Boris pater mixed metaphor alert

Incoming email with mixed metaphor and Other creatures news:

Stanley Johnson, Boris pater, on Sky News this morning re Brexit deal: “We’re barking up the wrong horse …”

From GodDaughter2’s pater Tony, to whom thanks. Tor the benefit of anyone reading this who never did Latin, pater means Dad.

Stanley Johnson is an I’m A Celebrity celebrity, it would seem. Or was.

There ought to be an equal and opposite response to this, along the lines of “riding the wrong tree”, but that doesn’t sound quite right. “Jumping trees”? Still not sounding right.

As for Brexit, I personally, I hope that if Boris is the next PM, he doesn’t jump trees. And I think we can all agree that Prime Minister May has been barking up the wrong horse ever since she got the job.

Battersea gallery

Yesterday evening I walked over to Battersea, to see how things are going with surrounding the old Power Station with apartment blocks, with sorting out the western end of London’s Big New Sewer, and constructing a new tube station.

In the photos that follow, I concentrate on the new blocks of flats, not least because it is easier to see that, what with it having reached the stage of mostly now being above ground. Tube line and sewer construction remains largely hidden throughout, and in general they tend to be more secretive about such things.

So how are things going with all those flats? How things are going is that there is a lot of building going on, but also, already, a lot of living.

The earliest photos in this gallery show the part where they say: come on it. This is already a place, with people, and food, and a road through to other parts beyond. Then, you walk along one of the oddest bridges in London, over and through what is still a giant building site, right next to the old Power Station, and then you arrive at the bit that is finished and already containing people.

None of the photos that follow are individually that fascinating. But click, click, click your way through them at speed, and you’ll get an idea of how this passing moment in the history of London is now looking:

The photos that concentrate on life being lived, rather than merely dwellings being constructed, concern the London Seafood Festival (that being the only link I now have the time to contrive), which I had definitely not been expecting. But many others had, and were gathered in large numbers to partake.

Then I made my way to Battersea Park railway station, with the last two photos having been photoed from the train that took me to Victoria Station on the other side of the river.

My larger point is this: that the newest and most noticeable London architecture has now done a switch, from the erection of individually crafted and highly visible and recognisable Big Things, to the mass production of generic Machines For Living In and Machines For Working In. So many office blocks and blocks of flats of a certain height, all jammed together in a formerly not so very desirable location, each higher than low but each lower than really high. So much concrete and steel being hoisted into the air by so many cranes. And so many people all being crammed into these new dwellings and new workplaces, as they beaver away at their desk jobs nearby or in The City, and relax by the river in their numerous new eateries and drinkeries down on the ground floors. Yes, this kind of thing has been going on in London for many decades, but just lately, it has shifted up a gear.

That all these new Batterseans will be within walking and face-to-face talking distance of one another is bound to have creative consequences. All sorts of new urban possibilities will become possible.

A lot more of this stuff has been happening out East, in Docklands and beyond. There too (see especially: North Greenwich) things have shifted up a gear. Battersea feels a bit more upmarket than those places down East.

Welcome to the latest version of London.

The magic of Twitter

Dominic Frisby, at 1.30 am this morning:

Morning all, I am compiling a list of irritating people on the telly (US or UK) for a routine. Would you mind posting below the name of anyone who gets up your nose? The more the better.

PS Please don’t use their twitter handles.

Dominic Frisby, one hour later:

Thank you!

I have plenty.

I’m guessing that the trick of Twittering is learning how to make use of it for your own purposes, without letting it drive you mad. Note in particular the bit about not using Twitter handles. The suggested celebs were not told about this operation. They therefore had no chance to get mad, and then to try to drive Frisby, or anybody else, mad.

When gossiping malevolently, I think it’s always kinder to do it behind people’s backs and without their knowledge. Why by gratuitously hurtful?

Photoing God Save The Queens

In the basement of a club in Soho, soon after I’d photoed that dirty Landrover.

The problem was that I was getting the verbals, but not the image in the middle of the verbals.

The trick, as a friend demonstrated, was: zero in on the image. Cut the verbals out of it:

And if you want both, show both the photos, of the verbals and of the image. And a couple of images of the lesson. Lesson learned.

If you’d been there in person, you would of course have been able to see it all in one go. (But a camera often can’t do that.)

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 small taste of life without water

On Sunday evening, and then again yesterday during the day, my water supply was interrupted. This has never happened before. Electricity, yes, that has been interrupted, I seem to recall. And once, my hot tank refused to stop heating its water, which was alarming. I had to switch off all my electricity myself, to stop my boiler boiling itself and perhaps exploding like a steam locomotive having a crash. But, no water? That was a new one for me, here.

When my taps first ran out of puff, I didn’t know what was causing this. At first, I thought the problem might be my own personal arrangements, as it had been with that over-eager heating system. But, I knocked on the door opposite and discovered that my neighbour had received an email threatening water disruption, and it all started to make sense. One of our neighbours was having work done which necessitated a block-wide water switch off. This was on Sunday evening, but the email concerned threatened disruption on Monday, disruption that duly occurred.

I wasn’t even completely sure if the water, when restored, would automatically fill up my pipes again, once it had abandoned them. You know how you can get water to to go up and down in pipes, in school physics lessons. What if interrupted water supply created a permanent unwillingness of the water to travel along my personal pipes, to my personal taps?

When the water returned later on Sunday evening, it was quite a relief to see it gushing out of my taps again, of its own accord, with no suction pump needed to coax it back into action. But then, disruption happened again, exactly as threatened, on Monday.

It’s only when you are deprived of something you are used to having that you realise how much you depend upon it. For washing, of me and of the things I eat from and off. For flushing the loo. There was an event I wanted to attend on Monday evening. No go. Unclean.

I had never had anything to do with my lady neighbour before this little water drama. Interesting that things not working properly and “community” go together like this. When the great machine we all depend on stops working, we suddenly become more dependant upon each other, if only to find out what the hell is going on and when it is likely to stop.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

There should be more fake antiquity

I often find the Tweets at Market Urbanism baffling, because they concern obscure American political disputes. But even as I am baffled by the second half of this (what on earth does “filter hard and fast” mean?), I agree with the first half. I also unironically love these:

The Tweet contains a link to this Bloomberg report, which is where Market Urbanism and I got that photo, and which notes (rather gleefully/) that the builder of these things has gone bankrupt.

I do unironically love these gloriously unfashionable little stately homes, but I do not totally love everything about them. Because what is about each one of these fake chateaux, is lots of others that are identical. A lot of the point of living in a building like this is surely that there is nothing else like it in the vicinity. Such a pile should be uniquely recognisable, and architecturally victorious over all the neighbours in the “my house is the poshest” contest. If there is going to be a herd of these things, let there be a bit of variety.

But despite all those nitpicks, I do think that the world could use a lot more fake antiquity of this kind. In particular, I wish more of this sort of stuff was allowed in England. Uninterrupted “honest” modernity can get very dreary, I find. I love those London Big Things that I bang on about here, but a lot of the fun of them is how, closer up, they often tower over buildings erected a couple of centuries earlier.

However, the trouble with newly minted fake antiquity is that this too can look rather dreary and soulless.

When fake antiquity really comes into its own is when it has been around for a while, and people can no longer see how fake it is.

The world seems to be full of well-connected, in-power aestheticians – who demand that every new building be modern, and badly-connected, out-of-power aestheticians – who hate modernity. I want lots of both, all muddled together.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Total Surveillance photos

Following yesterday’s very generic, touristy photos of the Albert Memorial (although some of them did involve a breast implant), here is a much more temporary photo, of the sort most tourists wouldn’t bother with:

You obviously see what I did there, lining up what looks like a big, all-seeing eye with a clutch of security cameras, cameras made all the scarier by having anti-pigeon spikes on them.

And what, I wondered when I encountered this in my archive, and you are wondering now, is the provenance of that big eye?

Turns out, it was this:

So, not actually a photo about and advert for the Total Surveillance Society. It merely looked like that.

However, just two minutes later, from the same spot of the same electronic billboard, I took this photo:

So as you can see, the Total Surveillance Society was definitely on my mind. Terrorism, the blanket excuse for everyone to be spying on everyone else. The two minute gap tells me that I saw this message, realised it was relevant, but it then vanished and I had to wait for it to come around again. Well done me.

According to the title of the directory, and some of the other photos, I was with a very close friend. A very close and very patient friend, it would seem. Hanging about waiting for a photo to recur is the sort of reason I usually photo-walk alone.

I took these photos in Charing Cross railway station on April Fool’s Day 2009. I would have posted them at the time, but in their original full-sized form, they unleashed a hurricane of messy interference patterns. But just now, when I reduced one of them to the sort of sizes I use for here, those interference patterns went away. I thought that these patterns had been on the screen I was photoing. But they were merely on my screen, when I looked at my photos. And then, when I resized all the photos, it all, like I said, went away. Better late than never.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Unfixable Twitter

This makes sense:

There are three separate things the larger Twitter user base demands from the company:

– the ability to send messages out to the entire world

– the ability to interact with fellow users

– the ability to send messages without the fear of toxic responses

The problem is it’s basically impossible to guarantee all three at once. Call it the “Twitter impossibility theorem,” to ape Kenneth Arrow. You can have an open Twitter, you can have an interactive Twitter, and you can have a troll-free Twitter, but it is basically impossible to have all three. One of the demands must be dropped.

Twitter reminds me of that fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which jumps into your ear and translates all the languages of the gallaxy into your language, which started wars because it meant that everyone could understand what you had said, and hate it, and be understood by you hating it.

Twitter doesn’t translate, but it connects the hitherto unconnected.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Nine comfy chairs and nine people

My meeting last night (Tom Burroughes talking about Brexit) went well. I never feared that Tom’s talk wouldn’t be good. I merely feared that a humiliatingly small number of people would show up to hear it, and the better his talk was, the more frustrating that would have been. However, although a few who had said they’d try to come didn’t show, quite a few others who’d not said they were coming did show, and it all went fine.

Nine people doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to make for a very interesting conversation, so long as they are a good nine. They were.

Nine comfy chairs and nine people is no coincidence. This kind of thing has happened too often for it to be chance. When there were fewer comfy chairs, there were, on the whole, that number few people. Conclusion: if I would like more people to attend, I must increase the number of comfy chairs. Up to twelve, which is towards the maximum number of people for good conversation, and the point at which it begins to turn into a “meeting”, in the wrong way. With people who actually had interesting things to say instead sitting there in silence, feeling left out.

I am taking steps to accomplish this.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog