Quota coloured lights outside the Royal Festival Hall

I did my talk, and it was well received, but now I am too knackered to offer anything here but a quota photo:

Photoed by me on January 10th 2007, in other words ten years minus four days ago.

I like the contrast between the coloured lights, done with plastic bottles, and the monochrome surroundings. I remember those lights, and photoing them.

My camera back then wasn’t that good in low light. But it did okay for these photos, from which I picked the one I liked best.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quota construction

I’ve spent my day pondering my talk on Friday evening, so here, it’s quota photo time, four of them, taken last October:

What we are looking at is the building activity now happening between Waterloo Station and the river, photoed from the Waterloo Station side.

I fear that this buildings are going to have looked prettier when being built than when built.

Hope I’m wrong.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

What I’ll be talking about this coming Friday

Christian Michel hosts talks he calls 6/20 talks, because they happen on the 6th and the 20th of the month. And this coming Friday, Jan 6th, I am giving a talk, about politics and aesthetics, and how they interact.

This is the email I sent to talk host Christian Michel, about what I will be saying, or more precisely, what I will be asking:

My talk will be about what we each think is the truth about politics, and about how that relates to what we each think is beautiful.

What are your political opinions? What are your ideas of beauty? How do these things relate to each other?

Are your political loyalties and beliefs the result of your already existing ideas about what is beautiful? Did you arrive at your political views because you think that the political world you desire would be beautiful, as you already understood that?

Or, is it more the other way around? Do your present ideas of what is beautiful result from what you have already decided is the political truth of things? Would your politics lead to a world that looks a particular way, and do you therefore consider that world to be beautiful?

Or, for you, do the causal links go in both directions? That certainly applies to me.

Or, do the above questions rather baffle you? Because for you, what is politically true and what is beautiful are two entirely separate issues? For many who, like me, call themselves libertarians, I should guess that this might be the answer, even though this is definitely not my answer.

I put my subject matter in the form of questions, because I hope that potential attenders will receive advance notice of these question, and that some attenders at least will arrive with their own answers.

I will supply introspected answers about my own political and aesthetic preferences and how they are related, a lot of them involving architecture. But I hope I will speak briefly enough to leave plenty of time for others to offer their answers to my questions. Or, of course, to say that the questions are silly, or whatever else they want to say about what I have said.

My current plan is to read out the above, and then illustrate it with some personal examples, and with some other examples that seem to be quite common, and commonly talked about.

My personal examples involve things like the extraordinary aesthetic appeal of American stuff, like their cars and their fighter jets, which got me thinking about why America actually worked better than the USSR, whose stuff seemed to be grey and dull and unglamorous by comparison. That got me started towards being a libertarian, I think, way back in the 1950s.

In a related way, I then began to observe that British public sector architecture, which set the tone of the entire architectural scene in the sixties and seventies, had that same Soviet style drabness about it. Modern architecture only became flash and glamorous, in the eighties.

All that, among other things, turned me into a libertarian. And since then, I have tended to like the look of physical assemblages of objects that strike me as embodying liberty. Skyscraper clusters and roof clutter being good examples. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be so fond of roof clutter in particular if I had more bossy tastes in politics, if you get my drift.

That’s a pretty simplified summary of some of my aesthetic-political thoughts-feelings. But it suffices to illustrate the kind of thing I’ll be talking about.

As for similar stories told by others, I am struck by how an architectural style is often regarded as ugly, while it is advancing and hence seen as threatening, but later regarded with affection, once it has been defeated and is in retreat. This happened with the New Brutalism, widely hated during its years of ascendancy, now only in the news because some now want its surviving edifices to be legally preserved.

On a huge, historic scale, this is what has happened with Norman castles. Feared and hated when built, and for centuries after. Now quaint and picturesque tourist traps. Same kind of thing with big steam locomotives, at first feared and hated, now worshipped.

Many feel threatened by the very contemporary architecture that I personally like, and that’s because they see it, as do I, as embodying the very free market (-ish) ideas that I like, and that they dislike. It’s more complicated than that. But again, you get the idea.

My intention is to rattle through what I have to say quickly, to leave plenty of time for attenders to offer similar aesthetic-political memoirs of their own.

I’m putting this here so I can link to it in emails to potential attenders. Emails work better when they are short, but when they can be lengthened, so to speak, by those reading.

If you want to know how to attend this talk, or other talks in the same series, email me (see here top left) or leave a comment and I’ll put you in touch with Christian Michel.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A useful little party

The party I hosted on New Year’s Eve was rather exclusive. Nobody was actually forbidden entry. But I was very late with the invites, and because I feared that so few would be attending, I actually told people that if they wanted a proper, noisy, standing room only do, rather than what actually happened, they ought to steer clear, and that meant that even fewer people came. But it also took the pressure right off me, because whoever did come had been duly warned. The fireworks that those still present at midnight looked at and photoed from my roof (see below) were a bit out of the ordinary, but I had not seen that coming and so did not make that a selling point. Next time round, if there is a next time round.

But, I did have some fun conversations. And in particular one that has just resulted in this posting at Samizdata, about Shipping Containers. And about other Things. Once again, I at first wrote all of this for here, but then transferred two thirds of it to there.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Up on my roof – at Samizdata and here

I just did a multi-photo posting at Samizdata, with have a dozen photos all taken from my roof, which ended with a picture of the Houses of Parliament by day, and then two shots of the same thing last night, with added fireworks. Happy New Year, and all that. Again.

Here is another fireworks shot that I took last night that I particularly like:

I like how each little sub-firework has only just got started and is a small bobble rather than shooting madly off in all directions, as you more usually see.

Another thing I can see from my roof is the Shard’s eccentric top:

That was taken earlier in the year. The Shard also was looking a bit dramatic last night, by which time the cranes that had been operating in the foreground of this particular view had departed:

My usual excuse for my bad good photos is that a Real Photographer can go to the exact same spot and take the same shots properly. But if any Real Photographers buzz on our front door and expect to get out onto our roof, well, that might not work. Personally, I would allow it, on condition that I was permitted by the RP to photo him or her taking his or her photos.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog