How the old version of New Scotland Yard used to look before they knocked it down

In that posting I did yesterday, it would have made sense to have included also a photo of how the old New Scotland Yard building used to look, given that I showed photos of how the place where it stood looked after it had been demolished and what is now there instead.

So, here is that old New Scotland Yard building, viewed from the roof of my block of flats, in 2016:

Not an especially distinguished building. Just a Brand-X Modernist box. I was fond of it because of its gloriously exuberant roof clutter, in such delightful contrast to its austere and repetitious facades. (The red spike in the foreground is the red spike on the top of the Headquarters of Channel 4 Television.)

Here is an earlier photo I photoed back in 2010 of this same building, from, of all out-of-the-way spots, the platform of South Bermondsey Railway Station, which is a substantial train ride away from my home off to the far side of London:

Yes, there it is, between the “other” Parliament Tower, the one with four spikes rather than just the one (plus a clock), and the Big Thing at the Elephant and Castle with the three holes in the top (seen sideways on).

Don’t believe me? Zoom zoom, crop crop:

That’s definitely it, I think you’ll agree. I didn’t realise I even had this photo until quite recently. I love these accidents of visibility, involving London’s Big or in this case not so big Things. It is a constant delight to me when out and about just what you can see, from just where.

Presumably you can now see the new Towers that they have built there instead, from that same South Bermondsey platform. Memo to self: Go back there and check that out.

Joe Rogan talks with Daryl Davis about how Davis converted lots of white racists

Just finished watching/listening to this Joe Rogan talk with Daryl Davis, about how Davis has been converting white racists into upstanding American citizens. Davis says he doesn’t himself convert anybody. They convert themselves. In this respect he is like those teachers who say “I’m not a teacher – I just get them to learn for themselves.” Those teachers are teachers, and Davis is a converter. He talks with white racists, and then, hey presto they convert themselves. Some, not all of them course.

Two hours and forty minutes very well spent. Never heard of Daryl Davis until today (thank you Twitter). Used to be a full time musician. Got into the racism conversion business when a KKK guy complimented him on his piano playing, at one of his gigs. “Never heard a black guy pay piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.” But Lewis got his piano style from earlier black pianists, just like I did, said Davis. “No.” Yes. And thanks to Davis being a personable and curious guy, they just kept on talking. “Why do you hate me, when you don’t even know me?” That was his starting question to all these characters.

Daryl Davis wrote a memoir about how he did all this converting of white racists, and while listening to him talk, I of course whistled this book up on Amazon. Apparently, I can buy myself a copy of Klandestine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Klu Klux Klan for the giveaway price of (as I now write (subject to change)), £397.50, in hardback. But the good news is that Davis is now working on a revised edition, with more stories along similar lines that happened since he first wrote this book two decades ago. So if, like me, you now want a copy, but if, not like me, you think you’ll have to pay nearly four hundred quid for a copy or go permanently without, well, be patient and stay tuned.

How we got another look at 55 Broadway

I literally only photoed two photos today, and when I say “literally”, I actually do literally mean literally, which is not how it often is these days. The first photo I photoed was of this taxi with advert photo, and the second photo was this:

My purpose in showing this photo is not just to show how what used to be known as “New” Scotland Yard has now been turned into flats for the well off. It is also to illustrate a common urban phenomenon, which is how building projects in great cities have a way of temporarily revealing great buildings. 55 Broadway was almost hidden by New Scotland Yard, which was a huge slab where the new towers now are. Now 55 Broadway is back to being almost hidden, by those new towers. My photo of the new towers does enable you to see 55 Broadway lurking in the back there, if you know what you’re looking for. But it makes little impression.

Here, on the other hand, is a photo I took of the same place a couple of years ago, with me standing a bit further down Victoria Street, which shows 55 Broadway much more clearly:

What that shows is what an impact this building had when it was first built. Time was when in was among London’s biggest Big Things.

It helps that the weather that day was a lot nicer.

BMNB SQotD: Richard Fernandez on the current visibility of elite indecency

Richard Fernandez on Twitter:

What is often described as the decline in public decency may just be a rise in the exposure of elite indecency.

Both this posting and my previous one allude to the phenomenon of negative temporal parochialism, whish is the habit of thinking that there is something uniquely bad about the times we ourselves happen to be living in. Yes, it’s now rather bad. But study history and you’ll soon discover other times just as bad, and many that were far worse.

This idea is a closer cousin than it realises of the notion that our own time is uniquely good.

I googled the Great Barrington Declaration and got there straight away

I am now following Nico Metten on Twitter, who has long been anti-Lockdown, well before I was. Not sure whether this is because he only just arrived on Twitter, or merely because I only just found him.

Whatever, I just read this tweet from Carl Vernon, which Nico has retweeted, which says this:

Google “The Great Barrington Declaration” – the petition signed by over 10,000 scientists, docs and experts – and it’s completely gone. Nowhere to be seen.

Welcome to the new method of burning books.

So, I did google “The Great Barringon Declaration” and I immediately got there, in seconds. It’s putting it very mildly to say that I am not the cleverest googler there is, but I had no problems at all. Multiple references, including, near the top, the GBD website itself.

Is Carl Vernon lying? Or is his world somehow different from mine, and did he jump to paranoid conclusions? Does google tweak what it tells different people? Did the GBD temporarily disappear? I’d love to know the answer.

Lots of tweeters in response got there too, immediately. And lots of other tweeters said: DuckDuckGo! Maybe I will. Although I don’t mind being tracked. I don’t care who knows my choices. I just don’t want to have my choices censored or otherwise hidden from my view.

James Lindsay on the Wokists and a change of mind by me about Marx

On the basis of it being recommended by David Ramsay Steele, I watched and in my turn now recommend this interview, in which James Lindsay describes and explains the Woke phenomenon.

In particular note what Lindsay says just after half an hour in, at 33m 50s. He says that the Wokists are dangerous, not because they all have a lust for violence as such, or not to start with. What they have is a passionate and unswerving belief that their principles should be installed into power. Because of the splendour of those ideas, all the world’s problems will then be solved. There’ll be no need for any violence. The world will simply be transformed into a utopian dream of perfection.

Which, of course, it will not be. That’s when the trouble cuts in. At that point, the Wokists will only have one remedy, namely violence against all those who have been pointing this fact out. The only alternative would be abject surrender, to the reality of how institutions do and do not work, and to all the millions of people whom they will by then have antagonised. At which point, the Wokists will be highly liable to follow the path previously beaten by the Stalinists and the Maoists.

This explication actually changed my mind about something of genuine importance, which is a rare experience for me. I have been in the habit of describing Karl Marx, the GrandDaddy of all these Utopian cultists, as evil, that is, as knowingly destructive and knowingly corrupt intellectually. He knew his theories were nonsense and would kill thousands if not millions, but he didn’t care. But now, following James Lindsay, I am more inclined to regard Marx as merely having been hopelessly deluded, just like the Wokists now. Marx had no great “lust for social catastrophe”, to quote a phrase I recall having used about him. No, his problem was that he didn’t think there’d be any need for a “social catastrophe”, following the historically inevitable triumph of his opinions. “Socialism” would simply proceed, smoothly and inevitably. No fuss, no muss. Unlike the Stalinists and the Maoists, Marx never had to watch all his cherished ideas result in social catastrophe, and hence to decide to resort to mass murder to shore up his otherwise impossible position, as he might have done had he lived to see the Revolution that was contrived in his name and to witness its utter failure to achieve its declared ends.

Schubert Piano Sonata D959: Andantino

Towards the beginning of Lockdown, I was bingeing on Haydn symphonies. And I did that posting pretty much so that I could remember having done this. I don’t suppose many of my mere readers even read that posting.

Now here’s another posting about another classical music binge I am still not entirely finished with, again, so that I at least can have a record of this binge having happened and what triggered it. This recent binge began as a mere attempt to have another binge, which can be interesting, but which is not the real thing. I would binge, I decided (you don’t decide these things – they decide you), on the piano music of Franz Schubert.

However, this pseudo-binge became genuine when I listened to the CD by pianist Christian Zacharias the cover of which you now see to your right. I had found myself concentrating not on Schubert’s piano sonatas, but on the smaller pieces, with titles like Dance (of some sort), or Moment Musical, or Impromptu. And I was finding the first of the “other pieces” on this disc, the one described as “Sechs Deutsche D820”, particularly diverting, not least because I don’t recall ever having heard it before. I must have played this CD through when I first bought it, because I play through all the CDs I buy, but that piece at least left zero impression on me.

But, probably because when it had finished playing it I couldn’t be bothered to get up and change it, I started listening to this CD again from the start. And the second movement of the big piano sonata that the CD is mainly devoted to, the one snappily entitled “D959”, really got my attention. This movement begins with a gently conventional tune. But then, after about two and a half minutes, perhaps because Schubert was a dying man and he knew how this felt to him, it starts to veer off into a strange parallel universe, all of it composed by Franz Schubert, but sounding more like the arrival of a demonic anti-Schubert from the future, who shoves real Schubert off his piano stool and instead starts improvising around the theme that real Schubert had been playing, with ever more oddity and ferocity and lack of good taste, culminating in passages of such manic brutality that it sounds more like some fifth-rate failure of a late twentieth century German would-be classical composer whose only means of attracting any attention is to take a masterpiece from the established repertoire and smash it to pieces, and then con Deutsche Grammophon into making a recording of resulting mess, which is bought by gullible idiots, or by people like me because it’s in the £1 box on the floor of my favourite second-hand CD shop, and we all then listen to this derangement once and never again. This bit of genuine Schubert really is that deranged.

The illustration above on the cover of that CD, ought to include an angel of death, or some such thing, in the background of that cosy domestic scene.

Here is how expert music critic Misha Donat describes this movement and this extraordinary episode in the middle of it, in the sleeve notes that he wrote for this Mitsuko Uchida box of Schubert Piano music:

Like several of Schubert’s late slow movements, it has a more dramatic middle section; but never did he conceive a more astonishing outburst than occurs at the heart of this piece. It is a moment that offers a vision of wild despair, if not actual madness, and its impassioned style anticipates the keyboard writing of a much later generation of composers.

So it’s not just me that is astounded by this extraordinary musical moment.

If you want to hear what I and Donat are writing about, here is a video of Alfred Brendel playing this amazing movement, which lasts about eight minutes in all by the time it has almost (but never quite) calmed down again. I have already gathered up every recording I have of it, and am listening to it again and again.

East India DLR station

Yes, it’s 2017 again, April, and I’m on my way home after a hard afternoon’s photoing out east. I get to that moment when suddenly, snap, my energy is all gone, and I just want home. So I drag myself to the nearest rail station. And this time, that rail station was East India:

Something to do with the East India docks, I presume.

Why show photos of that? Well, London can’t be all spectacular Big Things and lavish world renowned river views. Much of the secret of great cities is the amount of humdrum and utterly replaceable stuff they contain, and replaceability equals growability. A city can’t be great if it’s not growing, and it can’t grow if everywhere in it is finished.

As for the architecture, if that’s the word, of places like this DLR station, that’s now reached that awkward spot of being too new to be old and picturesque, but not new enough actually to be new any more, like pop music that your elder brother likes.

Which means it’s architecture that nobody (apart from me) thinks worth photoing. People just use it constantly, and forget about it. But there it is. One day some of it will be old and picturesque, and there will be complaints about it being torn down to be replaced by further humdrummery, or perhaps by resplendent and finished Big Things.

Meanwhile, I find that such railway stations are not only deserving of themselves being noticed, but are often, because of being elevated (to enable their tracks to go over existing roads) very good spots for noticing other things. Like the Shard (8), or that building rather cheerfully tricked out in yellow, green and blue (7). The building in (4) was trying hard to look good also, even if I reckon it failed. Or how about that strange bus stop road colouring that looks like a carpet has been unrolled (6)?

I’ve never understood those strange rolls of wire that you see beside railways (11). Is that for if they find they need more wire, which they can then pull towards them through tubes? That would make sense.

I do understand selfies, and the hair pats that so often go with them (12). I reckon they were lining themselves up with the Shard.

Perhaps most diverting of all, to me anyway, is the contrast between the extreme fussiness and complexity of the main body of this thing (1) (2) (3), with all its “expressed” structure (think of the just-that-bit-earlier-than-this Lloyds building in the City), with the relative banality of what the fuss is all in aid of (5). The architects of these places had their heads full of bigger, more award-winning Things than they were allowed actually to build, as architect heads so often are.

CCTV sign – Elizabeth Fry sign

Here are two signs that go rather too well together for comfort, I think you’ll agree:

And I bet I’m not the only one to have noticed, as I did in May 2017. The photos I photoed just before that and just after that were both moderately close-ups of the Walkie-Talkie, which gives you a rough idea of where this was.

Makes me think of this.

Although, when I image googled the Fry sign, the only images I got with the CCTV sign included were a couple of “alamy” photos. I hate “alamy” photos. They have “alamy” scrawled all over them.