Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Travel

Thursday November 15 2018

I have a friend who roams the earth working in exotic places.  Friend supplies this photo of where Friend will be staying tonight:

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It’s alright for some.  Taken with a smartphone (what else?), in Rotterdam, earlier today.

More seriously, what this building makes me think is what I have long thought, which is that modern architecture is, a lot of it, about what kind of aesthetic experiences architects had when they were little kids.  Does this Big Thing not look like big bricks of the sort given to small children, piled up rather inexpertly on top of each other, and now looking as big as it looked to a small kid?  That’s what it looks like to me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Good to have the arse of the ship there, to show how big this Big Thing is.

Tuesday November 13 2018

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time.  Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing.  I think it was one of our better ones.  We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think.  Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago.  If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings.  But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter.  So, I postpone telling you what I think about something.  Boo hoo.  But this time I really should have done better.

There.  All that took about one minute to write.  I could have done this far sooner.  Apologies.

Friday October 19 2018

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses.  And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them.  It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions.  It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say.  The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars.  Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

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The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side.  As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right.  And I guess he’d say the same of horses.  Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces.  (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever.  I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Friday October 05 2018

Busy day doing other things besides this, but here are a couple of Other Creatures snaps, the Other Creatures in this case being birds.

Last Saturday evening, I and some friends were in the southern coastal town (one of the so-called Cinque Ports) of Rye.  As it was getting dark, a big line of birds flew over us.  I snatched this shot, which you can get all of by clicking on this rotated and horizontalised slice:

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Then another squadron of birds flew over, this time in a V shape, which means that this next horizontalisation is a bit less thin:

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So, two lines, joined at the front, all following the one top dog bird.

Again, click to get the original.

Rye is a “port” that isn’t much of a port anymore, because a thousand years of river mud has pushed the sea away from it.  The houses in my two photos are recent, where there used to be sea, a bit away from the centre.  The centre, i.e. the whole of the old town, is on a hill, which used to be an island.

I think the birds are geese, but I really do not know.  For the benefit of birdophiles, this full-size crop from out of another photo I took, of the first line of birds above, should narrow it down:

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Those look far too big to be - I don’t know - starlings.  And, I surmise, rather too well organised. Starlings just swirl about in a big mob, like fishes, right?  Come to think of it, do any fishes line up like these big birds?  I ought to be asking the internet this, but I’m off to bed.

Saturday September 22 2018

At my home on the last Friday of this month (Friday September 28th – which is in six days time), Michael Jennings will be speaking about Iran, and in particular about how he recently spent some time exploring its capital city, Tehran.  The easiest link to learn more about Michael’s amazing globetrottings is to this list of his Samizdata contributions.

Each month, I solicit a few words from the speaker, to email to my list of potential attenders.  A few days ago, Michael sent me rather more than a few words about what he’ll be speaking about, more words than I need for that email. But I don’t want all these words going to waste, so, with Michael’s kind permission, here they all are.  In the email I send out tomorrow evening, I will be quoting from this, but will include the link to this posting, so that all who want to can, as they say, read the whole thing.

So, Michael Jennings on “Exploring Tehran”:

In recent years, I have done quite a lot of travelling in the Middle East.

From the western perspective - and particularly from the perspective of the western media - it is very easy to look at the Muslim Middle East and see something homogeneous. If you are inclined to see militant Islam and related terrorism as a threat, it is easy to see it as a single threat. However, there are two main strains of Islam, Shia and Sunni, and these are centred in two quite different cultures and civilisations: the first in Iran and the second in the Arab world.

These are two of the three largest cultures in the Muslim Middle East - the third being Turkey. These three cultures speak three unrelated languages - Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish - and the history and differences between these three cultures go back thousands of years - long before the time of Mohammed. These cultures are tremendously divided today. Iran fought a truly ferocious war with Arab Iraq between 1980 and 1988, the memory of which hangs over the country the way World War 1 probably hung over Europe in 1935. Much of the wars of the past 15 years in Iraq and Syria have been about Shia Iran (Persia) and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia jostling for position in the Middle East. As to where Turkey stands in all this - I think Turkey is trying to figure this out.

I am not remotely an expert in any of this stuff. I have, however, spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. I love to explore cities on foot. I have done this, or attempted to do this in many places. Slightly less than two years ago I spent 10 days exploring Tehran on foot. Despite the fearsome (justified) reputation of the regime that rules Iran, I found - from my perspective as a Christian westerner - the most culturally familiar and welcoming culture that I had found travelling in the Middle East. Despite the fact that Iran is the only country in the entire world where all women are required to wear a headscarf at all times, I was struck by the fact that the role of women in public life was clearly much higher and that women are clearly much better educated and have a far more prominent role in the economy than in any Arab country I have been to. The Iranian middle class is substantial, and it is a very westernised middle class. At times in North Tehran I found myself in cafes and restaurants that easily could have been in hipster areas of Los Angeles, apart from the lack of alcohol.

I also found something that I should have known already - Iran is a trading, commercial nation. In South Tehran I found myself in shopping streets and bazaars that resembled East Asia - possibly commercial districts of Bangkok or Hanoi - more than anything elsewhere in the Middle East. I found myself sitting in stores being made tea (and being offered illicit alcohol) by merchants who wanted to tell me all about their trading trips to Shenzhen. It was fascinating.

And yet, this is a country that faces sanctions, and is cut off from the official system of international trade. What happens when you cut such a country off from the official system of international trade, and international academia, and international everything and so impoverishing the country, even though this is a culture that wants to participate? Come along to my talk, and I will speculate. Or possibly just show you my holiday pictures.

The basic point of my meetings is for people to attend them, but another point of them is for me to spread a gentle wave of information about people who have worthwhile things to say and interesting stories to tell, even if you do not actually attend.  This posting now means that, this month, that second mission is already somewhat accomplished.

Thursday September 20 2018

To me, nothing says Abroad quite like a poster, somewhere in Abroad, advertising an English speaking movie, whose English title I already know, with a foreign title that is different, but with all the same star names:

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La Taupe means The Mole.  I preferred the TV series, but I love this poster.  Photoed by me in Paris in February 2012.

As was this, on the same expedition:

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In the same directory, I encountered other photos of posters advertising the following movies: Drive (Ryan Gosling), Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage), Underworld (Kate Beckingsale), and Star Wars Episode 1 (whoever).  But in those posters, the titles stayed in their original English.  Why?

Friday August 17 2018

imageThis is the exactly kind of thing I joined Twitter to be informed of.  Pinker, it seems, is a Real Photographer, or at least Real enough for me not to know the difference.  I’m sure that The World has known about Pinker’s photoing for as long as he has been doing it, but The World did not include me, until a few days ago.

Also rather Real Photographer is that if you left-click on any of the photos here, you get a little dark rectangle with little blue writing in it saying this:

These photos are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

So I hope that the small and cropped repro that I have included here, of one of the more eye-catching of these photos, of something called a frigatebird, will not incur the ire of Pinker Inc., or whatever it is that might be irate.  If Pinker Inc. does demand the removal of even this little photo, that will happen straight away.

But if it does, no matter.  Follow the above links and feast your eyes and your mind on the weird and wonderful creatures of the Galapagos Islands.

Tuesday June 26 2018

It is called, at any rate by the people who built it, The Peak.  What it is called by others, in the event that they notice it at all, I don’t know.  But it’s more likely to be something along the lines of “that peculiar and asymmetrical lump outside Victoria Station with the big curved metal roof on it, that looks like it was stuck on the top during a refurbishment of some ugly old block built in the sixties or seventies”.

Today, personal business took me to Victoria Station, but before descending from the main concourse of the station into the Underground, and encouraged by the spactacular not-a-cloud-in-the-sky weather, I took a look around outside.

And saw this:

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That being the top of “The Peak”, and on top of that top, the rather splendid window cleaning crane that periodically emerges from that bizarre roof.  I love these cranes, especially when they have odd hats on the way that one has, to make them merge right back into their roofs, when they resume their hibernation.

But today, that peculiar curvey metal bit that sticks out on the left, as we look, was also looking wonderful.

Although almost any building looks good on a day like today was, that particular combination of sights particularly appealed to me, and made me particularly pleased that I had interrupted my journey.

