Mariah says to eat crisps for Christmas

A feature, by which I mean a bug, of Growing old is that all the heartfelt love songs of earlier times are now recycled by their original performers to sell sofas, deodorants, food, etc..

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey is one of my most favourite pop songs, long before sophisticates came around to realising how good it was. (Same with Abba. I loved them from the moment they won Eurovision, before even the Gays noticed them. With the greatest pop songs of a certain vintage, the rule was: Me, Gays, Girls, The Public.)

But now, it turns out that all Mariah Carey really wants for Christmas is …:

… a packet of potato crisps.

Personally I like potato crisps, hence my possession of this crisp packet. But, I despise almost all crisp advertising. What crisp advertising ought to say is: Yes, our crisps are probably bad for you if you scoff too many of them, but they taste terrific, even the plane old salt-flavoured ones. But oh no. Instead, they bribe celebs whose successes in life have been based on not scoffing crisps or similar products, to tell the rest of us to do this, by pretending that they do too, and thereby to imply that crisps are good for you. The more you scoff them, the thinner you’ll be and the better you’ll be at football, and you’ll be athletic enough to win an Olympic medal.

The thing is, though, that Mariah Carey has had serious difficulty staying slim, and she might actually be telling the truth, in now claiming to prefer crisps to the sort of boyfriend she could have when she was young and effortlessly slim and when the world was at her feet.

Modelled and graphic after-echoes of the Helter Skelter

In August I wrote here about the Helter Skelter that never was, in a posting that featured how it looked when they started (as they then thought) to build it. Well, in the course of rootling through the archives looking for a very different image, I came across several graphic after-echoes of this building. Even though it never got built, this non-building quickly achieved “iconic” status.

Here was the original idea (with apologies for all those hard-to-avoid patches of shininess), which I photoed at the Building Centre, which is in Store Street just off Tottenham Court Rd, in 2010:

Note how they were then unsure about whether to call this Big Thing the “Bishopsgate Tower” or “The Pinnacle”.

And, at the bottom of the verbiage on the right there, it says:

Status: Due for completion in 2011

But I photoed my photos of the early stages of “The Pinnacle” in November 2012. By then, London had decided that this Big Thing wasn’t going to be “The Pinnacle”, but rather the Helter Skelter, which is what it remains today, despite never actually having been built.

Soon after then, building ceased, and they started wondering what they could manage to do on that site, preferably without destroying those early Pinnacle stumps.

Nevertheless, in the big ongoingly updated model of London that they also have at the Building Centre, I took this photo of the City Big Things bit of the Model, in the summer of 2013. The Helter Skelter was by then known to be doomed, but it had yet to be removed from the Model …:

… , mainly, I guess, because they then had no clear idea what was going to go there instead.

The Helter Skelter is now long gone from this Model, because eventually they did decide what to put there instead. Now an even Bigger Thing is very nearly finished:

The Biggest Thing in that photo, photoed by me from Tower Bridge, and which also includes another photoer, is now called “22 Bishopsgate”, what with it being such a Lump that it doesn’t deserve a proper London name. But I am sure some suitably insulting moniker will be agreed upon by London for this Lump in due course, perhaps involving the word Lump.

Meanwhile, the Helter Skelter lives on, still, in 2019.

Here is a photo I took in Bermondsey this summer, advertising beer:

There’s the Helter Skelter, right in the middle, between the Gherkin and the Wheel.

And here is another even better relic of the Helter Skelter. This shop window graphic is a walk away from where I live, in Vauxhall Bridge Road. I keep expecting this graphic to be altered, but every time I go by this enterprise, there it still is, and there it remains, unless it has been updated during the last day or two:

Again, the Helter Skelter, between the BT Tower and the Shard.

How long will these relics last? I will certainly be keeping an eye on that last one, because I go past it every time I go shopping for food.

Bad Bach

Here are two enticing paragraphs from a book which is coming out next month, entitled Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia:

I’ve talked to people who feel they know Bach very well, but they aren’t aware of the time he was imprisoned for a month. They never learned about Bach pulling a knife on a fellow musician during a street fight. They never heard about his drinking exploits — on one two-week trip he billed the church eighteen groschen for beer, enough to purchase eight gallons of it at retail prices — or that his contract with the Duke of Saxony included a provision for tax-free beer from the castle brewery; or that he was accused of consorting with an unknown, unmarried woman in the organ loft; or had a reputation for ignoring assigned duties without explanation or apology. They don’t know about Bach’s sex life: at best a matter of speculation, but what should we conclude from his twenty known children, more than any significant composer in history (a procreative career that has led some to joke with a knowing wink that “Bach’s organ had no stops”), or his second marriage to twenty-year-old singer Anna Magdalena Wilcke, when he was in his late thirties? They don’t know about the constant disciplinary problems Bach caused, or his insolence to students, or the many other ways he found to flout authority. This is the Bach branded as “incorrigible” by the councilors in Leipzig, who grimly documented offense after offense committed by their stubborn and irascible employee.

I sort of knew a lot of this, but didn’t quite put the slant on it that Gioia does. I had Bach as a Great Composer being tormented by dreary apparatchiks who didn’t get what a Great Composer he was. But Gioia has Bach as the kind of Great Composer who would have driven anybody crazy, and only people who did semi-grasp what an actual great composer he was would have put up with it for as long as those Leipzigers did.

Gioia continues:

But you hardly need to study these incidents in Bach’s life to gauge his subversive tendencies. Just listen to his music, which in its ostentatious display of technique and inventiveness must have disturbed many in the austere Lutheran community, and even fellow musicians. Not much music criticism of his performances has survived, but the few surviving reactions of his contemporaries leave no doubt about Bach’s disdain for the rules others played by. We hear a complaint about him improvising for too long during church services. We read an angry denunciation from fellow composer Johann Adolphe Scheibe about Bach’s “bombastic” and “confused” music-making. Bach even was forced to provide a memorandum to the city council in 1730 explaining why it was necessary to embrace “the present musical taste, master the new kinds of music.” Here he insists that “the former style of music no longer seems to please our ears,” and demands the freedom to follow the most progressive trends of his day. But perhaps the most revealing commentary comes from Scheibe’s diatribe, where he complains that Bach’s music was “darkened by an excess of art” and marred by an “unending mass of metaphors and figures.” In other words, the very signs of Bach’s greatness for later generations were the same elements that made him suspect during his own times.

This makes a lot of sense to me. There has always seemed to me something of the Gothic about Bach, a distinct whiff of Count Dracula, especially when he sits down at the organ. But I don’t now listen to much Bach organ music because the usual way it’s now played always sounds so bloody prim and proper.

The best way to tune into this side of Bach is to listen to him “arranged” for piano, by some self-important nineteenth century piano virtuoso, and played by a similarly egotistical and ostentatious (to use the word Gioia applies to Bach) pianist now, preferably a Russian, of the sort who comes third in piano competitions rather than first because, although he can clearly play the socks off everyone else, he makes the jury too uncomfortable with his crazy histrionics and his indifference to the usual way that classical piano pieces are supposed to be played. That sort of grandiose and attention-grabbing playing, it seems to me, often captures Bach in a way that better mannered performances miss. To put it another way, I have long suspected that “authentic” Bach is often the very opposite of what Bach was really like, and what Bach would have really liked.

Read more at where I copied-and-pasted the above two paragraphs from, here.

See also this Guardian piece, reporting Bach research by John Eliot Gardiner, that Gioia draws upon.

Short quote:

Archival sources, including school inspector reports, reveal that Bach’s education was troubled by gang warfare and bullying, sadism and sodomy – as well as his own extensive truancy.

This was published six years ago. Again, I sort of remember this, but I didn’t really take it in.

I love the internet.

Food photoing

GodDaughter2 works in a famed ice cream emporium. (They call it “gelato”.) When I met up with her there recently, I photoed a customer photoing her ice cream. For some reason she wanted an autumnal background, which was supplied by an autumnal plant, in a pot, right next to where the rest of us were eating:

As the above photo illustrates, when food is being photoed, others are usually doing the photoing of it, and I am photoing them.

But this evening, in (the?) Zeret Kitchen, which is the other side of the Oval from me, it was me doing the photoing, of my pudding. The light was a bit dim, but I and my Lumix FZ330 did what we could:

Very tasty. And also very visual, which is why I photoed it. People in places like this Zeret Kitchen prepare food to look good as well as to taste good, and I liked the look of this pudding, as well as how it later tasted. So: photo.

This was Boys Curry Night, and two of fellow curriers photoed me as I photoed the pudding. So it’s possible that there may be a bit below this, starting with “LATER”, and featuring another photo.

Tasting the sunshine out east last August

Yes, last summer I went on several exeditions to such places as the Dome, and beyond. Here is a clutch of photos I photoed in the beyond category. On August 11th, I journeyed to the Dome, then took the Dangleway across the River to the Victoria Docks, and walked along the north side of them, ending my wanderings at the City Airport DLR station:

There are two of these favourite sculptures to be seen, in Photo 7 and Photo 11.

