Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
- Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East
- Opera North’s Ring
- An important game and only a game
- Making blue by copying tarantulas
- An old person television set
- Battersea from Clapham Junction
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This and that
Earlier I reported on an old bus doing new bus stuff. Michael J commented that on routes 9 and 15, such buses are now active, but will soon be withdrawn from route 9. Presumably Michael was looking at pages like this one.
But neither Michael nor that page said or say anything about route 2.
Nevertheless, spotted by me this morning, at the top end of Horseferry Road, this:
This picture, taken a week ago, across the road from St Thomas’ Hospital, makes me think of that old Transport Blog that me and my gang used to write for:
Public proclamations of this sort mean, I believe, that you somewhat forfeit your anonymity. I could have cropped this photo down to the transport only, but did not feel obliged to.
Indeed. It was a rather grey and grim day, but at least I didn’t get part of the Big Blue Cock in sunlight, and the rest in shade, as I did when I visited the Big Blue Clock earlier, when it was sunnier:
This being the sculpture beneath which Goddaughter 2 and I met up the other day. I think you will agree there can be no doubt about you having got to the desired spot, if the desired spot you have selected is: beneath the Big Blue Cock.
I include the sign under it so you can find out all about it, if you wish to.
What I like about the Big Blue Cock is that it is an undistorted cock, rather than a cock that some artist has played silly buggers with the shape of. In other words, I like it for the same kind of reasons I like the Gormley Men. Only the blueness is a strange. But then again, you often get oddly coloured animals, such as in toy form. And anyway, making a cock in an exactly realistic colour would probably be too hard.
Although, I don’t know why this is not done more often. We could surely now make statues of notables, and get the colours exactly right. Why do statues have to be in only one - very unrealistic - colour?
The trick for doing photography entertainingly is to acquire more and more specialisms, more and more things you like to photo a lot. And one of my favourite specialisms is: interesting vehicles. Often old ones, like, e.g., this one.
Vehicles like this one, which I spotted in the Strand yesterday, while out and about with Goddaughter 2.
What is interesting about it is that it looks like one of those ye olde buses (permanently open back door for instance) that now only does things like weddings and corporate jollifications. I have many photographs, including many, I dare say, of this actual bus, to prove this. Yet here it is, apparently (judging by what it says at the back of it) doing regular bus stuff.
True, it is specialising in famous tourist spots, like St Paul’s and the Tower of London. Even so, odd. If tourists can ride about in such a bus, why can’t regular Londoners?
Spent the afternoon and evening out with Goddaughter 2. On our travels we encountered a poster advertising the movie Noah. My opinion of Hollywood action movies is that they shrink all stories that they start with back to just the one story which is the same story every time. I asked if that was true also of Noah. Yes, replied Goddaughter 2:
It is basically Transformers with a boat.
LOL. As in: I actually did. Goddaughter 2 also sounds like an action movie, I think.
When I should have been taking my early evening nap, we were instead watching Cosi Fan Tutte at the Imax, and I struggled to stay awake. Not that it was bad. If it had been bad I would have just gone to sleep. But it was good, so I kept on postponing my nap, for about four hours. The result of all this is that I am too now tired to be saying anything more than what you just read.
Well, one other thing. We met under the Big Blue Cock in Trafalgar Square, my thinking in choosing this spot being that you aren’t going to get it wrong. There are no other Big Blue Cocks in London, and you can’t miss it.
We both like it very much.
Are you a struggling designer? Want lots of publicity? Can’t afford to buy it? What do you do?
Last night “CATable” got 150,000 hits. At 10am this morning, the score had reached: 213,000.
Will cats ignore the thing? Probably:
Ruan Hao’s CATable could only be the invention of a severely Stockholm Syndrome-impaired cat owner. Designed as a desperate ploy to convince your cat that there’s somewhere more interesting to be than on top of your laptop right now, there is only one possible reaction I can imagine from the world’s feline population: utter disdain.
Cats may ignore Ruan Hao’s CATable, but the www is not ignoring it.
Maybe Ruan Hao thought of this? Mmmmm? Maybe not desperate? Maybe smart?
I love it when London’s Big Things line themselves up when I’m photoing them, and this evening I scored a huge fluke, with this:
I thought I was merely photoing the Shard. Only when I got home did I realise that the little dome in front of the Shard is actually bigger than it looked when I did the snap, and that the dome is St Paul’s.