The Peak and its window cleaning crane
Flotsametrics
Photo of a photo of a bloke doing a picture of a bridge in Paris
Back in England
Upside down chickens in a Paris shop window
A better hand dryer at the Gare du Nord
Angel Bear outside the Gare du Nord
Uninterrupted France blogging feels wrong so here are some football results
I came for bridges but mostly what I got was leaves
The internet is no longer a nice place
Lunch in Paris
Super selfie taken on a sky slope
But are we any happier?
My camera is not turning photos yellow – it’s Windows Photo Viewer that is turning photos yellow
Southwark Cathedral from the train
Camera not conked out – I just pressed the wrong knob by mistake
Cantilevered Thameslink seats
Vinyl Empire
Tilbury (2): Pop faces on a footbridge
Haunted!!
Solid light
Pont-Aven et ses environs
August 2017 Old School Blogging (2): Very thin but still posh new London house
While England were winning the World Cup I was photoing adolescent swans
A new Clapham Junction Big Thing alignment
Nice events – shame about the weather
The Roman Empire as a tube map
Beautiful sea
Animated tube maps
New Zealand at the ASI
Barcelona Big Things (and Barcelona Big Thing graphics)
Lincoln Paine shifts the emphasis from land to water (with a very big book)
Today’s plan
England crush Scotland in the 6N – plus the hugeness of home advantage
And Africa’s rivers don’t help
Home alone
Fog in Victoria
Plan as energy
Don’t be fooled by the smallness of the building
A particularly good panoramic view of central London
Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
Brittany lighthouses
Views of Epsom and views from Epsom
Sunny Croydon
Illness and coolness
New York construction cranes in action
More South of France bridges
Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
Incoming imagery from Antoine
Safe cracks in an airplane window
Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne
Why I photo postcards
My camera can see through a Ryanairplane window better than I can
The view from the roof
Benjamin Franklin maps the Gulf Stream
Memo to self: photo-destination required for tomorrow
When is a creature suitcase idea a creature suitcase design?
Recent taxis with adverts photos
More drone trouble
Feeling the need to meet
A bus ride and tea versus one of the best concert halls in the world
Michael Jennings on Uber (and the Uber logo ruckus)
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
A Big Thing and a Much Bigger Thing – on a not-black cab
With GD2 in Richmond Park (2): Deer
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
Metros of the world
Old photos of Enceladus
A viadukt and a tunnel
Big house
Richmond boat cat - giant video kitten - East End cat graffiti
Painting the bridges of Richmond
Here begins the Essex Way
London Biggin Hill “Jet Centre”?
With GD2 in Richmond Park (1): Views of London
A very distant and yet very good view of the Big Things of London
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
The Leaning Stonehenge Tour Bus of Salisbury
Exit Caesar
Cheap long-haul flights coming soon
Miniature photographic fakery
It feels like Sunday already
Proof that there are a lot of French people in Britain just now
Golden Gate being built – Severn Road Bridge ditto – C20 photography – Hitler’s paintings
French roof clutter
Touch typing or no typing at all
Playing away
A French film poster advertising a British film
Tired in France
Marginal Eurostar economics
Fuck the duck until exploded
My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
Back from France (plus cat photos)
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
Will England get lucky?
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Pylons behind fence
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Michael Jennings talking about Russia this Friday
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Three more Paris pictures
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Digital photography as telepathy
Tough going in Australia
Mercedes-Benz W123
Big Things and small things
Michael Jennings photoes Cape Bojador
Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Digital photographers holding maps
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
Michael Jennings photos the bridges of Porto
Two favourite photos from September 5th
London Gateway from above
Wedding photography (7): Evening
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
What Michael Jennings has been learning about and will be saying about globalisation
Multilingual botanical gardens in Cyprus
Croydon cats
An afternoon in Croydon
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
Dream and reality in Mumbai
What’s up with that?
Space launch monster
Rainbow Bridge
James Tooley discovers private schools for the poor in the slums of Hyderabad
Quota frogs
Infrequent flyer
Possible light blogging for the next week
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
The Armstrong Gun
Subconscious cricket
A Spanish geography lesson
Delayed action Dubrovnik cat
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
Another ephemeron for David Thompson?
Abandoned Bangkok tower
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Another link enema
Farnborough redirect
Yesterday and today
Peaceful time in war zone
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
A busy blogging day?
Voice and exit
Two bridges in Portugal
Chained cat in Vietnam
Two red cats
My sleep and luggage and bus and fluid travel hell
In Alicante
Possible holiday interruption
Cricket talk tonight
Towers under the weather - and a steam engine steams to the rescue
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
David Farrer photos
Shadows on rings
Green eyed monster devouring cat food
Back lit by the sun
Saturnic majesty
Signs of the times in Belfast
Long platform ticket
Ancient Sheffield dwarfed by modernity
Monsal Viaduct
By bus to Sheffield
SwivelCam
TARP stuff - and a trip to Sheffield
Rock faces
Second Class power
Happy New year (if possible)
Power
A view from Vauxhall Station
Snapped in Egham
My Oxford talk on Google video – or summarised by a friendly blogger
Resized picture done with Jesus but quickly
Preparing for Oxford
Blogging elsewhere and talks elsewhere
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
Now I’m going to try to stick up a picture with Jesus
Brisbane church dwarfed by modernity and this posting behaving very strangely
A thin bridge in Wales
Euston Arch
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Twenty20 cricket on Sky TV
Two adverts in the tube
A new British citizen
French cats
What I have seen so far while abroad
Nanpu Bridge in Quimper
Keyboard blues
Posting here may be sporadic for the next few days
Ducks - frogs - turtles – beavers – Galaxy Quest
Self-guided photo-tour of the streets of San Francisco
Paying a visit to Mum
Billion Monkey Alan Little?
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
Posting with Jesus at the far end of the Kings Road
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
Eee PC not eeesy to get in Asia either
More St Pancras snaps
The A380 bulge
Samsung SPH-P9200
Comment is free and WiFi should be too
Adriana and Ivan in Addis
The (very) slow fade of Bolshevik Cuba
Toy train to Darjeeling
Taipei with skyscraper
Very very low cost kitten in space
DMZ