There are 35 photos in all. I think maybe my favourite is 33, which includes an advert that says: “OH REALLY?” I like that, for some reason.

Photo 27 has a sign, on the side of the Tate & Lyle factory, saying “TASTE THE SUNSHINE”. It was a very sunny day. I count three that include shadow selfies (23, 24, 31).

It is so much easier doing this kind of thing than it was at The Old Blog. (My thanks yet again to Michael J, who did this new blog for me.)

Low level roof clutter on the House of Fraser

Presumably, many readers of this blog regard my fascination with roof clutter as a mere eccentricity, perhaps a consequence of me getting old. But, I believe that there is more to it than that. I mean, for starters, there is just, in a place like London, so much of it.

One matter illuminated by observing roof clutter is that one is thereby observing which parts of a city are, so to speak, part of the public performance, of the stage scenery as seen by the audience; and which parts are the mere behind-the-scenes clutter by means of which the appropriate public appearances are created, and by means of which the merely mechanical purposes of the buildings are kept going. And one of the things about this division is that it keeps needing to be changed, to incorporate the new ways people look at their city. They start looking down on it, from tall new buildings, for instance. Which causes all sorts of aesthetic oddities to be experienced. Like observing a vast see of roof clutter of a kind never originally intended to be observed at all.

This roof clutter photo strikes me as especially striking:

Yesterday I attempted to visit the roof garden of John Lewis, as resolved during the previous posting. But it turned out this roof garden is shut for the next three weeks. I only got as far as the floor beneath the roof garden. And it is amazing what a difference that small difference in height makes to what you can see. It’s the difference between dreariness and all manner of distantly visible excitements. Also, when I got to this not-quite-top, the weather was pretty dreary, so I didn’t stay long. But I did photo the photo above.

How come this particular stretch of roof clutter is so near to the ground? Why has’t it been tidied up. Why hasn’t it been arranged, prettified? Why hasn’t it been “designed”?

The reason is that in the normal course of things, nobody would ever look down on it.

This is because department stores are typically not places where you are supposed to be looking outwards, through the windows of the store. You are there to look inwards, at the produce on display, and to buy some of it.

Look at the department store windows in the above photo, the ones above the roof clutter. They aren’t real windows! They may have glass and everything, but they aren’t there to be looked out through. They are there to disguise the brute fact that a department store is a big box, with walls you aren’t supposed to be looking through instead of spending money.

And that part of Oxford Street is all department stores. So, when it comes to the roof clutter in the photo, nobody’s looking. This stuff is invisible. The only people looking at the facade of the House of Fraser are at ground level, and even they aren’t really looking. For them, a pavement is mostly a machine for walking along and a department store is a mostly machine for shopping in. What mostly matters to them about the House of Fraser is all the signs saying “House of Fraser” because that tells them what sort of stuff is inside.

There is also, of course, a decidedly backstage atmosphere to this entire little street.

Here’s what happens to a roof which, for some of the time at least, is often looked down upon, out of office windows for instance. Offices have real windows (and it occurs to me that one reason for the fake windows in the wall of the House of Fraser might be if they want to turn a bit of the store into an office, or maybe even convert the entire thing into an office (but I digress)):

I was only able to photo these photos because of the rather recent (?) habit of turning the tops of department stores, and office blocks for that matter, into observation decks, where food and drink can be sold and where the city, publicly impressive or merely cluttered, can be observed from above.

Photoers in 2003

All the photos below were taken some time during 2003. I don’t know the exact date, because either my then camera couldn’t remember such things, or I didn’t tell it to remember this particular thing. Probably the latter. (Yes, the latter. Other photos taken later with the same camera do have dates attached.)

Photoers, of course, in and around Westminster – the Abbey, Parliament Square, the Bridge:

All those clunky old cameras, with their tiny screens. And vast and elaborate video cameras. There’s even one (photo 9) where the camera bit does the twiddling, and the screen is part of the main body of the camera, where all the sums are done, an idea that came but then went.

Not a mobile phone to be seen.

Categories for this include “Food and drink” and “Signs and notices”, because pancakes, and signs about pancakes, are involved (photos 6 and 7).

You can already see me worrying about not showing faces, often by letting the camera block out the photoer’s face (photos 4, 7, 10, 12), or just by photoing the photoer from behind (photos 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9).

My clunky old camera with a tiny screen was a Canon A70. Which I still remember with pleasure even though the screen didn’t twiddle.

LATER: I realise that I have labelled all these photoers “PhotoersApril2004”, but this was before I realised that (because of other photos in the same batch of directories) they had to be earlier than that. Whatev, as the young folks say nowadays. (Good word that, I think.)