going to bed, even though I have had the whole day to do something better.
Tonight on BBC4 they just showed a programme about Carl Faberge, blingster to the Czars.
I learned a lot. Next up, a show done by Jonathan Meades, about Brutalist architecture. He’s for it.
This seems an appropriate juxtaposition, and I am recording both. The insanely ornate and extravagant trinkets unleashed by Faberge, and all the other riche and nouveau riche junk that flooded into the world in and around 1900, had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the anti-ornamental puritanism of architectural brutalism. Many, including me, some of the time, react to Faberge eggs not just with indifference but with aggressive hatred.
I also beheld Brutalist architecture for most of the last half century with even greater loathing. This loathing is only now abating, as the buildings themselves start to diminish in number.
That building used to adorn the roundabout on the other side of the river from Parliament. It is now no more. I photographed it. Then, I photographed its demolition. I did not mourn its passing.
Meades is now, as promised, rhapsodising about Brutalism. Why, he asks, does architecture have to be nice? He is likening it to Victorian architectural oddities of earlier times.
What he misses, or is missing so far, is that Brutalism’s aesthetic aggression went hand in hand with huge collectivist power grabs. Brutalism was the architectural face of state centralism. For me, Meades makes a big distinction between “Brutalism” and regular modern. I don’t really see this. Both went hand in hand, I’d say.
Meades’ injunction that people should not hate Brutalism is rather like expecting conquered Europeans not to be such philistines about the obviously beautiful design of Junkers 87s or Tiger Tanks. Ah, correction. Now he is acknowledging quite explicitly the roots of Brutalism in second world war concrete bunkers, most notably those constructed by the Nazis. “Forget” that the Nazis built these things, says Meades. But I suspect that the Brutalists actually liked the very quality that made the Nazis do this kind of thing. Nazis conquered twee old Europe. Brutalism assaulted the twee architecture of post-war Europe, the Europe that is still awash with Fabergerie. There is a deep affinity here.
The show is still going as I post this, and is in any case only part one of two. This was live blogging.
Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege. Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?
Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH. If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance. But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:
What strikes me is how modern it looks. It’s just a big box. The decoration is no more than a gesture. I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down. But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.
On the right is a fake-up of a new building, for another of those Mega Mega Companies that you have never heard of, until they suddenly construct themselves a new Big Thing in the middle of London. Construction is expected to start next year. As you can see, it will be part of what is now the Gherkin/Cheesegrater cluster.
Also a potential part of that cluster, and potentially the biggest Big Thing in it, the Helter Skelter (aka “The Pinnacle"), now looks like it will soon resume being built as well, as already noted here.
Of the Helter Skelter’s rise from the dead, Londonist says:
The optimism is driven by an improving economy and (believe it or not) a growing shortage of suitable office space in the financial centre.
It’s like 2008 never happened.
Guided by the excellent advice of my mostly silently lurking commentariat ("Friday Night Smoke” in particular has a way of supplying extraordinarily welcome and pertinent comments, with gaps between them of several months), I got myself this wonderful new computer screen. The main feature of this new screen is that, thanks to that advice, and unlike my previous computer screen, it is IPS.
IPS (In-plane switching) is a screen technology used for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). It was designed to solve the main limitations of the twisted nematic field effect (TN) matrix LCDs in the late 1980s, such as relatively high response time, strong viewing angle dependence and low-quality color reproduction. In-plane switching involves arranging and switching the molecules of the liquid crystal (LC) layer between the glass substrates. This is done in a plane parallel to these glass plates.
My IPS screen is at its considerable best, no matter what direction I look at it from. Unlike the earlier screen, where I needed to be directly in front of it to get a good result.
But, my old computer screen, just like the new one, was on my desk, right in front of me. So, although my new computer screen was a great improvement, I did not get the full force of the improvement, massive though that improvement was.
But now, when I look at my television, and then back at my computer screen. My television is not at the same level as my eyes. It is higher up than that. Now, next to my super new computer screen, it seems like everything on my television is permanently in the dark:
At first I just wanted to take and show that one picture. But then I thought, what if I photo the television screen from right in front of it, higher up? So, I raised my camera above my head, using its tilting screen to go on seeing the picture, and here is what suddenly happened:
Suddenly Charlie Sheen, one of Two And A Half Men (before Charlie Sheen got fired and his character killed), is suddenly to be seen, as clear as day.
