Jeppe Hein’s red seat sculptures outside the Royal Festival Hall

There are seven of them, and they are bright red. Here are fourteen photos (two of each) that I photoed in November 2018. The weather was grim, making everything else look decidedly monochrome by comparison:

Which I think worked rather well to show how these bright red objects brighten up a part of London still ruled by orthodox Modernists and their monochromatic prejudice against “imposed ornament”. They prefer imposed boredom. This is called “structural honesty”. And honestly, this can get very boring.

Here are some more photos, photoed on that same November day, of these sculpturised bits of furniture, concentrating more on the Royal Festival Hall context, and making it clear that the point of these things is that they can be sat on. When they can be sat on, that is. The final one above, for instance, is very bum-hostile. Number three is not much better, but as you will see below, a group of people did manage to perch themselves upon it:

These red Things are the work of the Danish sculptor Jeppe Hein, who looks like this.

He calls them Modified Social Benches. The above red London ones were installed in 2016. And he did similar ones for New York, around the same time:

And a more complicated one, not red, in 2019, in Venice:

And various others in various other places.

This guy would appear to be a lot like Antony Gormley in how he operates. Once he has found a formula for a particular family, so to speak, of sculptures, he deploys the formula in various different spots around the world. With Gormley, it was those Gormley Men, lots or just a few of them. With this guy, benches all in the same style with local variations and complications to suit the budget and the location.

Like Gormley, Hein has devised other formulae, which strike me as a lot less appealing than this modified social bench formula.

Also like Gormley, Hein emits the usual dreary ideological orthodoxies of his time concerning such things as climate change, and as soon as he opens his mouth to explain what he reckons he is doing with this or that piece of his work, I switch off. I just like the red benches he did for London, for my reasons rather than for his. If my reasons overlap in any way with his reasons, fine. If not, also fine.

Jeppe Hein has been a very busy man.

A year ago today … cake!

This, believe it or not, was a cake:

A year ago today, England beat New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup Final at Lord’s, by absolutely no runs whatsoever.

I gave this event my full attention at the time, but I only heard about this cake today, because I had this anniversary cricket commentary going while I was in the bath, and they talked about it at half time. Apparently Mrs Prince Charles 2, Camilla Duchess of Wherever, told someone called Julie Brownlee to make it, and she did.

“A revival of ultrafast supersonic passenger jet travel is inching closer to reality …”

Boom:

Will the fake photos of the Boom Supersonic XB-1 ever get real? Will I live long enough to photo Concorde 2.0 over London? It’s starting to look like they and I might.

How noisy will it be? I absolutely do not care how loud it is, but others will, so actually: I suppose I do.

The USA aerospace industry is having a magnificent renaissance now, and of course I have libertarian friends who have been chattering to each other about little else for years. I agree with them, even as I have taken more of an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it line. But now that we’re starting to see it, this could be the big take on 2020 when the historians look back at it. Plagues and riots? What’s new about that? They’ll surely get a mention, if only for the panic-stricken reactions. But, meanwhile: Supersonic travel is back! Space travel is back! Last time around, as I now enjoy saying, it was money no object Cold War dick-waving. Now it’s getting real.

Lining up Big Ben with a little Big Ben

On September 13th 2018, Big Ben was looking much as it does now, being smothered in scaffolding:

It looked, for a moment in October 2019, as if this scaffolding would come down, but all that went was the scaffolding at the very top.

So anyway, on that September day in 2018, on Westminster Bridge, I came upon a lady who had an answer to the problem of photoing Big Ben at a time when Big Ben was not looking like Big Ben. She put her own little Big Ben in front of the scaffolding encrusted actual Big Ben, thus:

Many Londoners find tourist fun tiresome. Personally I love it when tourists have tourist fun in this particular way, sticking their own small thing in front of a Big Tourist Thing, like Big Ben, or the Wheel or Westminster Abbey or the Shard. Whenever I see fun like this, I have fun of my own photoing it.

One of the photos I photoed of this lady was of her turning, and looking straight at me. She grinned as she saw what I was doing, and then carried on with her own photoing. Nevertheless, I choose not to include that photo in my little gallery of her. She was making a bit of a spectacle of herself, so it was a borderline decision.

She wasn’t making nearly such a spectacle of herself as was the lady featured in the previous posting here.

A giant pink flamingo now presides over London

On the same photo-walk that I photoed the Red Lion (see immediately belw) I also came upon this:

And I got a hell of a shock, I can tell you. I am fond of graphic representations of London’s ever more entertaining skyline, so I took a close look at this piece of graphic fun and games. But but but!!! had they suddenly constructed a giant flamingo in the middle of London which I hadn’t heard about until now?!?

Turned out the Wheel is now the last minute dot com “London Eye”, and the pink flamingo is something to do with last minute dot com and the fact it helps you book hotels in foreign parts. At the last minute, presumably.

A giant flamingo might be quite a good idea. How about somewhere out east, beyond the Thames Barrier? That part of London could use a bit of livening up, with a giant tourist trap. Ideally, you could go up its vertical leg in a lift. Then stop off at a restaurant in the middle. Then climb up its neck on a staircase, from which you could view the estuary, and central London.

The South Bank (red) Lion

There has been lots of photo-reminiscing here lately, so here are some photos I took much more recently. Well, in May of this year anyway:

Yes, it’s the lion at the South Bank end of Westminster Bridge.

This South Bank Lion has quite a history, the strangest thing being that it used to be red. I was going to show you the “photo” of the lion when it was red that I found
here
, until I realised it was faked with Photoshop. But that link is worth following.

The lion hasn’t always perched on the bridge. His first home was on top of the Lion Brewery, a booze factory once based on a site now occupied by the Royal Festival Hall.

I bet the brewery would have made a better concert hall than the accursed RFH.

This photo, on the other hand, of the lion with men and scaffolding is genuine:

The photograph above was kindly shared by Nick Redman of London Photos, whose grandfather (second on the left) was one of the scaffolders who helped move the lion from the soon-to-be-demolished brewery.

I found that here. Also well worth clicking on.

I assume this must be why so many pubs are called “The Red Lion”.

Apparently Emile Zola was very fond of this lion. Blog and learn.

Pavlova dances – backed by a line of cranes

From 2014. Cranes, having spent the day transforming the top end of Victoria Street, relax by going out dancing with Pavlova:

The statue is carefully contrived to look beautiful. The cranes are just cranes. No aesthetics went into them at all. Yet they look beautiful also.

Spot the traffic light.

Trump as Republican Party Reptile

I just did some Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech for Samizdata. Here is the complete speech of Trump’s that I was on about, and to which I linked, twice, because I think the fact that we all now can link directly to it is so very good.

Something else I didn’t complicate my Samizdata piece with did occur to me, while I was reading that same speech, and in particular when I read things like this in it:

We are the country of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass. We are the land of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. (Applause.) We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen – (applause) – Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, George Patton – General George Patton – the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali. (Applause.) And only America could have produced them all. (Applause.) No other place.

We are the culture that put up the Hoover Dam, laid down the highways, and sculpted the skyline of Manhattan. We are the people who dreamed a spectacular dream – it was called: Las Vegas, in the Nevada desert; who built up Miami from the Florida marsh; and who carved our heroes into the face of Mount Rushmore. (Applause.)

Americans harnessed electricity, split the atom, and gave the world the telephone and the Internet. We settled the Wild West, won two World Wars, landed American astronauts on the Moon – and one day very soon, we will plant our flag on Mars.

We gave the world the poetry of Walt Whitman, the stories of Mark Twain, the songs of Irving Berlin, the voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the style of Frank Sinatra – (applause) – the comedy of Bob Hope, the power of the Saturn V rocket, the toughness of the Ford F-150 – (applause) – and the awesome might of the American aircraft carriers.

I’ve read this before, I thought, or something a hell of a lot like it. Yes, a piece in P. J. O.Rourke’s Republican Party Reptile, which was published in 1987, about an epic car journey O’Rourke made across America, in a Ferrari. I read this book in the late eighties. The Ferrari piece in this book would appear to be a slimmed down version of this piece, which was published in Car and Driver, in 1980.

I wrote a Libertarian Alliance pamphlet in praise of O’Rourke’s essay (also in praise of classical CDs), which included big quotes from the 1987 version of O’Rourke’s piece, including things like this:

… To be in control of our destinies – and there is no more profound feeling of control of one’s destiny that I have ever experienced than to drive a Ferrari down a public road at 130 miles an hour. Only God can make a tree, but only man can drive by one that fast. And if the lowly Italians, the lamest, silliest, least stable of our NATO allies, can build a machine like this, just think what it is that we can do. We can smash the atom. We can cure polio. We can fly to the moon if we like. There is nothing we can’t do. Maybe we don’t happen to build Ferraris, but that’s not because there’s anything wrong with America. We just haven’t turned the full light of our intelligence and ability in that direction. We were, you know, busy elsewhere. We may not have Ferraris but just think what our Polaris-submarines are like. And if it feels like this in a Ferrari at 130, my God, what can it possibly feel like at Mach 2.5 in an F-15? Ferrari 308s and F-15s – these are the conveyances of free men. What do the Bolshevik automatons know of destiny and its control? What have we to fear from the barbarous Red hordes?

And like this:

… And rolling through the desert thus, I worked myself into a great patriotic frenzy, which culminated on the parapets of the Hoover Dam (even if that was kind of a socialistic project and built by the Roosevelt in the wheelchair and not by the good one who killed bears). With the Ferrari parked up atop that orgasmic arc of cement, doors flung open and Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” blasting into the night above the rush of a man-crafted Niagara and the crackle and the hum of mighty dynamos, I was uplifted, transported, ecstatic. A black man in a big, solid Eldorado pulled up next to us and got out to shake our hands. “You passed me this morning down in New Mexico,” he said. “And that sure is a beautiful car. …”.

Note that Mount Rushmore includes, along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln: the Roosevelt who killed bears, Teddy Roosevelt, but not the Roosevelt in the wheelchair who presided over the Great Depression. No wonder Democrats are now saying they hate it.

I don’t know what P.J. O’Rourke is up to these days, so whether he had any direct input into Trump’s speech I have no idea. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But I’ll bet you anything that whatever combination of Trump and Trumpsters wrote Trump’s speech at the very least knew all about that O’Rourke piece. I’ll go further. I’ll bet Trump read that O’Rourke piece at some point in the 1980s, and remembered it, and said to his guys: “That’s what I want! Write me something like that!” And they did. Right up to the stuff about cars, and warships, and the Hoover Dam, and about how “there is nothing we can’t do”.

Even if you hate everything about P.J. O’Rourke and everything about Trump and if you especially hate Trump’s speech the other day, you surely may still be agreeing about the O’Rourke echoes I think I heard.

If I’m right, then this is a story which confirms something else I am fond of telling anyone who will listen, which is that all the people alive now will, in thirty or forty years time, either be thirty or forty years older, or dead. You can tell a lot about the world now, by asking what people in their teens and twenties were getting excited about, thirty or forty years ago. There will be more of that.

Of course, I loved Trump’s speech, just as I loved that P.J. O’Rourke Ferrari piece. God is a figment of the human imagination, but setting that quibble aside, may He Bless America.

A building can be both an attack on the soul and beautiful

Western Traditionalist says:

Brutalism is an attack on the soul.

And whoever Western Traditionalist is, he or she illustrates this opinion with the following photo, of a building and a sculpture:

This building is the Torre Velasca in Milan, and it would appear that Western Traditionalist found the above photo of it at Wikipedia, where you can learn more about what I think is a very handsome building.

As “brutalism” goes, I don’t believe that the Torre Velasca is especially brutal. I recall liking this building very much, when I was trying to become an architect myself, half a century ago.

But I want to assert an idea that is perhaps rather individual. I agree that “brutalism” was indeed an “attack on the soul”, in the sense that its purpose was, aesthetically speaking, to batter people into accepting it as desirable architecture, rather than in any way charm or please them. And, I now like a lot of the surviving relics of brutalism. Definitely including the not-very-brutalist tower in the photo above.

How come? Well, let me ask you something. Do you think that the castles built by the Norman monarchs of England are beautiful? Many do, now. Thousands visit them, and are charmed by them. But it is undeniable that these buildings, when first built, were “attacks on the soul”, the souls of the native English, whom the Normans were busy subjugating with great brutality. Great brutalism, you might say. Those Norman castles were exercises in military intimidation, not attempts to be the tourist traps that they now are.

Brutalism owes much of its inspiration to military constructions built by the Nazis during World War 2, in places like the northern coastline of France, prior to the Normandy landings. And for as long as brutalism was on the march, so to speak, and threatening the houses and neighbourhoods of the world with demolition, people hated brutalism, and with bloody good reason. People hate any architectural style that seems to be coming straight at them, while seeming not to give a damn what they think of it. Remember that “brutalism” wss the name given to the style by those who invented and preached it. This was not merely an insult label pinned on “brutalism” by enemies and then adopted ironically. The brutalists gloried in being brutal. They were attacking souls.

But so what? Now that brutalism has been stopped in its tracks, is now in retreat, and has become a deeply conservative – indeed downright antiquarian – exercise in conservation and preservation rather than the radical act of aesthetic bullying that it began as, there is no reason for us to be intimidated by it any longer. Brutalism is now picturesque, just like those Norman castles are. And I for one like its surviving structures for exactly the same sorts of reasons that I and millions of others also like Norman castles. Brutalist shapes are interesting rather than always drearily rectangular, their rugged bulk possessing the charm of a mountain range. And I know that me liking these edifices in this kind of way would annoy the annoying people who first unleashed this style, that being, for me, another feature rather than a bug. I hate the idea that anti-brutalists, in the grip of the sort of analysis I have supplied in my previous paragraphs, and egged on by people like Western Traditionalist, might one day destroy all these buildings.

Beatles statues in Liverpool

Sport returns to England, in the form of the Premier League, but with no spectators. Chelsea defeat Manchester City, and Liverpool are therefore the 2020 Champions.

Liverpool is very pleased about that:

The Liverpool Police, however, are not pleased.

I encountered the above photo here. I suppose that’s one way to learn about some statues for the first time.

These Beatles statues will surely not be vandalism by the BLMers, although if they decide to do this, I’m sure they’ll have no trouble cooking up an excuse. I mean, the Beatles surely did done some cultural appropriating of black music, aka performing it, that being what British sixties rock ‘n’ roll was all about. (The Rolling Stones definitely did.) And then, black Americans had a listen to the Beatles and culturally appropriated right back, often with results that delighted and amazed the Beatles. At the time, only racists objected to this to-ing-and fro-ing of music. Everyone else was very happy about it.