Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Monday February 08 2016

More and more, as I browse around in places like dezeen, I come across pictures looking like this:

image

The this in question being the idea of connecting the tops of towers with footbridges.  And that particular picture having been produced to advertise a new scheme for jazzing up Paris.

I love bridges of all kinds, and footbridges just as much as any other sort, so I have been paying attention to such pictures as the above for quite a while now.  And I reckon there’s now something of a buzz developing around this idea.  Simply, there are about to be a lot of such bridges as those fantasised above, connecting the tops of buildings, and often for the use of the general public, rather than just the people in the buildings directly connected.  There will, in some big cities, in only a few years, be entire new alternative worlds at the old roof level, where you will be able to travel for miles without ever touching the regular old ground.

I am now going to scroll down at dezeen, to see if I can find more pictures like the above.  Bear with me. …

Well, it took a while.  Dezeen has lots of postings about stand-alone little modernist buildings, which, frankly, don’t interest me that much.  My feeling about such stand-alones being: we already know how to do those.  Modernist versions of big sheds or older school houses are just stylistic tweaking.  Nothing profound is going on.  But pictures like this …:

image

… and this …:

image

… (which I found in this posting, and which I remember being very struck by when I first set eyes on them) tell me that a seriously different urban future will soon be happening, in cities all over the globe.

The underlying story here is that cities are ceasing to be mere machines for living in and for working in, with occasional little spots that tourists will like to visit and have fun in (but which the locals ignore).  They are becoming nice experiences.  Everyone is becoming a tourist in them, you might say.

Central to this process is the banishment of big old road vehicles, and an alternative emphasis on being a pedestrian.  Or even a speeded up pedestrian.  Think of how the old dock districts of big cities are being turned into nice new developments with lots of waterside footpaths.  Think of what has been happening to canals.

What’s going to happen is that one city – maybe Paris? – will do this in a big way, and tourism, including by the locals, will surge upwards, in the city and on the graphs.  People will love it.  And then lots of other cities will do it.  Including London, because London has a natural pre-skyscraper height at which this will make sense, and because London is now so full of stuff that is worth seeing from this particular height..

A big reason why all this is going to happen is that it will not be all that expensive to do, one of the big reasons why pedestrian footbridges are already a major design flavour the decade being that public money is now tight, and footbridges are relatively cheap.  Designers love them, because although footbridges do not involve that much metal or timber or concrete, they do often involve a lot of design.

The picture at the top of this posting has the words “Ternes-Villiers, La Ville Multi-Strate by Jacques Ferrier” attached to it at dezeen, and I just googled those words.  And, I immediately found my way to this, here:

image

It’s not clear from this picture just how public these bridges are intended to be.  Other pictures suggest that the “community” able to use these bridges will just be the people who live in the apartment blocks thus connected.  But this doesn’t alter the fact that the general public are going to want to get involved in all this high-level fun and sightseeing (and photography), if only because it will all be so clearly visible from below.

Sunday February 07 2016

On the same day I photoed this stuff, up there in …

image

…, I also photoed white vans, like these ones:

imageimage

“Rimessa a nuovo e posa pavimenti in Legno” is the Italian for having sex for the first time, very elegantly (like they’re performing), on the pavement, in a place called Legno.  No not really, I don’t know what that means.  Something to do with wood flooring.

As for th van on the right, rather black but with a giant white painted piece of seafood on it, well, I like it.  Although I do miss the times when the Wright Brothers didn’t mean that, but meant the first people to fly an airplane and land it, or whatever it was exactly that the original Wright Brothers did.

Here, on the other hand, is a white van of the sort you don’t want to see:

image

Graffiti, badly covered up or badly cleaned up, and then more graffiti.  Not good.  I have never seen a white van that was an graffiti battlefield before.  Graffighting?

So, I’ll cheer myself up with another white van, this time an excellent one, photoed more recently, outside a building site in Westminster:

image

A white van for looking after tower cranes.  White vans don’t get any better than that..

Saturday February 06 2016

Today I have been what passes with me for busy.  By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others.  Oh no.  But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.

There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football.  England defeated South Africa.  England defeated Scotland.  And Spurs defeated Watford.  So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian.  Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.

On my way home from that talk, I took a photo.  Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train.  It is of an advert at a tube station.  But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:

image

That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.

The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.

I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower.  I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway.  If they didn’t recommend it, who would?

Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.

Tomorrow: Super Bowl!

LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:

“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”

We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.

Friday February 05 2016

The other day (like there has been been just the one (which is idiotic)), I was in …:

image

… to have brunch with GD2 and her sister in their newly acquired home.

