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

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Category archive: Movies

Wednesday January 13 2016

Oliver Wainwright of the Guardian can be grumpy but informative.  Of facadism, which I have here been calling keeping up appearances, Wainwright says this:

The practice of facadism emerged in the 1980s, when construction technology made it possible to retain a mere sliver of a frontage, and as the rise of the conservation movement increased pressure to preserve the historic streetscape – even if it didn’t care much for what happened beyond the surface.

And more to the point, there are some great photos.  Photos like this:

image

Wainwright is of course angry about this unequal style collision.  He writes for the Guardian, and being angry about capitalism (aka everything except Guardianism) comes with the job.  But I actually quite like it when big modernism rises up behind smaller ancientism.  To put it another way, in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, the architect-hero Howard Roark is disgusted when a committee seeks to stick an ancientist front door at the bottom of his modernist skyscraper.  But I think this front door, at any rate as shown in the film they made of The Fountainhead, improved things.  It certainly made it easier to see where the front door actually was, which is often hard with totally modernist buildings, and used for about a decade to be impossible.  Ancientism evolved a way of handling front doors in a way that makes sense to all, and there is no more virtue in destroying these ground-level conventions than there is in abolishing English and trying to replace it with Esperanto.

Besides which, buildings are often hated, to begin with, for the very thing that causes them at a later date to be loved, namely their distinctiveness and their oddity.  Think of the Eiffel Tower, which at first was greatly disliked.  My guess is that much the same will apply to the above Cardiff oddity.

I also believe that the Carbuncle-Cup-winning Walkie Talkie will in the fullness of time mutate from Carbuncle to National Treasure.  I visited that building today.  More about that visit Real Soon Now, maybe, I promise nothing.

Friday January 08 2016

I’m still catching up with some of the things I did last summer, even though it is now next year.  My gaff my rules.  In particularly, I still have finished reporting on Richmond Park.

Richmond Park is the very picture of unthreatening sweetness and light, especially on the sort of day it was when me and GD2 paid our visit to it.  But, as regulars here will know, I like to photograph signs, and maps, so that I will know where I’ve been.

In Richmond Park, there are big maps of Richmond Park, like this one:

image

This map is covered with the names of all the various places in Richmond Park.  Most of these names are quite nice, as you can see if you take a closer look (by clicking on it), at this closer-up view of the middle of the above map:

image

Prince Charles’s Spinney, Thompson’s Pond, Sidmouth Wood, and Queen Elizabeth’s Plantation, they all sound nice enough, in keeping with the suburban niceness of the place.  Although, I suppose “plantation” might suggest slavery.

But some of these names speak of a different and grimmer past.  How about, to take a closer look at some of them, names like these:

imageimage

Suddenly, Richmond Park becomes more like the sort of landscape that brings to mind, say, Vincent Price’s chilling enactment of the Witchfinder General.

Names like those two suggest interpretations that are probably far worse than the truth, of names like these:

imageimageimage

Spankers are probably just people who chase deer so that the upper classes can kill them for sport.  A saw pit is probably just a pit where sawing (of tree trunks) was done.  And Peg’s Pond is probably just the pond which Peg owned, and fished in.  But, I couldn’t helping thinking that Peg’s Pond was really the pond where Vincent Price made poor Peg swim, thereby proving that she was a witch.  And then she got hanged in one of the two hanging locations named above.

And how about these two names:

image

Bone Copse?  Killcat Corner? What on earth was that about?  Googling told me nothing, but that proves nothing.

Saturday December 26 2015

I did a Samizdata posting earlier today, soliciting help in decyphering a piece of text in a photo.  Earlier this month I photoed this lady holding up a message for the lady she was videoing to read.  Trouble is, the text was in something that looked like it was Russian.

According to Samizdata commenter Alex, the text is Kazakh.  It would appear that the lady being videoed was making a video message for her sister.  I expect further details to follow.

Ah, Kazakhstan.  Known in Britain mostly for being the home of Borat.

As it happens there’s a Borat photo I’ve been meaning to stick up here, of Borat on the back of a bus.  Here is that photo, on the right below, together with another Borat related photo which is one of my all time favourite snaps.  I took this Borats-plural photo, on the left here, in Piccadilly, on March 9th 2007, and it has been shown here already, on the day after it was taken.  The Borat on the bus photo was taken on March 14th, and is being shown here for the first time:

imageimage

Click to see these photos bigger.

When I googled for more serious Kazakhstan information, the most interesting info I found was definitely this.  Blog and learn.

Saturday December 19 2015

The plan was that this week, I would be catching up with myself on the blogging front.  Instead I have found myself going out and doing things, and I have got even further behind.

So it is again this evening.  After another busy day doing things, I have time and energy left now only to show you a snap I took of a shop window display somewhere in Oxford Street:

image

Yes, it’s a Star Wars stormtrooper facing a communications crisis, and improvising, with some obsolete and inconveniently large equipment.

I love shop window displays, especially at Christmas Time of course, when they erupt into Vesuvii of invention.  Again, these are not things that you would want to buy, even the bits of them that are for sale.  But I do enjoy photoing them.  Not least because they are usually very well lit.

Star Wars, latest manifestation of, erupted in London on Thursday, to the sound of box office records being broken.

Friday October 30 2015

6k:

As I published this, I made another mental note to look up a bit of the history of this place on Cambridge Street. I also made a mental note that my mental notes seem not to be working at reminding me to do things.

This is a big part of what blogs, and now Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of it, are for.  Never mind all those damn other readers.  What proportion of internet postings of various sorts are there not for anyone else, but for the poster himself to remember whatever it was?  This of course requires you to trawl back through your own output from time to time, which I do do from time to time.

Here is another internet posting vaguely relevant to the above, about people who find it impossible not to remember things, the things in this case being faces.  Most of us have heard of those unfortunates whose brains have been smacked and they can’t remember faces that ought to be familiar, like their children’s.  This is about people who have received a different sort of smack, from their own DNA, which makes them super-good at remembering faces, even ones they don’t want to.  When someone says to you “I never forget a face”, it just might be true.

The piece includes gratuitously irrelevant pictures of that actress who was in that favourite TV comedy series you know the one and of that other actor who was in that James Bond movie from way back, called whatever it was called I don’t remember.  It’s on the tip of my … that thing inside my face … you know, that hole, under my eyes …

Going back to 6k’s bon mot above, this only got typed into the www on account of his rule, and mine, of trying to do something every day.  You start doing a pure quota posting, and then you think of something truly entertaining to add to it, which you would never have put on the www had it not occurred to you at the exact moment you were in the middle of typing in a blog posting that was in need jazzing up a bit, e.g. with a bon mot.

Sunday September 27 2015

How much you learn from something that you just read depends not only on what it says, but on what you knew before you read it.  And for me, this short paragraph cleared up several big blurs in my knowledge of Olden Times:

The new technique of fighting which had won the battle of Hastings for the Normans was also adopted in England; instead of standing or riding and hurling the lance overarm, these new warriors, the knights, charged on horseback with the lance tucked beneath the arm, so that the weight of both horse and rider was behind the blow and the weapon was reusable.  Though it required discipline and training, giving rise to the birth of tournaments and the cult of chivalry, a charge by massed ranks of knights with their lances couched in this way was irresistible.  Anna Comnena, the Byzantine princess who witnessed its devastating effect during the First Crusade, claimed that it could ‘make a hole in the wall of Babylon’.

That’s from the second page (page 8) of the first chapter of Agincourt, by Juliet Barket.

That bit in school history where they explained what a knight was and what knights did and how the knights did it … well, I missed it.  And ever since, everyone talking about such things has assumed that I knew it very clearly, when I didn’t.  It’s so obvious.  How would someone like me not know it?

