Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on And in Other creatures news ...
Chris Cooper on Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
Brian Micklethwait on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Michael Jennings on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Brian Micklethwait on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Brian Micklethwait on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
Patrick Crozier on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
kenforthewin on The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
6000 on UPS drones and drone vans
Most recent entries
- Misty (or polluted) at Canning Town
- “Robot” suggests the possibility of fraternization
- Slam City Skates in Covent Garden
- And in Other creatures news …
- Cat proximity awareness
- Looking up in the City
- Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
- Leake Street photo session
- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
- Azure Window broken
- Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
- New River Walk
- Die Meistersinger was very good
- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Category archive: Signs and notices
Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:
Hm, what to do?
Easy. Use a drone instead.
LATER: See first comment. It’s this:
There can only be one fort like that.
Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.
Blog and learn.
Presumably they were selling stuff like this.
I like it when my pictures include clocks, and that clock is a particular favourite of mine.
My day in Highbury and Islington (and Canonbury) began with me not seeing much in the way of Big Things from
Islington Highbury Fields. But very quickly, I made my way to the north eastern end of New River Walk, and took the walk along it.
The thing is, Google Maps, what with it being so easy to change the scale of, can mislead about how far apart things are. One Google map shows you a big area, that it will take you a day to explore properly. But then, following further button pushing, another map, which looks like it is of an equally big area, is actually of a place you can be all over within less than two hours. So it was last Monday.
Everything that day was smaller and more suburban and contrived and just nice, compared to what I had been expecting and compared to what the more northerly bits of the New River are like, when GodDaughter One and I checked them out, back in 2015.
In particular, the New River Walk turned out to be a piece of miniature canal that has been turned into a tiny, elongated version of Hyde Park, thanks to some lottery money that was bestowed upon it in the nineties, complete with fountains, and ducks, and carefully manicured footpaths, and views of nearby affluent houses and apartments, thus:
It’s the sort of place I am happy to have visited just the once, to check out what it is. But it isn’t really my kind of place.
But, this is Friday, and there were ducks. And dogs. Quite a lot of dogs actually. Also lots of signs saying don’t let the dogs do dog do, or if the dogs do do dog do, then do tidy it up.
It went on for a really long time, though. The show kicked off at 4.30pm, and only ended at 10pm. There were two intervals, each of just over half and hour. I was careful to drink very sparingly beforehand.
During the overture, before the curtain went up, I also fretted that there might not be titles in English of what was about to be sung, which would mean me spending the best part of an entire working day of time trapped in a seat and bored out of my skull, with nothing to do except listen to not-my-favourite Wagner, with constant interruptions from singers, of a sort that I typically don’t much like the sound of. And I further fretted that if there were such titles then we might not be able to read them, what with us being stuck right next to the roof about a quarter of a mile away from the action. But all was well. There were titles, and they were clearly readable.
A distressing effect of us sitting up at the back and the top, was that, what with the house being pretty much full and spring having got properly started during the last day or two, it became very hot for us. I heard one middle aged lady complaining vehemently about the heat to some hapless programme girl during the second interval, and from then on it just got hotter and hotter.
Another drawback of sitting at the top and at the back, for me and my faltering eyesight, was that I couldn’t see properly who was who on the stage. It was just too far away. The titles told me the meaning of what was being sung, but omitted the rather crucial detail of which character was actually singing it. In part one this was a real problem, because the stage was mostly full of similarly dressed and similar sounding bassy-baritony blokes of a certain age, the Mastersingers of the title. It helped that, as the night wore on, there tended to be fewer people on the stage, and I thus found it easier to deduce who was singing than it had been in part one
But oh boy, Wagner certainly takes his time with this one. It’s supposed to be a comedy, and occasionally it was. But one of Wagner’s favourite jokes is that he signals that something is about to happen, but then whichever dithering bass-baritone is supposed to be getting on with it then takes another five minutes actually to do it, or to sing it, or whatever he is supposed to do. This device peaked in the final act, when Mastersinger Sixtus Beckmesser takes an age to start his butchered version of the prize song, which he has stolen from the tenor.
Leading the caste was the noted (Sir) Bryn Terfel, as Hans Sachs - philosopher, poet, Mastersinger and cobbler. I was disappointed by him. Terfel’s voice in no way stood out during part one, with all its other bass-baritones, and one of the other bass-baritones, Mastersinger Pogner I think it was, sounded much better to me. This was, I believe, this guy.
The tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones, regularly complimented throughout the show on his beauty, was a fat middle-aged bloke who made a point of dressing down, rather than overdressing in the properly pompous Mastersinger style, at any rate in this production. He looked, from my distant vantage point, more like a nightclub bouncer than a romantic lead. But, and this is the only thing that really matters in opera, he sang brilliantly. His voice was amazingly secure. “Secure” sounds like damning with faint praise, but what I mean is that his voice combined the best qualities of a voice and a really well played musical instrument. In this respect if in few others, yesterday was exactly like my earlier ROH experience, when tenor Joseph Calleja was also by far the best thing to be heard. Hughes Jones’s performance of the prize song, right at the end, after Beckmesser’s mangling of it, was, as it should be, the musical highlight of the evening.
As with that earlier Verdi show, everyone else in this Meistersinger cast (apart from Pogner) made the usual operatic singing noises in the usual operatic ways, these usual operatic ways being the basic reason I mostly prefer classical music without singing, and as a rule avoid opera houses. It isn’t just the crippling cost of the tickets.
There are two ways to sing opera badly. You can sing with quite nice tone, but with far too much and far too slow and wobbly vibrato, to the point where neither pitch nor meaning are clear, even if you know the language. Or, you can have less vibrato but a tone that sounds more like an industrial sawing process than a nice voice. Last night, the singing wasn’t ever bad enough to be seriously off-putting to me, but there was more than a whiff of both styles on offer. As often happens, the women were the worst wobblers. And Bryn Terfel was the worst offender, to my ear, in the industrial sawing department, although perhaps the effect was made worse by me having been hoping for something better from him. He did seem to get better as the evening wore on, although that could just be because both the music and the drama got better. It got better very slowly, but it got better.
Die Meistersinger is a kind of pilgrimage, from old geezer fustiness to youthful brilliance as exemplified by the prize song, from light opera to heavy opera, from dreary pre-Wagnerian operatic frivolity, which Wagner could do only moderately well, to full-on Wagner, at which Wagner was, as you would expect, the supreme master.
This production, especially in part one, was a bit off. It was supposed to start in a church, but instead we were in a posh gentleman’s club, containing Mastersingers who looked more like affluent Victorian eccentrics than the real late-Middle-Ages deal. Also, the ending was a bit un-Wagnerian, in that the lead soprano, Eva, wasn’t happy about the way the tenor was persuaded to join the Mastersingers, the way she surely was in Wagner’s mind when he wrote it. But it was never freakishly stupid, like a Samuel Beckett play, and on the whole it didn’t just sound reasonably good, it looked very fine too. Although Wagner takes an age to tell his story, there is at least a story to the thing that you care about. Well, I did. By the end.
Time to bust open the DVD of this opera that I have long possessed, having bought it for a tenner about a decade ago. The early staging already looks much more convincing.
But, crucially, the tenor doesn’t sound, to me, nearly as good as the one I heard yesterday. He really was something.
Whenever I encounter interesting vehicles, of which London possesses a great many, I try to photo them. Taxis with fun adverts. Diverting white vans. Crane lorries. That kind of thing.
In particular I like to photo ancient cars. And, I also like to photo modern cars which are styled to look like ancient cars, like this one:
This is the Mitsubishi Pajero Jr. Flying Pug. How do I know that? Because I also went round the back and took this photo:
Is a pug a non-feline creature? Sounds like a non-feline creature to me.
More about this eccentric vehicle here:
On sale for just three years between 1995 and 1998, it sold reasonably well and has been popular as a grey import. None of which explains what on Earth Mitsubishi was thinking when it devised this horror show, the special edition Flying Pug.
The Japanese have always loved old, British cars. Through the Nineties it was one of the biggest markets for the original Mini, but retro pastiches had become popular as well, led by the Nissan Micra-based Mitsuoka Viewt, which looked a bit like a miniature Jaguar Mark II.
Mitsubishi thought it would jump on the bandwagon. Out of all the cars it made, Mitsubishi decided the Pajero Jr would be the best platform. Ambitiously, the brochure said it had “the classic looks a London taxi.” In fact, it looked more like the absolutely gopping Triumph Mayflower.
The press thought it was ugly and the buying public agreed. Mitsubishi planned to build 1,000 Flying Pugs, but just 139 found homes. The deeply weird name can’t have helped, but Japanese-market cars are notorious for it; another special edition Pajero Jr was christened McTwist.
I agree that “Flying Pug” is a strange name. And I agree that the Flying Pug doesn’t look much like a London taxi. But it resembles the Triumph Mayflower even less.
I also do not agree that either the Flying Pug or the Triumph Mayflower are ugly. And they are definitely not, to my eye, “absolutely gopping”, or a “horrow show”. Each to his own.
But I do like the fact that I photoed a car of which there are only one hundred and thirty nine copies in existence.
I like London’s (England’s?) long, thin, very vertical, outdoor maps. Whenever I am out and about photoing, I photo them:
There’s nothing like a photo of a map with “You are here” on it, to tell you exactly where you were. That’s where I was, early on, on the day I later took these pictures.
Seriously, it is often quite difficult to work out exactly where I was when I look through the products of one of my photographic perambulations. This kind of snap turns it from difficult to obvious.
Especially if you can actually see the bit where it says “You are here”, like this:
I’ve recently been on several expeditions to this intriguing part of London, with its convoluted waterways. Maps are nice, but there’s no substitute for actually being there. With a camera.
On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings. The subject was: The Meaning of Life. To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”
So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood. Which might explain why I took this photo:
This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking. Those little hearts put me right off. But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations. This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored. I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices. You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.
This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station. Those sermons are impossible to avoid.
See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play. Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.
The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful. It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap. Modern Art is also mostly crap. But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes. Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored. Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it. Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.
I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV. Very good.
The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes. Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are. (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie. Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism. You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash. Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera. Yes. They literally do not perform Wagner. If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.
What Opera North have done is film a stage performance. The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen. And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening. Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about. (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.
The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them. At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing. I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night. This time, it was not ridiculous. That’s how very, very good this production was.
I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor. He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.
Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer. His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.
A sign in a bus and the same sign malfunctioning
Trumping the Opera House
Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
I Love You Will U Marry Me
A snip at £7,499.99
To Tottenham (6): The Spurs Shop
Someone else has been tidying up too
Merry Christmas from the Pilot Store (and from me)
Freddie’s Flowers white van
To Tottenham (4): Illuminated worker
3D printed jewellery by Lynne Maclachlan
To Tottenham (3): The Railwa
To Tottenham (2): Seven Sisters?
Packaging that is too good
Somebody needs to invent electronically changeable paint
Don’t be fooled by the smallness of the building
Creatures of outer London
The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home light show
Where shall I go tomorrow?
Snake on a car
Van – grey but very interesting
Cruise plays along
What does Thames “RIB” Experience mean?
The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
Another illustrated van
Photoing Tate Modern from the Oval and the Oval from Tate Modern
Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Deliveroo V sign
A direct hit
Views of Epsom and views from Epsom
Dernbach decisive again
When welfare means lavatories
Another fine day at the Oval (4): Scoreboards old and new
Another fine day at the Oval (1): Vans
LIFE at the Park Theatre
Temporary Oxford Street
A decade of unrecognisable photographers
South of France signs
Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Horizontal French signs
White vans are becoming very informative
Centre Point through the new station entrance
Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
The footbridges of Shad
Another idea for a collection of photos
Blog often (this time about the sound and the vision of this evening’s Tim Evans talk to LH)
Quota snappy snap
Vans that need to look the part
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
The Beckton Sewage Works
RIP David Bowie
With GD2 in Richmond Park (3): Scary names
Wicked Campers: Are they now going respectable?
Some reindeer-based Christmas cheer from last year
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
Wheel and shadow (and Wheel reflected)
Out and about with GD1 (6): The journey gets properly started
Screens at dusk
Christmas is coming and you’d better watch out
Now I know what a Mews is
An underground history lesson
Here begins the Essex Way
Some quota reflected cranes and a quota white van
Alcoholic Architecture sign
The light outside the Proud Archivist on the evening of July 22nd
Where punctuation might have helped
Credit where credit is due (in France)
Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington’s Amazing Castle
Cat picture on white van
The view from outside Waterloo Station
A forgotten war
A new not very big Thing in Paris
Why I mostly write about architectural design rather than about interior design
Along the river towards Battersea
Another quota sign
Made-up London detectives in real London places
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
White Vin Van
Move over CND
Photographers - photographers with hats (one of the hats being rather scary)
“Real Democracy Now” in Parliament Square this afternoon
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Cats in Quimper shops
French roof clutter
Sign blocked by surveillance camera
Photographed flatness that doesn’t look flat
Fuck the duck until exploded
Another facade being carefully preserved
Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
A Sunday ramble
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
What is this Thing?
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
Strata with greenery and a scaffolding sign
A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
National Theatre Boo
A slightly foreign part of London
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
South Bank signs
Green screen blue screen
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
South Bank Architects?
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Hampers can be annoying
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Google Nexus 4 photos
Wedding photography (2): Signs
Remembering a warmer day
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Six Nations joy
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
Multilingual botanical gardens in Cyprus
Malta Day procession
A memorable scoreboard surrounded by empty seats
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Another reason to like Colorado
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
Five pictures of me
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
The graffiti says he won’t get his keys back
Rally Against Debt signs
Nil scrap value
Do not climb on the Thing!
The wedding lingers on
The Armstrong Gun
Signs from the Frenchosphere
And there was you thinking you were immortal
More signs of the times
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Signs - all in my bit of one railway carriage
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
If you can’t beat them hire them
Another sign of the times
The bike behind the theatre
Soviet health and safety posters
Noticing signs of the times