Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Sam Duncan on An old American car in Tottenham Court Road
6000 on London Biggin Hill "Jet Centre"?
6000 on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Brian Micklethwait on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
6000 on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Peter Whale on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Chuck Pergiel on White van reflexology
Darren on Two photographers photoing me
Simon Gibbs on Digital photography ballet
Brian Micklethwait on My next camera?
Most recent entries
- An old American car in Tottenham Court Road
- London Biggin Hill “Jet Centre”?
- William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
- Weird wide angle lens effect
- Shiny little car
- On clapping in between movements at classical concerts
- Brightly lit against a dark background
- Alcoholic Architecture sign
- Big Ben through the legs of Gandhi statue in Parliament Square
- You can’t make a skyscraper out of containers
- A couple of old squares
- Further spectacular information storage progress (which will immediately become very useful)
- A big Black Cab advert picture for a Samizdata posting
- Designing and building with glass
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This and that
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:
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.
This afternoon I was meeting someone at London City Airport, and while waiting for their flight to arrive I took this photo, of the big TV screen showing flight arrivals:
Milan, Alitalia. Amsterdam, CityJet. Exeter, Flybe. Isle of Man, British Airways. Okay. But what is Rotterdam, “Jet Centre”? And what of London Biggin Hill, “Jet Centre”? That was the one that got me noticing this. Biggin Hill? I didn’t realise that was any sort of regular London airport.
Googling, when I got back home to my desk, confirmed my earlier guess that wherever it says “Jet Centre”, this means it’s a private jet, leaving from the “Jet Centre” at wherever it was. I am still not entirely clear about this, but that does seem to be what is happening. Can anyone confirm or correct this?
Private jets, and the people wafted hither and thither in them, inhabit a world that I pretty much never encounter. But at London City Airport, assuming I’m right about the “Jet Centre” equals private jet thing, the worlds of value-for-money regular-people aviation and of money-no-object plutocrat aviation overlap, to the point where both of these worlds appear on the same London City Airport TV screen. Whether the plutocrats use the same airport facilities as the rest of us, I do not know. Same runways, presumably. But same arrivals and departures places? I suspect not.
Either way, I bet it costs them. I guess it’s a case of if you have to ask, then you can’t afford it, but I have to ask. How much do they charge to land a private jet near to the middle of London? Excuse me while I do some more Googling. …
Well, I still don’t know, but according to this piece, there is no London airport in the top ten on the list, so it must cost less than £2,530. I was expecting it to be a bit more than that, somehow.
There is every chance that, by and by, Michael Jennings, globetrotter extraordinaire, will append a comment to this posting. If he does, you can be sure that his comment will be a lot more informative than this posting has been.
What follows is one of the better commentaries on British politics that I have recently read. It is pertinent to the current dramas involving Jeremy Corbyn and what appears now to be his likely victory in the Labour Party leadership election, because it focusses on something which I think has been somewhat neglected by other commentators, namely the weakness of Corbyn’s opponents. It is by former Conservative Party Leader William Hague.
But since the Telegraph only allows me to see thirty (I think it is) articles each month before it blocks me (for about half the month), and since I never blog about things that my readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, which means that I am actually not interested in things that readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, here is the piece, here, in full. Now I am able to be interested in what follows, because here it is.
The original article contains links to other Telegraph pieces. These I have reproduced. But I have not checked if they work, because I don’t want to exhaust half my allotted Telegraph links with the month hardly having started.
If the Telegraph asks me to remove it from here, I will immediately remove it, and will instead replace what follows with smaller quotes and further commentary. And then I will lose all interest in it, except perhaps as an interesting little event concerning the rights and wrongs of intellectual property.
In late 1997, having rather rashly taken on the job of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I discussed with the new prime minister, Tony Blair, which of us had the most difficult job. “You have,” he said, without a moment’s doubt.
Blair was right. And that job was doubly more difficult because it was one pitched every day against him, the most formidable electoral opponent the Conservative Party has faced in its entire history. Before him, Labour had only twice since its foundation won a decisive majority; with him it did so three times in a row.
Although he is despised in Labour’s current leadership election, Blair was a Tory leader’s worst nightmare: appealing to the swing voter and reassuring to the Right-leaning, it was hard to find a square on the political chessboard on which he did not already sit. When people told me I did well at Prime Minister’s Questions, I knew I had to, since I had very little else going for me at all – I had to raise the morale of Conservatives each Wednesday to get them through the frustration and impotence of every other day of the week.
Blair courted business leaders and Right-wing newspapers, often to great effect. He was a Labour leader who loved being thought to be a secret Tory, a pro-European who was fanatical in support for the United States, a big spender who kept income taxes down, an Anglican who let it be known he wanted to be a Catholic and regularly read the Koran. He could be tough or soft or determined or flexible as necessary and shed tears if needed, seemingly at will. To the political law that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time he added Blair’s law – that you can make a very serious attempt at it.
This was the human election-winning machine against which some of us dashed ourselves, making the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a promising manoeuvre by comparison. Yet now, only eight years after he left the scene he dominated, his party’s election is conducted with scorn for the most successful leader they ever had.
The first reason for this is the truly extraordinary rule allowing huge numbers of people to join up for the specific purpose of selecting the new leader. If there was an NVQ Level 1 in How To Run a Party, the crucial nature of the qualifying period to vote in a leadership election would be on the syllabus, possibly on the first page. Every student plotting to take over a university society knows that the shorter that period, the easier it is to mount an insurgency from outside. But this basic fact seems to have escaped Ed Miliband, along with every other possible consideration of what might happen after his own unnecessarily rapid departure.
The result of this is that Labour’s leader is being chosen by a largely new electorate, with correspondingly little sense of ownership of the party’s history, in which the desire to align the party with their own views outweighs any sense of duty to provide the country with an alternative government.
The second reason is the weakness of the mainstream candidates to an extent unprecedented in any election in a major party in British parliamentary history. Even in 1935, an even darker time for the Labour Party when it had far fewer MPs than today, the leadership election was between Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison: great names that are etched into our history. This is the first election of a Labour leader in which none of the candidates look like they could be prime minister five years later.
This weakness partly explains the third and most significant factor in what appears to be, in the form of Corbynmania, a sharp move to the pre-Blair, old-fashioned, Michael Foot-was-a-moderate, Seventies Left, which is that none of them has been able to articulate what a social democratic, centre-Left party should stand for in the first half of the 21st century.
Blair’s ability to win elections was not accompanied by a coherent philosophy. The seminars he held with Schroeder’s German SPD and Clinton Democrats on the “Third Way”, the ultimate attempt at government by triangulation, collapsed in ridicule. And the question neither Labour’s candidates nor their socialist colleagues abroad can now answer is – in a century in which markets dominate, more power passes to consumers, technology gives more choice by the day to individuals, working lives are more flexible than ever, and class-based voting is dying out, what is the role and purpose of the moderate Left?
You can scan in vain the speeches of Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham for a clear answer to this question, although I do not necessarily recommend it unless you find it hard to sleep. You might think there is a modern social democratic case to be made that some people – the less educated, unskilled, and immobile – could miss out on the benefits of the information revolution and that changing that is a new purpose of the centre-Left. Instead, in Britain and across Europe, it is left to fringe parties to prey on those dissatisfied with the vast and rapid changes in modern society.
And most revealing of all, those same speeches (yes, I really have read them), point to no model abroad of the Left in power, no hero to be admired or policy to be emulated. The main parties of the Left have turned into partners of conservatives in Germany, reformist liberals in Italy, back-pedalling socialists in France, catastrophes in Latin America, and been annihilated by extremists in Greece. There is still a Socialist International, but there is no longer a common ideology to underpin it.
Seen in this context, the agony of Labour’s leadership election is easier to understand. This is a tribe lost in a desert with no star to follow, and no inspirational leader to point to a new one. Across the world, parties that thrived on the socialist ideals of an industrialising society are losing their relevance, and what we are witnessing is a symptom and dramatic demonstration of that fact.
Faced with that awful reality, Labour is turning to something, anything, that seems authentic, passionate, and consistent. The failure, in Britain and abroad, to find the social democratic version of that is a failure of historic proportions.
I believe I may have said here recently that I did not care for selfies, although I cannot find where I said this. But whether I said this or not, it is not entirely true. There is a kind of selfie that I do like, which is when I am photoing some scene or other, and I am able to sneak a selfie into it, in a small part of the picture.
Partly this is because my understanding is that Real Photographers go to enormous trouble to avoid such selfie effects. As with PR experts, if the Photographer is the story, or any part of the story, then he isn’t telling the story right. The Real Photographer is not doing his job, which is to create a photo of whatever he is photoing, not of him, the Real Photographer, photoing it. The Real Photographer is supposed to be invisible.
Well, fair enough, business is business. But I am not in business. I am wandering about, having fun. If I show up in one of my photos, that’s fine, because that was what was going on in front of my camera. There was this mirror or this window or this shiny windscreen or whatever, and my face bounced back to my camera off of it. It happens, and it’s all part of how cameras work and what can happen with them.
Besides which, more fundamentally, I am not trying to persuade you that you were or are actually there. No. This is a photo. Photos are different from what you actually see if you are there, that being a great deal of the point of them, and a great deal of the fun of them. Cameras see and tell you about things that you might very well have missed, if you had merely been there, just as I do constantly miss stuff when I was there taking the photo, and only see later. It’s not reality. It’s a photo. Which means that someone stood there, with a camera, and took that photo. And, sometimes, the camera sees that. Why is that wrong?
All of which is a preamble-stroke-excuse for the following selfie:
I am the bloke in the light green shirt and the dark jacket, reflected in the bus window, underneath the “38” of “38 Victoria”.
Now, I approach my original point, the point referred to in the title of this. To me, it doesn’t look as if I am standing where I obviously had to be standing. No, it looks like the bloke in the light green shirt can’t be me, because the bus, all of it, and especially the bit with the reflection of the green shirt bloke, is a bit to my right. Ergo, green shirt bloke had to have been standing a minimum of about three yards to the right of me, me being the bloke who took the picture. But, despite all appearances to the contrary, me and green shirt bloke are one and the same.
I presume that this odd effect is the consequence of the lens (there is only one) in my camera being of the very wide angle sort. This means that the camera takes a very wide view, but then makes the result look not so wide. Everything that would be seen by the eye as being way off to the side is squeezed into the picture. And things on the far left, to the left of the photographer at the time, are squeezed into looking as if they were on his right, in the picture.
I don’t think I’d have been able to see this nearly so vividly if this picture had not been, among other things, a selfie. On the other hand, it was not a selfie in the sense that I deliberately included myself in the picture. I am pretty sure that just happened, without me trying.
At the time, all I thought I was photoing was a bus, covered in a popcorn advert.
I was out and about in Soho earlier this evening. I was with someone, but someone mercifully sympathetic to me taking photos so I got the chance to grab this shot:
I like how the ostentatiously silver colour of this vehicle grabbed every bit of light there was (as did my Lumix Camera). And I like how I can now learn what the shiny vehicle was advertising, even though I had little idea at the time. Capital Golf could have been something financial, for all I knew. But, it actually is advertising golf, the game, or to be more exact a golfing equipment store. When I looked more closely at my photo, “London’s Finest Golf Store” was a definite clue.
I could even read the website, and go straight there. But this website is really boring. Although that may just be me projecting upon it my personal opinion of golf.
Actually, I only tell myself that golf is boring. I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century. I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life. And I wasn’t having that.