Oh, I sort of knew it, from having seen a hundred films where film actors did this, in film battles and in film tournaments.  But I had not realised that it was a military innovation like the phalanx or gunpowder or the tank or the airplane or the atom bomb.  I had not properly realised that the essence of Knighthood was collective action rather than mere individual virtue, the point being that it was the former which required the latter.  And I had not realised that it was what won the Battle of Hastings.  Or, even more interestingly, I had not realised that it was what won the First Crusade.  (After which, I’m guessing that the Muslims then copied it.

Medieval society did not give rise to Knights.  The Knights technique of fighting gave rise to Medieval society.

I remember reading Tom Holland’s Millennium, and being presented right at the end with the result of the First Crusade, without there having been any mention (that I recall) of how a European military innovation was what won it.  (That doesn’t mean Holland does not mention this, merely that I don’t remember him mentioning it.)

So, at the heart of the European years between Hastings (1066) and Agincourt (1415 (when I now suppose the Knights to have met their nemesis in the form of the next big military innovation, the Archers (hence the picture on the front of Agincourt))) was a technique of fighting.  Like I say, I sort of knew this, but have never before isolated this fact in my head, as a Big Fact.  Instead, I have spent my whole life being rather confused about this Big Fact, reading a thousand things where the Big Fact was assumed, but never actually explained.

Why did I not correct this confusion decades ago?  Because, not knowing it properly, I had not realised what a huge confusion it was.

Friday September 04 2015

It’s not much of a mystery why I like old cars, with round headlights.  They date from the time of my childhood. The more closely an old car resembles the cars I was gazing at adoringly circa 1955, the better I like them.

This old car, which showed up in Tottenham Court Road late this afternoon, just when I happened to be there myself, looks like it dates from that exact time.

The light was dim and fading, but I got a few shots of it before it had vanished:

imageimageimageimageimage

Click and enjoy.  That’s if you enjoy old cars somewhere near as much as I do.  If not, well, there’s the rest of the internet.  There must be something in it today that you would enjoy.

What I particularly like is the way the rear wheels of this jolly green giant are encased down to ankle level, in line with the car body, if you get what I mean.  That and all the chrome, which is in remarkably good nick.  Some of it right on top of the headlights.

I don’t know what brand of car this is.  It looks very American, but Brit cars of those times were very American-influenced.  (Now the influence seems to go more the other way, from Europe to America.  Or maybe it’s just everyone being influenced by Japan.) What settles it, for me, is (see the first two pictures) that the car is left hand drive.  Got to be American.  But what variety of American?

It looks like a coloured version of the sort of black cars that they had in the Godfather’s funeral, in The Godfather.

Tuesday July 28 2015

Certainly in London and I presume everywhere else in Britain, when you see lots of verbiage attached to the outside of a building site, it tends to be health and safety stuff, of the sort shown in this posting, which I did here in February 2011.  (That was the very first posting I did with the category “Signs and notices” attached to it.)

In the summer of that same year, I was in France, where I took the picture that follows.  But I never got around to displaying it here.  Here it is now:

image

This is a sign that I saw adorning the outside of a French building site.

To me, it resembles nothing so much as the credits at the end of a movie.  Every imaginable contributor to the building process is painstakingly listed.  Click if you want to be able to read everything more clearly.

Although I am sure I might be persuaded otherwise (for instance by people with knowledge of the relative merits of the actual work that tends to be done in each country), I think the contrast is rather in France’s favour.

In France, everything that has been done, and by whom, is listed.  Presumably it has been done in a manner to make the people who did it glad to have their names in, as it were, lights.  In Britain, every imaginable thing that might go wrong is listed, in the form of an imprecation that people not do this.  It’s the difference between being proud of what is being done, and being nothing but apologetic about it.

Right at the end, though, it does say: “chantier interdet au public, port du casque obligatoire”.  This means (unless the internet has gravely deceived me): “access forbidden to the public, helmet obligatory”.  So, a bit of health and safety nagging there.  But that’s all there is.

In Britain, you also sometimes get a rather shorter list of the grander and more professional of the enterprises and people who are doing the job, but not nearly so much is made of this, compared to all the stuff about being ever so, ever so careful.

Credit where credit is due (in France)
Tomorrow I will get out less
Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
Miniature photographic fakery
Views from Waterloo Bridge
A French film poster advertising a British film
Santa’s tired helpers
Scary bunny
Cats – and technology
Oxo Tower with bus advertising The Expendables III
5G Boris
Cat news
Bombardier Embrio
A Bobcat digger and the Coade Lion from the back
Noah – Cosi at the Imax – Big Blue Cock
Mysteriously losing my internet connection and then mysteriously getting it back
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
The ROH from the ME Rooftop Bar
Quota crane and quota plane
Quota videos
A photo of a photograph
Dezeen continues to delight
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Fate
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Fishermen photo
The Monolith?
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
Arecibo Radio Telescope
Paulina Porizkova gets older
Another strangely punctuated headline and a depressing television play
I don’t usually approve of swear blogging but …
Woody Allen on media lies and on not learning as he gets older
Expendable movie news
Exploitation?
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
Big box computers versus laptops
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
A good bit about the future of art galleries and how to rescue good bits
We’ll always have Chelsea
Blur
Free Skullcandy on a bus in snowy Edinburgh
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
Gaddafi looking rather like Alan Rickman
The decor in Peter Jones - and where in London can I find a small ice-cube-making machine?
God is killing cinemas!
The Instadaughter on the morals of actors
What Bercow does next
Friend anonymous
SwivelCam
Star Wars mosque and rockets mosque
More random links
Excellent mixed metaphor
The Night of the Generals
Four Minutes
A movie staircase and a window
Waiting for shooting to start
New addition to blogroll
Blogroll dilemma - question I already know the answer to - irrelevant photo
“This is fun!”
Wonderwoman picked by Unsuperman
Big head and big something else
North Carolina Billion Monkeys mad for Obama!
Were any of them really that nice?
Ducks - frogs - turtles – beavers – Galaxy Quest
Bowlers who look like actors
A deeper voice
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
Sounding like a different country
The Rite of Spring sounds to me like technology rather than nature
Lizzy Bennet tells it like it is
The great DVD packaging clearout
The economics of Jonathan Ross
Blu-Ray - HD DVD – IBM – Microsoft - Google
Holiday
Cat stuff on Tuesday?
Hear ye hear ye
The qualitative difference made by quantity
From 100 to 1 in movie quotes and Gordon is a moron
Michael Jennings on private law in Hollywood
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
Filthy rich
Juan Bautista Alberdi
There ain’t no such thing as a free NHS
A movie about a typeface
James Bond but not as I know him
Glenn Gould on the hereafter
Dame Edna and Borats in Piccadilly Circus!
Bollocks to the fashists
The Dyson DC14
Other people’s photos (1): Soul transference
Sandow on Bond versus the Musketeers
“How else am I supposed to take it?”
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
Admiral Coward
Not much here today
Being real on digital
The Death of Mr Lazarescu
“Are you telling me I don’t know my own brother?”
Something to bore everyone
Billion Monkey flash strikes twice! - 7/7 a year later - Office Space on TV even though I own it
Nice cementing
Internet sex machines instead of photos
British villainy
Another Billion Monkey and some Celluloid Gorillas in Victoria Street
Coming soon
He loved my book
Another movie that was good but which is now pretty much forgotten
Cheaper movies
Rolls Royces
Mitchum - MacLaine – Fonda – and Cota
La Chica De Rosa
Digital preservation
Feeling under the weather - and watching The Butterfly Effect
Editing
Blowing Smoke all over old school advertising
Home movies are getting better
Blowing Smoke – first inhalations