Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
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This and that
This picture of a taxi ticks two BMdotcom boxes. First, its a black cab which isn’t, either because it just isn’t, or because it is covered in an advert. In this case, it’s a bit of both:
But better, we observe in the advert on the not-black cab two Big Things. The Big Thing on the left says: London! And what is actually the much Bigger Thing, on the right, says: New York! I am collecting imagery that says: London!, and this fits that bill very well, even if it does say: New York! as well.
I quite like the replacement for the Twin Towers, but it seems to me rather bland, in a picture, when you can’t see how very big it is. Bland being what you do not want in a Big Thing for saying: New York! But I guess, the Twin Towers having established themselves as the Big Things that formerly said: New York, whatever replaced them was going to have to do that job as soon as it appeared, bland or not. The Empire State or the Chrysler would no longer do, them having already been dethroned as the sayers of: New York!, by the Twin Towers.
I think it is very telling that in the New York picture there is a clump of skyscrapers rather than just one. Because New York is not any one skyscraper. It’s a forest of skyscrapers. Each individual skyscraper may be rather bland, but what it all adds up to is anything but bland.
But New York is not my town, and that is only me guessing.
Yes, I have struggled over the years to get good photos of what my meetings are like. The problem typically is that I can never get everyone into the same picture, and the pictures look like about half as many people attended as actually did. Since the number wasn’t that huge to start with, that’s not what you want.
Here is a different approach:
That was the scene today following last night’s meeting, me having done almost zero tidying up to that point, bar hoovering up a few crisps. Now, Imagine that space with as many people sitting in it as you can fit in. That was what it was like last night.
If you reckon that the “table” in the middle looks like it could be improved upon, you are not wrong. There was a disaster when it collapsed last night, luckily not during the Tim Evans talk, and some fruit juice hit the carpet, along with lots of potato crisps. And it was then only imperfectly reassembled. More work is needed on that front. But it was a great evening, partly because of the table collapsing, because that sort of thing adds to the anecdotage factor. But mostly because it was an excellent talk, and because a very classy group of people who came to hear it. Including a baby, who was very welcome.
Talking of unsatisfactory tables, I wasn’t feeling so good myself today. My sleep last night was full of weird dreams, which I can still remember bits of, which is not normal. Plus, I have a new blender, and this morning’s concoction was terrible. The trouble with most vegetables is that they don’t taste of anything. Or, they taste rather nasty. Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes. But, all my current stash of cherry tomatoes got consumed last night by all the people that you can’t see in the picture.
Also, on her right, some of the new buildings at the top end of Victoria Street.
It’s already deep into tomorrow morning, after my meeting. It went well, but (or and) I am now very tired.
This is weird. When I did a posting at Samizdata called My 2015 in pictures, I intended to include a picture I took of one of my meetings last year, the one at which Aiden Gregg spoke. But, although I talked about it, I didn’t actually include the picture. Rather humiliatingly, nobody noticed, or if they did notice, they didn’t care, or if they did care, not enough to complain.
So here is that picture:
I have also added it to that Samizdata posting, which absolutely nobody at all will notice. But, get it right, eh?
I think I got this picture by standing on a chair.
I mention all this now because I have another of these meetings, the first of this year, tomorrow evening. Speaker: Professor Tim Evans (also mentioned in that Samizdata posting), talking about Jeremy Corbyn and all that. Turnout looks like being just right, with the room comfortably as opposed to uncomfortably full. Luckily the seating arrangements have been improving.
Here, for good measure, is the photo I took of Tim when he gave his Inaugural Professional Lecture at Middlesex University, last summer, and which was also included in that Samizdata posting:
Not being accustomed to the ways of Academe, that get-up makes Tim look, to me, like he is in a very trad production of Wagner’s Mastersingers.
Quota photo time, in the form of a view of the Walkie Talkie that I didn’t find when I image-googled “Walkie Talkie tower London”, which I suppose is what you want:
I took this photo on the day I had actually been to the top of the Walkie Talkie, and the views from this top are, as you would expect, wonderful. But when I skimmed through all the photos from that day just now, looking for a quota photo, this was the shot that I found myself stopping at.
Most of the pictures of the Walkie Talkie emphasise how huge it is compared to the buildings around it. But when you actually get closer, like this, it doesn’t loom so large. I mean, it’s not as if all these old buildings have been flattened to make way for the Walkie Talkie. The buildings nearby look quite big, and the Walkie Talkie, a bit further away, looks big too, but not as disproportionately huge as it does when you see the same contrast from further away.
David Pierce writes at Wired about gadgets for speeding up pedestrians, which I too am interested in. He has been using an electric scooter. I saw one of these in London recently, travelling at an impressive lick, but didn’t manage to photo it, because was holding too much shopping. Still should have. Will try to next time I see such a thing.
The problem with moving away from car ownership is that you give up one its biggest upsides: you can usually park exactly where you’re going. Public transit, built around permanent stations, can’t offer that. That’s called the “last mile” problem: How do you get from the subway or bus stop to where you’re actually going, when it’s just a little too far to walk?
In among such good analysis are bits of humbug about how cars are, in addition to clogging up cities, ruining the planet with their sinful carbon emissions. You don’t have to buy into all that guff to see the point of not ruining cities, but instead continuing to get around in them, speedily yet comfortably. Personally, I live in a big city partly in order not to have to own a car.
Electric kick scooters, goofy [though? - BM] they may be, are a particularly good answer to the last mile problem. …
Pierce focusses in on one of the details, of just the sort that settle these contests in favour of this gadget and against that one:
The UScooter’s much easier to ride than the hugely popular hoverboard, because all you have to do is hop on and not tip over. Turns out handlebars are helpful that way. You can take it over small curbs and cracks in the sidewalk, powering through the obstacles that would launch you forward off a hoverboard. ...
This piece is entitled “It’s Too Bad Electric Scooters Are So Lame, Because They May Be the Future”. So this is yet another of those arguments where what looks like it could be a very smart thing is being held back by jeering coolists who think it’s not cool. (See also: using tablets to take photos.) I wonder if, when the wheel first got invented, idiot fashionistas stood around saying, yes, we entirely see the point of this thing, but it’s not cool. It’s lame. Therefore, we forbid it. Wankers.
If you like the picture that was bottom right, here, then maybe you will also like these, which were taken at the exact same time. They were, first time around, not shown here. But now, I think they deserve an outing:
It was the sky that was so good.
Yesterday here was quite strenuous, as was my life today doing other things. So that’s all.
Earlier this month I came upon a clutch of Boris Bikes. Boris Bikes used to be sponsored by Barclays Bank, and now, as you can see from the pictures of Boris Bikes that follow, they are sponsored by Santander, but Boris Bikes is what we all call these things.
Here are six of the Boris Bike pictures I took, on January 11th:
Click on each of those to get six, seemingly pretty much identical, big pictures.
But actually, they are not identical pictures.
I have recently become especially interested not just in the way that London’s Big Things look when I photo them, but in the way that others use these Big Things, or stylised representations of these Big Things, to say “London”. In an advert for being a tourist in London, for instance. Or, in this case, as a way to flag up that here are some bikes for hire which will enable you to bike around in London, seeing London. And how do you make biking around London and seeing London seem more enticing? You throw in pictures of London’s Big Things. (You even throw in Big Things if you are advertising for sperm donors. Had it not been for my recently cultivated alertness to the use of London’s Big Things in adverts, I’d not have bothered to photo that sperm donor advert.)
What I noticed about these bikes, and what got me photoing so many of them in this apparently way too excessive manner, is that each of them has a picture of two London Big Things on them. I was able to find six different Big Thing duos, hence the above six pictures.
Allow me to save you the bother of looking more closely at the Big Things on these bikes, with some cropped out squares:
I just used google image searching to see if I could find any other Big Thing duos that I had not photoed on that day out, earlier this month. I failed. So far as I can tell, there are just six ways in which these bikes are decorated.
The complete set of Big Thing duos would appear to be: The Shard and Tower Bridge, the Wheel and St Paul’s Cathedral, the Big Olympic Thing and the Tower of London, the Millennium Bridge and Battersea Power Station, the Gherkin and Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Dome. Ancient and modern, in pairs. I find this list interesting both for what is included, and for what is not. I am guessing that these Big Things were not chosen just by a bunch of guys round a table picking them. I’m guessing that a serious attempt was made to pick Big Things that really do say London to lots of different people. In particular, this is data about which particular bits of new engineering and architecture have truly been added to the short list of Big Things that are not merely big, but loved. Although it’s worth adding that the Millennium Bridge is not actually that big.
Even if actually this short list of six ancient Big Things and six modern Big Things actually was put together by a bunch of guys sitting around a table at an advertising agency, in the space of half an hour, well, that’s still data, of a sort. These are the Big Things that they think say London, to the people they are trying to persuade to hire Boris bikes.
The surprises? Well, for me, a slightly surprising inclusion is the Big Olympic Thing, and maybe a slightly surprising exclusion is Tate Modern. Also not included here: the new Wembley Arch. But by far the biggest surprise here is, I think, the omission of: the BT Tower.
Can anyone think of any other omissions as big as that one?
Of course, it could be that there are Boris bikes out there with the BT Tower on them, or with the Wembley Arch on them, and I just haven’t clocked them.
Except that just now I came across this bizarre bridge, in Poole, of all places:
Amusing Planet amuses again.
You often hear people talking about how buildings which are a lot taller than they are thick are really just penis substitutes. This advert, which I snapped on the tube earlier this month, makes the connection explicit:
Want to know more? Here.
I have noticed that the junk email I get, and the adverts that interrupt my internet browsing, seem sometimes to be related to stuff I have posted here. So, I may regret this posting.
Last night I lay awake, fretting that I might soon have to buy a new camera.