This was taken from Granary Square, earlier this evening. Full disclosure: I then cropped it, quite a lot, which I usually don’t do.
I shall return, and try to get more and better shots of the same alignment.
The Ugly Lump with the gasometer in front of it, on the right, is Guy’s Hospital. The other day I heard myself surmising that maybe if Guy’s Hospital had never been built, the Shard might not have been built either. As it was, there was no nearby neighbourhood or particular bit of the London skyline to ruin, aesthetically speaking, because that job had already been done by Guy’s. As it was, any aesthetical objection to the Shard was, as far as the immediate locals were concerned, a non-starter.
Well, it turns out it’s the Tower Wing of Guy’s Hospital. Blog and learn. About Ugly Lumps. Actually, now that I had the thought in the previous paragraph, I am starting to warm to this particular Ugly Lump.
Before I forget to link to it, here, very belatedly, is a link to four pictures of central London in the Guardian, which, if you left-click on them, suddenly become populated with soon-to-be-built new Big Things.
This, for example, …:
… turns, when you left-click on it, into this:
That’s the changing picture of the south bank of the river, just upstream from me.
My personal opinion is: it looks great! By which I mean not that the second of these pictures looks great, but that the development it attempts to picture will look great, or at least much better than this picture.
This is a general fact about the new Big Things of London of the last decade and more, I think. All of them have ended up looking, to my eye, better for real than the models and photos of them beforehand looked, which are just too boxy and bland and unrealistic to capture the feeling of how new Big Things will really look.
In particular, the Walkie Talkie looked, to me, terrible, when it was only a faked up computer image. Now, I like it more and more. It’s odd. It’s not beautiful exactly, but it has character. Once you see it, you don’t forget it. In short, it is like London.
These new Big Things will, I predict, be like that also. You can bet that all the architects involved will be trying desperately to upstage each other, by making at least half of these new Big Things systematically more interesting and oddly shaped than these computer mock-ups now make them look.
It occurs to me also to wonder how much difference the ubiquity of such imagery before Big Things get built affects the chances of such Big Things being built. Could such widely-viewed-in-advance pictures perhaps make Big Thing building easier, by mobilising the support of those who, like me, would like such new buildings a lot, but don’t see it as a life-and-death struggle, the way many opponents of such Big Things perhaps do. If that’s right, the opponents keep themselves and each other informed even when that is hard, and fight like hell to stop such Things, either out of aesthetic hatred or because some particular Big Thing will, they reckon, wreck their back yard. Now, we less rabid supporters can all say Go Ahead Build It, but without busting our guts and doing lots of complicated research and politicking, because finding out and saying GABI is now so much easier.
The speaker I had previously arranged had to cancel, hence the delay in me telling the world about it, but … my speaker at my last Friday of the Month meeting on April 25th, i.e. this coming Friday, will be my good friend (and frequent commenter here) Michael Jennings, talking about Russia. Russia is lways an important topic of discussion, but it is of course now also a particularly timely and newsworthy one.
Here is what Michael has just emailed me about what he will be talking about.
On the 21st of last month, I arrived in Moscow. This was my first trip to Russia. That this was my first trip to Russia was somewhat curious. I have been a frequent traveller for twenty five years and a compulsive one for the last ten years, and throughout that time I would have always put Russia in the top few countries that I wanted to visit, and yet I never did.
This was not, however, remotely, my first trip to the lands of the former Soviet Union. I had previously been to Latvia and Estonia (twice). I had previously been to Ukraine (five times). I had previously been to Moldova (twice). I had previously been to Georgia (four times). I had previously been to Armenia (twice). The former Warsaw Pact countries further west than that, I have been to many times - around 20 times in the case of Poland, half a dozen times to Romania, and multiple times to all the others.
My reasons for visiting these countries have always been private. I go where my curiosity takes me. I go where my financial resources can take me. And I go where other, bureaucratic and practical obstacles are relatively easy.
What factors led to my choice of destinations? Well, two practical factors. One was the ease or difficulty of obtaining a visa. The other was the ease, of difficulty of physically travelling there. The rise of discount airlines was a key factor in all of this, also. Their presence in markets not only makes it easier and cheaper to get there, but is at least an indicator in how open to the west the country is trying to be.