I just watched a recording I made of a BBC TV show called Proms Extra, which is a chat show that responds to and flags up London’s immediately past and immediately future Promenade Concerts. They were asking themselves whether they minded clapping in between movements, in connection with a performance of The Planets, in which this had happened.. The assembled commentators agreed that they did not mind at all.
Two thoughts from me about this.
First, the assumption seems to be that people clap in between movements because they don’t know they’re not supposed to. But I think it is much more knowing than this. I think the audience has changed its mind about this.
There has been a huge movement in music-making to achieve an “authentic” sound, by which is meant the sort of sound made by the first performers of the pieces. Well, why not more authentic audiences? Time was when “classical” audiences would clap in between movements without hesitation. Sometimes they would yell for encores, of symphonic movements, before the symphony had even finished, just like at the opera. That in-between-movements clapping is now happening (has been for quite a while actually) at the Proms tells me that the current fashion for clapping in among big multi-movement pieces is a very knowing decision, a very musically educated decision. We are not “supposed” to do this? Well guess what, we have decided that we will do this.
It’s not only this, but I am sure that this is part of it.
Personally, I think that not clapping something like the tumultuous third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, seems very unnatural.
However second, there is no doubt that this new convention, if new convention it will be, has not yet been fully established. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, and quite often in a rather tentative, awkward and rather indecisive way. So, it must surely sometimes make life a little difficult for performers.
What if you have just given what you reckon was a tumultuously great performance of a movement which ends in a manner than just begs to be greeted with a round of applause, and there is silence? In the older days, of strict inter-movement silence, fine. I’m not finished. But now? Hm. Did they not like it? And, after a bit of silence, will they relent, and start clapping, just as I am starting the next movement?
The older regime of silence in between movements was at least a rule, which everyone stuck to and which newcomers quickly learned, from all the dirty looks they got if they broke the rule. And performers could either pause or press on immediately, confident that no clapping would interrupt whatever effects they were seeking to create.
Spent my day recovering from hosting a meeting at my home last night. Much tidying up still to be done. So, quota photo time.
But, two, both of brightly lit buildings against dark backgrounds. Part of one of the dark backgrounds being the Shard:
That chessboard building is about one minute’s walk from my home.
The one on the left taken in June. The one on the right just over a week ago.
Incoming photo (which is something I like a lot), from Simon Gibbs, of a sign (I like signs a lot), near Southwark Cathedral:
Click on that to get the bigger, unhorizontalised picture, and read more about what this is about here. Google sends me regular links to anything that is “new architecture london”, and there’s been lots written about this place.
Although, rather oddly, I couldn’t find any pictures of this sign. Maybe this will change that.
The gimmick is that this is a pub that sprays alcohol into the air. That was always going to be catnip to the media, social and regular. “Breathe responsibly”. Arf, arf. There are already plenty of pictures around of that sign.
I like statues, by which I mean that I like the statues that I like. Statues that I like don’t read where it says on my blog that I like them, and then say things like “But you never visit”, when I visit. They don’t say things like: “So, now that you are visiting quite often, what is this? Where is this relationship going?” In decades and centuries to come, maybe statues will behave in exactly this sort of troublesome way, but for now, they don’t. They just stand there.
And, they stand there immobile, which as a rather crap photographer, technically speaking, I greatly appreciate.
Here is a recent London statue that I now like:
That’s also another in my ongoing series of Great Photos Taken Rather Badly, which you, oh Real Photographer, can now go and take better. Big Ben won’t have moved. Nor will the legs of the recently unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, as I write this, looks like being a lot sunnier than it has been in London for quite a while.
(New Gandhi statue unveiled in “London’s Parliament Square”. Interesting how hitherto national organs now aim themselves at the whole world. The media they are a-changing.)
I only recently noticed this Gandhi statue. For decades Parliament Square had no Gandhi statue. Then, it had one.
This combines two interests of mine, the use of containers to make buildings, and the use of colour, to make buildings look more colourful:
But is it serious? It shouldn’t be. Making a skyscraper by piling containers on top of each other makes no sense, because the ones at the bottom have to be able to support the ones at the top. And the ones at the top have to be very light. The idea of having all the containers of the same structural strength and hence the same weight is foolishness containerised. The ones at the top will be far too heavy for what they are doing and the ones at the bottom will be squashed flat.
And if you are not piling containers on top of each other, but are merely slotting them into an already constructed structure, then here’s a plan. Why not save bother by not using big, heavy, lumpy old containers. The simple fact is, containers are only useful for making regular old buildings of the sort of height that buildings used to be before they invented mechanical lifts and structural steel (even though containers are themselves made of structural steel) and reinforced concrete.
Besides which, it surely only makes sense to make a building out of containers if you can get some leftover containers on the cheap. There’s no way they could get that many containers by just waiting for them to fall off a container ship.
Just had another rootle in the photo-archives, and I encountered two nice (if rather cheesey (but I don’t care)) photos, which had in common that there were not entirely nice, but that if I cropped a couple of squares out of them, they became a lot nicer. The one on the left is the bottom right hand corner of the original. The one on the right is two thirds of the original with the left one third omitted.
Taken in Jan 2007 and Feb 2008. (Feb: no leaves.)
I had another of those Goodness Me How The World Is Progressing!!! moments the other day, when I read a Wired piece by Brian Barrett entitled The flash storage revolution is here, and in particular stuff like this:
In 2013, Samsung announced a new way of approaching flash storage manufacturing. Rather than place the cells along a single layer, as had been standard practice since NAND flash was invented in the 1980s, it would stack them vertically. That allows for much greater density, which gives you much more storage space.
Samsung’s solution, called V-NAND, has seen remarkable gains since its introduction. In the first year, the company stacked 24 layers on a single die, while in 2014 it managed 36. The 16TB SSD kicks that up to 48.
Or, in rather plainer English:
By applying an innovative manufacturing technique to existing flash technology, Samsung has created a hard drive that could store well over 3,000 high-definition copies of Mad Max: Fury Road on your MacBook Pro. ...
But that same paragraph immediately continues:
… It might sound unlikely that you’ll ever need 16TB of space or be willing to pay for it. ...
And Brian Barrett then spends the next few paragraphs trying to convince potential skeptics of the “need” for such vastly increase domestic information storage capacity.
I need no convincing. If there is one thing I have learned from spending the last thirty years mucking about with these amazing gadgets, it is that more power, more speed, more storage capacity will all turn out to be extremely useful, very quickly, and will then quickly become essential. Things you just assumed would be impossible quickly mutate into near-necessities.
See also this earlier Samizdata piece by me, entitled Why fast and powerful computers are especially good if you are getting old. And also this earlier piece, simply entitled Progress, also about domestic information storage, in this case concerning an old SD card I found while clearing junk out of my home, which stored the princely info-quantity of 16 megabytes, which is enough for about three photos with my current camera.
I’m concocting a short Samizdata posting which will need, if and when it ever materialises, its readers to be able to read what it says in this:
Samizdata readers! If you need this bigger to read it, click on it!
When I first started noticing new architecture about fifty years ago, glass figured prominently in the ravings of Modernist propagandists, being the means by which buildings made themselves transparent and thereby proclaimed their structural honesty and modernity.
This same glass was routinely hated by those obliged to live or work behind it. Glass was the means by which unfortunate inmates of Modernism were fried in the summer, frozen in the winter, or had their skirts looked up through by passing oglers. The heating and air-conditioning bills could be stupendous. Often, inmates shoved cardboard behind this glass, to diminish its worst impacts. Glass in modernistic buidings regularly got broken, often deliberately, not least because first generation modern buildings, at any rate in the UK, often brought out the worst in those subjected to it.
How times have changed, by which I mean: how glass has changed. It is far more varied now, far more cleverly made, far stronger and less breakable, and far more carefully used in buildings. Which is not surprising given that glass has only grown in importance, and in the percentage of the surface area of buildings that it now covers.
What follows is the whole of a short report, by Chris Jarvis of Sheppard Robson, of a round table conversation in which he participated last May, about the use of glass in building, organised by the Architect’s Journal.
The prose is sometimes rather businessy and clunky, but I found the content fascinating:
The conversation was focused on the specification of high-performance glazing. More specifically, how fundamental changes within the industry – which include shifts in legislation and the drive for efficiency in our built environment – have resulted in the specification of glass being determined much earlier in the design process.
Glazing is no longer an adjunct that is decided upon once a concept design is complete and planning has been granted. Issues such as orientation, shading and air-tightness need to be considered in the early stages of projects along with the specification of the glass to ensure the target energy performances can be met. Rigorous energy modelling is also important to enable the right glazing option to be chosen for project, site and client.
Availability of data
One of the key challenges in the specification process is the availability of the necessary rigorous data on materials. Currently, there is a feeling across the industry that the level of detailed product information is not readily available across the board. This provokes the question of how can technology be harnessed to collate the necessary technical performance and cost data - which architects, façade engineers and contractors can use - to make the right choices earlier in the process.
A holistic approach needs to be taken to assess all of the above criteria and select the most appropriate single, double or triple glazed units to meet the performance requirements, whilst staying within budget. Triple glazing is not currently a widely used material to boost performance, mostly due to the cost of the product. However, over the next few years this is likely to change: as triple glazing products become more widely used and technology develops to decrease the weight of the product, it will become more viable for projects and client budgets.
However, the use of more advanced, highly tuned technology requires more monitoring after completion to access the efficiency of the product over the lifespan of the building. Currently, rigorous data of how glazing performs after 10 and more years does not exist; how can new products help the industry close the ‘performance gap’ and alert us to poorly performing glass that is ultimately having a major impact on the efficiency of our built environment.
I chanced upon this at the Sheppard Robson website after photoing one of their buildings, the new headquarters of the Salvation Army, near St Paul’s, and then looking that up on the www:
It looks good, even if custom build HQs often spell trouble for the organisations which move into them.
While I’m on the subject of glass, several incoming emails have wanted to be sure that I had clocked this:
That’s a swimming pool made of glass. I yearn to photo oligarchical mistresses frolicking about in it, but, no chance. This will be inside a very gated community, in the vicinity of the new US Embassy in Battersea. I am optimistic, however, that we might all eventually catch a glimpse of such a thing in a James Bond movie, complete with frolicking oligarchical mistresses.
The above picture, and further details, here.
I always regard it as a sign that I am onto something when 6k notices me noticing whatever it is, and he did notice that.
This outburst was prompted by the experience of photoing the lovely Pavlova, twice, and once through trees of the sort which, had the photo been taken later in the year, like now, would have been totally clogged up with leaves.
Here is another photo of this sort:
Take a careful look at that (perhaps by clicking on it to get it a decent size). Look how many Big Things would be invisible if all the branches and twigs there all had leaves stuck on them, as happens during the summer. The photo would be nothing. Just a station sign, and lots of damn leaves.
Or how about this?
That’s Vincent Square, which is a two minute walk from where I live. Both the above photos were taken in March of this year.
Several Quite Big Old Things there, along with The Wheel of course. And although leaves wouldn’t totally blot all that out, they’d also do severe damage to that view. The top of Big Ben would still be visible, but The Wheel would be half gone and the Other Parliament Tower almost totally so. If – the horror - TV aerials sprouted leaves during the summer, that would do for the other half of The Wheel and most of Big Ben, because there is a little clutch of TV aerials right between them.
Despite being very London, I do not object to this picturesque view, even though it is so classically England countryside in its effects. You can almost smell the warm beer.