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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday September 30 2017

I recently referred, with an accompanying photo, to the resistance that reinforced concrete puts up when the time comes that machines destroy it rather than create it.  But the photo in that posting was basically of a machine that was doing the destroying, rather than of much in the way of the resisting concrete.

This photo, taken during the summer of 2016 in the vicinity of the then only beginning to arise One Blackfriars (aka The Boomerang), the big new Big Thing now nearing completion on the south side of the river:

image

Concrete is good under compressioin.  The steel reinforcing rods are strong in tension.  But the steel reinforcing rods don’t crumble when assaulted.  They bend.

Friday September 29 2017

Indeed:

image

From the I Just Like It collection.  Photoed somewhere in the Piccadilly Circus Leicester Square region, in December 2013.

One of those photos where I moved my camera to keep it on the object of my attention as it rolled by, thereby keeping the object in approximate focus and the background not.

Nice.

I love luxurious cars driven by the ostentatious nouveau riche.  (Is there another kind of nouveau riche? Probably, yes.) I would hate to have to actually look after such a vehicle throughout its life, but I love being able to photo such things, on my wandering in London, where there are just enough of such vehicles to be amusing, but not so many that you stop noticing and stop enjoying.

Thursday September 28 2017

I am continuing to read Martin Gayford’s conversations with Hockney book, and it is proving to be most diverting.

Gayford begins the chapter he entitles “Seeing more clearly” with this intriguing anecdote about Picasso, which was related to him by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson:

Lucien Clergue, the photographer, knew Picasso incredibly well. The other day he said to me, ‘You know, Picasso saved my life.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, it was after a bullfight, in Aries.’ Lucien said he had been feeling fine, had lost a bit of weight but wasn’t worried. Out of the blue Picasso said to him, ‘You go instantly to a hospital.’ Lucien asked ‘Why?’ Picasso said ‘You’ve got something seriously wrong with you.’ Lucien was damned if he was going to do it, but Jacqueline
[Picasso’s wife] added, ‘When Pablo says that, for God’s sake go.’ So he went, and the doctors had him taken straight into the operating theatre. They said he had an extremely rare type of peritonitis, which is lethal. The bad thing about it is that it doesn’t manifest itself in pain, it just kills you. ...

Hockney’s reaction to this is to say, yes, this is because Picasso spent a huge amount of time looking at faces, really looking, the way you only do if you are someone who paints pictures of faces.  Picasso could therefore see signs that others wouldn’t.

I’m not the only one to have found this a very striking story.

If it’s right, it occurs to me that maybe face recognition software ought to be able to make similar diagnoses, if not now, then quite soon.  Excuse me while I try to discover if the www agrees.

Partially.  It seems that face recognition software can already spot rare genetic disorders.  Whether it can spot the onset of rare diseases in people previously unafflicted, I could not learn.  But I bet, if it doesn’t yet perform such tricks, that it soon will.

Wednesday September 27 2017

By which I mean an urban dragon, like this one ...:

image

... which I photoed this afternoon, stuffing a few of the remains of the old New Scotland Yard, now deceased, into a skip, for a lorry to take away.

There is something very primitive and savage about machines like this one, destroying reinforced concrete, i.e. destroying just the sort of concrete that is designed to be indestructible.

I had a busy day today, by which I do not mean that I accomplished anything.  Merely that I did a lot of pleasurable things, out there is Real World.

And then, BMdotcom was misbehaving, when I first tried to post this.  But it seems now to be back working again, albeit - alas - with its customary lethargy.

Tuesday September 26 2017

A day or two ago I got an email from someone or something selling greetings cards, claiming that my birthday, September 26th, is the most popular birthday there is.  Today, which is September 26th, the same email with only small adaptations bombarded me again.

The thing about modern individually targetted advertising - emails, adverts that pop up on your computer screen, that kind of thing – is that you don’t trust them.  For instance, what if some know-a-lot computer happens to know that my birthday is September 26th, as many such computers surely do, and thinks that it will get a rise out of me by typing September 26th into its mass-email about what date the most popular birthday is?

So I asked the www, parts of which I do somewhat trust, and according to this Daily Telegraph piece from December 2015, it’s true.  The Daily Telegraph these days is not what it was, but for what it is worth, here’s what they said:

A new analysis of 20 years of birth records by the Office for National Statistics shows a dramatic spike in the number of children born in late September, nine months after Christmas. …

Overall September 26 emerges as the most common birthday for people born in England and Wales over the last two decades.
It falls 39 weeks and two days after Christmas Day, meaning that a significant proportion of those born on that day will have been conceived on Christmas itself.

I don’t know how popular September 26th was as a birthday way back when I was biologically launched.  I’ve always thought of my parents as pretty straight-laced and careful about things like when to have children.  But, did they just get pissed on Christmas Day 1946 and start me up by mistake?  Maybe so.  (Maybe they got pissed carefully.)

Anyway, whatever, happy birthday me.