While there I took some photos, including this still life, of pots and pans and utensils, which looks rather nice, like an oil painting:

image

Staying tasteful and artistic, and seeing as how this is Friday, here is something else I snapped there:

image

Yes, it’s a cat cushion!  It was, though, probably there when they moved in.

Since a major percentage of the point of Art is to stay a couple of steps ahead of and to thereby piss off the dumbo bourgeoisie, the latest batch of Artists would probably now reckon the cat cushion to be more Artistic than the still life.

As for the bloke who painted that Kentish Town sign, he probably now works for an advertising agency.

Thursday February 04 2016

The following picture explains (a) why all my cameras must have a zoom lens permanently available, as powerful as is within the bounds of sanity, and (b) why this zoom lens must be instantly usable.  In other words why I will not tolerate faffing about with hand-attached lenses.  Which means that all my cameras have had to be “bridge” cameras rather than DSLRs.  I need wide-angle one moment, and then the next moment, by which I often mean the next second, I may need zoom and tons of it.

Here is the picture, which Antoine Clarke took, Twittered, and then phoned me about because he reckoned I would like it:

image

And I do like it.  A lot.  A lorry, with a panoramic photo-view of London on the side?  What, as people now like to say, ‘s not to like?

But Antoine’s attached Twitter verbiage reads as follows:

What’s a Japanese torpedo bomber doing there?!?

What Japanese torpedo bomber?  The world wants Antoine to zoom in on the Japanese torpedo bomber, to prove that there is indeed a Japanese torpedo bomber present.

I hoped that the photo above would download itself from Twitter, and it did.  Good.  But, it was only 640 pixels wide.  (This Blog is 500 pixels wide.) Not so good.

When I expanded what I took to be the Japanese torpedo bomber, I got this:

image

If you already know that you are looking for a Japanese torpedo bomber, then you will, just about, maybe, see a Japanese torpedo bomber.  But a zoomed in close-up would really have helped.

I know how hard it can be photoing vehicles that are, as it were, zooming past.  Often one shot is the best you can hope for, and equally often not even that.  Yesterday a Wicked Campervan zoomed, as it were, past me, with “DRINK TILL SHE’S PRETTY” written on its arse, and I completely missed photing it.  (But no worries.  I think it was the van in a photo you can find by scrolling down in this grumpy article.)

But something about the exact composition of Antoine’s shot tells me that Antoine’s lorry was stationary, or nearly so.  So, Antoine, is there a bigger version of this shot available, more like 4000x3000 than 640x480?  (4000x3000 being what my Panasonic Lumix FZ200 cranks out.) That would supply some Japanese torpedo bomber detail.  Or is there even a close-up of the Japanese torpedo bomber?

Failing that, does Antoine know what enterprise this lorry was working for?  Maybe they have a website, with photos?

Okay, now I’m being grumpy.  It took me a long time to get into the habit of photoing all the incidental detail around a good photo, for future internetting purposes.  But, with apologies for immediately demanding more when given something nice, … Antoine?

Wednesday February 03 2016

Early February is one of my favourite times of the year.  Income tax is over and done with for another year.  The days, although not yet long and warm, are at least getting longer and warmer.  (Already the day is an hour longer than its December 24th worst.) And that means that well-lit photography time expands, which means I can do the same amount of photography but do not need to start so early.

image

That’s another snap I took yesterday.  The Strata Tower was looking particularly fine in the evening sun.  Very metallic.

And, because it’s only February, there were no damn leaves getting in the way of everything, just artfully interposed branches:

image

And, there is the Six Nations.  It’s that time just before the first round kicks off, and so far, nobody’s team has lost any games.  Every team has a one hundred percent record!  How great is that?!?

Go England:

image

Also taken yesterday.

Tuesday February 02 2016

Yes, today I was in Burgess Park, which is the other side of the river from me.  I took the 148 bus, to see where it would go, and once in that bus, I spent my time wondering what Camberwell Green is.

I tried to take photos out of the bus, but the best seats, at the top at the front, were taken.  I had to sit right at the back.  But, in the vicinity of the Elephant and Castle, I did manage this:

image

I got lucky with the crane shadow, didn’t I?  The development is called Elephant Park.

I never did find out about Camberwell Green, because the bus got stuck in a jam next to one of the entrances to Burgess Park, and I got out at the next stop to take another look at this diverting space.  I visited Burgess Park once before, and liked it a lot.  Great views of Big Things.  Today was also good, from that point of view:

image

But the shot of the day, in my opinion so far, on the same evening, is this, of a photographer photoing the sunset:

image

You’ll have to take my word for it that the sunset is what he was photoing, and for that matter that he was even holding a camera.  But he was.