Actually, in the bit linked to, Charlie Sheen’s exit from the show is described thus:
Even though Sheen’s antics involving Two and a Half Men have been continuously reported in every news medium, it’ll be interesting to see how violently killing off one of the series’ focal characters will be received by its viewers. While it can be said that television viewers are extremely loyal, the overt decimation of Charlie Harper may leave a bad taste in the mouth of those looking to watch an actual comedy series.
The word “decimate” is now routinely misused, to the point where it has pretty much lost its original meaning, of one in ten Roman soldiers in a legion being executed, when that legion misbehaved. But I have never before heard of an individual being “decimated”, overtly or otherwise. But I digress.
The point is, now I want a new television screen. There is nothing “wrong” with the old screen. It works as advertised. I just don’t like it any more.
I returned to the Radio Bar at the top of the Hotel ME on Saturday 7th of this month, when the weather was brighter and breezier. I was in a hurry to be back for an appointment at home, and did not have time to really look at what I was photographing, and anyway, my eyesight is poor and I can’t see a lot of it if I want to.
So, for instance, when I took this picture, …:
… I thought I was photographing just the one big, obvious bridge, the one with the towers. But it turned out that I was photographing seven bridges. Newcastle eat your heart out. Sorry about that big white circumcised cock in the foreground, getting in the way. It looks like it’s doing radar, but I doubt that.
Moving on quickly from that, let me itemise the bridges, from nearest to furthest away.
Here is a google map which shows how this picture was possible. Where it says ”ME” (photo manipulation is not my strong suit but I did manage to add that), at the far left, is where I was standing, so ME means both me and the hotel of that name. Click on this map to get it bigger:
So, first, nearest to me, on the right of the big white cock, we can see pedestrians crossing the river on Blackfriars Bridge, the road version.
We cannot then see the isolated, do-nothing columns of the Blackfriars Railway Bridge that isn’t, so that doesn’t count. But just beyond those columns, we do clearly see, second, the Blackfriars Railway Station Bridge that is, with its long line of slanting roofs.
Third, we can see the upper parts of the Millenium Bridge (featured in the bottom three pictures here, where there is also another snap of those weird Blackfriars columns), the footbridge that famously wobbled when first opened, which does about half the job of taking pedestrians between Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Fourth, slightly green despite being in the shade, is Southwark Bridge.
Fifth, there is the severely functional railway bridge that takes the trains from the south east over the river to Cannon Street Station. You can just make out a clutch of signals at its left hand end as we look at it.
Sixth, we have “London Bridge”, and I can help adding sneer quotes. What a come-down that bridge is from how London Bridge used to be. No wonder so many people think that Tower Bridge is London Bridge. The actual London Bridge is so boring.
One of the reasons I especially like the new Blackfriars Railway Station Bridge is that it sets a precedent for putting buildings on a London bridge, and makes it more likely that London Bridge itself might one day be rebuilt in something like its former glory. Maybe not quite as tall as it once was, but with buildings on it, like Ponte Vecchio. What would be particularly cool is if, just as in former times, a new London Bridge could be built, strong enough to be a platform for buildings, but if it was then left to individual plot owners to decide exactly what to put on each plot.
And finally, seventh, there is Tower Bridge, at the far right hand end of the map.
London. It just keeps on getting better.
Taken by me today, from outside Waterloo Station, as afternoon was turning to evening. Strata is suffering from red eye.
I love this time of year.
There’s the Six Nations. The England France game was a cracker. Oddly it did not distress me that England lost, narrowly, because they played some really good stuff and might have won. The England Scotland game, on the other hand, did distress me, because both Scotland and the pitch were utter crap. And although England were okay, on a proper pitch they could have really played well and scored a decent number of tries, instead of just one in each half. As it was England played only adequately. Very dispiriting. But, it’s still the Six Nations. Maybe week three will be as good as week one was.
And, I love it that the days are now lengthening. My photography depends heavily on daylight. Even the difference between dusk and dark is very important to me, as the above photo illustrates.
But I also like these ...
… which were taken in 2001, in Paris, using my very first digital camera, something called a Minolta Dimage EX1500, which I wrote about at the bottom of this 2006 posting here, complete with a photo of this strange contraption. First generation digital cameras like that one were lousy in low light, so for making portraits indoors (which was what I first bought it) you needed flash. But flash from straight in line with the direction the camera is pointing is horrible, a guarantee of red eyes and hideous shadow effects. But this Minolta Dimage had a flash attachment that you could hold out to the side, at the other end of a wire, which changed everything. I am surprised more cameras don’t still sport such a feature.
And the reason I mention this now, all of a sudden, is that yesterday, I took another selfie of myself, in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, where I had just picked out a cheap, nasty little portable DVD player the size of a laptop, costing about half what a radio used to cost, to watch in bed and send myself to sleep, which I need to do to cure my Ashes lag. There I was, wandering back towards the checkout, gawping at the giant flat screen TVs of the sort I can remember costing ten grand but which now cost not a lot more than one grand and some of them even less than that, and suddenly I saw myself on one of the screens.
Out comes the camera. Snap. Whenever I see something which startles me, I try to photo it, provided it’s still there to be photographed, as this strange sight was:
Unlike the above two photos, this one is not me photoing myself the wrong way round in a mirror, but photoing myself by photoing a photo of myself, which means that my photo is the right way around.
I’ve got the box with the little DVD player jammed under my left arm. I nearly put it in my bag while I was taking the photo, but that would have been half way to shoplifting and very dodgy looking. What with me being on camera at the time.
Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures. He chooses his favourite. I choose this one:
One of the speculations I offered in my recent talk about the impact of digital photography was that digital photography has greatly encouraged this kind of temporary art.
Recently I heard tell of some kind of performance art event where cameras were forbidden. My googling skills did not enable me to track down any report of such an event, but I am guessing that one of their motives was to avoid the creation of an object, which someone might later buy, and then (perhaps for a great deal more money) sell. And I further guess that the “artists” in question were being deliberately contrary, as artists typically like to be these days, and chose to do the daft, counter-intuitive thing. The obvious response to temporary art is to take pictures of it, to make it permanent. So, said the artists, let’s forbid that, and be different.
But most people who do something “creative” want some kind of record or product of their efforts, something to show for it. Literally, some thing, to show. And the fact that it is now so totally easy to create such things, such records, and communicate them far and wide to friends and family, real and virtual, must surely increase the attraction of doing such temporary art. Art, that is to say, that in the past would have been temporary, but which can now be made permanent. See also: painting, sand castles, ice sculptures.
As to what these particular people are communicating with their body assemblages, what it speaks to me of is the futility of life in the world now, for young people, educated, unemployable, unneeded, probably in debt.
Yes, it’s another posting about photographing London’s Big Things from a high up place.
On July 27th of last year, I found myself at the top of Kings College, London, and a week later I posted a few of the photos I managed to take from that vantage point.
Many of the photos I took looked like this:
In other words, general, semi-panoramic views, just hoovering up whatever was there to be seen, to be looked at in more detail later.
But after taking that photo, I realised that this view included what looked like another very promising vantage point:
When I got home, I did some googling, and found out that this place must be the Radio Bar at the top of the ME Hotel. The ME Hotel is at the westerly spike of the Aldwych semi-circle, so to speak.
Here is another good picture of this place, and of the kind of views that may be had from it.
So, I had a go at visiting this soon after finding this out, in August, but there was a queue, and I am not good with queues. Queues mean waiting in the queue, and also mean that when you finally get there, there will be lots of people in the way of my photographing, and worse, that they may be in a hurry to get rid of you (especially if you are a photographer), rather than glad to see you. So, I decided to try it again when the weather was nice, but colder.
And recently, on January 25th, I did this. Me being me, I took lots of views, and lots of views with fellow digital photographers taking shots of the views:
I also cranked up the zoom, and took lots of views like this:
This Radio Bar is one of the very best places I know of to look out over London.
With views that touch the clouds and include Tower Bridge, the Shard, London Bridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and the theatre district of Covent Garden, the rooftop bar at the ME London raises the bar on the enjoyment of social life whilst having a drink in the lounge.
Boastful but fair, although I think I marginally prefer, for the way it is laid out, One New Change. But the views from this new place are an order of magnitude better.
On January 25th, I purchased not just the one over-priced (actually a blazing bargain, given what I was really buying) drink, but, after I had finished taking snaps, another.
I returned to the ME Radio Bar just over a week ago, but … later.
Mick Hartley provides a horizontality opportunity:
That’s the view he saw, yesterday (unless I am much mistaken), from Alexandra Palace, one of the quite numerous sweet spots for photoing the Big Things of London.
That sky that I just sliced out was rather special yesterday. The air was clear. The sunshine, of which there was plenty, was bright. So, there were lots of those brightly lit things against a dark cloud background. And lots of contrasts between this photo and that photo of the same things. Lovely.
This was one of many pictures I took this afternoon, following a most agreeable and tasty lunch at the Windmill, courtesy of Michael Jennings:
A classic church dwarfed by modernity. And off the top of the picture there is more modernity that I did not include, a lot of it being what used to be called the NatWest Tower, or Tower Something Numerical, as it’s now called. It took me a while to hunt down this particular church, but I finally found it.
In the foreground, Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge.
I think it just possible that I may have invented that clutch of blogging phrases involving the word “quota” - “quota post”, “quota photo”, or (my favourite, I think) ”quota quote”. I rather doubt it. More likely I invented such phrases simultaneously with several other bloggers. But, if I did invent this quota stuff, kudos to me. Either way, I do genuinely suspect that 6k at least caught this usage from me. This being because, like me at the moment (although not always), he (always) likes to stick up something every day. Despite him having a life, a job, a family, and other such peripheral blogging paraphernalia.
Often, it’s a quota photo. Like, for instance, this one, …:
I had been trying for a while to work out just what it was that I found so particularly appealing about this snap. What was it that I found so particularly … particular? Then, I got it. It looks to me, not so much like a real sea, as like a static, plasticated sea, as made by a really, really good maker of models.
The sea looks like it is made not of sea, but of solidified glue, or that see-through plastic stuff, called whatever it’s called. Throw a tiny ball bearing at this solid sea, and the ball bearing would just bounce off, with no splashing, and making the same noise it would make if bouncing off a table. The immobile sea would remain immobile, untouched, impervious.
The effect of a solid object rather than a regular sea is, I think, partly the result of the lighting. The effect is more like the way a lamp is reflected in a shiny table top than the way we usually see light on the sea.
But most of all, it looks somewhat weird because it’s a photograph. Photographs freeze moving objects into static objects, and sometimes this makes them look entirely different and unrealistic. A video of the sea would look sea-like. Videoed sea swallows ball-bearings, just like regular sea. Just not this sea, as seen and immobilised by 6k.
All this because 6k likes to have something up, often. And that’s the point of quota posting, for those of us who are suited to it. If you have reasonable taste, then the mere fact of starting doing a blog posting ensures not only that something will go up, but that, really quite often, something really quite good will go up. Like this photo, which I consider to be very good indeed. Often what takes the time, with blogging as with life, is not doing it, but getting round to doing it. The actual doing is often quickly done, and often very well done.
Some of my best blog postings have happened because I wanted to put up any old something, however bad, and it turned out really good.
So Kevin Pietersen has been sacked by England, for not being a team player, being obnoxious, friendless, or whatever it was. Still a good player, but not a team player. The gory details will presumably all emerge, soon enough.
But the really important question is one that nobody seems to be asking, obsessed as they are with England, England losing the Ashes in humiliating fashion, and so forth and so on. Will Pietersen now be able to play more often for Surrey? Or, will he be so busy roaming the earth playing T20 cricket that he won’t have any more time to spare on Surrey than he has had in the last few years, ever since he joined them.
A couple of years ago, Surrey were in the throes (sp?) of the Maynard drama and the Ramprakash retirement, nobody was playing very well, and in particular nobody was batting very well. My theory is that when tragedy strikes a sports team, the natural reaction of the other players is to play badly, as a mark of respect. To play well, in the immediate aftermath of tragedy, would be to display insensitivity, selfishness, greater concern for one’s own career than about the tragedy.
But Kevin Pietersen, being Kevin Pietersen, is impervious to such emotional atmospheres. So, some crazy kid gets hyped up on drink and drugs and gets clobbered to death by a train? Although I hardly knew the guy, I am supposed to be all bent out of shape? Forget it. So out Pietersen goes and makes 234 not out, …:
This, by any standards, was an extraordinary innings. It was not just that Pietersen hit the fastest first-class century of the season - 93 balls with 13 fours and three sixes - or that he went on to hit the fastest double-century of the season - 170 balls, 25 fours and seven sixes - but that he bullied the bowling - the bowling of the county champions, no less - with a dominance rarely witnessed in the professional game. It was an innings that would have made Sir Viv Richards proud. And there really isn’t higher praise than that.
… which was, actually, the exact thing that the Surrey cricket team then needed. A ruthless bastard prepared to go on playing cricket, really well, when all about him were shuffling about staring at their feet, as if at a seemingly endless funeral, which mentally speaking they actually still were.
I bet Surrey would be very, very glad to have as much of Kevin Pietersen as he is now willing to bestow upon them. And what is more, at a time when he will be in the mood to inflict maximum embarrassment on England, for dumping him. To this end, merely thrashing sixes in T20 tournaments in faraway countries will not suffice. What he will want will be huge first class scores, in England, at exactly the time when England are being bowled out for smaller scores by visiting test teams with bowlers no better than English county bowling, and all in England for every cricket fan and cricket person in England to see and talk about and chortle about.
LATER: What Pietersen brings to the IPL.
To the right of this image is to be found the following verbiage:
The reasons for why East London has seen the flowering of street art are manifold. The post-industrial legacy of Shoreditch’s crumbling low-rise warehouses, not only provides an environment in which the artists and designers can do their work, but East London’s proximity to the City of London provides an economic source of support for the artists and designers; and finally Shoreditch with its building sites, old dilapidated warehouses provides a canvas upon which those artists can display their work and increase their commercial value.
Mostly revolutionary chic to pay the rent, I’d say. Which, on balance, I quite like, because it gets up the noses of the real revolutionaries.
Plus it gets up the noses of the Art Twats by being understandable and entertaining without them having to explain what it means.
More East End street art here. In fact, lots more, if you scroll back through the archives there.
Late last year I decided that since my blogging software puts a small gap between lines of photos automatically, I would put a small gap between pictures horizontally. This was easily done, with the html clutch of symbols to say space, which I do not know how to reproduce here, because all they do is create a space.
So anyway, I worked away at the slightly reduced sizes that pictures would need to be to fit in sideways, carefully checking that what looked like the final answer to two side by side, three in a horizontal row, four in a horizontal row, etc., would all work.
Unfortunately, I did not give sufficient attention to the tool which magnifies or diminishes my blog from its basic 100 percent size. The problem, I later discovered was the 110 percent setting.
In this posting from last December, for instance, it produced results like this:
Yesterday I went back through my archives, with the magnification set at 110 percent, and reduced the size of every little picture by one pixel, after which everything fitted, for all percentage reductions or increases. Luckily I have not been doing this horizontal space thing that long.
You want to look your best, and all now should be well:
There has to be an easier way to do this kind of thing, but with me and blogging, in fact with me and computers generally, whatever I can get to work is what I do. Like a rat in a maze, once I have found a way around, however circuitous, which nevertheless gets me there, that is the way I go from then on.
Such are the little dramas of blogging.
Here are an extraordinarily large number of photos of the Airbus A380, showing off at a Russian air show.
Here is one of my favourites, in the photoing-planes-from-above-and-yet-also-from-the-ground genre, that the A380 so likes to encourage, when showing off at air shows, the point being that for such a big airplane, this is a bit surprising:
I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think a slogan like that – “Own the sky” - would be used in the primmer, prissier West, now so much more environmentally hesitant about jet airplanes. Not environmentally hesitant enough to actually stop flying them and flying in them, you understand, but environmentally hesitant enough for everyone to pretend they feel bad about it.
I got a very similar shot of the A380 when it performed the same kind of dance routine at Farnborough, in the summer of 2010:
No mention of anyone owning the sky then, there.
Another difference you can see there - see planely, you might say - is the difference a better camera makes. Happily my 2010 camera is not the one I use now, which is rather better.
The other day, I stuck up a couple of pictures I took in Paris, in February 2012. Here are three more Paris pictures, taken a few days later, from one of the upper floors of the mighty Montparnasse Tower, which is just about the only very tall, modern tower block anywhere very near to the centre of Paris. My host for the week, Antoine Clarke, had a mate who worked in this building.
I love the photo at the other end of that link, a classic in the Lined Up Big Things genre, the Big Things in this case being the Montparnasse and Eiffel Towers, and behind them, we see, once again the distant Big Things of La Defense.
On the left, I’me looking in the same direction, but instead of photoing the Montparnasse Tower, I am photoing from the Montparnasse Tower, thereby lining up the two things that were in the two separate pictures in the earlier posting, namely the Eiffel Tower and La Défense:
In the middle of the middle picture is the Big Thing from which my earlier two photos were taken, the Pompidou Centre. This is not a view I have seen very much. Usually the Pompidou seems to be photoed from below. Very impressive roof clutter, even if a bit arty and self-conscious.
On the right, we see the Sacré Coeur in the far distance, and in between, how Paris looks, on a very cold but sunny day. Paris, untouched during WW2, looks a lot different to London, doesn’t it?
The sky is so dark because actually, the city itself was so bright.