Going east, there has long been a psychological boundary between places looking east to Moscow and places looking west to, well, no particular city or place, but western Europe in general. The business with the visas and discount airlines has made it easy to go up to that boundary, if you will, as it moves around. At times, it has allowed me to go over that boundary, sometimes to slightly hairy places such as Transnistria and Abkhazia - breakaway regions of Moldova and Georgia respectively. More commonly, though, what I mean by this is the drabber regions of Ukraine or Moldova.
However, it was time to bite the bullet, and go completely to the other side. So, Moscow. As it happened, the wall appeared to be permeable. The western discount airlines have started flying to Russia, at least in a small way. The visa process was baroque and Soviet, but the customer service was with a smile. I had Russian contacts who were happy to catch up for a beer in one of the many English pubs in Moscow and St Petersburg. Even when they worked for the Russian government, they were happy to talk pretty frankly about what was going on.
And yet, in the couple of weeks before I arrived, Russia had been asserting its power over Crimea. On the day I arrived, (according to Russia, at least) Russia formally annexed Crimea. (I got to see a lovely fireworks display over the Moskva river in the evening.) The places I could go on a discount airline without a visa retreated that day, possibly for the first time since 1991.
And that was the overall impression I got of Moscow and St Petersburg. There is a feel of modern cities in both places, but certain things are askew. And certain things are absent. (Soviet style customer service still exists in many places. But in others it doesn’t.) Middle class life feels like middle class life in many places, although if you are poorer, I suspect life is very different. On Friday I will describe some of this, and if I am bold I will try to draw some conclusions.
Excellent. And to Michael, my gratitude for having got me out of a small bind with what will, I am sure, be an excellent talk at rather short notice. Not that the short notice will affect its quality. If it is as good as the talk he gave at my home last year about globalisation, all those who attend this Friday will be much educated and much entertained.
I’m guessing that the mood of the meeting will be a lot like this Samizdata QotD from Michael Totten. But that’s only a guess.
Follow the link above, and you’ll read the headline “China build the World’s Longest Bridge - Jiaozhou Bay Bridge”. But bridges like this, across huge chunks of sea and with hugely long approaches over that sea, are fairly common now, even if this particular one happens to be the biggest in this genre, for the moment. The photo has it right. The bridge is just another bridge, and is rightly stuck away in the distance. The motorway junction is in the foreground, and quite right too. Is there, anywhere else on the planet, a motorway junction resembling this one, all at sea?
Ordinary bridge, astonishing approach. Reminds me of this.
Indeed. Yesterday, late in the afternoon, walking along the south side of the river, near the National Theatre (see below), I saw, and photographed this:
Which, for me, was a first.
I took lots of shots where the photographer had only one leg on the skateboard, but with the other leg touching the ground and pushing him forward. But eventually I got the shot I was waiting for.
A Happy Easter to all my readers.
Actually it’s National Theatre Bookshop. But I prefer my edited version.
So I was in Lower Marsh this afternoon, where I photographed this:
Odd. Why are most of them red, but two of them blue? And why are the three to the top right seemingly not properly aligned?
At first I thought I was looking at a flock of birdcages. But following closer inspection, of the things themselves and of the photos I took of them, my bet now would be that these are light sockets, and that they will very soon be covered by a giant illuminated arrow, pointing towards the entrance to a new cafe. But this is only a guess.
I know that you are all now very excited about this. So, I will be sure to keep you informed, with further photos and reportage.
On Monday I was in Trafalgar Square, and photoed this statue:
I was in a hurry, and had no time to dwell on what it said on the plinth, but it seemed to be saying “JACOBVS SECVNDVS”, or some such thing. So, could this really be James II? I proceeded to my Event and forgot about it.
But just now, seeking a quota photo, I looked it up, and yes, it is James II.
Description of it:
Sculpted by Grinling Gibbons or one of his pupils this is considered a very fine statue. It is a pair with that of Charles II, James’s brother and predecessor, at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in that they were both commissioned by Tobias Rustat.
Even better description of it:
A strong contender for the title “campest statue in London”, this statue has seen more sites than most, starting off in Priory Gardens, the centre of Whitehall, the forecourt of the Admiralty and now here.
I knew that the Romans tended to be held in higher esteem in former times than they are now. But I didn’t realise that James II in particular was such an admirer of the Romans.
Was it James II’s decision to be dressed like this? It had to be a decision he approved of, or would have approved of, because Tobias Rustat was an exact contemporary, and a servant of Charles II. I.e. not a man who would have done anything to offend Charles II’s brother monarch.
Blog and learn.
As for the camp thing, James’s face in this statue does remind me a bit of this bloke.
LATER: I see that James II regarded himself as the king not only of England, Scotland and Ireland, but also of France. Odd.
The pictures below were taken on April 16th 2004, in (on?) one of my regular snapping zones, Westminster Bridge (and nearby places), from which, then as now, you get great views of both Parliament and the Wheel, depending on which way you look.
Most of the things I was photoing then haven’t changed that much, but … I was just then starting to realise that my fellow digital photographers were an object worthy of my detailed and prolonged attention, which they have been ever since. That summer of 2004 was the moment when I first got seriously stuck into this category of photo. There are still lots of pictures of people just wandering around, being people. But, the photographers were just starting to figure strongly in the archives. It took me a while to realise that the cameras mattered at least as much as the people using them, that aspect getting steadily easier as zoom got zoomier.
The privacy concerns associated with just shoving recognisable pictures of strangers up on the internet have only grown since then, but I reckon that pictures this old are not such a problem in that way. Recognisable pictures taken yesterday, that I tend not to do these days, or not so much. But pictures of people taken a decade ago, well, I’m more relaxed about that.
The little squares zoom in on the cameras. Click and get the original pictures as taken that afternoon, which would appear to have been exactly as sunny as today is.
Mostly silver rather than black, mostly much bulkier than the equivalent cameras look now. But of course there is one exception to all that. Picture 3.1 shows a kind of camera that looked then pretty much exactly as it looks now. Black. Shaped like an old school camera. These are the cameras that are actually just regular quite good digital cameras, but which enable you think of yourself as the beginnings of a Real Photographer. My kind of camera, in other words. Cameras in this category look now exactly as they looked then. Nothing has changed with those.
Except what they can do.
Here is a series of photos I took, all in the space of a few seconds, of IEA Director Mark Littlewood speaking at lunchtime on the Sunday of last weekend’s LLFF14, while also being rather dramatically photographed by someone else besides me.
I wish I knew how to display photos the way Simon Gibbs has displayed his set of LLFF14 photos here, so that you can just click once and immediately get to the next one. All I can suggest is scroll down, and maybe get the effect that way.
I enjoyed LLFF14 a lot, and not only because the thing itself was good, well organised, etc.. I think this was also because I did some preparatory thought about what I wanted to accomplish by attending and I then duly accomplished quite a lot of this, and that made me happy. Signing up speakers for my Fridays, wangling invites to universities, that kind of thing.
Plus, I wanted in particular to learn more about this whole minimum income thing, concerning which I am deeply suspicious. Again I find myself linking to a Simon Gibbs posting, this time entitled Don’t surrender the next 300 years for the next 15, although what good this lunatic scheme is supposed to do in the short run I do not know. So anyway, I learned more about that, just as I hoped I would.
Just turning up at a event like this with no active idea of what then to do besides sit and listen, means you are liable to come away feeling (probably quite correctly) that you accomplished very little, and that can be depressing. I did not make that mistake this time.
I love this, from AndrewZ at Samizdata, commenting on this piece by Natalie Solent, which quotes a couple of particularly demented pieces of writing in the Guardian, about cupcake fascism (this phrase should never be forgotten) and about the horrors of tourism. (Natalie has been agreeably busy at Samizdata of late.)
The online edition of any newspaper that isn’t behind a paywall relies on advertising to generate income and this depends on maximising the number of page views. The simplest way to do that is to publish outrageous and provocative opinions that will attract links from elsewhere and start a blazing row among the regular commenters. The great liberal newspaper of old is now little more than a group blog that trolls its own readers for advertising revenue.
No link from here to the original pieces, about cupcake fascism or tourism. Oh no. BmdotCOM is not falling into that trap.
Now that I have read the rest of them, I can report that all the comments at Samizdata on this posting are pretty good and worth a look.
This evening I visited New Zealand House, for an ASI do. On the way out, I passed this bust, with “FREYBERG V.C.” on its plinth:
Inevitably, when you stick up a photo of such a notable, you do some googling. Not only was Freyberg awarded the VC. He also scored four DSOs. My Uncle Jack got three of these, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone getting four. It seems that sixteen men have won four DSOs, with just two of these (Freyberg and Frederick Lumsden (who died towards the end of WW1)) getting four DSOs and a VC.
Blog and learn.
I see that another of the DSO four-timers - but no VC, although he was recommended for one - was Group Captain Tait, who succeeded Cheshire (VC) as commander of 617 Squadron (aka the Dam Busters). Tait lead them when they flew from Lossiemouth to Norway and sank the Tirpitz. I remember reading about Tait when I was a kid, because the book I read about the Dambusters wasn’t just about the dams raid but recounted their whole war.
Literally about three people whom I spoke with at LLFF14 may now or soon be flooding in to BrianMicklethwait.com, expecting, perhaps, libertarian profundities. But this is not that sort of place, is it? No it is not.
Here, I do things like display photos of London, like this:
On the left, a shot taken by me on May 19th 2004, showing how Vauxhall bus station looked when it was under construction. On the right, how the same building looked when completed, photoed by me last Christmas Eve.
What a very odd object this is.
The 2004 photo was taken with my second digital camera, which was a Canon PowerShot A70.
Back quite late from LLFF14, and too tired to say much about that now, other than that I am enjoying it very much. So here instead is a blatant quota photo of some painted people I snapped, down by the riverside, from Westminster Bridge, last Thursday, late afternoon:
It’s a tough life, having a painted face for a living. She’s saying: I’ll be home soon.
I thought about cropping this snap, but if in doubt, not, is my inclination on that.
So I made my way to the Opening Do of LLFF14 earlier this evening, at a bar near Kings Cross Station. On my way, the light was so good I just had to take some photos. Not many, but those I did take came out very nicely. These three were my favourites. The first is me looking back along Pentonville Road at St Pancras Station. To think they were once going to knock this down. The second is just a random piece of domestic architecture. And the third I took because it looked like it had some rather good cushion type things, such as I might want to buy if I ever get around to making myself a sofa:
The Do itself was great, until eventually the noise of everyone shouting at each other became more than I could take. As I said to someone, I couldn’t even hear myself talk. Not hearing others was bad enough, but when I couldn’t even hear the sound of my own voice, well, there went one of my deepest pleasures in life. So I left. That wasn’t a problem. The main business of LLFF takes place during the day, on Saturday and Sunday, and I will of course return.
On my way from the bar back to Kings Cross tube, I got very lost, despite having my Smartphone with me, with its invaluable map app. And that was when I noticed something very odd and different about this part of London, compared to where I live. No helpful signposts, telling you where the nearest tube is, or where Kings Cross or St Pancras Stations are. I’m guessing because this is a part of town where tourists tend not to go, and most people there just know all that sort of stuff already. Apart from me.
Well, it won’t have taken you long. But even so, impressive, I think.
The photograph is one of these.
I seem to recall that, in Total Recall (I wish), people’s homes were decorated not with static pictures, but with images that constantly changed. We are definitely heading that way.
My computer screen now was amazingly cheap, and is by some distance the best one I’ve ever had, a trend that doesn’t look like stopping at all. Michael J, I know, has two screens attached to his computer, rather than just the one like me. That too is, I should imagine, a growing trend. I might do that myself one day soon, if I ever get round to that remodel of my desk that I keep promising myself. (At present it’s a total shambles, having been designed for one of those horrible pregnant out the back TV sets, and what is worse, one that I hated and immediately swapped for a better pregnant out the back TV, now long gone, of course.)
So, how long before the typical householder connects his computer to about a dozen different screens, scattered around his home. I’ll never do this, because I have books. Remember those. Actually that isn’t very funny, because of course books still abound. This is because, as Alex Singleton was saying to me only yesterday, the business of reading books off of electronic screens has yet to be perfected. A few years back, screens to read books with were excellent, because they were built for that and nothing else. But the arrival of the smartphone, tablet, phablet, thingy has actually caused book reading on the move to get worse, because there’s a trade-off now being made between reading perfectly, and thingy screen perfection. What you want is a button on all those thingies, to switch to a perfect reading screen when you need that.
An interesting moment will happen when screens are pretty much flawless at doing reproductions of great paintings.
Or to put all this another way, when people look back on our time, they’ll not be impressed with our screens, any more than I am impressed by the screens we had thirty years ago.