Monday February 01 2016

Last Friday evening, at that meeting, I talked with Perry de Havilland about writing for Samizdata.  I told him that I have recently been taking longer to finish my postings, to get them nearer to completely right.  He compared blogging to rock ‘n’ roll.  The clear implication being that blogging, like rock ‘n’ roll, is most truly itself when done, so to speak, live.

Each to his own.  I now find that one of the symptoms of advancing years is that I am no longer as confident as I once was about the first thing that comes out of my mouth, or about what emerges from my tapping fingers.  I prefer to have several reads-through of it, with gaps of time between them to think more.

My two most recent Samizdata postings are results of this more considered manner of writing.  They may not seem so to readers.  But they are much better than they would have been without any polishing.

Such polishing is not new, for me.  I used to do it to stuff I wrote for the Libertarian Alliance.  Stuff like this piece, which Patrick Crozier kindly linked back to, in one of the comments on the first of those two recent Samizdata pieces.  As Patrick said, what that earlier piece said was very similar to what the Samizdata piece said.  Appropriately enough, both pieces (separated by a quarter of century) were about how reluctant people are to change the basic way that they think about things.

Then as now, such polishing did not make my writing perfect.  But it did make it quite a lot better.

Well, now, I seem to be reverting to writing more considered and revised essays, short or not so short, rather than “blog postings”.  Rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game, and I do not feel comfortable writing in that manner.  I used to.  If Perry de Havilland still does (and he does), I am very happy for him.  But it seems now not to suit me so much.

However, I do actually think that rock ‘n’ roll is now less appropriate.  The novelty of just anyone being able to shovel stuff onto the internet has now passed.  The mainstream media have now thoroughly internetted themselves, and the “any old stuff” approach (such as prevails here) does not get a blog like Samizdata the traffic that it used to get.  I think that some of us at least should be polishing.  More and more, my role model is becoming the late Findlay Dunachie.  Not in the sense that I intend only to review books from now on.  I mean that I find myself wanting to write more in the way he wrote, more thoughtfully, in a way that is more considered.

I am not now deciding to write differently.  (I promise nothing.) I am merely noting that this is what seems now to be happening.  An earlier stage in the change of attitude I am describing was earlier described in this posting here.

By which I mean, what seems to be happening at Samizdata.  Here will continue to be the impulsive, sloppy, last minute, thinking aloud, what you get is what you get operation that it has always been.  I did a little polishing of this piece, but not a lot.

Sunday January 31 2016

This picture of a taxi ticks two BMdotcom boxes.  First, its a black cab which isn’t, either because it just isn’t, or because it is covered in an advert.  In this case, it’s a bit of both:

image

But better, we observe in the advert on the not-black cab two Big Things.  The Big Thing on the left says: London!  And what is actually the much Bigger Thing, on the right, says: New York!  I am collecting imagery that says: London!, and this fits that bill very well, even if it does say: New York! as well.

I quite like the replacement for the Twin Towers, but it seems to me rather bland, in a picture, when you can’t see how very big it is.  Bland being what you do not want in a Big Thing for saying: New York!  But I guess, the Twin Towers having established themselves as the Big Things that formerly said: New York, whatever replaced them was going to have to do that job as soon as it appeared, bland or not.  The Empire State or the Chrysler would no longer do, them having already been dethroned as the sayers of: New York!, by the Twin Towers.

I think it is very telling that in the New York picture there is a clump of skyscrapers rather than just one.  Because New York is not any one skyscraper.  It’s a forest of skyscrapers.  Each individual skyscraper may be rather bland, but what it all adds up to is anything but bland.

But New York is not my town, and that is only me guessing.

Saturday January 30 2016

Yes, I have struggled over the years to get good photos of what my meetings are like.  The problem typically is that I can never get everyone into the same picture, and the pictures look like about half as many people attended as actually did.  Since the number wasn’t that huge to start with, that’s not what you want.

Here is a different approach:

image

That was the scene today following last night’s meeting, me having done almost zero tidying up to that point, bar hoovering up a few crisps.  Now, Imagine that space with as many people sitting in it as you can fit in.  That was what it was like last night.

If you reckon that the “table” in the middle looks like it could be improved upon, you are not wrong.  There was a disaster when it collapsed last night, luckily not during the Tim Evans talk, and some fruit juice hit the carpet, along with lots of potato crisps.  And it was then only imperfectly reassembled.  More work is needed on that front.  But it was a great evening, partly because of the table collapsing, because that sort of thing adds to the anecdotage factor.  But mostly because it was an excellent talk, and because a very classy group of people who came to hear it.  Including a baby, who was very welcome.

Talking of unsatisfactory tables, I wasn’t feeling so good myself today.  My sleep last night was full of weird dreams, which I can still remember bits of, which is not normal.  Plus, I have a new blender, and this morning’s concoction was terrible.  The trouble with most vegetables is that they don’t taste of anything.  Or, they taste rather nasty.  Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes.  But, all my current stash of cherry tomatoes got consumed last night by all the people that you can’t see in the picture.

Friday January 29 2016

Indeed:

image

Also, on her right, some of the new buildings at the top end of Victoria Street.

It’s already deep into tomorrow morning, after my meeting.  It went well, but (or and) I am now very tired.

Thursday January 28 2016

This is weird.  When I did a posting at Samizdata called My 2015 in pictures, I intended to include a picture I took of one of my meetings last year, the one at which Aiden Gregg spoke.  But, although I talked about it, I didn’t actually include the picture.  Rather humiliatingly, nobody noticed, or if they did notice, they didn’t care, or if they did care, not enough to complain.

So here is that picture:

image

I have also added it to that Samizdata posting, which absolutely nobody at all will notice.  But, get it right, eh?

I think I got this picture by standing on a chair.

I mention all this now because I have another of these meetings, the first of this year, tomorrow evening.  Speaker: Professor Tim Evans (also mentioned in that Samizdata posting), talking about Jeremy Corbyn and all that.  Turnout looks like being just right, with the room comfortably as opposed to uncomfortably full.  Luckily the seating arrangements have been improving.

Here, for good measure, is the photo I took of Tim when he gave his Inaugural Professional Lecture at Middlesex University, last summer, and which was also included in that Samizdata posting:

image

Not being accustomed to the ways of Academe, that get-up makes Tim look, to me, like he is in a very trad production of Wagner’s Mastersingers.

Wednesday January 27 2016

Quota photo time, in the form of a view of the Walkie Talkie that I didn’t find when I image-googled “Walkie Talkie tower London”, which I suppose is what you want:

image

I took this photo on the day I had actually been to the top of the Walkie Talkie, and the views from this top are, as you would expect, wonderful.  But when I skimmed through all the photos from that day just now, looking for a quota photo, this was the shot that I found myself stopping at.

Most of the pictures of the Walkie Talkie emphasise how huge it is compared to the buildings around it.  But when you actually get closer, like this, it doesn’t loom so large.  I mean, it’s not as if all these old buildings have been flattened to make way for the Walkie Talkie.  The buildings nearby look quite big, and the Walkie Talkie, a bit further away, looks big too, but not as disproportionately huge as it does when you see the same contrast from further away.

Tuesday January 26 2016

David Pierce writes at Wired about gadgets for speeding up pedestrians, which I too am interested in. He has been using an electric scooter.  I saw one of these in London recently, travelling at an impressive lick, but didn’t manage to photo it, because was holding too much shopping.  Still should have.  Will try to next time I see such a thing.

Some quotes:

The problem with moving away from car ownership is that you give up one its biggest upsides: you can usually park exactly where you’re going. Public transit, built around permanent stations, can’t offer that. That’s called the “last mile” problem: How do you get from the subway or bus stop to where you’re actually going, when it’s just a little too far to walk?

In among such good analysis are bits of humbug about how cars are, in addition to clogging up cities, ruining the planet with their sinful carbon emissions.  You don’t have to buy into all that guff to see the point of not ruining cities, but instead continuing to get around in them, speedily yet comfortably.  Personally, I live in a big city partly in order not to have to own a car.

Electric kick scooters, goofy [though? - BM] they may be, are a particularly good answer to the last mile problem. …

Pierce focusses in on one of the details, of just the sort that settle these contests in favour of this gadget and against that one:

The UScooter’s much easier to ride than the hugely popular hoverboard, because all you have to do is hop on and not tip over. Turns out handlebars are helpful that way. You can take it over small curbs and cracks in the sidewalk, powering through the obstacles that would launch you forward off a hoverboard. ...

This piece is entitled “It’s Too Bad Electric Scooters Are So Lame, Because They May Be the Future”.  So this is yet another of those arguments where what looks like it could be a very smart thing is being held back by jeering coolists who think it’s not cool.  (See also: using tablets to take photos.) I wonder if, when the wheel first got invented, idiot fashionistas stood around saying, yes, we entirely see the point of this thing, but it’s not cool.  It’s lame.  Therefore, we forbid it.  Wankers.

Monday January 25 2016

If you like the picture that was bottom right, here, then maybe you will also like these, which were taken at the exact same time.  They were, first time around, not shown here.  But now, I think they deserve an outing:

image imageimage image

It was the sky that was so good.

Yesterday here was quite strenuous, as was my life today doing other things.  So that’s all.