Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- 2012 and 2016 times 2 – London on the rise
- Stripy house can stay stripy
- 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
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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This and that
All regulars here (such people do exist) know that I love an alignment, of two London Big Things.
So. Tower Bridge. You see that in plenty of photos. The Dome. Ditto. But how often do you see them in the same photo, right next to one another? I just tried googling “Tower Bridge The Dome”. Nothing. All I got was pictures of each, separately, (mostly Tower Bridge), and lots of instructions about how to get from one to the other on foot, on the tube, etc.
So, take a look at this:
Just to be sure we know what we are talking about, here is a square of detail, from another closer-up shot of the same alignment:
In the middle there we see the top of the northern tower of Tower Bridge. And just to its left, as we look, through a gap in the big Docklands towers, we see a clutch of cranes, yellow, red and grey. Except, the yellow cranes are not cranes. They are the spikes of the Dome, and the Dome is the white expanse below the cranes and the spikes.
It took me quite a few visits to the top of the Tate Modern Extension, from where these shots were taken, and quite a few looks at the photos that I had taken, to work out that this particular photo was there to be photoed. I don’t claim that my photos are photo-perfection. They merely prove that all you Real Photographers out there, who might want to improve on the bridge camera quality of my efforts, can now get up there and do just that.
I like this photo, of Daniel Hannan, at the top of a Guardian piece about him, and about how he was and is “The man who brought you Brexit”:
I like this photo because it is exactly the sort of photo that I try to take of photoers myself. A smartphone with interesting graphics, held over the eyes of the photoer (which of course often happens) to preserve anonymity. Or it would if there were no other photos of Hannan in the world and no article underneath the photo, telling the world all about him.
While browsing through my archives recently, I came across those pictures I took of Brexiteer Kenny, doing his rehash of a Hannan piece in Trafalgar Square, with white chalk. And what I discovered was that, to revise that Abba song, I never thought that we could win. The pictures brought back the feeling I had when I took them, which was: gallant failure. Brave effort. Well done mate, going down fighting. But, we won’t win.
I told myself that we might win, but mostly what I thought was that although the majority for Remain had slimmed down a bit over the years, it was still there.
As for the Brexit arguments now (quick versus careful), I am reading this guy. He is for careful. Every post he does says (a) that he is the cleverest person in the world and that everyone else is at best not so clever, and at worst stupid stupid stupid; and (b) something worthwhile, carefully and persuasively explicated.
I never thought that we could win, but just to be clear: there’s no regret.
Earlier, in 2014, I posting another bit from a Matt Ridley book, this time from The Rational Optimist. I entitled that posting Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science.
Here is another Matt Ridley book bit, on this same subject, of how technology leads science. And it is also from The Evolution of Everything (pp. 135-137):
Technology comes from technology far more often than from science. And science comes from technology too. Of course, science may from time to time return the favour to technology. Biotechnology would not have been possible without the science of molecular biology, for example. But the Baconian model with its one-way flow from science to technology, from philosophy to practice, is nonsense. There’s a much stronger flow the other way: new technologies give academics things to study.
An example: in recent years it has become fashionable to argue that the hydraulic fracturing technology that made the shale-gas revolution possible originated in government-sponsored research, and was handed on a plate to industry. A report by California’s Breakthrough Institute noted that microseismic imaging was developed by the federal Sandia National Laboratory, and ‘proved absolutely essential for drillers to navigate and site their boreholes’, which led Nick Steinsberger, an engineer at Mitchell Energy, to develop the technique called ‘slickwater fracking’.
To find out if this was true, I spoke to one of hydraulic fracturing’s principal pioneers, Chris Wright, whose company Pinnacle Technologies reinvented fracking in the late 1990s in a way that unlocked the vast gas resources in the Barnett shale, in and around Forth Worth, Texas. Utilised by George Mitchell, who was pursuing a long and determined obsession with getting the gas to flow out of the Barnett shale to which he had rights, Pinnacle’s recipe - slick water rather than thick gel, under just the right pressure and with sand to prop open the fractures through multi-stage fracturing - proved revolutionary. It was seeing a presentation by Wright that persuaded Mitchell’s Steinsberger to try slickwater fracking. But where did Pinnacle get the idea? Wright had hired Norm Wapinski from Sandia, a federal laboratory. But who had funded Wapinksi to work on the project at Sandia? The Gas Research Institute, an entirely privately funded gas-industry research coalition, whose money came from a voluntary levy on interstate gas pipelines. So the only federal involvement was to provide a space in which to work. As Wright comments: ‘If I had not hired Norm from Sandia there would have been no government involvement.’ This was just the start. Fracking still took many years and huge sums of money to bring to fruition as a workable technology. Most of that was done by industry. Government laboratories beat a path to Wright’s door once he had begun to crack the problem, offering their services and their public money to his efforts to improve fracking still further, and to study just how fractures propagate in rocks a mile beneath the surface. They climbed on the bandwagon, and got some science to do as a result of the technology developed in industry - as they should. But government was not the wellspring.
As Adam Smith, looking around the factories of eighteenth-century Scotland, reported in The Wealth of Nations: ‘a great part of the machines made use in manufactures ... were originally the inventions of common workmen’, and many improvements had been made ‘by the ingenuity of the makers of the machines’. Smith dismissed universities even as a source of advances in philosophy. I am sorry to say this to my friends in academic ivory towers, whose work I greatly value, but if you think your cogitations are the source of most practical innovation, you are badly mistaken.
Sunday was a good photography day. After lunching with a friend in the Waterloo area, I made my way, as reported yesterday, to the Tate Modern Extension. When up at the top of this I took many photos, and some quite good photos.
But none, for me, was better than this, which I spied just before getting into the lift from Floor 10 back to the ground:
I can’t remember exactly when the change happened from plaster casts to … that, but happen it did, and I am impressed. I’m guessing that one of the many advantages of this system is that you can take it off and put it back on again, to do things like assess progress, or deal with skin discomforts.
I’m further guessing that you can dismantle one of these things, give it a good wash, and then use it again.
More from me on the subject of plastic and its newly devised applications in this at Samizdata earlier today.
Photoed in January of this year. from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:
The Parliament website says that the tower above, the big one with lots of pointy bits, is called the Victoria Tower, but I’ve never heard it called that. For me, it’s the Big Parliament Tower.
Anyway, whatever you call it, there it is, with the Shard beside and behind. Very sweet alignment, I hope you will agree.
While categorising this posting, I had to check the picture to see if there are any cranes. Of course there are cranes. In shots like this, there are always cranes.
There are also two major London hospitals in the shot. On the left St Thomas’s Hospital (the building on which it says “St Thomas’s Hospital"), on the far side of the river. On the right, further away, bigger, next to the Shard, Guy’s.
I love the various visual effects you sometimes get when a piece of reinforced concrete is being destroyed and when it puts up a fight. I can’t say that it always does this, because you wouldn’t see anything when it is routed into oblivion in the space of a few hours, would you? But when it does fight for its life, it can be quite a sight. These effects are particularly worthy of being photographically immortalised because however long the fight lasts, it will still end, and pretty soon.
And, I find that the more I see of 240 Blackfriars, from near and from far, the more I like it.
So, here is today’s photo, taken today:
I took this while on my way from Waterloo to Tate Modern and its Extension viewing gallery, which I am visiting a lot these days, before the Let Them Get Net Curtains row causes the place to be closed or at least severely curtailed.
240 Blackfriars is the work, I have just learned, of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, whom I have now started to learn more about. I never heard of them until now.
Preliminary findings: I think that 240 Blackfriars will probably turn out to be my favourite of their buildings so far. And: they make a lot of use of colour, which I favour, but which can often look very tacky and Seventies-ish if you don’t do it right.
I’m listening to chitchat on Radio Three about the origins of Radio Three’s previous and original manifestation, the Third Programme.
They’ve just mentioned an article by John Croft called Composition is not research. I quickly found it on the www, and I want to hang on to it.
There are, by and large, two kinds of composers in academia today – those who labour under the delusion that they are doing a kind of ‘research’, and those who recognise the absurdity of this idea, but who continue to supervise PhD students, make funding applications, and document their activities as if it were true. Composing, of course, might on occasion depend on research – how do I make an orchestra sound like a bell? How do I electronically sustain a note from an instrument so that it doesn’t sound mechanical? What is the best way to notate microtones or complex rhythms so that they can be accurately played? But none of these is actually the composition of music. Rameau’s harmonic theory was research, and it surely influenced his music (and music in general), but the Traité de l’harmonie is not a musical composition. The development of the pianoforte involved research and influenced music in profound ways, but it was not composing.
I have not read this essay yet. But the point of this posting is not to say what I think of it, merely to make sure that I do read it.
I have long been interested in the rather misleading idea of musical “progress”. This seems like it will be closely related to that idea. Another related idea: music is not science, and new music does not replace old music. But, I shall see.
The internet is fighting back against … cats!
Cats are colonizers: this is what they do. They have colonized the internet just as they have colonized so many other habitats, always with the help of humans. This is the lesson of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, a new book by conservation scientist Peter P. Marra and travel writer Chris Santella. From remote islands in the Pacific to the marshes of Galveston Bay, Cat Wars traces the various ways in which felines have infiltrated new landscapes, inevitably sowing death and devastation wherever they go.
Perhaps the most famous case of genocide-by-cat is that of the remote Stephens Island in New Zealand. Before the end of the 19th century, it was home to a unique species: the Stephens Island wren. One of only a few species of flightless songbirds, the wren ran low to the ground, looking more like a mouse than a bird. After a lighthouse was built on the island in 1894, a small human settlement was established; and with humans, invariably, come pets. At some point a pregnant cat, brought over from the mainland, escaped and roamed wild. The island’s wrens, unused to facing such a skillful predator, were no match for the feral cats that spread throughout the island. Within a year, the Stephens Island wren was extinct. It would take another 30 years to eradicate the feral cats.
This is not an isolated incident. Cats have contributed to species decline and habitat reduction in dozens of other cases. Because they’re so cute and beloved, we have little conception of — and little incentive to find out — how much damage cats are doing to our environment. When researcher Scott Loss tallied up the number of animals killed by North American housecats in a single year, the results were absolutely staggering: between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals, between 1.3 and 4 billion birds, between 95 and 299 million amphibians, and between 258 and 822 million reptiles.
Most books that get multiple reviews on Amazon get around four stars out of five, on average, because most of the reviews are from admirers and there are just a few from detractors. This book gets a star average of one and a bit.
Recently I came upon another for the collection:
This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel. I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos. This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know. And he did. What about that bridge? - I asked him.
Yes, he said. That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be. These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in. So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it. But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard. These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding. But the bridge stays.
That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows. Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we. Fair dos, actually. A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither. So, I do get it. And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows. I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.
I will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge. As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2. I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do. Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule. But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did. I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it. I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous. My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible. My point (b) is that it is now very easy. Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.
I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.
Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail. In London, these things are now everywhere. Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.
Continuing with snaps taken ten years ago, in Quimper and nearby spots, the French love their Harley Davidsons. Here is one:
And moment later, I zeroed in on one of this particular Harley Davidson’s details, a lady wearing a yellow top and blue trousers, listening to music, with evident pleasure:
It’s not the first time I have photoed a Harley Davidson in France. I still recall this photosession fondly, which happened five years later.
The directory with all the snaps I took in Quimper and surrounding places, ten years ago, contains some fine images.
And some rather weird ones:
Okay, Citroens made of wood is not that weird. Certainly not in France.
But those really rather realistic black baby dolls is something we surely don’t do nearly so much over here. I’m guessing we have too much of a history of what you might call derogatory black dolls, unrealistically racist dolls, and that means that all black dolls are now tainted in our eyes, even much more realistic ones like the ones in that picture. They evoke a tradition and a way of thinking we would prefer not to be reminded of, or worse, to be thought to be perpetuating. When the British are being sentimental about black babies, they do it in those (I think) ghastly charity fundraising telly adverts.
But what do I know? I’m just thinking aloud. Maybe we do have lots of dolls like these in British shop windows, and I merely haven’t noticed them. But, my first reaction when I say these black babies was, as I say: weird. Certainly striking enough to take several photos of.
In September 2006, in other words exactly ten years ago, I was in Quimper, which is in Brittany. And today, looking for a quota photo, I looked through the photos I took on that expedition. As it happens, I was blogging only very lightly at the time, and I didn’t get around to posting many of the shots I took on that trip. Here is one. There’s another in this. And that was about it.
So here, now, is another of the photos I did on that trip:
… I’m a sucker for a photograph which includes a lighthouse, ...
If he clicks on the above shot, he’ll get to just the lighthouses in that shop window picture, a lot bigger. Sadly, the picture, even in its original and unshrunk size, is a bit blurry and hard to decypher, although I could when I really tried.
Neither of the two Bénodet lighthouses - not this one, which is called “Le Coq”, nor the other bigger one - is in that group portrait of lighthouses at the top of this. Even the big one is not big enough, I guess.
LATER: 6k responds, with some dramatic detail about the second lighthouse from the left in the poster. He also explains what the circles mean, which had me puzzled.
In this earlier posting, I speculated that someone living in Roupell Street, which is near Waterloo Station, has been collecting vintage Citroen’s. This guy came upon the same Citroens as I did, in the same place, and made the same guess.
But this evening, I dined out with friends, mentioned the above posting, and was informed that the explanation for this clutch of Citroens is that there is a man who restores or repairs them, who lives or at any rate works, in that locality. Makes sense. And it means that Roupell Street may not have become quite as posh as I originally said.
Here are some pictures I took in the main part of Tate Modern, while on my way to and from the New Extension.
Once again, what I saw in this grand building, now even grander, is this amazing paucity of Art. I presume there is plenty of Art in this place, if you go looking for it. But I have never before visited any Art gallery where you have to go looking, half as determinedly as you have to in this one:
Art being somewhat lacking, the people came into their own. I photoed people. And I photoed people photoing people.
The lady with the blue hair and the blue fingers is herself a work of Art.
I love all the paraphernalia, big and small, of London tourism. And with my digital camera, and more to the point with my habit of having my digital camera with me and keeping a lookout for things to photo with it, I don’t have to buy any of it. I can just photo it.
Today, for instance, from inside the laundrette that I have been frequenting lately, for my end of summer clothes washes, I spied this bus (I think there is only one such) going past. This is one of London’s more diverting sights. And I managed to get a zoom-snap of it before it got too far away:
Not bad, considering how gloomy the light was today.
That back window is actually quite a good detail to focus on. If you look a bit carefully (enlarge with a click), you can see that it is also the EMERGENCY EXIT.
How do you know if a cat is happy? Answer, mostly: from the sounds it makes and from its bodily movements. It purrs. It shoves its face against your legs, or your face. These are the strongest signs.
A still photo of a happy cat, or any kind of realistic picture, is not likely to communicate feline happiness nearly so definitely. And that is particularly true if you are only allowed a picture of the cat’s face. It’s eyes may be nearly shut, but that could just be because it’s resting, rather than especially happy. And anyway, good pictures of faces, the sort that really get our attention, have eyes which are wide open.
I’m guessing that this may have been the thinking behind the above, to me, rather unsettling image. There are no eyes-wide-open eye-catching photos of happy cats, so they slapped a smile on a cat in a drawing.
But, as I often say of rather peculiar things that I show photos of here: it got my attention. Click on the above for a bit of context. I took the photo in the Earls Court area, rather than Notting Hill, and it was of a bike.
There is, of course, that Cheshire Cat, but that’s rather unsettling also.
He of course shows the whole thing. Me, I am more and more coming to see that the quality I most value in these Big Things is their instant recognisability. Hey, look at that. That can only be … That!
So here is another photo of the Big Olympic Thing from my archives, showing hardly any of it, but still (for me anyway) instantly recognisable:
Click to get the bigger original. Rather artistic, I think.
Taken the same day, and from the same place, that I took this photo of the Shard and the Gherkin directly in line.
Here. The fourth of five postings at Samizdata today, so far.
This I knew:
Seven Dials is a small road junction in Covent Garden in the West End of London where seven streets converge.
But this, I did not know:
At the centre of the roughly circular space is a column bearing six sundials, a result of the column being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads to seven.
I used to work in Covent Garden and Seven Dials was a favourite spot then. There was a hardware shop in one of the Seven Dials spokes, so to speak, and I used to go there a lot.
Here is a picture I took of this column and of some of its surroundings, this (very sunny) afternoon:
But, here is a picture I took of the inscription at the bottom of the column, which I never noticed before:
So, was a replacement column put up, around that time?
Yes. The original column went to Weybridge, via Addlestone, which reminds me of trains from Egham when I was kid. “Virginia Water, Chertsey, AddleSTONE and Weybridge”, an old man used to yell, just before the train for these locations departed. I used to love that. But I digress. Here’s what happened to the original Seven Dials column:
The original sundial column was removed in 1773. It was long believed that it had been pulled down by an angry mob, but recent research suggests it was deliberately removed by the Paving Commissioners in an attempt to rid the area of “undesirables”. The remains were acquired by architect James Paine, who kept them at his house in Addlestone, Surrey, from where they were bought in 1820 by public subscription and re-erected in nearby Weybridge as a memorial to Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of York and Albany.
The replacement sundial column was installed in 1988–89 to the original design. It was unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on a visit to commemorate the tercentenary of the reign of William and Mary, during which the area was developed.
Original design presumably means that, just like the original, the new column only has six dials at the top.
If you reckon that the two van designs referred to in my previous posting are both as much of a muddle as each other, on account of the ins and outs of the surfaces of the vans colliding with the pictures, well then, I give you a van design that you will surely prefer:
What Miguel did was make sure that everything he said was aligned with the van’s design. The frames on the van became frames for the pictures Miguel wants us to see. And the writing all fits in perfectly.
It helps that he chose a van that was all horizontals and verticals, rather than indentations at weird angles, like you see on lots of vans.
Question: is the fact that vans double up as complicated adverts causing the actual vans to be designed differently nowadays? To suit people like Miguel, who want the van and the message to line up? It would make sense it that was happening.
I notice that Miguel doesn’t seem to have a website. I’m guessing that, from where he sits, his van is his website.
I refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there). And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van. The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff. The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible. It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.
But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:
I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.
The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface. Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.
But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within. Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions. That’s because it’s a van. Vans are like that. But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.
So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.
As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this. I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”. Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.
I’m talking about those terrible Buy To Let Creeps:
From last Friday’s City A.M., bottom of page 4. I picked up a rather bedraggled copy of this outside Pimlico Tube Station late this afternoon.
If I take a photo like this …:
… then I am liable to feel quite a lot of affection for the spot from which I took it. Big Things. Cranes. Roof clutter. A lit-up sign with news about a cricket game. Advertising, including even an advert for the excellent City A.M. (bottom right). True, it’s a bit gloomy. But that only makes the cricket score shine all the brighter.
Here, below, is a photo of the spot that I took the above photo from:
Yes it’s the Oval Pavilion. There is now sunshine, going sideways because by now it is the evening. Surrey have narrowly defeated Notts and all is well with the world, unless you were supporting Notts.
Here is another photo which I took a year later, from almost the same spot. Just sitting a bit further back:
Judging by the next photo I took, I must have surveyed the scene. 240 Blackfriars. St Paul’s. Yellow cranes. Yes, let’s take a closer look at those yellow cranes:
However, since taking all of the above (and a great many more (to say nothing of vans outside)) I have taken also to visiting another excellent Big Thing viewing platform, namely the one at the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
And when I looked more closely at the above photo of the yellow cranes, I observed this:
Still the yellow cranes, but this time we can also see the Tate Modern Tower much more clearly. And the Tate Modern Extension is right behind a new block of flats, one of the ones already referred to in this earlier posting, about how you can see right into these new flats from the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.
So, if I could see parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform from the top of the Oval Pavilion, it ought also to be possible to see the top of the Oval Pavilion from parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.
And so it proved. On my first expedition to the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform, I had given no thought to the Oval Pavilion. But on my second visit, having scrutinised my Oval photos in the manner described above, I tried to photo the Oval Pavilion. A lot, because I couldn’t myself see it properly.
On the right, in green, the famous Oval Gasometer.
Here, in case you are in any way unsure, is the Oval Pavilion:
For the last few days, I have been asking myself why I so much relish little visual duets of this sort. Liking A, liking B, seeing A from B, seeing B from A. Why am I so diverted by this? Rather than answer this question, I will just leave it, for now, at putting the question. I have the beginnings of some answers meandering about in my head, but they can wait.
Yes, I photo a lot of white vans, but fewer pink ones. So, at the end of last month I was able to correct this imbalance a little:
I also try to photo roller-bladers, and the fox on that pink van is a roller-blader, which speeds up the service he is offering.
One of the quite numerous things that I like about white vans, or in this case not so white vans, is the great variety of styles in which they are decorated, all the way from ultra-refined to ultra-trashy, with this one being a bit on the trashy? - well, make that amateurish - side. (This is another thing vans have in common with websites.) But, trashy or amateurish or whatever, this van certainly got my attention.
Talking of websites. Fantasy Cleaners had a particular problem deciding where and how to put www.fantasycleaners.com. The website is where all these graphics originated that they had such trouble fitting on the van. They changed nothing. The roller-blading fox is there, with the pink background. Everything. In general, many more professional van decorators than whoever did this van have problems aligning their messages with the indentations on the sides of the vans.
I’ve visited the top of the Tate Modern Extension several times in recent weeks, so this story particularly entertained me:
Here’s the story:
Residents of the Rogers Stirk Harbour-designed Neo Bankside apartments have threatened legal action, after Tate Modern opened an observation deck that provides views into their private apartments.
The 360-degree rooftop viewing deck is one of the headline features of the Switch House – the 64.5-metre-high Tate Modern gallery extension by Herzog & de Meuron, which opened to the public in June.
But residents of the adjacent apartment complex have claimed that gallery visitors are using zoom-lens cameras and binoculars to peer inside their glass-walled homes and take photographs.
Having failed to reach a solution with Tate, the homeowners are now seeking legal action to regain their privacy.
I was particularly diverted by this bit:
So far the only change has been the addition of a sign asking Tate visitors to be more considerate.
Dezeen does not show any picture of this sign, but here, I can, because I photoed it several weeks ago:
I remember thinking at the time that this is almost contemptuously perfunctory. I’m not surprised that it failed to subdue the snoopers
I believe that, as London gets more and more interesting, and full of more and more intriguing Big Things, there will be more and more such viewing platforms like this one at Tate Modern. So, this problem of what you can see from such platforms that people don’t want you to see isn’t going to go away.
And the problem gets far worse when you consider that zoom lenses are only going to get ever more powerful. I often joke here that my camera has better eyesight than I do, and it’s true. But pretty soon, all cameras will have better eyesight than everyone.
It could be that about half of this particular viewing platform will be shut down, in which case, I need to make sure now that I have seen everything from that part of it that I can, before this happens.
I’d prefer the other idea, which is that these people living in glass houses should have one way mirrors installed, so they can see out but the rest of us can’t see in. But then, expect the internet to be awash with before/after photos.
I think it looks like they’re giving someone two fingers, rather than two kangaroo ears. At least it’s not pointing at us. It’s more like we’re doing it. Weird. It will be interesting to see if it survives. Quite apart from anything else, I just think it is extremely ugly, in the same kind of way that the 2012 Olympics logo was ugly.
No apologies for such retrospection, because it can often be very interesting. But today, I wanted to show a photo that I took today, and I wanted to do this even before I set off to take it, whatever it was.
However, today was grim and gloomy, a bad light stopped play day, not one for bright colours or grand vistas.
But perhaps a rather good day for this, which I had never noticed before:
I like the idea of public signs, offering little history lessons to passers-by. (I recall noting that the French do this a lot with their street name signs, in a blog posting, once upon a time, somewhere. Yes, in this.)
I also like those blue circles which say that someone interesting once lived here. I try to photo those whenever I see them. But, I hope you will agree that the above photo deserves to be on its own, rather than being, so to speak, diluted.
Yesterday evening, London burned, and people lined the river to watch:
That being a horizontal slice of one of the pictures here. A big wooden sculpture based on the London that was destroyed first time around was put on a barge, floated into central London, and burned.
The work of Artichoke.
And in other bridge news …
I earlier linked to a Dezeen report which reported:
But now comes this:
The more appealing the bridge, the more of a muddle its opening is liable to be, so this is not a particularly terrible thing. This bridge, for instance, has opening problems because many more people than they expected want to walk upon it:
Thousands flocked to the attraction when it opened on 20 August 2016, but less than two weeks later its popularity has led to its closure.
The bridge is designed to hold up to 800 people and receive up to 8,000 visitors in a day, however demand has far outstripped capacity.
“We’re overwhelmed by the volume of visitors,” a spokesperson from the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon’s marketing department told CNN.
The spokesperson said that 80,000 visitors had attempted to visit the bridge each day, leading to its closure for improvement works on 2 September 2016.
There are no reports of when the attraction will reopen.
Whenever. There’s nothing as cheap as a hit. Especially if your target demographic is: China. And then, when the word gets around, which the above story will hugely help it to: The World.
Nowadays, footbridges tend only to spring to life and to try to be entertaining to walk across, rather than just functional, when water is involved. But as the world’s economy slows and big new bridge projects become scarcer, I believe we can expect many more smaller and hitherto more mundane bridges to be similarly “designed” rather than just built. Like this one in Beersheba, which is over some railway tracks.
One of the reasons I have such a pathologically enormous CD collection is that I fear the power that music holds over me. I fear being in the position of wanting to hear something, but not being able to.
This morning, on Radio 3, they played a piece of piano music which I liked a lot, both the piece itself and the playing, but did not recognise. I thought it was perhaps Mozart, played by Brendel, maybe. It turned out to be Haydn, played by Pletnev. I just dug around on the www, and here is Pletnev playing that same piece. Whether that’s the exact same performance I don’t know, but it is playing right now and it sounds pretty good to me. The piece is snappily entitled: “Variations in F minor”. Until now, this was not a piece I had paid any attention to.
But I hit the age of musical addiction combined with the money to feed the habit long before there was any www. For me, having music at my command doesn’t mean knowing about a link. It means possessing a shiny plastic circle, in a square plastic case. So, as soon as I had set the radio to record CD Review, as is my Saturday morning habit, I searched through my CD collection (subsection: Haydn), for that Pletnev performance. No show. But Amazon informed me that there is a Pletnev Haydn double album with Haydn piano concertos on disc one and Haydn solo piano music on disc two. I looked again, in the Haydn subsection (sub-subsection: piano concertos). Success. I possess the exact same performance thad was played on the radion this morning. So now, this music doesn’t control me. I control it.
The question of who is in charge of music and music-making is actually a big deal, historically. Beethoven’s career, and then later Wagner’s career, were all about Beethoven, and Wagner, being in charge of their music and of their music-making, rather than their patrons or their audiences. You can tell this from just listening to their music. Haydn, on the other hand, predated that era, and was dependent upon aristocratic patronage, and this shows in his music. He would probably not enjoy reading this blog posting, by this annoying and undeserving control freak from out of the future. But he would not have made a fuss. Or such is my understanding of his character.
Or, he might have rejoiced that he could have made recordings of his music, in circumstances completely within his control, and that I could then listen to them in circumstances completely within my control. For me, this is the best of both worlds, and it would be nice to think that it might have suited him also.
I journeyed out to Eltham, on that day that I did, to see Alastair and the Big Things of London from a distance. But there were also horses to be seen. Here are some of the better horse photos I took:
Photo 3.2 requires commentary. That thing that looks like a fur coat, on a lead, is, I’m pretty sure, actually a dog on a lead. I mean, what else could it be? And I do vaguely remember this dog.
Photo 3.1 does not require commentary, but I am going to supply some anyway. In that photo you see distant London Big Things. But not with zoom. Just really far away, to the point where I have to tell you for you to realise that they’re there. 2.3 and 3.3, which feature Big Things that are more visible, do involve quite a bit of zoom. If you have ever grumbled to yourself about the somewhat blurry nature of some of my Big Thing photos, well, I think this puts that in perspective, don’t you?
In this case police cyclists, photoed by me in Waterloo Road last Tuesday, after I had descended from the top of the Tate Modern Extension:
I am not showing you this photo for artistic impression, strictly for its content. At the time I just thought I was photoing police on bikes, which is about as common as police on horses. But while I took the photo, I heard a voice next to me say something like: “There go the police, ignoring the red lights.” And they were, as is evidenced by the green light telling us pedestrians that we could cross. At the time I also thought: did I get the green light? Yes I did. And I don’t think that the lady on the other side of the road is that impressed either.
Also, the policeman on the right is holding a mobile phone in his right hand, which is the kind of behaviour that the police are cracking down on when anyone else does it.
A few years back, cyclists behaved like the law didn’t apply to them, which presumably it didn’t, in the sense that nobody applied it to them. Cyclists would grab all the rights and privileges of motorists and of pedestrians, switching from one to the other whenever they felt like it, doing such things as biking past you at speed, on the pavement. But then, in London anyway, somebody did apply the law to them. My experience is that cyclists now behave much better than they used to.
But these police cyclists don’t seem to have got that memo.