And with pictures of the quality of the one above, or of all the others in the set I found it in, being so abundantly available on the www, there’ll never be any shortage of stuff to show on all our screens. And that’s not even to mention the ones we take ourselves.
As already noted here, I did a piece last week for Samizdata entitled The Institute of Economic Affairs and its support for Liberty League Freedom Forum 2014. “Hayek1337” has just added this interesting and informative comment, which I want to remember before it disappears off the bottom of Samizdata:
It’s worth noting that Liberty League is ultimately run by Anton Howes, James Lawson, and Will Hamilton – who I’ve considered great friends since their first conference (and the 80s dance floor in some dingy Birmingham club).
Their contribution in the silent background is huge, even if largely ignored. They had the entrepreneurial drive, and they’re the ones who make sure the conference actually has worthwhile speakers,and young people filling the rooms. They do it on the side, Anton’s a full time PHD student for example, but often has a bigger impact than a lot of these full time think tankers. They don’t make a penny from their efforts, it all goes to the conference and supporting student societies. There’s also whole Liberty League team around them, promoting Liberty across all corners of the UK at student societies.
Obviously the IEA is a big backer, and it’s got a hell of a lot of financial muscle, but Liberty League is very close to others in the Free Market movement, and isn’t an IEA project. I’ve seen those three at every Adam Smith Institute Next Generation since time began, and I met two of them at Freedom Week, back when it was set up by JP Floru of the ASI. So, you’ve got to look at return on investment, and those in the background. People like Madsen Pirie of the ASI, and Donal Blaney in the more Conservative movement have played a key role here – identifying and developing entrepreneurs in the battle of ideas, or as Atlas calls them, “multipliers for liberty”.
I guess it’s a case of the more multipliers for liberty the merrier …
Indeed. Quality is good, but quantity of quality has a extra quality about it. It’s not just more of the same. Things become possible, even inevitable, that were impossible before quantity kicked in.
I’ve admired Anton Howes for quite a while, and I hope to get to meet and learn more about James Lawson and Will Hamilton at LLFF2014, which is happening next weekend. Here are some pictures of these three, at the top of this clutch.
What I’ve heard about James Lawson (him in particular) says he might be an excellent Brian’s Fridays speaker.
On Sunday morning, just before attempting to visit a friend, I discovered that I did not have my wallet in its usual pocket. Frantic search around my home, nothing. Must have left it somewhere on Saturday. But where? Frantic expedition to the supermarket in Lower Marsh, which I visited on Saturday evening. No. Nothing. Start walking back home. Then remember, was in Marie’s Cafe, Lower Marsh, after being in supermarket. It has to be there. But, it’s Sunday. Will Marie’s Cafe in Lower Marsh be open? Go back past supermarket to Marie’s Cafe. Shut. Only when I go back to Marie’s Cafe yesterday do I discover that they have it. All is present and correct. Debit card, money, other crap.
Thank you Marie’s Cafe:
So, basically, I am back to where I was on Saturday night. But, feel ludicrously happy for all the rest of Monday. And am happy still.
To quote myself, after an earlier episode of a similar sort:
The ridiculousness of the pleasure I now feel is that all I did was correct a stupid mistake, with much fuss and bother and dust up my nose.
This time around, the dust up the nose was only metaphorical. That time it was literal, because that previous piece of error correction was error correction that involved a vacuum cleaner.
But pleasure is what I feel, and I am going now to continue to enjoy it.
Marie’s Cafe has for some time now been my favourite eating out place in London. Used to be the West End Kitchen in Panton Street. Mainly it’s the food, and what it costs. But there is also the fact that all the classical CD places in the West End have vanished and only Gramex, also in Lower Marsh, remains.
I see that the latest review at the other end of that link say that Marie’s Cafe is “overrated and overcrowded”. Which is hardly her fault. Personally, what I especially like is that there is a table for one right near the front door that is almost never in use, and I have started sitting there whatever the scrimmage state elsewhere.
No, this is not a plan to reduce the height of Battersea Power Station until it is mostly only its chimneys. This is a roof garden:
A slice of urban heaven, if that picture is anything to go by. Alas, it may not be, and most of us may never be allowed up there to check.
It looks like London is going to get itself some Frank Gehry wobbliness.
The English language is strange.
Consider this. We’re talking football, not something we often do here, but we are.
