The Wodge?

The Wodge. That’s what the Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright is calling 22 Bishopsgate, London’s biggest Big Thing. Will “wodge” catch on? My guess: no. Everyone knows what a gherkin looks like, or a scalpel. But wodge? What is a wodge?

Maybe 22 Bishopsgate will end up being called the “Big Thing”.

A 1950s YouTube video about cricket

Still gummed-up. Just too many things open, I assume.

One particular gummer-upper is leaving YouTube Videos open and paused.

Like this short bit of film (a bit over a quarter of an hour long) done in 1950 by the British Council about cricket and its magically universal, quasi-religious appeal. GodDaughter2’s Dad sent me the link to this many weeks ago, and I started watching, cringed a bit, but then, still determined to force myself to watch it all, in all its post-WW2, pre-Sixties non-glory, I kept the thing paused and open, until now.

In 1950 everyone English loved cricket, and assembled in suits at Lord’s to watch or, if they were a member of the miserable majority for whom that was impossible, no matter. All civilised or would-be civilised people, everywhere on earth, could listen to the cricket on the radio, thanks to John Arlott and his posh colleagues. Arlott himself spoke a bit un-posh, which meant that everyone could love cricket. Although of course, you were, then, ideally English-posh, you didn’t have to be English-posh. You merely had to aspire to that happy state, and who on earth, in 1950, did not do that? Then? Nobody. Look, even people in turbans could play or attend to cricket, no matter what their colour or their creed, or how amusingly and wrongly they spoke English, i.e. in the opposite way to the way other-narrator (besides Arlott) Ralph Richardson spoke English. You could be an Or-stralian, non-posh, even non-white and non-Christian and talk English like a music hall joke character covered in black make-up, and still be part of cricket. Cricket was ultra-inclusive.

There follow a string of comments to the effect that the world is crap now compared to what it was in the 1950s. (I dissent. For starters, I can now have a blog. Nobody could have a blog in 1950. Also, I enjoy T20 cricket as well as the day-after-day-after-day version of cricket which was all they had back in 1950.)

It all makes a fascinating contrast to the equivalent efforts now being made to make cricket really, properly inclusive, in the form of pieces of writings like this, by ESPN’s Daniel Brettig, about all the micro-aggressions that non-white cricket people still have to put up with these days, but really, really should not have to.

Remote work is what a lot of people now want to make work

Interesting Twitter thread by Chris Herd about remote working:

I’ve spoken to 1,500+ people about remote work in the last 9 months

A few predictions of what is likely to emerge before 2030

I’ll believe it all as and when I see it. I will continue to believe that personal meet-ups still count for a lot, and get a lot of information communicated. Historically, this is why cities exist. Suburbs have long existed. I suspect Herd is describing a new sort of suburb, but not the end of the urb.

Clearly, a lot of people want to make this stuff work.

My architecture email feeds are telling me that new building in London, and most definitely new office building in London, has stopped dead. It’s all house conversions and trivia about would-be luxury shops.

Meanwhile, if the above quoted bits are anything to go by, the war against the full stop continues

One for the “You Are Here” collection

Nowadays, cameras can tell you exactly where you were when you took a photo, as well as exactly when you took it. But I can’t be doing with all that. I prefer taking photos like this one as I do my out-and-abouting, that say, as this one does, “You Are Here”:

And that one says it in French. Excellent.

We’re in the Pompidou Centre in Paris, in the bitterly cold February of 2012. Even remembering how cold that visit was makes me shudder now. But the Pompidou Centre itself was warm enough, and the views in it and from it were most diverting.

I have quite a few Paris postings here now, but have yet to transfer any of the postings from the old blog that I did about that earlier 2012 trip . My favourite, from a more recent and much warmer visit, featured my all time favourite food photo.

It looks and tastes like conventionally-produced chicken

A new restaurant is opening up in Tel Aviv:

At a new restaurant in Tel Aviv called The Chicken, the chicken on the menu is grown from cells in a bioreactor in an adjacent pilot plant visible through a glass window. Diners don’t pay for their meals; instead, SuperMeat, the startup making the “cultured chicken” meat, is asking for feedback on its products, as it prepares for large-scale production of food that it thinks can transform the industry.

The main item on the menu, the Chicken Burger – a crispy cultured chicken fillet served on a brioche bun with toppings – looks and tastes like conventionally-produced chicken. “The burger has a juicy chicken flavor, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside,” says Ido Savir, CEO of the startup. “Feedback from multiple tasting panels was consistent that it was indistinguishable from conventionally manufactured chicken, and simply a great-tasting chicken burger.”

So not really a restaurant as such, more an exercise in handing out free samples. But still very interesting. Although “feedback”, in this context, sounds like someone’s been sick.

Human guilt about the way we treat animals has been building for quite some time. Which means that as soon as we can stop maltreating animals so that we can then eat them cheaply, we will. In the same sort of way that we largely did away with slavery as soon as some of us felt that we could.

I learned of this story from the endlessly informative Steve Stewart-Williams, my favourite tweeter by a considerable margin. He has supplied me with many a story for my Fridays here, when I like to reflect upon and giggle at and about animals and their complex relationships with each other and with humans, from mutually supportive to horribly cruel. And there could not be a more important animals/humans story than this one, because it will surely utterly transform how animals are treated by humans. (Next up, animals won’t be allowed to eat each other either. They too will only eat “cultured” meat. Think about it.)

Sadly for many animals, the choice they have is between being reared by humans, maybe cruelly or maybe not, and then being eaten by humans, or not being reared at all. Life as food, or not life at all.

On a cheerier note, watch the heads of veggies explode when they realise that the fastest food is now also the most veggie food.

And yes, if you’re thinking I must have prepared this earlier, as they say, you are quite right. I wrote this, apart from this, last Monday.

Sparklingly witty BMNB QotD: On when clever banter can be called “repartee”

Yes, a champagne Twitter moment from Dan Hannan:

Clever banter can only be called “repartee” if it’s from the Repartée region of France. Otherwise it’s just sparkling wit.

We can all drink to that.

Dan Hannan on why Twitter is so left wing

Yes, here’s what Hannan … er, tweets about Twitter’s lefty bias:

Why is Twitter so much more Left-wing that the population at large? Here’s a theory: it lends itself to angry, self-righteous and emotive statements. Conservative arguments are generally too nuanced to fit into 280 characters.

But not that argument, it would seem.

I note with interest that Samizdata supremo Perry de Havilland found this tweet to be of interest too.

I have heard it said that Trump and Trumpists have done very well with Facebook, and that this is a source of deep embarrassment to the people who run Facebook. But Trump has done famously well with Twitter too. He is the master of the short, sharp verbal missile hurled at his enemies in a way that again and again seems to enrage them.

Trump is very self-righteous and sometimes very emotive, but seldom angry. He knows that being angry is a sign of weakness, that you’re out of control. Angry is what the people on the receiving end of his tweets more commonly feel.

Time for me to stop this. It’s is getting far too nuanced.

One final point, though. I think that the social media, Twitter especially, have done a great job of showing how very nasty and destructive so many lefties are. They used to be thought of as people who meant well, but were a bit dim – aka “idealistic” – about how the real world worked. Now, they are more and more regarded as evil, as people who simply hate the real world and want it smashed to pieces.

LATER: This Thomas Sowell book, which I read a long time ago and must take another look at, seems pertinent to the above.

London’s starchitecture explained – but the problem isn’t confined to central London

Paul Cheshire:

The Planning for the Future white paper tackles one costly feature of the British planning system: its peculiar reliance on case by case, essentially political, decision making for all significant development (see here). Tall office towers are significant developments, so whether or not to permit them is subject to this political process. In Chicago it is straightforward. There are rules. Developers can build as high as they want so long as the location and design are within the rules. Because in London every proposed new office block requires a political decision, getting permission is transformed into a game: an expensive game. Would-be developers can use all their wiles to persuade local and national politicians that their project is desirable.

My recently published research with Gerard Dericks shows that one of the most effective ways to dazzle the planning committee is to employ an architect with an international reputation. …

Above which introductory paragraphs there appears a photo of the Shard, and there follows a description of how and why that got built in the way that it did. It was “starchitecture” basically. Have someone like Renzo Piano on your team, and the politicians feel intimidated.

As regulars here know, I have a deep affection for central London’s recently acquired and extremely eccentric skyline. But I arrived at this opinion despite my understanding of the plutocratic and arbitrary politics that made this skyline happen as it did rather than because of it, or because I just didn’t know or care about this politics.

Cheshire’s description of how and why London’s recent burst of starchitecture happened is informative, and persuasive. But by writing of “its peculiar reliance on case by case, essentially political, decision making for all significant development”, Cheshire implies that this kind of arbitrariness is confined to the central London office space market, to the “significant” sort of architecture. If only. To be fair to Cheshire, if you follow the first link in his quote above, you will learn, if you did not already know it, that he well knows that getting planning permission for anything, no matter how utterly lacking in any sort of significance, anywhere in Britain, can be a nightmare. The basic rule is: There are no rules! The Planning Committee meets, and gives you planning permission or: Not.

In a perfect world, property owners would build whatever they wanted on their own land, subject only to whatever legally binding contracts they had entered into which might restrict that state of affairs.

In practice, politics is politics, and buildings are political. Politicians will politicise all over them, the only variable being: How will they do this? Will the politicians preside over a rule-bound system? Will they tell you beforehand what they will, and will not, allow? Or will the politicians rule by iron whim, where you have absolutely no fucking idea (unless you have photos of them frolicking with under-age girls and/or boys on file) what, on the night of their damn meeting, they will decide, and where any attempt by you to find out beforehand what they’ll accept and what they’ll not accept is deemed the political equivalent of insider trading?

There clearly are some rule-bound building regimes in Britain. You have only to move a little downstream from London’s Big Thing district and you arrive at the Docklands Towers. And you have only to look at these Towers to see that there is no Starchitect Rule in place there. Suddenly, you are in a mini-Chicago, and it is getting ever more like actual Chicago with each passing year. I don’t know what the rules there are exactly, but it would definitely appear that if you want to build a generic vertical box there, go ahead, so long as you follow those rules.

I seldom use words like “fucking” here. (The last time I did this was as a joke, about how another guy was using this word rather a lot.) That I do so in this matter reflects the personal agonies that I and my siblings had to suffer when trying, after our widowed mother had died a few years ago now, to get the best price we could for the ancient-in-a-bad-way house-and-garden in the outer suburbs of London that we all grew up in. Should we try to get planning permission for a clutch of new and smaller dwellings? We tried, we really tried, but, after years of trying: No dice. So I write with feeling about how the Iron Whim of the Politicians rule does not merely apply in central London. In the end, after years of frustration, after quite a bit of squabbling amongst ourselves, and more squabbling with our fucking “neighbours” (who just wanted no more houses next to their fucking houses), we were able to unload the house-plus-garden on some poor fool who did not have our by then hard-earned knowledge of the gambling casino that is Britain’s “planning” system, at a price not far off what we’d have got if we ourselves had got planning permission for some new buildings. So, despite our years of ordeal by planning permission, we were lucky. We got a goodish price, eventually, despite not being a big local property developer. Despite, that is to say, not having the local politicians under our collective thumb.

Boris Johnson makes noises to the effect that he and his government will soon get all this sorted. If by some miracle he could somehow contrive this, this would be a huge win for him, and for the entire country. He’ll have his work cut out, because a large proportion of the offending politicians, and equally crucially of those fucking “neighbours”, are active members of his own party.

A gallery of mostly mundane things – unmundanely lit

As I spend less time accummulating photos and more time contemplating the ones I have, I more and more see that. for me, light is everything. Photography is, I find myself telling myself more and more often, light. For me, bad light equals bad photography, the sort of photography that involves lots of pressing of things like the “sharpen” button in my not-Photoshop programme. Good light presses that button for me.

October 21st 2018 was a good light day. In the days after it I did several postings based on photos I photoed that day. I did my favourite ever photo of Centre Point that day. I photoed how very blue the blue sky was that day. I photoed Bartok. I photoed Chinese lanterns. I photoed Compton.

I spent some of October 21st 2018 in the area around and to the north of Centre Point:

One of those photos, number 22 (of 25), requires a bit of an explanation. I like to photo the BT Tower. And I like to photo the reflection of the BT Tower in the big building at the top end of Tottenham Court Road. That photo is one of the few times I managed to photo both these things at the same time.

I think my favourite of the above photos may be number 2. Scaffolding, lit in a way that makes it, I think, downright magical. I also particularly like number 3, where you see both a reflection and a shadow, of the same pointy building.

f your are inclined towards enjoying such things, then enjoy. Click click click. It needn’t take you long.

Is “unmundanely” a word? It is now.

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.