A design success and a designfail

Again from designboom, this posting about a Ukrainian rug-maker who is souping up his designs with modern references. I particularly like this one:

This works for many reasons, one of them being that there is something very medieval and nostalgic about the whole Star Wars franchise, and lots of cinematic and other scifi in general. Faster than light travel, for instance, isn’t modern. It is a bogus technology trick for turning the future back into the Middle Ages, into a world full of faraway wonders and monsters, but not so far away that you can’t reach them soon enough to still be alive when you get there and make your visit count.

By the way, I think “designboom” postings are very badly designed. The basic problem, although not the only one, is their juvenile refusal to understand capital letters, and their determination instead only to use capital letters for acronymic organisations (like, in this case: “OLK”), but never to signal the beginning of a sentence, or the beginning of a heading. Or for something like Star Wars. This is stupid when you are simply writing a chunk of prose. But it is seriously stupid at a website, because websites are tricky to make clear at the best of time. Boom? No. Fail. Pity, because they seem to have a lot of good stuff.

This blog, the one you are reading now, is much better designed. To look at I mean. Not how it works, which is very badly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

My latest advert-taxi photo-target – and my next

As I earlier said, about this taxi, and various photoshopped variants of it:

I hope I chance upon the original, and get a go at photoing it myself.

Well, yesterday, in Warwick Way, I did chance upon it:

I speculated recently that photoing sculpture might be easier to do well in cloudy light. I also recently speculated that something similar might well apply with brightly coloured vehicles. The above bright yellow taxi would seem to confirm this.

Next advert-taxi target, this very cute Swarovski taxi. I have already spotted one of these taxis twice, but my first sighting was in the dark with me burdened with laundrette stuff, and my second sighting was yesterday morning, but after I had been shopping and was thus similarly burdened. I tried to photo it, but it had moved on before I could.

Photoing taxis is a lot easier when they are parked. It is also easier if the driver is not present. If he is, I say I am interested in his advert, and ask permission to photo first. Once they know you aren’t snooping on their parking habits, they’re usually very agreeable.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

There should be more fake antiquity

I often find the Tweets at Market Urbanism baffling, because they concern obscure American political disputes. But even as I am baffled by the second half of this (what on earth does “filter hard and fast” mean?), I agree with the first half. I also unironically love these:

The Tweet contains a link to this Bloomberg report, which is where Market Urbanism and I got that photo, and which notes (rather gleefully/) that the builder of these things has gone bankrupt.

I do unironically love these gloriously unfashionable little stately homes, but I do not totally love everything about them. Because what is about each one of these fake chateaux, is lots of others that are identical. A lot of the point of living in a building like this is surely that there is nothing else like it in the vicinity. Such a pile should be uniquely recognisable, and architecturally victorious over all the neighbours in the “my house is the poshest” contest. If there is going to be a herd of these things, let there be a bit of variety.

But despite all those nitpicks, I do think that the world could use a lot more fake antiquity of this kind. In particular, I wish more of this sort of stuff was allowed in England. Uninterrupted “honest” modernity can get very dreary, I find. I love those London Big Things that I bang on about here, but a lot of the fun of them is how, closer up, they often tower over buildings erected a couple of centuries earlier.

However, the trouble with newly minted fake antiquity is that this too can look rather dreary and soulless.

When fake antiquity really comes into its own is when it has been around for a while, and people can no longer see how fake it is.

The world seems to be full of well-connected, in-power aestheticians – who demand that every new building be modern, and badly-connected, out-of-power aestheticians – who hate modernity. I want lots of both, all muddled together.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The original Sloane

Yesterday I found myself in Duke of York Square, which is just along the King’s Road from Sloane Square. So, what with the Duke of York being one of Britain’s most under-rated military leaders, at any rate according to this book, I thought that, this might be a statue of the Duke himself.

But a closer look at the plinth told me different:

Wikipedia tells us more about this, the original Sloane, from whom, of course, Sloane Square took its name, and because of whom Sloanes are called Sloanes. Sir Hans Sloane, it seems, was the collector of scientific specimens who first got the British Museum started. Plus, this:

He is credited with creating drinking chocolate.

Blog and learn. Here is a rather more artistic close-up of this same statue:

This statue is a recreation by Simon Smith of a statue carved in 1737 by John Rysbrack. Smith’s new statue was unveiled in 2007:

The original statue, now deteriorated, is housed in the British Museum, with a cast in the Chelsea Physic Garden. The sculptor, Simon Smith, said: “`I wanted the sculpture to show Sir Hans Sloane as a kind man with a sharp intellect and an enquiring mind. An approachable man of principle and logic, who’s morals and philanthropy are still of benefit to us today.”

The light yesterday was very dim, even early in the afternoon. But whereas buildings often respond well to bright sunlight, I find that statue photos are often deranged if sunlight is unimpeded, and better when the light is more spread around and is coming from lots of different directions, as happens under cloud. Less light, but of the right sort, does the job.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Crazy and massive clothing (and a bright red van)

On April Fools Day 2009 (the same day and just before I took these photos (that being how I came across this photo (which I took just north of Charing Cross station))), a man decides that he doesn’t want either a massive jacket or a crazy “T/shirt”:

Perhaps he feared that, what with it being April Fools Day, he might discover that the T/shirts were all pretty sensible, and the jackets only of moderate size, albeit both quite persuasively priced.

I tried googling “Tommy Coopers clothing”, but could find nothing that looked like this enterprise. Only references to a certain comedy hat.

Moments earlier, on that same photo-walk, next to St-Martin-in-the-Fields off Trafalgar Square, I took this photo, of a van:

I love how certain very bright paint colours look all the brighter on dull days. Hartley would surely like this one.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Lorry on roof

So, Friday, and something about cats, or dogs, or other creatures. Dogs, as it turns out.

I took the following two photos a month or two ago, when rootling around in East London in the District Line DLR sort of area, where the City of London is busy turning into Docklands. And I am pretty that this first photo was intended, in my mind, to be of the notices in the foreground:

But then I noticed the background. Was that a lorry? On top of a building? For no reason? With no obvious way back down?

Yes it was:

Not an entirely clear photo, and it was also getting dark which didn’t help. But trust me, there was no easy way up, or down, for this vehicle. A lot of trouble was gone to, by someone. But, why?

No, I don’t know either. But sometimes mysteries are the funnest things to photo.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Total Surveillance photos

Following yesterday’s very generic, touristy photos of the Albert Memorial (although some of them did involve a breast implant), here is a much more temporary photo, of the sort most tourists wouldn’t bother with:

You obviously see what I did there, lining up what looks like a big, all-seeing eye with a clutch of security cameras, cameras made all the scarier by having anti-pigeon spikes on them.

And what, I wondered when I encountered this in my archive, and you are wondering now, is the provenance of that big eye?

Turns out, it was this:

So, not actually a photo about and advert for the Total Surveillance Society. It merely looked like that.

However, just two minutes later, from the same spot of the same electronic billboard, I took this photo:

So as you can see, the Total Surveillance Society was definitely on my mind. Terrorism, the blanket excuse for everyone to be spying on everyone else. The two minute gap tells me that I saw this message, realised it was relevant, but it then vanished and I had to wait for it to come around again. Well done me.

According to the title of the directory, and some of the other photos, I was with a very close friend. A very close and very patient friend, it would seem. Hanging about waiting for a photo to recur is the sort of reason I usually photo-walk alone.

I took these photos in Charing Cross railway station on April Fool’s Day 2009. I would have posted them at the time, but in their original full-sized form, they unleashed a hurricane of messy interference patterns. But just now, when I reduced one of them to the sort of sizes I use for here, those interference patterns went away. I thought that these patterns had been on the screen I was photoing. But they were merely on my screen, when I looked at my photos. And then, when I resized all the photos, it all, like I said, went away. Better late than never.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Albert Memorial photos

Today I was at the Royal College of Music, to see GodDaughter 2 performing in an opera. More about that later, maybe, I promise nothing, etc. etc. Meanwhile, I also walked past the Albert Memorial, because some shopping had caused me to come to the RCM from Kensington High Street tube rather than the usual South Kensington tube. The weather was good, so I photoed:

I know that the world already contains a zillion such photos, and that I am accordingly breaking one of my personal photography rules, which is to try to notice, and to photo, things that others mostly don’t notice and don’t photo. But, I do like this extraordinary sculptural edifice, not least because it is so very colourful and so very well looked after, as colourful things out of doors tend to need to be if their colours are to remain as originally intended.

However, although photography is light, there is such a thing as too much light. Here is a photo I took over a decade ago now, in July 2007, of the sculpture cluster on the right of the main body of the Memorial, of a lady sitting on an elephant, known, it seems as the “Asia group”:

Maybe it’s just that the light was coming from a different direction. Or maybe between 2007 and now, this sculpture has been cleaned. Whatever the explanation, you can clearly see on that photo that the lady on the elephant has had a breast implant. Her right breast.

This closer-up photo I took moments later makes this even more clear:

That’s more my style. Not so many billion photos of that on the www, I surmise. But still quite a few. More about all the sculptures at the Albert Memorial here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Zone 2/3

I think I must have noticed this strange phenomenon before, but then I forgot about it. But whether I ever did notice it before or not, I recently noticed it again, or I noticed it:

I’m guessing that what this means is that if you are in Zone 2, and move to Zone 2/3, you haven’t moved into another zone. And if you are in Zone 3 and then move to Zone 2/3, ditto.

But since I have an Old Git Pass, none of this really matters to me. I just like the oddity of the situation.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog


Another for the Department of I’ll-Believe-It-When-I-See-It:

Yes, a Tulip, for the City of London, right next to (and dwarfing) the Gherkin, a Big Thing from which to gaze at and photo all the other nearby Big Things. And to be photoed from the other Big Things, and from everywhere else in the vicinity.

No comments on that Dezeen report (with lots more photos (i.e. fake photos)) as of me now writing this, but I expect a lot of derision from people who dismiss it as a mere Foster publicity stunt. Which I dare say it is.

I’m for it of course, even if it will surely cost a fortune to actually go up it. So I won’t be doing that very much, I don’t suppose. But I will photo it constantly, from near and from far.

What’s the betting it does get built, but not in London?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog