Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- What is this weird plastic thing?
- The view from outside Waterloo Station
- Goodbye KP?
- Strange London buses
- Seaside muralist
- How Centre Point is looking just now
- Another horizontal advert for an only slightly more expensive drone
- First test against NZ – first day
- Blue sky
- Adverts for small and cheap drones
- High hair
- Hungerford Footbridges photographers
- An alien robot playing the cymbals and paps
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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This and that
Can anyone tell me what this is?:
Soon, you will be able to shovel an image like this into the www and it would tell you what it is, same as you now do with words. But if that can be done now, I don’t know how.
I photoed this contraption last night, next to the recycling rubbish bins a few dozen yards from the front door of my home. So, whatever it is, someone has no further use for it. It was right under a street lamp which meant that the non-flash snaps I took were better than the flashed ones.
But, what on earth is it? Suggestions so far have been: some kind of toy; or: some sort of home for a pet. The latter suggestion being mine, but not a very confident one. I mean, why does it have what looks like a toast rack sticking out of its top? Bizarre.
So, as I often find myself asking here, ... anyone?
Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo. Exit your train, and go through the barriers. Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit. Step outside. You are in “Station Approach”:
I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.
You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi. But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”. (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps. Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.
To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie. To the far right, the Spray Can. Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.
It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train. Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings
What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter. In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground. If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them. Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”. Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared. The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now. But these two buildings could hardly be more different. The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss. The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.
And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:
Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.
Stations are great linear photo-opportunities. This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level. If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings. This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.
Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations. The traffic would wait for ever. So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level. So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it. You can from Station Approach. Well, I can, because I want to.
Am I going to have to stop denouncing test matches that clash with the IPL? The IPL didn’t seem to have a lot of close finishes this time around. (Yesterday’s final was over long before it was over, if you get my meaning.) And now, both England and New Zealand have all their top players playing test cricket, in England, in May. And playing it really well. NZ, a far better team now than they were only a few years back, got over 500 in their first innings and a serious first innings lead. But yesterday Cook batted all day, and Stokes scored a century that absolutely did not take all day.
What struck me, watching Stokes on the C5 highlights yesterday evening, was how sweetly his off-drives were struck. He is no mere slogger, although he definitely can slog. Thanks to Stokes, England can now, on the final day, win.
Stokes hitting two blistering scores at number six (he also got 92 in the first innings), and Root not wasting any time at number five, means that Pietersen can now kiss his test career a final goodbye. Had the England batting failed in this mini-series against NZ, and above all had it failed slowly, the cries for Pietersen to come in and beef it up and speed it up would have grown in volume. As it was, the slow guys at the top failed (Lyth and Ballance both twice over), apart from Cook yesterday, while the quick batters got on with it. This leaves no place for Pietersen. Bell? A decent innings in the next game will end any moans about him.
Meanwhile, this test match, as of today, is a real cracker. And today is one of those great test days in London where they cut the prices for the last day and Lord’s suddenly fills up with people like me. Not actually me, today. But I thought about it. And if I thought about actually going, it can’t be that I think the game is meaningless. Score one for the Old Farts who think that the IPL is just a faraway T20 slog of which we know little.
This game began with England being 30 for 4. Now NZ are 12 for 3, “chasing” (the inverted commas there meaning: forget about it) 345. Broad, a bowler who, in between match winning performances, looks like a bit of a waste of space, has two wickets already. Plus, Taylor, whom Broad has just got out, was dropped off him in the previous over, and that now gets mentally chalked up by both sides as further evidence that another wicket is liable to fall at any moment.
Earlier in the week Paul Collingwood of Durham was talking up Stokes, also of Durham. He can bat, said Collingwood, which he could say with confidence after Stokes made his first innings 92. Stokes can also bowl, said Collingwood and should do so earlier than he has tended to so far in his test career. He is not just a filler in, said Collingwood. Well, now, with the score a mere 16 for 3, Stokes is bowling.
At lunch, NZ 21 for 3.
LATER: And just when I thought KP was forgotten, there was Boycott on the radio talking him up, as a replacement for the as-of-now non-firing Ian Bell. So if England get hammered in the first two Ashes tests, with Bell getting four more blobs or near blobs ... Maybe KP ... I just added a question mark to my title.
LATER: Take a bow, Collingwood! Stokes gets Williamson and McCullum in two balls! NZ 61 for 5.
Indeed. Both of them were photographed by me, in central London, yesterday afternoon.
The first was very striking mainly because of its colour, or the colour it was showing to me. Very pretty in pink:
Seriously, I found this bus very eye-catching. You don’t expect to see a London double decker decked out in that colour.
It was selling ice lollies.
The second strange bus was this:
Something to do with Bayern Munich, as you can see. I stood as far away from this bus as I could, but the pavement was just not deep enough. But, you get the picture.
But why “Gulp”? Was “Gulp ‘82” some kind of tournament they won, in 1982? I asked the internet what gulp means in German, but sadly, all the internet wanted to tell me was the German for gulp. Anyone?
No not taken by me. I wish. The original and several others of the same guy that are equally fun, here.
I chose that one because, in addition to showing the artist and his murals, it also shows what a fight reinforced concrete puts up, when someone tries to destroy it. (A point also made, with an illustration (yes taken by me) in this earlier posting.)
Until very recently, Centre Point, the Big Thing at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, used to look like this, and quite soon, it will presumably look very much like that again. Just rather cleaner.
But, for the time being, Centre Point is looking like this:
The crane is there because at the bottom of Centre Point there is a frenzy of Cross Rail and London Underground station building activity.
And this one has a camera!:
It’s like the internet can read my mind.
Am I happy about that? Are you?
More to the point, what are the rules about flying one of these things around in London?
After an hour in the first test against New Zealand, England are now 30 for 4. This is exactly the sort of start the England bosses did not want, because it will amplify the clamour for the return of Kevin Petersen.
Here’s Ed: “Oh dear, an inevitably miserable summer for English cricket has now commenced ... and can already hear the plaintive cries of ‘KP, blah blah, must bring KP back ... blah, blah ... it’s SCANDALOUS, KP, blah blah, he’s box-office, you know ...’”
Well, you can see which side “Ed” is on. As for me, well, I want cricket to be entertaining and diverting. Whatever England do or do not manage this summer, first against New Zealand, and then against Australia, it will certainly be entertaining and diverting. If England win, hurrah! If they lose, then there will be all the “KP, blah blah” that Ed refers to. Sport is, among other things, soap opera, and it promises to be hugely soapy and operatic this summer, because England now look like doing very badly.
My main opinion about English cricket just now is, as it has long been, that the people running it seem to imagine that the I(ndian) P(remier) L(eague), now nearing its climax for this year, is “just another T20 slogfest”, when in truth it is the Indian T20 slogfest, which means that you can earn more money playing in it than in the rest of your year as a cricketer. Something like that anyway. It’s a lot of money, especially if you are really good at it. And money talks. Money says that the world’s best players now all want to play in the IPL, and that they will not want to play stupid test matches in England against England.
I will never forget the first day of a recent England/WI series, in England, in mid-may, when Gayle scored a terrific century. But, not a terrific century for the West Indies against England, a terrific century for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. I also distinctly remember blogging about this at the time, on the day, but cannot find anything by me about this.
Yes I can. Here:
I remember very little about that meaningless test series in England, but I do remember that on the first day of it, Chris Gayle scored a brilliant century. I watched this brilliant century on my television. But Gayle did not score this brilliant century for the West Indies, against England. He scored it for the Bangalore Royal Challengers.
You would think that the ECB would have got the message. How soon before cricket fandom everywhere just hoots with derision at these “test matches” in the sodden and frigid English spring? Such tests test nobody except the out-of-their depth second-stringers sucked into them. With the star players of the touring side missing, these tests mean very little. Sport is all about meaning. Drain the meaning from a game, and the thing is dead in the water. Literally in the water, if you are playing in England, in May, and you don’t get lucky.
So, memory does not deceive.
Well, it would seem that England still have the trick of enticing the best New Zealanders to come and play test matches in England, in mid-May. That is, the NZ cricket bosses are still able to insist that their IPL-ers come to England, in the nick of time. But this still isn’t satisfactory. I will be interested to see, when I watch the highlights of day one this evening on the telly, how big the crowd is.
England, at lunch, are now somewhat less soapy and less operatic 113 for 4, after the beginnings of a decent stand between Root and Stokes. But still very iffy.
Here is a picture I took in 2005 of Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne, which I spotted at Waterloo Station in June of that year (it’s not one of those pictures):
Having had lunch, England are now 182 for 4, and the big stand by Root and Stokes is getting bigger and bigger. Stokes is really stepping on it. Hurrah! If England end up with a decent score, the KP clamour will fade.
And, happy coincidence, my other team, Surrey, are also right now enjoying a century stand for the fifth wicket, this time by Sanga and Roy. Roy is really stepping on it.
MOMENTS LATER: Stokes out, Sanga out, withing seconds of each other. Not so happy.
Another 20th of the month another evening at Christian Michel’s, and another walk from Earls Court tube to his place in the Cromwell Road. It’s a quite short walk, but long enough for me to take photos. Photography is light, and there was a lot of light, pouring down from the sun, uninterrupted by clouds:
These snaps look pretty average in the above small size, but if you click on them, they get bigger and better.
The tree and its shadow I saw from within Earls Court tube, in a street not on the regular route, but I just had to immortalise it, and that got me looking for other things to photo. I include the very thin buildings, top right, because I like such thin buildings of this sort. I include the chimney with the satellite receivers, bottom right, because I especially like how light falls at an angle on bricks. And I like the blue sky, bottom left, which illustrates that the way to persuade a digital camera to make a sky really blue is to stick a very brightly lit building next to it. In the thin buildings picture there is quite a lot of darkness, which is why the sky came out not so blue. Ditto the chimney, again rather dark.
See also, between me and the very blue sky, bottom left: wires! But these are not the regular and invisible sort of street wires. These are wires that you are supposed to see, because they were put there deliberately, to look good by lighting up in the dark.
A few months back my computer got a going over from The Guru, and I immediately started receiving more internet advertising than hitherto. At first this continued because I merely didn’t know how to stop it. But now, I find myself interested by this advertising.
I like old-school advertising, the sort that has no idea who you are or what you like, not even a bad idea. I learn from old-school advertising how the world in general is feeling about things, which is interesting and amusing information. (This is, for me, one of the pleasures of walking about in London. (Soon this pleasure may also vanish, because of embedded spy cameras. Soon, I may find myself looking at adverts for classical CDs and history books (and drones – see the rest of this), whenever I walk past a billboard).)
But I am now starting to enjoy new-school, internet advertising, where your most trifling internetted thought results in adverts appearing a little while later, for related (or so the internet thinks) products. Sometimes, it’s just crass, like a salesman barging into a conversation at a party and changing it. Fuck off jerk. But I am starting to enjoy this sort of advertising, sometimes.
As you can see from this picture, this drone is very small. It is also very cheap. But does it have a camera on it? Could you even attach a camera to it, or would that make it too heavy and crash it?
The last drone posting here was about a drone noticed by 6k that costs $529 dollars. But the above drone costs a mere £13.78. It is as cheap as that partly because you get it in the form of a kit rather than completed. But there must surely be a factory in China where people are paid 10p a go to assemble such things. I could surely buy a completed Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter if I wanted to, rather than have to make do with an Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter Frame Kit.
Kit or completely, I have no intention whatsoever of buying such a thing any time soon.
I can’t help thinking what gadgets like this, so small, so cheap, will do to photography, in a place like London.
A lot of what this blog is about is the texture of everyday life, and how that is changing. (I mean things like down-market computer stuff and smartphones and CDs. And advertising, see above.) Well, these drones are not yet a Big Thing about which old-school moany newspaper articles are being written about how the twentieth century was better, blah blah. But, they soon will be.
If I ever do get a drone to take photos, you may be sure that I will make a point of photoing the other drones. Although that’s assuming I’d be able to make something like a drone actually work, and I now assume the opposite. Maybe I will compromise, and photo all the drones I see from the ground. So far, I have only seen drones for real in shop windows. But give it a couple of years …
And oh look, the mere fact of me working on this posting, embedding links into it, caused another advert to present itself to me (for this only slightly more expensive drone (and this one you don’t have to assemble yourself (it’s like it read my mind!))), when I switched to reading something Instapundit had linked to. The advert has vanished now and been replaced by something for Walt Disney (?), but I screen-captured it before it went:
Adverts at blogs are a rich source of horizontality, I find.
Goddaughter 2 recently suggested I read this. I now suggest that you read it:
In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.
You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet. You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it’s agony-free for the rest of your afterlife.
But that doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant. You spend six days clipping your nails. Fifteen months looking for lost items. Eighteen months waiting in line. Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal. One year reading books. Your eyes hurt, and you itch, because you can’t take a shower until it’s your time to take your marathon two-hundred-day shower. Two weeks wondering what happens when you die. One minute realizing your body is falling. Seventy-seven hours of confusion. One hour realizing you’ve forgotten someone’s name. Three weeks realizing you are wrong. Two days lying. Six weeks waiting for a green light. Seven hours vomiting. Fourteen minutes experiencing pure joy. Three months doing laundry. Fifteen hours writing your signature. Two days tying shoelaces. Sixty-seven days of heartbreak. Five weeks driving lost. Three days calculating restaurant tips. Fifty-one days deciding what to wear. Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about. Two weeks counting money. Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator. Thirty-four days longing. Six months watching commercials. Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time. Three years swallowing food. Five days working buttons and zippers. Four minutes wondering what your life would be like if you reshuffled the order of events. In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.
This is from Sum, by David Eagleman, which is subtitled “Forty tales from the afterlives”, the above being the first of them, also entitled “Sum”.
I sum- (hah!) -marised this tale as best I could to another friend, who immediately got the point that Eagleman makes at the end, that the mere fact of the variety of life becomes a source of joy, if you compare it with a life from which variety has been drained away. This alone turns humdrumness into hell, and contemplating that hell turns the humdrumness into a kind of heaven.
Count your blessings, but not the same blessings all at the same time.
Here is a cropped detail of a photo I took on Monday, of a rather strange hair style:
The internet knows everything, but my image-googling skills are not good enough for me to learn what is going on here. I have seen this kind of style before, so this is no mere individual eccentricity. There is a group of guys who all style their hair like this. But who are they? What else, if anything, to they believe in, besides believing in having their hair done in this strange way? Anyone?
Okay, this quote is from Chapter One, “A Universal Language?”, of The Story of English: How the English Language Conquered the World by Philip Gooden (pp. 11-12):
English is the closest the world has yet come to a universal language, at least in the sense that even those who cannot speak it - admittedly, the large majority of the world’s population - are likely to be familiar with the odd English expression. One term that is genuinely global as well as genuinely odd is OK (or O.K. or okay), originating in America in the 19th century. An astonishingly adaptable word, it works as almost any part of speech from noun to verb, adjective to adverb, though often just as a conversation-filler - ‘OK, what are we going to do now?’ Depending on the tone of voice, OK can convey anything from fervent agreement to basic accquiescence. It may be appropriate that such a truly universal term has no generally agreed source. Attempts to explain where it came from don’t so much show variety as a high degree of imaginative curiosity. So, OK is created from the initials of a deliberate misspelling, oll korreket, or from a campaign slogan for a would-be US president in the 1840s who was known as Old Kinderhook because he came from Kinderhook in New York State. Or it is a version of a word imported from Finland or Haiti, or possibly one borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. Or it is older than originally thought and derives from West African expressions like o-ke or waw-ke. Enough explanations, OK?
Photographer on the upstream Hungerford Footbridge, me not on any Hungerford Footbridge:
Photographer on the downstream Hungerford Footbridge, me on the same Hungerford Footbridge:
Me on the downstream Hungerford Footbridge, photographer not on any Hungerford Footbridge:
The first picture is the most visually dramatic, but the third is the most mysterious.
Deck chairs on a deck makes sense, but why is there a pretend lawn on the deck? And why did the man need to be in the middle of the pretend lawn to take his photos?
I do not know.
A while back, I showed you this photo, and mentioned how a sight like that often gets me going, photographically speaking. That one certainly got me going that day.
Here is one of the more fun snaps I then took, of a hair drying machine that looks like an alien robot about to crush your head with a pair of cymbals, ...:
... or perhaps it is about to hug you. You decide.
And here, taken only moments later, is a picture of a celebrity (the sort of celebrity that nobody has heard of) being papparized by a bunch of big-arse paps in big-arse trousers, outside what I assume is some kind of club, just off of Seven Dials.
When you get into that state of photographic ecstasy, that’s the kind of thing that seems to present itself to you.
Who knows? Maybe the cymbal playing alien robot had just been drying Madam Celeb’s hair. It does have some rather artful curls in it, that have the look of having been done to her, so to speak.
Nothing wrong with her arse.