Monday September 25 2017

I recently quoted a big chunk from Ross King’s book The Judgement of Paris, about his number one lead character, Ernest Meissonier.

Here are a few paragraphs by King, a few pages later, on page 17 of my edition of this book, about the Paris Salon.  They begin with a reference to King’s number two lead character, Édouard Manet:

Not until 1859, when he was twenty-seven years old, did Manet feel himself ready to launch his career at the Paris Salon, or “The Exhibition of Living Artists,” as it was more properly called. This government-sponsored exhibition was known as the “Salon” since for many years after its inauguration in 1673 it had taken place in the Salon Carré, or Square Room, of the Louvre. By 1855 it had moved to the more capacious but less regal surroundings of the Palais des Champs-Élysées, a cast-iron exhibition hall (formerly known as the Palais de l’Industrie) whose floral arrangements and indoor lake and waterfall could not disguise the fact that, when not hosting the Salon, it accommodated equestrian competitions and agricultural trade fairs.

The Salon was a rare venue for artists to expose their wares to the public and - like Meissonier, its biggest star - to make their reputations. One of the greatest spectacles in Europe, it was an even more popular attraction, in terms of the crowds it drew, than public executions. Opening to the public in the first week of May and running for some six weeks, it featured thousands of works of art specially - and sometimes controversially - chosen by a Selection Committee. Admission on most afternoons was only a franc, which placed it within easy reach of virtually every Parisian, considering the wage of the lowest-paid workers, such as milliners and washerwomen, averaged three to four francs a day. Those unwilling or unable to pay could visit on Sundays, when admission was free and the Palais des Champs-Élysées thronged with as many as 50,000 visitors - five limes the number that had gathered in 1857 to watch the blade of the guillotine descend on the neck of a priest named Verger who had murdered the Archbishop of Paris. In some years, as many as a million people visited the Salon during its six-week run, meaning crowds averaged more than 23,000 people a day.

At the bottom of the page, King adds this illuminating footnote:

To put these figures into context, the most well-attended art exhibition in the year 2003 was Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Over the course of a nine-week run, the show drew an average of 6,863 visitors each day, with an overall total of 401,004. El Greco, likewise at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, averaged 6,897 per day during its three-month run in 2003-4, ultimately attracting 174,381 visitors. The top-ranked exhibition of 2002, Van Gogh and Gauguin, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, drew 6,719 per day for four months, with a final attendance of 739,117.

So it is with all Art, with a capital A.  Arts start out as mere arts, in this case the art of picture making.  But then, a particular technique that for a long time dominates the art in question gets elbowed aside by new technology.  At which point the art in question becomes Art, of the High sort, the sort that all those crowds of mere people are no longer so interested in.  They have other entertainents to divert them.

In the case of the art of painting pictures, the new technology was of course photography - still photography, but most especially photography of the moving sort.  Motion pictures, in that telling phrase used by the pioneers of the new art.

When I read the paragraphs I have quoted above, I found myself thinking: Hollywood.

Sunday September 24 2017

Martin Gayford’s book A Bigger Message: Conversations With David Hockney, seems very promising.

Hockney is an interesting and likeable man, I think, although I imagine he turns a bit nasty if you in any way get between him and his work.  What I particularly like about him is that he doesn’t indulge in the usual artistic sport of epater-ing the bourgeoisie.  He is content to be bourgeoisie.

Here’s an early nugget from this book (from the Introduction, on page 10):

The savants of the eighteenth century were much exercised by the question of what a person blind from birth, whose sight was suddenly restored, would make of the visible world. Amazingly, the experiment was actually performed. In the 1720s, William Cheselden, a London surgeon, removed the cataracts from the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy. The latter gradually came to associate the objects he had known only through touch with what he now saw. One of the last puzzles he solved was that of pictures. It took two months, ‘to that time he consider’d them only as Party-coloured Planes, or surfaces diversified with Variety of paint’. And that of course is exactly what pictures are, but they fascinate us and help us understand and enjoy what we see.

When I’m done reading that book, I will be moving on to Gayford and Hockney’s more recent magnum opus, entitled A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen.

I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between photography and painting.  As has Hockney, it would seem.  The very fact that this title talks about “pictures” rather than merely “art” or “painting” is, to me, highly promising.

Saturday September 23 2017

Photography is light, and light loves water:

image

Photoed under another bridge, five years before I photoed that X.  Which was different, but similar.  Both have a slice of light shaped by two bridges right next to each other, over water.

Friday September 22 2017

Today I had a taste of what my life would be if I had the Sky TV cricket channel.  (It would be over.) I watched Surrey play Somerset on the live feed from the Oval which comes complete with the BBC’s sound commentary. I had all sorts of plans for today, but managed to get very little else of consequence done.

Surrey spent their day trying to ensure that they avoided all possibility of being relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  When they finally managed to defeat Somerset, they found themselves lying second in Division One.  Division One contains eight teams, two of which will be relegated, and it’s all rather close, apart from Essex, who have already won, and Warks, who have already been relegated.  So, a very strange day, but ultimately a very good one.

So, quota photo time:

image

Yes, it’s a still life, with condiments instead of old school food in old school containers.  Little Big Things, you might say.  Photoed five years ago, in a cafe only a very short walk away from the Oval.

Thursday September 21 2017

imageClick on the thumbnail on the right to see why I’m presenting this photo to you, as a thumbnail.

Photo taken outside (as you can probably work out) Westminster Abbey in December 2015.

Wednesday September 20 2017

This is how Chapter One, “Chez Meissonier”, of Ross King’s book The Judgement of Paris begins:

One gloomy January day in 1863, Jean-Louis-Emest Meissonier, the world’s wealthiest and most celebrated painter, dressed himself in the costume of Napoleon Bonaparte and, despite the snowfall, climbed onto the roof top balcony of his mansion in Poissy.

A town with a population of a little more than 3,000, Poissy lay eleven miles north-west of Paris, on the south bank of an oxbow in the River Seine and on the railway line running from the Gare Saint-Lazare to the Normandy coast. It boasted a twelfth-century church, an equally ancient bridge, and a weekly cattle market that supplied the butcher shops of Paris and, every Tuesday, left the medieval streets steaming with manure. There was little else in Poissy except for the ancient priory of Saint-Louis, a walled convent that had once been home to an order of Dominican nuns. The nuns had been evicted during the French Revolution and the convent’s buildings either demolished or sold to private buyers. But inside the enclosure remained an enormous, spired church almost a hundred yards in length and, close by, a grandiose house with clusters of balconies, dormer windows and pink-bricked chimneys: a building sometimes known as the Grande Maison.

imageErnest Meissonier had occupied the Grande Maison for most of the previous two decades. In his forty-eighth year he was short, arrogant and densely bearded: “ugly, little and mean,” one observer put it, “rather a scrap of a man.” A friend described him as looking like a professor of gymnastics, and indeed the burly Meissonier was an eager and accomplished athlete, often rising before dawn to rampage through the countryside on horseback, swim in the Seine, or launch himself at an opponent, fencing sword in hand. Only after an hour or two of these exertions would he retire, sometimes still shod in his riding boots, to a studio in the Grande Maison where he spent ten or twelve hours each day crafting on his easel the wonders of precision and meticulousness that had made both his reputation and his fortune.

To overstate either Meissonier’s reputation or his fortune would have been difficult in the year 1863. “At no period,” a contemporary claimed, “can we point to a French painter to whom such high distinctions were awarded, whose works were so eagerly sought after, whose material interests were so guaranteed by the high prices offered for every production of his brush. No artist in France could command Meissonier’s extravagant prices or excite so much public attention. Each year at the Paris Salon - the annual art exhibition in the Palais des Champs-Élysées - the space before Meissonier’s paintings grew so thick with spectators that a special policeman was needed to regulate the masses as they pressed forward to inspect his latest success. Collected by wealthy connoisseurs such as James de Rothschild and the Duc d’ Aumale. these paintings proved such lucrative investments that Meissonier’s signature was said to be worth that of the Bank of France. “The prices of his works,” noted one awestruck art critic, “have attained formidable proportions, never before known.”

Meissonier’s success in the auction rooms was accompanied by a chorus of critical praise and-even more unusual for an art world riven by savage rivalries and piffling jealousies - the respect and admiration of his peers. “He is the incontestable master of our epoch,” declared Eugène Delacroix, who predicted to the poet Charles Baudelaire that “amongst all of us, surely it is he who is most certain to survive!” Another of Meissonier’s friends, the writer Alexandre Dumas fils, called him ”the painter of France.” He was simply, as a newspaper breathlessly reported, “the most renowned artist of our time.”

From his vantage point at the top of his mansion this most renowned artist could have seen all that his tremendous success had bought him. A stable housed his eight horses and a coach house his fleet of carriages, which included expensive landaus, berlines, and victorias. He even owned the fastest vehicle on the road, a mail coach. All were decorated, in one of his typically lordly gestures, with a crest that bore his most fitting motto: Omnia labor, or “Everything by work.” A greenhouse, a saddlery, an English garden, a photographic workshop, a duck pond, lodgings for his coachman and groom, and a meadow planted with cherry trees - all were ranged across a patch of land sloping down to the embankments of the Seine, where his two yachts were moored. A dozen miles upstream, in the Rue des Pyramides, a fashionable street within steps of both the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre, he maintained his Paris apartment.

The Grande Maison itself stood between the convent’s Gothic church and the remains of its ancient cloister. Meissonier had purchased the pink-bricked eighteenth-century orangery, which was sometimes known as Le Pavilion Rose, in 1846. In the ensuing years he had spent hundreds of thousands of francs on its expansion and refurbishment in order to create a splendid palace for himself and his family. A turret had been built above an adjoining cottage to house an enormous cistern that provided the Grande Maison with running water, which was pumped through the house and garden by means of a steam engine. The house also boasted a luxurious water closet and, to warm it in winter, a central heating system. A billiard room was available for Meissonier’s rare moments away from his easel.

Yet despite these modern conveniences, the Grande Maison was really intended to be an exquisite antiquarian daydream. “My house and my temperament belong to another age,” Meissonier once said. He did not feel at home or at ease in the nineteenth century. He spoke unashamedly of the “good old days,” by which he meant the eighteenth century and even earlier. He detested the sight of railway stations, cast-iron bridges, modern architecture and recent fashions such as frock coats and top hats. He did not like how people sat cross-legged and read newspapers and cheap pamphlets instead of leather-bound books. And so from the outside his house - all gables, pitched roofs and leaded windows - was a vision of eighteenth-century elegance and tranquillity, while on the inside the rooms were decorated in the style of Louis XV, with expensive tapestries, armoires, embroidered fauteuils, and carved wooden balustrades.

The Grande Maison included not one but, most unusually, two large studios in which Meissonier could paint his masterpieces. The atelier d’hiver, or “winter workshop,” featuring bay windows and a large fireplace, was on the top floor of the house, while at ground level, overlooking the garden, he had built a glass-roofed annexe known as the atelier d’été, or “summer workshop.” Both abounded with the tools of his trade: canvases, brushes and easels, but also musical instruments, suits of armour, bridles and harnesses, plumed helmets, and an assortment of halberds, rapiers and muskets - enough weaponry, it was said, to equip a company of mercenaries. For Meissonier’s paintings were, like his house, recherché figments of an antiquarian imagination. He specialised in scenes from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century life, portraying an ever-growing cast of silk-coated and lace-ruffed gentlemen - what he called his bonshommes, or “goodfellows” - playing chess, smoking pipes, reading books, sitting before easels or double basses, or posing in the uniforms of musketeers or halberdiers. These musicians and bookworms striking their quiet and reflective poses in serene, softly lit interiors, all executed in microscopic detail, bore uncanny similarities to the work of Jan Vermeer, an artist whose rediscovery in the 1860s owed much to the ravenous taste for Meissonier - and one whose tremendous current popularity approaches the enthusiastic esteem in which Meissonier himself was held in mid-nineteenth-century France.

Typical of Meissonier’s work was one of his most recent creations, Halt at an Inn, owned by the Due de Morny, a wealthy art collector and the illegitimate half- brother of the French Emperor, Napoleon Ill. Completed in 1862, it featured three eighteenth-century cavaliers in tricorn hats being served drinks on horseback outside a half-timbered rural tavern: a charming vignette of the days of old, without a railway train or top hat in sight. Meissonier’s most famous painting, though, was The Brawl, a somewhat less decorous scene depicting a fight in a tavern between two men dressed - as usual - in opulent eighteenth-century attire. Awarded the Grand Medal of Honour at the Salon of 1855, it was owned by Queen Victoria, whose husband and consort, Prince Albert, had prized Meissonier above all other artists. At the height of the Crimean War, Napoleon III had purchased the work from Meissonier for 25,000 francs - eight times the annual salary of an average factory worker - and presented it as a gift to his ally across the Channel.

“If I had not been a painter,” Meissonier once declared, “I should have liked to be a historian. I don’t think any other subject could be so interesting as history.” He was not alone in his veneration of the past. The mid-nineteenth century was an age of rapid technological development that had witnessed the invention of photography, the electric motor and the steam-powered locomotive. Yet it was also an age fascinated by, and obsessed with, the past. The novelist Gustave Flaubert regarded this keen sense of history as a completely new phenomenon - as yet another of the century’s many bold inventions. “The historical sense dates from only yesterday,” he wrote to a friend in 1860, “and it is perhaps one of the nineteenth century’s finest achievements.” Visions of the past were everywhere in France. Fashions at the court of Napoleon III aped those of previous centuries, with men wearing bicorn hats, knee breeches and silk stockings. The country’s best-known architect, Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, had spent his career busily returning old churches and cathedrals to their medieval splendour. By 1863 he was creating a fairy-tale castle for the emperor at Pierrefonds, a knights-in-armour reverie of portcullises, round towers and cobbled courtyards.

This sense of nostalgia predisposed the French public towards Meissonier’s paintings, which were celebrated by the country’s greatest art critic, Théophile Gautier, as “a complete resurrection of the life of bygone days.” Meissonier’s wistful visions appealed to exactly the same population that had made The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas père, first published in 1844, the most commercially successful book in nineteenth-century France. Indeed, with their cavaliers decked out in ostrich plumes, doublets and wide-topped boots, many of Meissonier’s paintings could easily have served as illustrations from the works of Dumas, a friend of the painter who, before his bankruptcy, had lived in equally splendid style in his “Château de Monte Cristo,” a domed and turreted folly at Marly-le-Roi, a few miles upstream from Meissonier. Both men excelled at depicting scenes of chivalry and masculine adventure against a backdrop of pre-Revolutionary and pre-industrial France - the period before King Louis XVI was marched to the steps of the guillotine and the old social relations were destroyed, in the decades that followed, by new economic forces of finance and industry. “The age of chivalry is gone,” wrote Edmund Burke, a fierce critic of the French Revolution who lamented the loss, after 1789, of “manly sentiment and heroic enterprise.” But the age of chivalry had not entirely vanished in France: by the middle of the nineteenth century it lingered eloquently in Dumas’s novels, in Viollet-le-Duc’s spires and towers, and in Meissonier’s jewel-like “musketeer” paintings.

Still, the subject matter of Meissonier’s works accounted only partly for their extraordinary success. What astounded the critics and the public alike was his mastery of fine detail and almost inconceivably punctilious craftsmanship. “It is impossible to comprehend that our clumsy hands could achieve such a degree of delicacy,” enthused Gautier. Meissonier’s paintings, most of which were small in size, rewarded the closest and most prolonged observation. After purchasing one of his works, the English art critic John Ruskin would examine it at length under a magnifying glass, marvelling at Meissonier’s manual dexterity and eye for fascinating minutiae. A critic once joked that Meissonier was capable of putting the Prophets of the Sistine Chapel on the setting of a ring. No one in the history of art, it was said, ever possessed such a superlative and unerring touch with his brush. “The finest Flemish painters, the most meticulous Dutch,” claimed Gautier, “are slovenly and heavy next to Meissonier.” ...

Tuesday September 19 2017

This evening I started contriving what I hope will be the first of quite a few excerpts from The Judgement of Paris, the book referred to in the previous posting.  But it all took far longer than I had thought it would.  Those Frenchies and their accents!  Also, lots of numbers referring to endnotes had/have to be removed.  It has a lot of endnotes.

So, meanwhile, another photo taken by me in Paris, in the frigid February of 2012:

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That’s one of the modernistical buildings of La Défense, reflected in another of the modernistical buildings of La Défense.  (Even organising those accents was a bit of a bother.)

Monday September 18 2017

Today I finally got to the end of The Judgement of Paris.  I have now started making a list of some short bits of it that I hope to reproducing here.

Meanwhile, by way of a small celebration, here is a Parisian photo I took, in Paris, way back in February 2012:

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It’s the Tour Eiffel, of course, photoed from under it.  Tour Eiffel is pronounced “Tour F L”, rather that “Tour I Fell”.  Which reassures me that I know how to pronounce the leading historical character, Ernest Meissonier, in the above book.  “May sonni eh” rather than “My sonni eh”.

Anyway, a big and very interesting interruption has stopped interrupting me and my life, and I’m very glad about that.

Sunday September 17 2017

I am very proud of the photo of London bridges that I took from the top of the Hotel ME, which featured seven bridges.

But today, while trawling through my photo archives on another errand entirely, I encountered a London bridges photo that I took, back in 2015 which clearly shows no less than fifteen London bridges:

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And not so clearly, it shows, I reckon, two more bridges, in the very far distance, beyond the second pointy one, which I reckon must be Albert Bridge.

Saturday September 16 2017

I opened a special word processing file, to make sure that the signals I was sending didn’t go anywhere else:

Cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc
cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccmnnnnnnn
nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmn
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmnmccccmncnmm
mmmmmcvvvvvvvvvcvnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmnvclllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
kkkkkkkkkkkk,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,..................................................
....................................................................................................l…
......lllll.kkkkllllllllllllllllllllllllllll,kl

But what was I doing?

This.  (I had to cheat by adding lots of carriage returns to the above gibberish, or this posting would have broken this blog):

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That’s the trouble with keyboards.  Their letters disappear.  I’m sure that when the people who make these keyboards release them into the wild, they believe that they’ve done everything possible to stop this sort of thing, and that the letters will last for ever.  But they never do.

I particularly like what I did with the horizontal Vs there.

Friday September 15 2017

Friday here at BMdotcom is Cats and Other Creatures Day.  So if I am out and about on a Friday, I always keep an eye out for relevant sights.  Sights like this, which I spotted in Putney this afternoon.

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Potted Horse?  As in: horse meat?

Well, no:

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Spotted Horse, as in: horse with spots.  A pub.

Picture of the entire front of the Spotted Horse:

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I like how it’s than the buildings on each side are bigger.  This being, presumably, because the pub is some kind of preserved building from olden times, and as such impervious to the rising price of land and hence the rising pressure continuously to destroy and replace with something ever taller.

One day, the price of the land upon which the Spotted Horse rests will be such that a skyscraper will be demanded.  At this point, I would like to think that the Spotted Horse will mutate into the lowest two floors of this new skyscraper.  Why not?  The skyscraper will pay for all the confusion involved in contriving this.  Just because amusingly antiquated buildings need to become very tall buildings doesn’t mean they have to be destroyed and replaced entirely by modernity, especially when you consider how tedious modernity can be at ground level, a place where architectural antiquity excels.  No, put the modernity on top of the antiquity, on stilts.

Thursday September 14 2017

I keep starting these simple, nearly nothing postings, with just one nice photo, and the explanation for what it is doing here, which is that I think it’s a nice photo, but then I start complicating it, with what else I photoed five minutes before or after, or with some idiot observation about something in the photo, which leads on to another photo, etc., etc., ad nauseam and two hours which I should have spent sleeping go by, and I am actually further away from finishing the posting than when I started it.

This time it’s different:

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That’s a photo of the bank of the New River, in North London.  You want a link?  An explanation?  Google New River.

I just think it’s a nice photo, and I’m not even going to tell you why I think this.  Goodnight.

Wednesday September 13 2017

Yesterday was a complicated day for me, and when I went out to dinner it got more complicated, because I got swept up in this:

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I was jammed in a no-standing-room-either tube carriage, on my way to dinner at my friends, and at West Brompton someone who’d been sitting got out and a seat became available.  Me being Old, I was invited to have it.  At first I was reluctant.  “I’m getting off at the next stop”, I explained.  I’d be stuck further inside the carriage with more shoving when I got out than if I stayed where I was.  “Oh that’s okay,” said the guy.  “Everyone’s getting off at the next stop.” Eh?  How did he know?  Was he psychic?

He was not psychic.  He was a Chelsea supporter.  And so, as he well knew, were most of the other people causing the train to be so strangely packed.  Above is my photo of us all waiting to get out from the rather unfortunately named Fulham Broadway tube station, which is right near the Chelsea ground, but not nearly so near to the Fulham ground.

And here is a photo I took of Chelsea stuff that was being offered to the throngs:

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They had a special scarf to commemorate this one game, which I’m guessing they do for lots of games.  Good thinking.  The game was against something called Qarabag.  Chelsea won comfortably.

Earlier, sport also forced itself upon my attention, in the form of these flags in Regent Street:

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The Americans are coming.

Tuesday September 12 2017

Here.  Goodness knows what will happen to that link in future hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millenia.  But as of now it is working very nicely, and Surrey are having a great day.  Foakes has just hit four fours off four balls.

With its own built in commentary from Churchy and his pals, it still isn’t what you get from Sky or from national BBC, but it’s still good.  The main drawback is there’s only two cameras, one at each end.  It they hit a boundary, you just have to take their word for it about where it went and how fast.  But this sort of thing can only get better.  Hope it’s still happening tomorrow.

Scorecard of the game here.  Close of play day one: Surrey 398-3.  Sanga 85, Foakes 64.  Nice.

Ex-Surrey batters Davies and Sibley have also been in the runs, for Somerset and for Warks.  Also nice.

Off out very soon for dinner with friends, so that’s it here for today, and it makes my evening a lot better now that my duties here are done.  Have a good one yourself, unless you are a Yorkshire supporter.

Monday September 11 2017

My recent life has been seriously deranged by this book, which is about French painting and painters during the nineteenth century.  It’s by Ross King.  Never heard of him until I acquired and started to read this book of his, but the loss was entirely mine.  (Sounds more like a boxing promotor than an Art write.) This is one of the most engrossing books about Art I have ever encountered.

I am learning about several subjects that greatly appeal to me.  There’s French painting, obviously, which I have always wanted to know more about, in particular the rise to pre-eminence of Impressionism, which is what this book is about.  There are fascinating little titbits about the rise of sport, the 1860s being one of the most important decades for that, because of railways.  There’s French nineteenth century history in general, which this book, bless it, contains a lot of.  In particular there is stuff about the 1870 war against the Prussians, and then the Paris Commune.  There is French geography also, French geography being something that many of the more affluent French (including the more affluent artists) were getting to grips with properly for the first time, again because of those railways.  There is a glorious few pages about a big bunch of artists going on strike!  There are huge gas balloons.  This is not the sort of book about paintings that is only about the paintings.  Which means that it is much better than most books about paintings, because it explains their wider context.  It explains what the paintings are of, and why.

I particularly like that the role of the media is well described.  Tom Wolfe did not (with this book) invent that.  Art critics, then as now, were a big part of the Art story.

But, although I know that I will be a much improved human being when I have finished reading this book, I am finding the actual reading of it rather tough going.  For starters, there’s a lot of it, nearly four hundred closely printed pages, and my eyesight isn’t what it was.  But worse, there are constant references to people and to things that a better educated person than I would already know a bit about.  Who, for instance, was Charles Blanc?  I feel I ought to have known this kind of thing, at least a bit.  And then there’s the difference between Manet and Monet, which is all explained, concerning which about the only thing I knew beforehand was that they were indeed two distinct people.  But, I feel I should have known more about exactly which of them painted exactly what.  I could have whistled it all up from the www, but I do most of my reading away from my computer, because that way my computer does not then distract me.  Ross King never assumes any knowledge, and introduces everyone and everything very politely, but I am still struggling to keep up.

Another problem is that this book is packed with little stories about excitements of this or that diverting sort, any one of which could have been the basis of an entire book, but in this book often get just one or two paragraphs.  (I’m thinking of those titbits about sport, especially horse racing.) Accordingly, I find myself wanting to stop, to contemplate whatever fascinating little yarn I have just read, rather than dutifully ploughing on.

But plough on I am determined to do.  Until I finish, you here must make do with inconsequential postings, based on things like my inconsequential photos, which I happen to have been trawling back through in recent days.  But when I finally do finish this book, there may be some rather better stuff here.  I promise nothing, but I have in mind to pick out some of those diverting little stories, and maybe also sprinkle in some pertinent paintings.

I also hope (but promise nothing) to do a more considered review of this book for Samizdata.

Sunday September 10 2017

Indeed:

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Good luck getting that up to 88 mph.

Another happy memory from my wanderings around the rivers and canals way out East.  This was taken last December.

Saturday September 09 2017

So there I was, wondering around the other side of the City of London from where I live, as I like to do, and I saw this taxi with a tree behind it.  But the weird thing was, no matter which direction I photoed the taxi and the tree from, the tree was always directly behind the taxi:

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What gave?  Answer: the tree wasn’t and isn’t behind the taxi.  It was and is right on top of the taxi, made to look as if it is growing right up through it.  This taxi with tree was and is: Art.

Yes, this is one of those many places where hurt-your-foot-if-you-drop-it work has recently been replaced by “creative” work.  (The sneer quotes are not because creative work isn’t, but because other work so often is also.)

Here is a map of this place, together with a description of what has been happening there recently:

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When exploring a new place, I always photo maps and signs which explain everything.

This map looks, I think, rather like one of those illustrations in a birds-and-bees instruction manual for adolescents.

More about Orchard Place here.

Friday September 08 2017

For all I know the sky was quite dramatic over other places too, but it was in Brixton that I saw it:

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Often, when I show photos here, they were taken days, weeks, months or even years ago.  Yesterday, there were photos that were taken ten years ago.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but: the above photos were taken earlier this evening, when I journeyed out to Brixton Curry’s PC World Carphone Warehouse or whatever the &&&&& it’s called, to try and to fail to buy a new TV.  Which means that this is topical meteorological reportage.

Click on any of the above photos if you wish, and if you do you’ll get the bigger versions.  But I actually think that the smaller versions are more dramatic, because more abstract and less of something.  Like little oil paintings.  Especially the first one.

Thursday September 07 2017

Yesteryear as in: photoed by me ten years ago today:

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Guesses (and I do mean guesses (though the guesses took me ages)) as to what they are, and when they were first manufactured:

Top left: Sharp Viewcam VL-AH151 camcorder - 2002

Top right: Sony DCR-DVD610 DVD Handycam - 2008 (doh!) 2007

Bottom left: Sony Handycam DCR-TRV265E - 2004

Bottom right: Samsung Sc-d363 Ntsc Camcorder Mini Dv 1200x - 2005

Regular still cameras from ten years ago look very dated.  But things that look very like regular cameras used to look are still in use now, despite the rise of smartphone photoing.  They’re just a lot better.

Video cameras from ten years ago, on the other hand, now look absurdly, wildly, ludicrously dated.  This is because they are (a) often much bigger than almost any cameras are now, and (b) have been pretty much entirely replaced by smartphones, which are tiny.

Wednesday September 06 2017

Professor Amy Wax, quoted in this:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These are the kind of virtues that, in Charles Murray’s words, the upper classes of the USA have been practising, but have been neglecting to preach to those below them in the social pecking order.  Result says Professor Wax: disaster.

That phrase about preaching what they practise is a good one and I am glad it is getting around.  (I mentioned it in this Samizdata piece.) I don’t always practise these virtues myself, particularly the ones concerning working hard and avoiding idleness.  (I would also want to distinguish between serving my country and serving its mere state apparatus.) But I preach these virtues nevertheless.  Do what she says, not what I do.

A little hypocrisy is far preferable to a lot of silence in these matters.

Tuesday September 05 2017

In January of 2016, a year and a half ago now, a friend and I checked out the top of the Walkie Talkie, and we liked it a lot.

I, of course, photoed photoers, of whom there were, equally of course, an abundance.  And although at the time I collected the best photoer photos together into their own little subdirectory, I never got around to putting the selected photos up here.  But I chanced upon them last night, and I think they deserve the oxygen of publicity.  So, here they are:

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As the years have gone by, I have come to like photoing photoers as much for the places they photo in and the things they photo as for the photoers themselves.  From the above photos you get quite a good idea of what the top of the Walkie Talkie is like and what you can see from it.  The weather that day was rather dull, so the actual views I took were rather humdrum.  These photoer photos were better, I think.

The Walkie Talkie Sky Garden advertises itself as a sky garden, but it is more like an airport lounge with plants, that has itself taken to the air.  Getting access to it is like boarding an airplane, with luggage inspection and a magnetic doorway you have to walk through.  In this respect, as well as the splendour of the views, the Walkie Talkie resembles the Shard, which imposes very similar arrangements on all who wish to sample its views.  But sky garden or not, I liked it.

One of the many things I like about the Walkie Talkie is that its very shape reflects the importance attached by its designer(s?) to making a nice big space at the top for mere people to visit and gaze out of.  As well as, of course, creating lots of office space, just below the top but still way up in the sky, for office drones to enjoy the views from.  Their work may often be drudgery, but at least they get an abundance of visual diversion.

In its own way, the Walkie Talkie is as much an expression of the economic significance of views as those thin New York apartment skyscrapers are. The difference being that in a big office you don’t have to be based right next to a window to be able, from time to time, to stroll over to a window.  So, as the building gets taller and the views get more dramatic, it makes sense to fit more people in.  Hence the shape of the Walkie Talkie.

If one of the jobs of a Walkie Talkie drone happens to be to try to entice clients to come to the Walkie Talkie, to have stuff sold to them, well, those views might make all the difference.

Note that Rafael Vinoly designed the Walkie Talkie, and designed the first of those tall and thin New York apartments.  These two apparently very different buildings have in common that both of them look as they do partly because of the views they both offer.

I also like the Walkie Talkie because so many prim-and-proper architect type people dislike it.

Monday September 04 2017

A few weeks ago, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the First World War.  Patrick’s short intro, and the recording, are here.  (It would appear that Croziervision is now back in business.)

The “If only” of my title is because we talk about the question of “what if” WW1 had never started.  What might have happened instead?  The unspoken assumption that has saturated our culture ever since is that it would surely have been far, far better.  But what if something else just as bad had happened instead?  Or even: something worse?

We discuss the reasons for such pessimism.  There was the sense of economic unease that had prevailed since the dawn of the century, resulting in a time not unlike our own.  And, there was the fact that Germany, Austria, Russia and Turkey were all embarked upon their various journeys from monarchy to democracy, and such journeys are always likely to be, says Patrick, bloodbaths.  Whatever happened in twentieth century Europe, it surely would not have been good.

Sunday September 03 2017

Some of the best walks in London that I have done in recent months have been alongside the River Lea.  Typically, I would start at Bromley-by-Bow tube station, go south along the A12 and then turn left along Twelvetrees Crescent until I get to the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge.  Then I’d go either north or south.

On one of these meanders, the weather was particularly bright and sunny, and before I even got to the river, while I was just walking south along the A12, photo-ops abounded.  Or maybe they didn’t but it felt as if they did.  Everything, even the most mundane of objects or lighting effects, seemed dusted by a spraycan of joy, and I can’t look at the photos I took that day without that joy colouring my feeling about the photos I took at that moment.

Photos like these:

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I can’t be objective about whether anyone else might like the above photos.  I was and remain too happy about them to be objective.  Just looking at them when I was preparing them for this posting, I became too happy to even care about being objective.

Share my joy, or not, as you please.  1.1 just tells us where we start.  1.2 is another view from the station, but not of it.  1.3 is one of those gloriously complicated drain-unblocking lorries.  2.3 I like because the colours on the car are so like the colours sported by the building, and because the sunniness of it all is emphasised by my silhouette.  In 3.2 you can just see the top of the Big Olympic Thing, an effect I always enjoy.  And 3.3 features a photo of, I do believe, the Taj Mahal. Lovely.

Not long after photoing all that, I photoed these shopping trolleys.

When I returned a day or two later to retrace my joyful steps, I photoed the excellent footbridge from the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge (one of my favourite footbridges in all of London (although maybe it’s just how good it looked that day from that spot)).  I photoed the Shard.  And I photoed a map that shows the locality where all these delights are to be found.

Saturday September 02 2017

Here.

I still don’t know what the domestic 3D printing killer app is going to be, and nor does anyone else.  But, this feels like it brings it closer.

Friday September 01 2017

Today being the BMdotcom day for cats, and now also for other creatures, here is another creature, in this case a chicken, in an advert:

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And here, photoed by me recently, outside the Old Vic theatre, is one of these excellent machines referred to in the advert, in action:

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You can surely see what I did there, and I assure you that it was no fluke.  I waited for it to say 8.  I also have 9 and 7, because I wanted to make quite sure.  I have been photoing these excellent machines for quite a while now.

The 8build website.  They’re doing some work on the Old Vic.

On the left in the distance, nearing completion, One Blackfriars.  I find liking this Thing a bit of an effort, but I’ll get there.  I always do with such Things.  According to that (Wikipedia), One Blackfriars is nicknamed “The Vase”.  I smell, although I have no evidence for this, an attempt at preemptive nicknaming, by the people who built this Thing.  “We’ll call it The Vase, to stop London calling it something worse.” That’s what happened with The Shard, after all.  And that name stuck.

I tried to make the title of this “8”, but apparently a number with no letters is not allowed.