Suppose one of us says: “Liverpool are back.” This means that Liverpool, as in the single club Liverpool, is now doing very well, and much better than they have been doing for the last couple of decades or so. Which it is. Top of the Premier League as of now.
But suppose someone says: “Liverpool is back.” It would be clear from that remark that what is meant is that the entire city of Liverpool is on the up-and-up, footballwise. And it is. Both Liverpool (the club) and Everton, the other big club in Liverpool, are doing well just now. And Everton … are.
So, “are” is singular, and “is” is plural.
In other soccer news, check out the new Spurs stadium that they are going to build, which is to be called the Naming Rights Stadium.
Prediction: Spurs will do surprisingly badly (i.e. they’ll be eleventh rather than seventh, their current default position) for the next few years. Why? Because of this syndrome.
... but something from me here, about the IEA and LLFF2014.
Big Ben is the most famous Big Thing from among all the London Parliament buildings. But the other Big Thing, almost as famous, is “Victoria Tower”, by which I mean the one that’s a bit thicker than Big Ben, as tall, and with about five big spikes on top rather than just the one. Until now I had supposed that Victoria Tower was St Stephen’s Tower, but St Stephen’s Tower is another name for Big Ben. Certain wankers are fond of saying that Big Ben is really only the clock in the tower. But the rest of us long ago decided that Big Ben is Big Ben, all of it, tower, clock, the lot.
Or then again, maybe “St Stephen’s Tower” is really ”Elizabeth Tower”, because just recently they decided to call it that, instead of whatever the hell they used to call it.
I say, screw the damn name changes imposed by the damn politicians. If everyone out here in Human World thinks that Big Ben is actually Big Ben, the clock and the tower, then I say the clock and the tower are Big Ben. Usage trumps political mucking about. What something is called is discovered, not decided from on high. Elizabeth Tower my arse. Nobody I know calls it that. Nobody I know even knows that anyone else thinks it’s that.
Here’s a bloke who says: ”It’s called St Stephen’s Tower”, and a commenter then says: “Don’t call it Big Ben”. But the test is, do you want, when talking, to be a wanker, or do you want to be understood? If you want to be understood, you’ll say Big Ben.
That Big Ben is Big Ben is a fact reinforced by all the stupid name changes flung about by the politicians. The “Big Ben is not Big Ben” tendency can now no longer agree about what Big Ben is supposed to be called instead of what it is called, so: they lose.
So anyway, forget about Big Ben. Here are two recent snaps I took of “Victoria Tower”, both of them containing other things besides the Tower in question, which is how I like to photo London’s Big Things:
In each case, the other stuff has come out very clearly, and the tower is present only as a backdrop, in one case rather too strongly lit and in the other case not strongly enough lit. But that’s the thing about these Big Things. They are totally recognisable even if they don’t come out that well. That’s almost a definition of a Big Thing.
Why the brightly lit Union Jack umbrella? Well, I just like it.
As for why I have become so fascinated by chimneys, I think I can answer that. For me, chimneys represent a, yes, fascinating staging post between the kind of purely decorative and impressive roof clutter that the Victoria Tower makes such resplendent use of, and on the other hand the entirely utilitarian roof clutter, to do with the sending and receiving of electronic information, the accommodation of lift shafts, equipment to clean windows, as such like, that prevails now. Chimneys of the sort to be seen above are both there to do a job, and yet are also shaped to look somewhat elegant. For me, chimneys of this sort are an interesting moment in architectural history.
The umbrella photo was taken from Westminster Bridge, far side of the river from Parliament, just behind the tourist crap kiosk as you cross the river going south, on the right hand side, on July 6th of last year. The chimneys photo was taken from within the Millbank Triangle, i.e. in a spot in the middle of the triangle with, as its edges: Victoria Street, Vauxhall Bridge Road and the river, on December 12th of last year.
By the way, “Victoria Tower”, as I have been calling it, has sneer quotes attached because that used to be called “The King’s Tower”, but They (sneer capital T) renamed that in honour of Queen fucking Victoria. No wonder nobody has any idea what to call the fucking thing.
I seem to have turned into The Devil’s Kitchen.
From a report on an exhibition at the Building Centre (which I will definitely be looking in on soon), about the burst of new tower building that is about to happen in London, and in particular in Tower Hamlets, this:
Structures of over 20 storeys were usually only found on council estates or in the business hub of the city, yet new plans reveal that over 80 percent of the 236 planned towers are set to become luxury residential buildings to cater for London’s growing population. 43 percent of the all the proposed high-rises have now received approval and 77 percent of them will be focussed in Central and East London, with Tower Hamlets set to play host to 23 percent of the futuristic towers.
And, from a report about the alleged misdeeds of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, this:
The government has ordered outside auditors to examine allegations that an east London mayor sought to shore up his vote by diverting £2m in public grants to Bangladeshi and Somali groups.
The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, said staff from the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers were already in place at Tower Hamlets council. A file is being passed to the Metropolitan police.
Hm. A corrupt mayor. And, lots of new towers. Coincidence? I choose to doubt it.
If my guess (and I stress that a guess is all it is) is right, then to many, this would be an argument against all the towers. They can only be built if the builders find some way to line the pockets of the mayor and his favourite voters.
But I like towers. To me, this confluence of events is more like an argument in favour of local government corruption.
Besides which, doesn’t “Tower Hamlets” sound like a place where there ought to be lots of towers?
A commenter on one of the climate skeptic blogs, I think at Bishop Hill, provided a link to this fascinating posting, at Coyote Blog.
The Coyote man combines three tendencies that he sees in global temperatures. First, there is a warming process that has been going on since the Little Ice Age. Second, there is a slight kink upwards in this graph, very slight, associated with recent CO2 increase. Third, there is an oscillating wave, for some reason involving a couple of acronyms. And the result is a graph that seems to fit the recent facts better than any other graph I’ve seen. Certainly better than that idiot hockey stick.
If Coyote is right about all this, and he is in fact only semi-serious about it, then the global temperature will soon be seen to be inching downwards, until about 2030, at which point it will then turn back towards relatively rapid heating, again, along the lines of what happened from circa 1970 to circa 2000. So, a few We Will Freeze years, followed by some more We Will Fry decades.
However, we’re talking tiny numbers here. None of this is remotely describable as a catastrophe, even in the long run.
Coyote says he developed this stuff six years ago. But I could find no link back to him actually saying this six years ago. Pity.
Not for the first time, I find myself wishing that I could live another two hundred years rather than for about another twenty or probably less. What will happen to global temperatures for the next century or so? How will the politics of it all play out? I’d love to live long enough to find out. But, I won’t.
This started out as a jokey posting about climate science. It ended up as yet another rumination on the process of getting old. When you are young you are going to live indefinitely. You will die, eventually. But too long into the future for this event to be distinguishable for practical purposes from never. Then, rather suddenly, that all changes.
I recently did another climate science posting at Samizdata.
In Germany. Done just with paint. Excellent, I think. Found here (scrolling down is highly recommended). Which I found because 6k recently linked to the same site, concerning something else, also very entertaining.
I often cheat about timings of late night postings, by doing them in the very early morning and then subtracting enough time to time them at just before midnight. Perhaps you’ve noticed. You may even have got very slightly angry. This began when I was writing, just after midnight, about something had just been to, and wanted to put “earlier this evening” rather than “last night”. Last night is until you have gone to bed, no matter when. Today starts when you wake up, not at midnight last night. By this somewhat foul but on-the-whole fair reckoning, I have managed to post something-every-day-however-crap for the last several months.
But last-night-stroke-this-morning I was unable even to do this, because from 0:24am exactly until around 4am-ish (guess), earlier “today”, i.e. last night, brianmicklethwait.com was out of action, which meant that not only couldn’t anyone read it, but that I couldn’t post to it.
It being so late, I couldn’t politely ring The Guru, but I did email him, and he emailed me back at once. It turned out that he was even then Working On It. (Something to do with changing IP addresses, for some reason or other.) He was even able to tell me, with a second email, exactly when the problem had begun, which I hadn’t known.
Anyway, my basic point is: sorry.
“Sorry” is one of the most complicated words in the English language, especially here in England. Sorry is by no means the hardest word to say, in England. We say it constantly, to mean any number of apologetic and non-apologetic things. So make of this sorry whatever you will.
Two photos of signs, taken on the south side of the river between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge, about a fortnight ago.
On the left, some of the verbiage on this statue. My reason for showing it here is simply that I think this writing photographs so very well:
And on the right, snapped moments later, another sign, on the side of a coffee stall. It must be a very old joke indeed, but I was encountering it for the first time.
In general, signs make very good photos, I think.