Exploring The City: Monument thoughts

When I say exploring, I mean three kinds of exploring, rather than just the one. The “just the one” is going there, and taking photos. But the second is finding things out from the Internet about the various things I saw and photoed. And the third is exploring my photo-archives for related photos that I photoed during earlier explorations.

Here’s an internet discovery of what the place I was exploring looked like, in (guess) the late eighteenth century:

That image is one of a collection of images to be found at the top of the Website for the Parish and Pilgrimage Church of St Magnus the Martyr in the City of London.

At the back there, the Monument, and the church of St Magnus the Martyr. Note how you also see three other church spires, and a rather distant church tower. In those days, churches dominated the London skyline.

Here another Monument image, this time one which I photoed in the vicinity of the Monument, yesterday:

At the top of that, beyond, you can just about make out a horizontal slice of the Monument itself.

I’ve obviously been up this London Big Thing, but not very recently. Now, I want to look more closely at how this London Big Thing looked, when it first arrived on the scene:

I’m sure there are plenty of references to God and how he should bless and receive into heaven, or wherever, all the people who perished in the Great Fire of London, at the base of the Monument.

Nevertheless, I wonder if The Monument was actually some sort of turning point for London architecture, in the sense that it is very tall, but not a place of worship. The Monument, from the moment it was built, was what is nowadays called a “visitor attraction”. It works by allowing people to climb up a big staircase inside to a viewing platform at the top, from which anyone who cared to make this effort could then gaze down upon London, and its many churches. No worshipping involved, unless you want it to be.

Until the Monument, I’m guessing that the last place of non-worship to dominate the London skyline so forcefully was the Tower of London.

The Monument must have caused quite a stir when it first appeared. Did some people then think it was an eyesore? (A major function of blogging, for me, is that it records questions. That’s one I don’t want to forget.)

And if the Monument was thought of by some to be an eyesore, did this make it easier for people later to argue for taller – also secular – buildings in its vicinity, the aesthetic and spiritual damage already having been done? Like the Guy’s Hospital Shard story, only this time for the entire City of London.

To bring the story up to date, here’s a photo I photoed a while back of The Monument and its immediate surroundings, from the top of the Walkie Talkie:

The Monument and St Magnus are still a bit taller than their immediate surroundings, which are nevertheless pretty bulky. But as for the Walkie Talkie, and the other Big Things beyond, it’s definitely a case of The Monument being dwarfed by modernity.

Here’s another photo of The Monument, this time from the Top of the Tate Modern Extension:

Again, dwarfed by modernity.

Walkie Talkie on the left there, behind the red crane. And since we have a crane there, here’s a roof clutter photo, also feature the top of the Monument:

Photoed from the other side of the River also. Don’t get me wrong, I love this kind of alignment/juxtaposition, as regulars here will know. But, that’s how little the view of the Monument from any sort of distance now matters to London’s aesthetic overlords.

AAArt

I like photos that look like abstract art but which are really of something real.

To quote myself (underneath the August photo there, of London Bridge station seen from above):

I tend not to admire Modern Art. It takes itself far too seriously for my liking. But I love it when real stuff resembles Modern Art. Explain that to me, somebody?

Still working out the answer to that one.

So anyway, it would appear that these guys, agree with me. They call themselves AAA (they arrange the AAAs more aaartfully than this), which stands for Abstract Aerial Art.

Quote (from this):

Taken from a top-down perspective, every aerial photograph we take is of a real place on our planet. We like to compose our images as artworks rather than traditional photographs. Other than slight colour and contrast enhancements none of our images are manipulated in any way. As we always say, “the point is not to work out what it is, but to show how weird and wonderful the world can look from above”.

Actually, not quite my attitude. I like explanations, locations, etc. But, I still like these images.

Here are a dozen (I picked four, then nine, then twelve) that I especially liked:

Here’s the equipment the AAA guys use. Drones. Calling 6k. (The link at the top of this posting is to an earlier posting I did re another of 6k’s drone-photos.)

The new Google building in King’s Cross is taking shape

And the shape is the big green thing that someone has stuck in the middle of this photo …:

… which I found here. More about this building-to-be here.

On the right, King’s Cross railway station. On the left, St Pancras railway station, which is where the Eurostar trains go to and come from. It’s a pretty well connected sort of place. And proof that physical connection remains important, in the world of virtual connection that Google does so much to route us all about in.

A while back I was in and around all this with a friend, and just before I photoed these photos, I photoed these photos:

There’s something very appealing to me about the big concrete towers that signal a big new project like this one, towers ministered to by cranes, cranes which on sunny days often leave shadows on the towers. In a few months, all will be completely different. No sooner are these towers built than they are smothered in something else, after which some degree of permanence will return.

And whereas those earlier towers and cranes I linked to were for Brand X unaffordable apartments, the above towers are being built for one of the great economic and political facts of our time.

Three terrible photos of something interesting

Which is better? Three great photos of something rather boring? Or three terrible photos of something rather not boring? There are arguments for both, but here are three photos that fall firmly into the latter category. Well, they do if you agree with me that what is shown in them is interesting:

I photoed the above three photos while on a recent expedition to my local laundrette. I was in a hurry to get my camera operating, having been concentrating on my laundretting and surprised by what I saw through the front window of the laundrette, hence the terribleness of the photos:

It’s a lady, rollerblading along the road. And in the first photo I photoed of her, I didn’t even manage to include her rollerblades. But, in its inept way, that photo makes the point. If you only knew of this lady that she looked and dressed like that, would you expect her to be rollerblading? I guess the headphones are a clue. But otherwise? I wouldn’t.

In the first photo, as I say, no rollerblades to be seen. And in the second and third photos, she’s way off to the right of the picture. In the third, she’s even behind a street pole., which is, I think, some sort of sign. But, the point is made. A lady who looks like that is … rollerblading. And I can further report that she was doing it with practised assurance. For her, this is a routine. It’s how she gets around. To and from work, would be my guess.

There’s a lot of media frenzy about robot cars. Meanwhile, quietly, with no fuss, and with none of the eye-watering investment by big businesses betting their futures on their particular robot car, people are quietly attaching wheels to themselves, thereby making use of all that space in cities that is being cleared for bikers to bike around in cities, and in general to assume the rights and privileges of bikers, on regular roads, like this rollerblading lady. And it makes sense. Why buy a huge metal box with wheels on it, if you can have the wheels on your feet, in the form of a little skateboard with wheels, or a skateboard with wheels and a sticking up steering system, or just wheels, like this lady? What started as a childhood sport is mutating into a regular means of transport.

Well, I think this is really interesting. The only reason I don’t have many more photos here of people doing this kind of thing is that most of what I photo is stationary, or at the worst very slow moving and quite easy to see coming, so not a surprise. These mobile pedestrians are often gone before I see them, not least because I seldom hear them coming.

LATER: Sometimes I see the rollerblader coming and the photo comes out rather well.

Michael McIntyre speaks for me

And for many others, I’m very sure:

I found this here.

I am Old, but I have made enough friends among the Young for me to be able to twist Young arms and mostly get them to do all this for me. The other day a Young Person agreed to get a copy of this CD for me. (I only buy CD’s on line from Amazon, and this CD is not on Amazon.) If I had tried to buy this CD, I would probably have spent longer failing to accomplish this than I will take listening successfully to the CD.

One of the things I like about living in London is that if I want to buy tickets for something, I can go there beforehand, and buy them, the twentieth century way.

Increasingly, I find that trying to visit any “visitor attraction” is starting to resemble trying to get on an airplane. And as McIntyre explains, booking beforehand on your computer is just as bad.

A good bit, concerning those never-read “terms and conditions”:

I’m slightly worried that in five years time iTunes are going to show up at my door and say: “We own this house now.”

And don’t get me started on passwords. Just watch him speaking (for me) about passwords.

I don’t know why there are big black bits above and below Michael McIntyre. If anyone can suggest a way to get rid of these that I am capable of doing, I would be most grateful.

Stephen Davies on Ruling Classes and Industrious Classes

Stephen Davies is my sort of libertarian historian in many ways, and in particular in not denying the historic importance of the predator class in times gone by. It is one thing to regret the enormous power held by predators, and the comparative powerlessness of producers – the power of the taxers and the impotence of the taxed – but it is quite another to assert that the powerful predators were not in fact the people who made the historically significant decisions and that the impotent producers were actually very powerful. Libertarianism is the claim that the predators should lose their power, not that they have already lost it, or worse, never, historically, had it.

At the heart of Davies’s book The Wealth Explosion is the claim that the wealth explosion only happened because of a rather anomalous glitch in the typical behaviour of the predator class, which took the form of a non-united Europe. Normal predator behaviour throughout the rest of Eurasia meant that the wealth explosion was only able to happen in Europe.

Here (pp. 11-12) is some of what Davies says about this distinction:

There was a basic social division found in all societies after the advent of agriculture. This was between those who produced wealth by production or exchange on the one hand and those who acquired it through the use of force or fraud on the other. The first category included peasant farmers (the great majority) as well as artisans, merchants, and traders of all kinds. The second category were those who controlled not the means of production but what we may call the means of predation – organised force or systematic mystification in other words. These were the ruling classes of society such as aristocrats and clergy. The second group often did come to control and own great wealth and much productive resources, such as land for example, but this was a consequence of their privileged position rather than the cause of it. That position derived in the first instance from their greater access to the means of violence. They were not however simply parasitical because, partly for their own advantage, they came to provide what economists call ‘public goods’ such as defence against other human predators (bandits, criminals, or members of other tribes and political communities), or a means of settling disputes peacefully (so a legal system).

These ruling groups were the primary subjects of historical accounts until very recently. There is a good reason for this, quite apart from the practical point that most of the surviving sources are concerned with them, which is that they were the primary active force in human history. It was rulers and elites who had the power to actually make things happen. They were the ones with agency in other words. In addition, as Peter Laslett famously argued, they were the only social class in society with true class-consciousness, a self-conscious awareness of their own group interest. (Laslett, 2015) This and their nature meant that their relation to innovation and activities that actually changed the world in a positive way was ambivalent. On the one hand, to the extent that innovation led to actual growth in productivity, that meant more resources for them to extract from the productive part of society. On the other hand if it went on for a long enough time it would tend to weaken their position and increase the capacity of other social groups for effective action. Another aspect of the ruling classes historical role was the way that successful groups tended to expand the area of the planet that they controlled and so create an empire. Empires produced internal peace and so although they were created using (often) savage violence, once established they brought social peace to a large part of the planet’s surface. However this also meant an even stronger incentive for the successful group to keep things the same.

And mostly, except in Europe, this is what happened.

Find your way to more bits from this book by going here.

Tattoos should actually make your more employable …

Like:

Tattoos should actually make you more employable because it shows you can sit in place for hours while tiny needles are jammed into your skin and that’s what every corporate meeting I’ve ever been in has felt like.

I’ve long believed that the horrors of capitalism of our time are not physical – long hours, dirty and dangerous work places, etc. Rather are these horrors now mostly mental tortures – in the form of corporate team-building, training courses, the grating euphemisms and the preposterously grandiose language used to describe doing the job, and the like. And … meetings.

Bike with no chain

This bit of video, courtesy The Independent, impresses me greatly. It’s a new design for a bike, but a bike which doesn’t use a chain:

The bike instead uses a shaft-drive system to transmit power from the pedals to the wheel. … Manufacturers claim it makes power transfer more efficient.

I’m guessing that, if that’s true, this is made possible by new materials, and in particular by plastic that is both very light and very strong.

I particularly like how they include a multi-speed gear, just by having a cog-wheel that shifts along the shaft.

It will be interesting to see if this really is an improvement which catches on, or is merely an internet-friendly idea that turns out, for various simple or complicated reasons, not to be any use.

Says the first (cynical) commenter: it’s not new, and …:

Everything works in a lab.

We’ll see.