The Helter Skelter that never was

I don’t often often get close up with the Big Things of the City of London. Mostly I just admire the changing scene they have made for London over the last two decades, but from a distance.

But in December of 2012, I did get close to these Things, and in particular to the new Big Thing then under construction, known by its makers as “The Pinnacle”, and to the rest of us as the “Helter Skelter”.

Here is a smallish gallery from that expedition:

A sneaky selfie in the last one there.

The Helter Skelter turned into something else just as tall, but bulkier and duller, as recounted in this angry piece. Which means that my expedition captured a fascinating passing moment in London’s architectural history. The stump that was all it was then remained a stump, and then turned into the Biggest Thing in the top photo here.

I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, the Helter Skelter would have been more elegant and recognisable. And it would also have been a great place to shoot a remake of King Kong, with KK sliding down it, carrying an English actress with him on his lap. On the other hand, the current architectural hulk that is catchily known as “22 Bishopsgate”, now nearing completion, being so very bulky and inelegant, will positively demand a much bigger Big Thing next to it, in the fullness of time. Rather in the way that Guy’s Hospital was, for its time, so big and ugly that it made the Shard happen.

Just what I was thinking …

Scott Adams:

Am I the only person who thinks Epstein’s death makes it MORE likely we will find out the extent of his crimes? He wasn’t going to talk, but he might have kept others from doing so while he was alive.

In other words, nothing about this is now certain, not even that Epstein’s death will be “convenient” for a lot of people. Maybe it won’t.

But, what do I know?

Who will play Epstein in the movie? What a part.

An advertising agency in Pimlico

A handful of years ago now, Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland and his lady used to live in Chelsea, and that caused me quite often to be walking along the north bank of the River, between, one way or the other, Chelsea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge. While doing this I of course I looked (and photoed) across the River.

Having recently been pondering how London has been building itself a lot of machines for living in lately, as opposed to more recognisable and truly Big Things, it occurred to me that I might do that same walk between Chelsea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, on the north bank, there to look (and photo) across the River, at all the machines for living in that have been and are being built there now, especially around Battersea Power Station.

I have journeyed along the south side of the River, from Vauxhall to the Battersea, several times, to inspect all that turmoil and cranage from closer up. How was all that looking from the other side of the River?

So it was that yesterday afternoon, I walked through Pimlico nearly as far as Chelsea Bridge, but inland rather than beside the River, and then walked back home again, alongside the River.

But before I was even at my Official Designated Destination, there was plenty to be seen and photoed, and because this is Friday, here are some fun humans, semi-humans and semi-creatures whom I attempted, with varying success, to photo, through a very shiny shop window:

Like I said, varying success. The first Dalek photo there decapitates the poor thing, with crushingly bright reflections of the buildings opposite. Only when I raised my camera up above my head, like a paparazzo photoing a celeb from within a crowd of other paparazzi, did I get anything like a proper Dalek photo. Only once I understood about photoing downwards, where the only reflection was of the relatively unlit pavement at my feet, did I get a truly satisfactory photo, of K9. The Daleks, for the uninitiated, were Doctor Who’s mortal enemies, and K9 was Doctor Who’s friend.

But, why the ducks?

More to the point, what was this place? Who was doing what in it?

My second entirely satisfactory photo:

Satisfactory because this was me taking notes, and the notes were entirely taken. “wtf”? WTF?, as the young people now type into their little mobiles. Here we go. They’re an advertising agency specialising in movies of the sort that the creatures in their Moreton Street London HQ window have parts in, and silly theme parks based on similar fun and foolishness, aimed at “families”. Well, those are the sort of projects they boast about, but I dare say they’ll also sell your estate agency for you, if that’s what you want.

I’m pretty sure that the female figure in the red skirt in the background of the second and better Dalek photo is an actual human being.

Black and white Mini (with a black and white Union Jack)

I say “Mini”. One of the signs of getting old is that you find yourself putting sneer quotes around things that younger people think are real but which you think are fake:

That’s not a Mini. The Minis in this are Minis.

But the above Mini has something going for it, I think. Not only is the entire car black and white when you’d be expecting colours. So too is the wing mirror with the Union Jack on it. That is also black and white. The effect is to turn the entire car into looking like it’s all coloured – red, white and blue, as likely as not – but then Photoshopped to look like a black and white photo of itself.

Photoed by me earlier today. No editorial messing about. Those are exactly the photos that came out of my camera just now.

AEF

Yesterday I walked across Vauxhall Bridge. It’s been a while since I have done this, which is why I only yesterday discovered that just opposite the MI6 building there is a frenzy of excavation activity, in connection with the new giant sewer that they a building along the river.

Here are the photos I took of all this grubbing:

And here is the sign on Vauxhall Bridge Road next to all this activity:

AEF stands for Albert Embankment Foreshore. It seems that all the “Tideway” (i.e. the sewer) sites of a similar sort have a three letter acronym to identify and distinguish them.

This particular location would surely make a great place for James Bond to start doing crazy things in the sewer. All you need is a small passage connecting the sewer to the MI6 building, a distance of about twenty yards, and boom. Away we go, with a car chase or a scooter chase or something, along the sewer. This could all kick off after they’ve finished building the sewer, but before the sewage is actually pouring along it. Maybe while people are inspecting it, to check that all is well, which is why it would be suitably illuminated.

Maybe the chase could precipitate the arrival of the actual sewage for the first time, prematurely, by something like a switch being knocked against by mistake. Both Bond and the Baddie could be overwhelmed by shit in the course of their chase. Along with a whole tribe of health and safety inspectors. That would get a cheer in cinemas.

Trouble is, I seem to recall the MI6 building being destroyed in a previous Bond movie. But what the hell. James Bond keeps being “reinvented”. So maybe the MI6 building could be reinvented, just as it always was before it got wrecked.

It turns out my recollection is faulty. The entire building did not get blown up (in Skyfall). There was merely a rather small explosion, destroying only Dame Judi Dench’s computer, inside the building.

Come to think of it, “Tideway” might be a rather good Bond movie title.

John C. Reilly – Ian Hislop

On the left here, John C. Reilly, shown enacting one of the Sisters Brothers, Eli, in the graphics advertising the movie of that name. On the right, Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, and star of long-running BBC comedy quiz Have I Got News For You? My instant reaction, when I first saw that advert for The Sisters Brothers, was that Reilly looked like a homicidal and weather-beaten version of Hislop:

I can’t be the only one now noticing this. Yet googling “John C Reilly Ian Hislop” yielded only information about either John C Reilly or Ian Hislop. There was no mention of any physical resemblance between these two persons.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A device for measuring neutrinos being transported through Karlsruhe

Here:

It reminds me of the scene at the end of Starship Troopers (a scene which I may now be imagining (but I think it happened)) where the victorious Starship Troopers celebrate their capture of The Queen Bug.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A horse’s head at Hyde Park Corner

This afternoon, GodDaughter2 and I walked from the Royal College of Music, up past the Albert Memorial, then through Hyde Park to Hyde Park Corner, and then on to Soho Square.

At Hyde Park Corner, GD2 directed me to this sculpture, which I never knew about until today:

GD2 likes this, especially at night when it’s lit up.

This guy also likes it. This guy, on the other hand, hates it.

Me, I’m not sure. It’s very striking, was my first reaction. But now, I’m troubled by the way that, because the head is pointing downwards, the cut through the neck of the horse seems like a real cut, rather than just a sculptural convention. It made me think of that famously gruesome horse’s head in the bed scene in The Godfather. Perhaps more seriously, I feel that the way the neck is cut like that makes the shape of the object as seen from a distance excessively determined by the cut, rather than by the fact that it’s a horse’s head.

The problem is that, what with this sculpture being called Still Water, the horse’s head has to be pointing downwards, because the horse is presumably drinking that water. So if you want only the horse’s head, that head has to be cut off, one way or another, and any way that happens is liable to count for more than it should.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A design success and a designfail

Again from designboom, this posting about a Ukrainian rug-maker who is souping up his designs with modern references. I particularly like this one:

This works for many reasons, one of them being that there is something very medieval and nostalgic about the whole Star Wars franchise, and lots of cinematic and other scifi in general. Faster than light travel, for instance, isn’t modern. It is a bogus technology trick for turning the future back into the Middle Ages, into a world full of faraway wonders and monsters, but not so far away that you can’t reach them soon enough to still be alive when you get there and make your visit count.

By the way, I think “designboom” postings are very badly designed. The basic problem, although not the only one, is their juvenile refusal to understand capital letters, and their determination instead only to use capital letters for acronymic organisations (like, in this case: “OLK”), but never to signal the beginning of a sentence, or the beginning of a heading. Or for something like Star Wars. This is stupid when you are simply writing a chunk of prose. But it is seriously stupid at a website, because websites are tricky to make clear at the best of time. Boom? No. Fail. Pity, because they seem to have a lot of good stuff.

This blog, the one you are reading now, is much better designed. To look at I mean. Not how it works, which is very badly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Photo-edited from zero to hero

I remember, during the reign of President Bush Jnr., how I used to blog about how photography was used to glorify President Bush. Well, here’s another political photo of a rather similar sort, which has been an open window on my computer for some time:

What I find entertaining about this photo is the extreme contrast between the clearly very humdrum appearance, for real, of the old guy in the photo, and the way that (I suspect) pushing just one Photoshop button has turned this same guy into something almost heroic.

The headline above the photo is telling:

The most consequential conservative leader of the century? He’s still alive, in office and owed an apology

The old guy in the photo-edited photo is US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the Tea Party people used to regard as a waste-of-space sell-out, but who is now being lauded to the skies by the Trumpsters.

Says Jewish Chronicle writer Marc A. Thiessen:

While President Trump deserves credit for making outstanding judicial nominations, long before Trump declared his candidacy McConnell was laying the groundwork for a conservative transformation of the federal judiciary. It was, he told me in an interview last week, “entirely premeditated.”

McConnell reminds me of a particular American actor, whom I recall having seen in a number of movies. Trouble is, that actor is the sort of actor you recognise the face of, but whose name you never quite register. It’s that sort of face.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog