Public ancientism and private modernism in Highgate

One of the themes I believe I have encountered in the course of my architecture-spotting is the one I’ve been calling The Triumph of Modernism Indoors. These photos, taken from a piece about a house conversion that’s just been done in Highgate, illustrate that this may not be quite the right distinction.

Here’s a piece of classic ancientist victory, in the form of a deceptively normal looking house in Highgate. It’s had a total makeover, but you wouldn’t know this just looking at it from the street outside:

Indoors, however, modernism reigns supreme:

However, modernism has also made its presence felt out of doors, round the back, in the garden, which passers-by do not see:

The continuing dominance (not total victory by any means) of ancientism has been in “public” rather that “outdoors”, and the triumph of modernism has been in “private” rather than merely indoors. The point being that the outdoor triumphs of modernism are tending particularly to happen also in the private bits of outdoors.

What’s going on here is that the “private citizen” wants modernism in those bits of his place that he totally controls, because modernism makes more sense, and is cheaper and quicker to do. But, “public citizens” don’t care for the way modernism looks, especially if it replaces ancientism in the public realm. So the public bits of a building, if they are now ancientism, cannot be smashed to bits and replaced by modernism, if preserved ancientism is an option, as it was for this ancientist Highgate home. But if the private citizen himself positively likes the public appearance of modernism, he can do modernism outdoors also, provided he only does it in the private bits of outdoors, the bits that he experiences but which passers-by do not.

Everything will hinge on whether an ancientist house with a modernist extension out the back in the garden will sell for the same silly money as a house with no modernist stuff outdoors in the garden.

I’m guessing it will so sell, provide only that the extension does the job without silly things like a leaking roof.

I am zeroing in on another over-arching fact about “private householders”. They’d like a house that looks publicly nice, but when economic push comes to economic shove, what matters is whether their newly acquired house works properly, without having to be expensively mended. For all their aesthetic tastes. their aesthetic tastes don’t actually matter, or rather, don’t matter enough to have real world consequences. What does matter is that their machine for living in should tick over correctly, the way a properly functioning machine should.

This increasingly “private” blogging that I’ve been doing for about the last fifteen years is really starting to achieve things for me.

CultuRRal AppRRopRRiation

Photoed by me on Wednesday, in the South Ken area:

This is not what Rolls Royces looked like when I was a kid, but it is a Rolls Royce nevertheless. It comes of being owned by Germans, as the formerly so very British RR, the car bit, is these days. Personally I think the latest lot of Rolls Royces look as good as Rolls Royces have ever looked, in their oligarchical and rather scary way. They exude a definite air of New Money which is quite ready to shoot you to keep hold of itself, the way the old British Rolls Royces never did. But although RRs give off a different atmosphere now, at least it’s an atmosphere. Bland they are not.

The above vehicle combines being a Rolls Royce with being a Chelsea Tractor. So, a Chelsea TRRactoRR.

Shop window creatures

In the same shop that I found this bloke in a tiger jacket, I also encountered these smaller creatures:

I could go all ironic and have a big old sneer at these little trinkets, but the truth is I entirely get it. Cute animals are … cute. I don’t buy things like this, if only because I have nowhere I could put them, and because I hate dusting. But I love to photo such things.

I am also fond of saying, on account of it being true, that we hate architectural styles that we feel threatened by, but later often fall in love with those same styles once they are in retreat.

Something very similar applies to animals. For most of human history, animals have been threats as well as sources of food, if only because they demanded scarce time and effort to be caught or killed, and scarce resources for them to be looked after. You no more loved most animals than you loved mountains (mountains being a similar story). But now? Well, put it this way. At present animals are still hunted a bit, and still imprisoned and then eaten a lot, but it won’t be that long before a majority of the animals on earth are our pets.

Two black cabs that are not black and sixteen black cabs that are black

On my walkabout yesterday morning, I did encounter a couple of taxis with adverts, or black cabs as they are somewhat confusingly known. The point being, they are frequently not black at all:

Adverts advertising a way to speed up your tax process still make a lot of sense.

As do adverts about what to do with your savings:

But that still leaves a lot of taxi adverts that do not now make – or have not recently been making – much sense at all, on account of so many forms of spending having been put on hold, and on account of there being far fewer people wandering around and inclined to look at such adverts and act on their instructions.

With the following result. Here is a photo I photoed moments before that taxi with the savings advert, of a line of taxis outside Victoria Station, …:

… with no adverts on any of them.

Sixteen taxis, I make it. About that number. What are the chances of that happening in normal times? Here is yet another business that has been suffering during Lockdown. When last I looked, cabbies got about a tenner a day for their adverts. So, just when a lot of them could really have used that little wage top-up, they’ve had to go without it.

These were black cabs that really were that. Apart from the dark grey one nearest to us.

This is not the first time that I have noticed the phenomenon of the truly black Lockdown black cab, but this has been my most striking such observation.

I have believed, for some time now, that Lockdown will in due course be retro-damned as a cure worse than the disease, that at the very least went on for far too long. A generation of “experts”, all gripped by the fallacy of the risk free alternative, are going to be proved as having been very inexpert indeed. What is ending Covid is herd immunity. And what does Lockdown do? Lockdown slows down the arrival of herd immunity and prolongs the agony, in a feedback loop of yet more Lockdown. Will it ever end? I’ll believe the end of Lockdown when I see it and when the idea of re-imposing Lockdown is no longer talked about. Such are my prejudices just now.

Also, too many people now like it.

I wonder if I’ll want to saying I Told You So in a year’s time. We shall see.

An unnatural looking tree near the Marsden

This morning I was at the Marsden, getting my second Covid jab, and the time after I left was the best weather for photoing of the day, by which I mean the sunniest. I photoed over a hundred photos, which is not something I have recently done. Not since February, during that little warm spell we had, I think.

However, this was not a real old-school photo-walk like I used to do, like the one remembered in the previous posting. All I did was walk from the Marsden to South Kensington tube, photoing whatever took my fancy, but basically going back home, via Sainsbury’s where I did some shopping. So, I’m still not the photoer I was, and I rather suspect that I never will be again. I’ll still do photoing, but only while basically engaged in doing other things that matter more to me, like not dying immediately of lung cancer, and meeting up with friends and family.

I will probably be showing other photos I photoed this morning, but for now, consider this photo:

It’s those branches doing right angle turns, right in the middle there, that really got my attention.

The more I look at the trees of London, the more artificial they seem to me to be, the more they look like the products of human design and the less they seem like the “natural” products of their mere DNA. Most London trees, of which the above tree (the other side of the Fulham Road from the Marsden) is a particularly striking example, are no more “natural” than the dogs that you see on television prancing about in competitions.

I seem to be becoming a treespotter.

Tiger jacket with reflected bulding

What’s going on in this photo is that I was recently standing on a pavement in the South Kensington area, photoing a fake person who is wearing a real jacket with a tiger’s face on the back of it, but it’s a bit hard to make out the tiger’s face because some buildings across the road, very well lit by the bright sunshine that day are simultaneously being reflected by the window that separates me from the fake man and his tiger jacker:

I really like this photo. It resembles this earlier effort in being a puzzle caused by the reflection in a shop window colliding with what is behind the shop window and in the shop itself. But unlike that earlier photo, this one is a puzzle that is soluble, and one that I can fully explain.

As I have earlier said, I think that one of the features of architectural modernity is that there is now lots of shininess, and consequently lots of reflection going on. Modernity didn’t start out so shiny, because there was lots of concrete and brickwork to start with, and glass was a lot less marvellous then than it is now. But now, architectural modernity has got very shiny indeed. So, scenes like that shown in my photo above are not mere accidents. They capture something basic about the visual experience of living in a modern city. Such images are or a thing that we constantly see, and perhaps even a thing that you constantly notice. I don’t think it’s just me, in fact I know it isn’t.

In the bottom right hand corner of the photo above, part of a parked vehicle is to be observed. Modern vehicles being another characteristic source of modernistic shininess.

Dutch Quality Flowers lorry with antique locomotive

This afternoon, while I was on my way yet again to the Royal Marsden to score my next month’s supply of Osimertinib, a huge lorry drove past me along the Fulham Road, with a painting of a steam locomotive on the side of it:

I display all of these three hastily grabbed and decidedly mediocre photos simply to make it clear that this was indeed a lorry, as well as a picture of a locomotive.

Later, I found myself musing on how the ubiquity of digital photography and of the social media must have transformed advertising. Just as graffiti has become more individual and elaborate, in the age of digital photoing, so too has advertising.

Because, if you can persuade a decent proportion of the digital photoers you drive past to photo their photos, of your unique lorry with its unique and as likely as not hand-done painting on the side, and then get the photoers to stick their photos up on the www, there’s every chance you can save a ton of money on the distribution of your advertising message. Throw in that any word can be searched for on that same www, and you don’t need to bother with big lettering, the way you used to have to to get your message spread around, and you can concentrate on making the image look as great as you can contrive. Use little letters and let the photoers look it up and link to your website and generally spread your word for you. All you need is a sufficiently striking and appealing image, to grab all that attention.

So, by way of emphasising my point, here is the DQF Flower Shuttle website. Go there, and learn that there is a whole fleet of flower delivery lorries, each one flaunting this or that elaborately artistic type picture of an antique form of transport, most of them ships, but one being of another locomotive. I assume that all of these lorries are each of them adorned with unique images, and I further assume that photos of these images are all over the social media. Judging by what happens when you do this, my assumptions are right. Although, I can find no photos of the particular photo I photoed of a DQF lorry this afternoon. This must be a rather new image.

How the 1440 bit of Berlin looks now

Incoming from Michael Jennings:

Someone has helpfully provided a photo of the same section of Berlin …

I.e. (see the top of this posting) this section:

This being how this same section looks today:

Many thanks Michael. Michael knows everything about everywhere. But you have to express prior interest in the subject, as I did, which is a good system. If he told you everything about everywhere, all the time, just because he can, that might be a problem. But if he knows the subject interests you, he’s a mine of information. (Some of my best Last Friday of the Month meetings were addressed by him.)

It took me a while to find this place on the Google map of Berlin, but I did find it eventually:

The breakthrough came when, instead of looking only for water, I started looking for lots of bridges.

Like I say, when water does complicated and convoluted things, expect human habitation to be concentrated in that area.

That’s three times I’ve shown that Berlin in 1440 map here. What can I tell you? I like it.

So what does this Real AI do to the network?

Here’s the latest Taxi-with-advert photo I photoed, not far from a favourite taxi spot even during Lockdown, Victoria Station:

Whereas yesterday, the posting was about a big gadget that merely happened to have words on it, this is an advert that consists only of words. “Juniper. real networks. Real AI. Real results.” Even I know that the Internet will tell me more, if I only ask it. “.

So I went to the Juniper website, and watched and listened to two minutes and more of Juniper Supremo Rami Rahim, talking about an AI driven network, or something. But I am afraid I am not much the wiser. To summarise my question simply: What is he talking about? I know that AI stands for artificial intelligence, but how does this artificial intelligence apply itself to the network? Does it run the network? Thereby saving humans the bother? Does it run the network in a way that is more efficient than it could ever be in humans ran it? Or is the AI doing something entirely different? Or, is Rami Rahim just talking about a somewhat fancy computer programme, that runs the network, which isn’t really AI at all? I’m genuinely eager to learn more.

All of which illustrates a more general point about Lockdown, which is that during it, anyone in the computerised communications business is liable to be doing rather well, and to be eager to advertise, unlike, say, restaurants.

I spent today postponing but mostly organising my death

I have spent my day doing two important things.

First, and this only took a moment, I swallowed an Osimertinib pill. I take one of these pills every day. How hard is that? Harder than you might suppose, at my advanced age with its accompanying loss of short term memory. Several times during the last month or two, I have taken one of these pills, or not, and then moments later not known whether I had taken it, or not.

Hence this contraption, which my Senior Designated Friend gave me quite a while ago. This was when the pill problem was that there were lots of them, but none of them were that important:

I don’t need that, I said. Turns out I do. Now that the problem is just the one pill, but a vitally important one upon which my continuing ability to function now seems entirely to depend, I need to be sure that I have taken one, and only one, of these miraculous little things.

And the other thing I did today, which took pretty much the whole day and which also consumed most of yesterday, was to do that other thing that people who have received a death sentence from the medical profession do, besides take pills. I refer to the process known as “putting my affairs in order”.

The most impressive result of this process so far has been a load of rubbish:

I have been trying to sort my many accumulated bits of paper into more logical piles than they had been arranged in. Happily, the biggest such pile is that one in the above photo, which is the one I’ll be chucking into the recycling bins out in front of my front door, tomorrow.

So, a day spent (1) postponing my death, and (2) trying to make my death more organised.

By the way, I do recommend following the Osimertinib link above, and then feasting your eyes on the list of “Other drugs in the class protein kinase inhibitors”, on the right. It is quite a list, I think you will agree. If any of these are anywhere near as clever as the Osimertinib that I’m taking, then it’s an even more impressive list than it looks.