The problem was that the latest batches of photos that I took, yesterday and the day before, from the top of Westminster Cathedral, look too red. Not blue enough. Was there something wrong with it, like what went wrong with my very first digital camera, which turned everything that was bright white instead into bright pink.
Pictures like the one shown here yesterday, looking out to the west from the Cathedral tower, and also other pictures, looking in other directions, such as this, also yesterday, which features another London Cathedral:
That green crane make me think of that spoof documentary that Peter Sellers once did, about “Bal Ham: Gateway to the South”, which contained the line: “A rose red city half as gold as green.” (Golders Green. Never mind.)
It’s a sad thing when a picture as weird and striking as that one only makes you think your camera is misbehaving, but: Is my camera turning everything rose red?
My worries were abated by me looking at earlier batches of recent photos, such as this rather remarkable snap of the Shard, taken in Eltham just before Christmas:
I do like how different the Shard can look in one picture from how it looks in another, and in another, and in another. See also, on the far right above, the same other cathedral.
No excessive rose red there. (With that old first camera, the bright white face of the Shard would have turned pink.) The truth is that the light yesterday and the day before was … very rose red. No wind. Lots of smoggy air. Sun near the horizon. Result: lots of rose red light splashing around, turning everything into rose red ghosts. This was a case when my eye adjusted more than my camera did. I saw slightly pink as white. Not so my camera.
Today, went to the top of the Westminster Cathedral tower, again, to check out whether I could see the Wembley Arch. I could. Just. But, then went to a Christian Michel evening. Rob Waller speaking. Very good. But, me now rather drunk. So, cannot discuss Wembley Arch. Instead, here is a picture of west London and its cranes, from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:
Hope you like it. Sleep well. I will.
I make it eight cranes.
Today the weather was forecast to be clear all day, and I didn’t want to waste it. But, clear equals cold, so I didn’t want to be out too long or journey too far. I needed a nice spot, preferably near by, from which I could hoover up lots of great snaps and then get back home again to the warmth of my kitchen.
Well, it so happened that while trawling through the archives, I had encountered a fine clutch of snaps taken from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, in the Spring of 2012. How about I try that again? So I did. The people at the Cathedral are really nice, and six quid gets to up to the top of the tower (by lift, which is a big deal for people like poor old me) for as long as you want. Six quid for the care and maintenance of one of my favourite buildings in London is a price I am extremely happy to pay. (I think I could have got in for £3, by being old. But never mind. That means they think I am not old.)
I took a ton of shots, but I took them today, and am not yet ready to be rational about what I got. I can still remember the shots I was trying to take, which causes disappointment, which makes me unable to see what I actually did get.
But I already like the shots I took of the big new buildings that have risen up at the top end of Victoria Street, like this one:
Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on there:
And let take an even closer look:
I wonder if those guys relax by climbing rocks, of the sort found on the sides of mountains. I’m guessing: not.
Although the sky above was cloudless, the light didn’t seem that great. Kind of fuzzy. But those shots came out okay.
An informative piece by Rowan Moore in the Guardian, about the hoped-for replacement for the dismal failure that is the Royal Festival Hall:
It’s an amazing thing that for the sake of some fractions of a second of reverberation time, and some other acoustic niceties, and for the sake of acoustic properties that can only be described with vague adjectives such as “warm”, it is proposed that several hundred million pounds be spent on a completely new concert hall in London, to improve on the existing Royal Festival Hall (built in 1951, extensively renovated in 1964 and 2007) and the Barbican (built in 1982, extensively renovated in 1994 and 2001).
This is what Simon Rattle, future music director of the London Symphony Orchestra, is saying, and he has got George Osborne and Boris Johnson to support him. Rattle says that London needs the best possible concert hall, where you can “experience the sound of a great orchestra with brilliance, immediacy, depth, richness and warmth”, to attract the best possible musicians, which means shifting very many tons of building materials to fine-tune the vibrations of air. And if there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on in this contentious project (why spend so much in straitened times? Wouldn’t it be better to back performers directly rather than their carapace? Should so much be spent in culturally well-endowed London?), it is that the acoustics of the city’s existing large auditoriums definitely don’t work well enough.
Which means that if this project is to go ahead, it definitely, absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, must get its acoustics right. ...
Moore also writes about the surroundings. These must be nice, but not attention seeking. Satisfying for concert-goers, but not “ikonic” if that in any way jeopardises the accoustics, or the satisfaction of concert-goers. Play your shots and don’t get out, as the cricketers say.
The logic of what Moore says tells me that they should first build the concert hall with absolutely no “surroundings”, and keep on building it until the acoustics are world class.
The basic fact here is, as Moore explains, that you only know for sure if you have a great concert hall after you have built it. And a bad concert hall, well architected, will be a total failure. London already has at least one of those (or two, depending on what you think of the Barbican’s architecture), and the last thing it needs is another.
So: build the new hall, as a separate process from all the subsequent architectural tarting up. If the acoustics are unfixably bad, smash it down and do it again, until the acoustics are satisfactorily superb. When the acoustics are superb, then get to work on the surroundings, and if that is fucked up first time around, well, do that again too. And then, if anyone feels inclined, why not then slap some ikonic stuff on the top? But: one thing at a time.
This is not the usual way that big architecture is done. The usual way is to do everything at once, and make damn sure you get everything as right as you can. But then, concert halls are not your usual architecture.
My life, in this digital century, has contained quite a lot of wonderful expeditions which I never got around to mentioning here. Take the trip that I and G(od)D(aughter) 1 made to Beckton Sewage Works, on September 21st 2013. The only time I mentioned this here, it would seem, was in this posting, where I mentioned that I otherwise did not mention it.
So, to go some way towards correcting that, here is a picture of some birds that I took that day:
You want to know why London contains so many birds? Sewage processing, that’s why. Birds love that. The Beckton Sewage Works is one great big open air bird canteen.
And here is a picture of a sign that I took, which explains that a huge new sewage tunnel was in the process of being constructed, at the time of our visit:
More about that here:
The 75-metre deep Beckton overflow shaft is the entry point for the Lee Tunnel, a £635million project just as ambitious as the more highly-publicised Crossrail. Over the past five years, engineers have built a 6km tunnel stretching from Beckton up to Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford, east London. The Lee Tunnel will help prevent more than 16 million tons of sewage from overflowing into the River Lee each year by capturing it and taking it down to Beckton. The sewage treatment works itself is being upgraded and expanded by 60 per cent to enable it to deal with the increased volume.
And the Lee Tunnel is just the first phase of the even more ambitious Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km tunnel that will handle sewage from Acton in west London through to Abbey Mills in the east. The Thames Tideway Tunnel will deal with the 34 most polluting overflow points along the Thames. Work on the £4.2billion project, known popularly as the London super sewer, starts in earnest in 2017 with engineers pulling the chain, so to speak, in 2023.
And here is another photo I took that day, which I include in this posting because I like it:
Behind that fence may, or may not, be activity associated with the digging of the big tunnel. But, I think it was.
Given that I am not actually seeing any visuals on a screen, sleeping through the decisive passage of play of the latest test match in South Africa only made it more dramatic.
There I was, making sure I was awake and able to start the recording of Record (as they have now gone back to calling it (it had been CD)) Review, and then getting up for a piss and a cool down before getting back to bed again for a bit of a lie in, by which time England were all out 323, with a first innings lead of 10. Before dozing off, I learned that Sinopoli’s Cavalleria Rusticana was the winning Cavalleria Rusticana in a strong field, and then I surfaced again and was informed by my other bedside radio that South Africa had lost no wickets in reply and were ahead at lunch, and then I dozed off again, and then got up properly ... to learn from my computer that South Africa were 44-5, oh no make that 45-6, correction 46-7. Game over.
That pic is the last one of these.
A lot of cricket photos these days, including most of this lot, seem to be, not of cricketers doing great things, but of cricketers celebrating having just done them. The pictures of Moeen Ali’s broken bat are also fun, but again, what you really want to see is the moment when it broke. The above photo is a refreshing exception. It shows Broad actually taking the final wicket of the South African innings, with a diving caught and bowled.
One of the pictures in this.
Today I was in Borough High Street, doing some things with some people, and after that ended I was able, finally, to enjoy some proper winter weather. Instead of warm and grey, it was cold and blue. Bright blue:
That’s the Slug and Lettuce in Borough High Street, which I assume to be but one link in a franchised chain of some sort, which is very ordinary. But behind this slug and this lettuce is: the sky, which is not ordinary, given the very ordinary indeed weather we’ve been having lately.
This posting is my attempt to emulate the great Mick Hartley. I know that won’t work, but as soon as I got home after my wanderings and saw his blue sky posting, done this morning, I knew that I had to find the snap with the bluest sky in it that I had taken. The secret is to light the building very strongly, by firing the the sun straight at it. This turns the sky dark blue. There were not that many dark sky pictures like this one to choose between. A lot of my snaps today were taken down in those shadows that you see down at the bottom of that picture. So the above snap was my clear winner. Very clear. Hartley probably had dozens of dark blue sky snaps to choose between. Either that, or he’s a Real Photographer and he took only the pictures he blogged, and gets every shot right first time.
More blue sky, from another of my blog-favourites. “Zuma”. That’s a dance/exercise craze, right?
What this ...
...this being “facadism” …
… tells you is that architectural modernism has utterly conquered indoors, but that out of doors, modernism is only popular because its totalitarian impulses have been held at bay, by what you might call ancientism.
But I realise now that this is not quite right.
The key point is not that modernism has triumphed indoors, but that indoors, we are not at its mercy. We can decide about whether to keep it. We control indoors, with furniture, wallpaper, carpets, etc. If we want ancientism indoors, in the living room, say, or in the bedroom, we can unleash it at will, and there is not a damn thing that any interfering architect can do about it. Therefore, we do not mind if indoors is totally modern, when we move in. We can change it, just as much (or as little) as we want to.
Outdoors, however, we cannot just change things at will to suit our personal preferences. Therefore, if a large number of us want some ancientism to go alongside all the newly arriving modernism, we have to bully the architects and planners into allowing it, or even into doing some more. We did, and we did.
Modernism has definitely triumphed in the kitchen. In the kitchen, a place which did not exist in its current and highly mechanised form in ancientist times, it makes such total sense to have smooth white rectangles everywhere. Kitchen cupboards are for storing stuff, not for showing stuff off. You want the cupboard and fridge doors to be a vertical note pads for stick-on notes, not sculptures. You do not want your work work surfaces and wall areas and cupboard doors in the kitchen to be elaborately decorated like the outsides of ancientist buildings, or shaped like curved like car bonnets. You want them flat, to do things on and put things on.
Above all, you want everything easily cleanable. What if someone bangs into a saucepan and spreads slurpy food everywhere. In the kitchen, you want clean, clear, white surfaces, like outdoor Modern Movement modernism. You want horizontality and verticality, whiteness and cleanness, because you want convenience and cleanliness. The kitchen is a machine for cooking in.
Here is a picture I took when I recently visited my brother’s new home. It is a new home in more ways than one. It is new for him, and it has just been built. This is what the kitchen looks like:
Okay, once again, zero points for artistic impression. But look at what is being photoed. The Bauhaus is stationary in its happy, plain white, rigidly rectangular modernistical grave. This was what buildings were all going to look like. They don’t, thank goodness. But this is what most new kitchens now look like.
I wish I had also photoed the outside of the building where Pete lives. This is rather kitchy and cutesy, not at all purely “modern”, although you can clearly tell that it’s recent.
As with the work done in kitchens, so for the work done in other places. Modernism prevails wherever work is done, of the sort done by “workers”, work that involves doing stuff, to stuff. (When the work involves creating appearances, setting a particular tone, all bets are off.) The world of work is the world in which modernism evolved. When we want beauty and pleasure (and particular sorts of appearances or tones), modernism is just part of the mix. It is kept in its place.
Several days ago now, but type/scribbled into a Word file straight after it happened ...
I enthusiastically show G(od)D(aughter) 2 a picture (on my camera screen) that I took of the scaffolding across my courtyard. Then I realise that this is a bit of a mad way to behave.
Me: “Sorry. I’m going a bit mad.”
Ah. Good. Not going mad.
GD2: “Nothing’s changed. You’ve been like this for a long time.”
The practice of facadism emerged in the 1980s, when construction technology made it possible to retain a mere sliver of a frontage, and as the rise of the conservation movement increased pressure to preserve the historic streetscape – even if it didn’t care much for what happened beyond the surface.
And more to the point, there are some great photos. Photos like this:
Wainwright is of course angry about this unequal style collision. He writes for the Guardian, and being angry about capitalism (aka everything except Guardianism) comes with the job. But I actually quite like it when big modernism rises up behind smaller ancientism. To put it another way, in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, the architect-hero Howard Roark is disgusted when a committee seeks to stick an ancientist front door at the bottom of his modernist skyscraper. But I think this front door, at any rate as shown in the film they made of The Fountainhead, improved things. It certainly made it easier to see where the front door actually was, which is often hard with totally modernist buildings, and used for about a decade to be impossible. Ancientism evolved a way of handling front doors in a way that makes sense to all, and there is no more virtue in destroying these ground-level conventions than there is in abolishing English and trying to replace it with Esperanto.
Besides which, buildings are often hated, to begin with, for the very thing that causes them at a later date to be loved, namely their distinctiveness and their oddity. Think of the Eiffel Tower, which at first was greatly disliked. My guess is that much the same will apply to the above Cardiff oddity.
I also believe that the Carbuncle-Cup-winning Walkie Talkie will in the fullness of time mutate from Carbuncle to National Treasure. I visited that building today. More about that visit Real Soon Now, maybe, I promise nothing.
Yes, a truly wonderful The Wires! sculpture gets long overdue recognition from Dezeen, on account of a lump of religious concrete being put next to it, by an architect.
The photographer clearly loves The Wires!:
But Dezeen’s writers are under strict orders.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful and intricate The Wires! are:
The rule is set in concrete.
Don’t mention The Wires!
Today I was out and about in the grim greyness of Winter London, with only very occasional patches of blue in the sky.
Had I had only these three photos in their original versions to go on, I might eventually have pieced together that David Bowie had died:
But I had already clocked this news from reading this posting at Mick Hartley’s. Viewers who feel strongly that all commemorations of the recently deceased should be in good taste are urged not to click on the middle picture. Whether the original you get by clicking is “what he would have wanted”, I do not know. One thing I know for sure is that it is not what I wanted. But it is what it is, and I had no other more suitable substitutes.
Later I took a more self-consciously commemorative photo to recognise Bowie’s death:
I’m not sure that it makes perfect sense to wish that a dead rock star should “rest in peace”, though. Surely at least the occasional burst of raucous rock and roll would also be in order. But, they only meant to say the right thing, and if not that, then what? I don’t know.
My personal feeling about Bowie, as with many rock and rollers, was that I paid very little attention indeed to the words as anything other than an excuse to make a satisfying musical racket. Also costumes don’t impress me, for better or for worse. I love the music of Abba, despite their preposterous outfits. And I love the Bowie tracks that I love, regardless of what “persona” he happened to be adopting at the time. It’s the backing that I love, and Bowie was really good at making this happen interestingly, I think.
What did “Suffragette City” mean? I never bothered to find out and I probably never will, but I love the sound it makes. “When You’re A Boy” made a bit more sense (to me), but it still came as a surprise (to me) when I saw a video of some women dancing along to it, who turned out all to be Bowie in drag. What was that about? Some sort of rumination on the socialised nature of sex-roles? Just a tease, to get the newspapers to denounce it and do the publicity for free? Probably the latter. Bowie was a dab hand at that.
I encountered this rather forlorn sight just moments after I left home this afternoon. Did some ungrateful nephew abandon it in the street on purpose? Or will it be genuinely missed?
Briefly, I thought that I might like it myself. But, had I taken it that would have been stealing. Wouldn’t it?
On second thoughts, pass. The reindeer seems to have lost an eye. Maybe that was why its original owner gave up on it too.
For the purposes of this posting, bike fishing means fishing for bikes. Not: fishing while on a bike.
Favourite line in the report:
Bike fishing has become one of Amsterdam’s unique tourist attraction.
My immediate reaction was: So, anyone can do it? Do you need a license? But what they really mean, presumably, is just standing there and watching while somebody else does the bike fishing.
A bike fishing competition might be really something. And it still might be if it was fishing while on a bike.
Other recent favourite Amusing Planet posting: The Lady of the North.
Not a lot to see here, aside from this quota photo, taken in 2012:
I started out cropping this, but then backtracked because that way you get a bit of context. The shot was taken from the north of the river, downstream from Parliament, and just upstream from Embankment Tube. On the left as we look, the Shell Building. On the right, the building south of the river, that looks like that. I keep meaning to work out what it’s called, because it’s one of my favourite lesser known new buildings in London. I rather think it started out boring in the sixties or seventies, but then they perked it up with that stuff on the top in the eighties or nineties. But, don’r really know.
Tomorrow, the weather is forecast to be very good, so I may do better, and show you photos that I actually took this year, even - although I promise nothing - that I will actually take tomorrow.
I’m still catching up with some of the things I did last summer, even though it is now next year. My gaff my rules. In particularly, I still have finished reporting on Richmond Park.
Richmond Park is the very picture of unthreatening sweetness and light, especially on the sort of day it was when me and GD2 paid our visit to it. But, as regulars here will know, I like to photograph signs, and maps, so that I will know where I’ve been.
In Richmond Park, there are big maps of Richmond Park, like this one:
This map is covered with the names of all the various places in Richmond Park. Most of these names are quite nice, as you can see if you take a closer look (by clicking on it), at this closer-up view of the middle of the above map:
Prince Charles’s Spinney, Thompson’s Pond, Sidmouth Wood, and Queen Elizabeth’s Plantation, they all sound nice enough, in keeping with the suburban niceness of the place. Although, I suppose “plantation” might suggest slavery.
But some of these names speak of a different and grimmer past. How about, to take a closer look at some of them, names like these:
Suddenly, Richmond Park becomes more like the sort of landscape that brings to mind, say, Vincent Price’s chilling enactment of the Witchfinder General.
Names like those two suggest interpretations that are probably far worse than the truth, of names like these:
Spankers are probably just people who chase deer so that the upper classes can kill them for sport. A saw pit is probably just a pit where sawing (of tree trunks) was done. And Peg’s Pond is probably just the pond which Peg owned, and fished in. But, I couldn’t helping thinking that Peg’s Pond was really the pond where Vincent Price made poor Peg swim, thereby proving that she was a witch. And then she got hanged in one of the two hanging locations named above.
And how about these two names:
Bone Copse? Killcat Corner? What on earth was that about? Googling told me nothing, but that proves nothing.
City A.M. Is so excited that the headline writer, as of now, has decided that there is only one i in ambitious:
That headline is recycled here in case they correct it. Thereby establishing that the (more) mainstream media behave just as I do, when it comes to correcting their mistakes. Or else, alerting you to a permanently wrong headline, whichever. And I’m guessing that even if they do correct the headline, they may feel obliged to keep the link spelling as it started out.
But more to the point, this ambtious plan refers to driverless flying cars, driverless flying cars that look like this:
When I first set eyes on that picture, my reaction was: That’s not a car, that’s a drone. City A.M. agrees:
The futuristic, if slightly terrifying sounding vehicle, has been unveiled by Chinese tech company Ehang and manages to combine the top two trends predicted to dominate this year’s biggest tech show - drones and driverless cars - and claims to be the first Autonomous Aerial Vehicle in the world. Or, in other words, a driverless flying car.
Are you sceptical? I am. But City A.M. continues:
Ehang claims the 184 is already at the point of becoming a commercially selling vehicle, albeit with a £130,000-£200,000 price tag. Belive it or not, it’s not just a concept - it’s already preparing for pre-orders and plans to ship to customers this year.
Well, I’m not sure that I do “belive” it, but I would be fascinated to be proved wrong.
Bizarre new forms of transport are definitely the Thing of the New Year, here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. I haven’t been especially looking for such things. They have merely presented themselves to me. But now, perhaps (although I promise nothing), I will start looking for such things. Anyone come across any other crazy transport stuff lately?
LATER: I googled “ambtious”, and was informed of a horse called “Ambtious Dragon”. So, some kind of Chinese neologism? But it turned out that this was a headline misprint also.
It seems that, photographically, my thing of the year so far is merely serviceable photos of interestingly decorated means of transport. Continuing this theme somewhat, but only somewhat, is the following photo - barely even serviceable as a photo, but it just about does the job - of a means of transport that is not decorated at all, if only because there isn’t room:
But, this is interesting, I think. Are we now witnesses the next Big Transport Thing? Not in the form of robot cars (still years away), but of mechanically enhanced pedestrians?
In addition to the above device, which I espied near my home about a month ago, I have also observed others travelling on electrified scooters.
And here is another such device, this time reported and photoed by others:
A “one-wheeled giroscopic skateboard”? Does this even work? Presumably, after a fashion.
The thing is, cities are being ever more ferociously pedestrianised. The usual way to speed up pedestrians is to put them in trains, buses or cars. Or on bikes. But are mechanised legs actually the wave of the immediate future? Is this the transport race now being raced? Could be.
If so, I wonder what will win. The winner has to be reasonably cheap, and reasonably small, and reasonably rechargeable. It must not, when used, be too much of a pain and a terror to other pedestrians, which I guess actually means too fast. If the above skateboard is too fast, might it not fit on regular pedestrian paths.
How about electrified rollerskates, which can, at the push of a button, be converted back into boots? I mean, who says there can only be one motor? Why not four? Two to power the wheels on the boots, and two to convert them to regular boots. The trouble with wheelies like in my picture above, and skateboards, is that if they don’t work on account of the surface being hostile (like: steps), they have to be carried. Rollerskates which change into semi-normal boots can be “carried” by your feet when not being used as rollerskates. Very light materials (a new thing these days) could make these boots perhaps quite big, but not too heavy. Maybe make the rollerskates into big boots, but detachable from more convenient boots, when you get to your destination.
Just thinking aloud, you understand. We shall see.
Another thing to be keeping a photographic eye out for.
I have often wondered about this:
Historically, London’s lack of tall buildings has been attributed to its geology - it rests on shrinkable clay and not bedrock like Manhattan - and the hefty costs of fixing foundations on it. “Now,” says Ms Roma Agrawal, a structural engineer who worked on the Shard, “we have the technology to drive concrete posts long and deep enough to hold the weight of skyscrapers”.
The thing is, this is not the kind of thing you can just see happening. All you actually see is a lot of faffing about at ground level, before anything visible starts to happen.
3D printing is not the replacement of factories by homes. It is manufacturing in factories only more so. Making stuff is not, as of now, getting less skilled. It is getting more skilled ...:
Most ceramic 3D printing uses complex techniques to deposit layers of the material on top of each other, and as a result have to use materials with relatively low melting points. The techniques can also only be used to create fairly simple shapes.
But a team from HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, has developed what they call a pre-ceramic resin, which they can 3D print much like regular polymers into complex shapes. The process, known as stereolithography, fuses a powder of silicon carbide ceramics using UV light. Once the basic shape is printed, it can be heat-treated at 1,800°F to turn the pre-ceramic resin into a regular ceramic object. In fact, this is the first time silicon carbide ceramics have ever been 3D printed.
… which is very good news for the rich world economies.
Says a commenter:
So 2016 opens with YAAI3DP (Yet Another Advance In 3D Printing.) and some point all these breakthroughs are going to add up and utterly transform manufacturing.
The way he then goes on to say that it will transform manufacturing is that we may eventually get stuff made whenever and wherever we want it made. In homes and shopping malls, in other words. Maybe eventually. In the meantime, cleverer stuff is getting made in the same old places, and then transported to where it is needed.
When I transport blogged, one of the constant themes I found myself noticing was how people regularly thought that transport would be done away with, but it never was. The main notion was that people would communicate so well that they’d never want to meet face-to-face. Now, it is being speculated that stuff will be made so cleverly that it will be makable anywhere. Maybe so, but that isn’t now the smart way to do it, and it probably never will be.
I like a Union Jack which is not done with the usual colour scheme. Same shapes, but not the regular red, white and blue colours.
I like random assemblages of technology, unselfconsciously clustering, not with any aesthetic end in mind, but simply to get the various jobs being done … done.
So imagine my delight when I espied, on the way from my home to St James’s Park tube, during the early evening of day one of 2016, this:
I never expected ever, ever, to see both of the above effects at once. Sorry about that white circle at the top. This is a bit of dirt on the lens, not the moon.
I also remembered to photo where the website for this enterprise was inscribed on the lorry, and this is it. Plus, I even managed to find the guy who did this particular piece of lorry art. I also photoed the side of the lorry and this matched his design too, so it’s definitely his work. His name is Ben Butterfield. Nice job Mr Butterfield.
Indeed. 6000 miles away, in Cape Town, England have been making hay in the sunshine:
Sunshine? Well, I heard a commentator say at the start of the game that it was 43C out in the middle.
I do love the screen capture function. I can’t think of any better way to frieze an otherwise doomed-to-oblivion sporting moment. Now, it makes little difference. But when, as death approaches, I entertain myself by scrolling back through this blog, postings like this one will be very sweet to remember.
England reached 629-6 after being 223-5. And now, South Africa are 7-1 in reply:
Anderson to van Zyl, OUT, oh no! It goes from bad to worse for South Africa! A shambolic piece of running. Van Zyl pushed the ball into the off side and set off for the run, but Elgar wasn’t interested at all. Van Zyl was halfway down the pitch and had no chance to get back as the throw came in from Compton to Bairstow at the stumps.
Hashim Amla now in. Out of-form-batsman, and out-of-depth captain of a team already one-down in the series, and he knows at least one of these things and probably both. So if he also got a double century now, that would cheer me up too, because look what the human species - the species that both I and Hashim Amla are members of - is capable of when under extreme pressure.
Amla doing well now would also be good for cricket. You know your team is doing well, when you start thinking that if the other guys were to start doing a bit better, that would be good for cricket. Although, were Amla to get out soon, I could just about stand the disappointment.
Well, I think it’s artistry. It is definitely wrap advertising:
Using what is known as a “conformable vinyl wrapping” material, a high-quality print or protective clear wrap can be molded to almost any and every part of a vehicle. Typically, conformable material is used because it is the easiest to work with, especially on contoured surfaces. Using the proper adhesives when applying the material to the surface of the car is essential, otherwise the wrap can lead to adhesive failure in a few months after the application.
Advancements in plastics have led to new types of vinyl designed specifically for wrap advertising, including vinyl sheets that feature bubble-preventing air channels. Microscopic glass beads are used to prevent an adhesive from functioning until the user is ready (the beads allow the material to be repeatedly lifted and reapplied during the wrapping process, without compromising the longevity of the wrap). The vinyl is heated with a heat gun or torch for the purpose of molding the material around objects.
Yesterday’s posting here was all about hand-painted vehicles. Here are some photos of some of London’s famed black cabs which have been wrapped with adverts, in the manner described above. I have concentrated on black cabs which are wrapped all over:
Again, I make no artistic claims for these photos, just for the people who wrapped the black cabs, and above all for the people who worked out how this could be done, in the elegant way that you can observe.
Resulting in all these “black cabs”, like so many of the species these days, not being black at all.
I got talking to the owner of “black” cab 2.2, i.e. the one in the middle of the bottom three, in close up, and he said he gets paid £70 a month. Which is not enough for anyone to make a living just by riding around inside a 3D advert. But, enough to make a nice difference.
Here is what the vans of Wicked Campers (which presumably started up in Australia) look like, photoed by me over the last few months, in Lower Marsh, where they often congregate.
I claim no artistic expression points for these pictures. They merely show what these entertaining vehicles look like. All the artistic expression points go to whoever decorated the vans:
So far so excellent. More Wicked Campers van décor to be found here, many of them equally excellent if not more excellent, and equally tasteless and un-PC if not more tasteless and more un-PC.
The Guardian is not amused
So then, I decided to search out the British HQ of Wicked Campers, which wasn’t hard because it is not far from Lower Marsh at all, in very nearby Carlisle Street.
And it looks as if the Guardian’s complaints, and the complaints the Guardian reports and seeks to amplify, may be having an effect. Wicked Campers HQ was a severe disappointment, at any rate the day I visited, last week. I found only two more vans, and both were appallingly tasteful, compared to the Wicked Campers norm. The big clutch of vans above look like there were decorated by expat Aussies who don’t give a shit. These two vans look like they were done by a British art student who probably reads the damn Guardian, every day.
Picture one here is just a pattern, with no in-your-face verbiage at all. Pictures two and three are of the same van, opposite sides:
I really hope I’m wrong, and that Wicked Campers continue to prosper in their classic, tasteless, un-PC form.