Taking off from London City Airport in 2014

There’s no way I’d be inflicted the job of sticking up these thirty photos upon myself, let along the actual photos on any of you, were it not for the magic of WordPress Gallery, which enables me to shove them all up in one big lump, and you to click through them with just twenty nice clicks. Or not. As you please.

As if often the case, I display them in spite of their photographical quality, but because what they show is so interesting. My plane that day took off right over my favourite clutch of places in the whole world.

Here’s where the plane took off from, flying from right to left:

And here is what I photoed from it, presumably in defiance of the instructions of the people bossing the plane, from just before take-off until we arrived, I’m pretty sure, at the English Channel. I was on the left of plane, pointing my camera south towards the River, at any rate at first:

I particularly like the early ones there, of the territory between the western bit of the Victoria Dock and the River. We clearly see the Thames Barrier, and the Dome of course, but I love all that ever-changing muddle in between. I may well, although of course I promise nothing, be using some of those photos again, one at a time, when discussing the details of how this part of London has changed, is changing and will change. No way does it look the same now.

Later you can see, I think, the Walthamstow reservoirs (which call themselves the Walthamstow “Wetlands”), a golf course (which one, I have no idea), a very particular road intersection (ditto), and an aerial view of The Scream, that painting of a woman screaming, with a friend. Then, would that be the Isle of Wight? Don’t know. Commenters who like this kind of thing can, if they wish, elucidate.

If that’s right we did a 270 degree turn, first going north and then going south, on our way to Brittany. Presumably this was to make sure we kept well clear of anything to do with Heathrow.

Weird transport contraption

I do like the word “contraption”. Contraption. And this is definitely a particularly contraptional contraption:

I had this lined up to go in this earlier posting, but for some reason I neglected it at the moment that mattered.

This was photoed in Parliament Square, late in the day on April 29th 2011, which was the day of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Here is what I said on the Old Blog about that.

I tend to judge the quality of my photos not just by things like artistic impression, but also by how many Things That Interest Me are present. So, in this case: weird transport contraption, photoer with the camera covering his face, lots of Union Jacks (although sadly none with the colours changed), tick tick tick.

But also, note the presence of Urban Tents, i.e. the sort of tents that don’t need soft ground to be erected on because they don’t require tent pegs like the tents of my youth did. Urban Tents are a feature of modern life and they are starting to interest me a lot. Tick. Note the presence below, in the category list for this posting, of “Architecture”. In their soft and temporary way, that is what Urban Tents are. They may well soon have their own category here.

“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.

A favourite posting featuring Dame Edna

As already reported, those who now dip into the Old Blog are no longer greeted with the Screen of the Red Death. But Google still says it’s “not secure”, and the whole point of this New Blog is it works far better, no matter what kind of hardware you are using. So, I’m still transferring stuff from the Old Blog to here,whenever the mood takes me.

Yesterday I transferred a particularly favourite posting, from way back in 2007, which featured a photo by me of a celebrity whom I encountered in Piccadilly Circus:

There is also, in this old posting, a photo of men wearing mankinis. Being photoed by others besides me, naturally.

All this happened on the one afternoon.

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.

A smart and skinny skyscraper in Melbourne

Some Australian architects called Bates Smart have completed a very skinny skyscraper in Melbourne.

Skinny skyscrapers are now a definite trend. I recall speculating that this trend might have something to do with views having become a bit more desirable. But it is clear that what is really happening is that plots of available urban land are getting smaller, while structural engineering is getting cleverer. They build these Thin Things because they have long wanted to, and because they now can.

Personally I like the look of these Thin Things very much. Your typical old school skyscraper is often suitably elegant from afar, but when you stand right next to such a Thing at ground level it can be a bit overhearing, and just plain big. This Thin Thing has, at its base, a little decorated frontage left over from the previous building, that is no wider than a terrace house.

So, Keeping Up Appearances at ground level, while above that, the new stuff above soars off into the sky. This is a style I really like. Front doors need to announce themselves, in the established language of older and smaller buildings. What happens above them can just be tall and shapely. (That creaking sound you hear is the cadaver of Ayn Rand, turning in her grave.)

Since the top of this Thing is sliced off in the above-right photo, here’s how that top looks:

We have plenty of Keeping Up Appearances buildings in London, but I wish we had more of these Thin Things. Something to do with the soil? Maybe later. Sooner rather than later is my hope.

Der Bomber

The things you find in your photo-archives, if you are someone like me and you forget two thirds of what you’ve photoed as soon as you’ve photoed it.

This bloke, for instance, whom I photoed somewhere or other in London, I think somewhere near Embankment tube station, way back in 2006:

You see lots of shirts in London with stuff like this on the back, and without reading the small print, I assumed, as I surely assumed at the time I took the photo, that this was a reference to some sort of rock and roll combo, travelling and doing gigs in various places. In this case, it was probably techno-pop, because that’s the sort of music something called “Der Bomber” would do. Bit of a tactless name, though, if they’re trying to make friends while performing in foreign parts.

It was only when I googled “der bomber” that I discovered that this shirt was celebrating the German footballer Gerd Müller. And he wasn’t trying to make friends with foreigners. Her was trying to beat them at football, and more often than not succeeding. And nor was he really having a “Welt Tour”. He was playing in the World Cup, in 1970 in Mexico, and then in 1974 in … Germany.

Photo and learn. Blog and learn.

The passions that used to attach themselves to bombing now have to find another outlet, and that outlet is now, mostly, sport. I believe that in recent months we have experienced what a gap is left in our world when sport is lacking. The sooner our politicians feel able to allow people back into sports stadiums, there to cheer on their preferred “bombers”, the better.

Strange transport (but no taxis with adverts)

I’ve been spending time looking for taxis with adverts in the archives. When did this photo-habit of mine cut in? It turns out, much later than I thought. Throughout the entire period of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, I only properly photoed, as in deliberately photoed for its taxiness and its advertness, one taxi. One. I photoed it twice, on two different occasions several months apart. But then, for two years and more, nothing. No taxis with adverts whatsoever. I’ll get around to that taxi soon, maybe, I promise nothing.

Meanwhile, however, I was already fascinated by other sorts of transport, of the weird kind. Transport like this:

Two yellow. Two black. A car. A trike. Two motorbikes. A sidecar. And a pillock of a cyclist, getting in the way of that amazing yellow tandem motorbike, may the Plague strike him dead. I’d never seen a tandem motorbike like that before, and I’ve never seen one since.

For those who care, we’re near Waterloo, on Tower Bridge, in Portobello Road, and in the City of London.

There were lots of other strange contraptions I might have included in this posting, but I am aware that during the last day or two, things have slowed down a bit here, and I wanted to post something quick, before doing some essential shopping. Something more this evening, I hope.

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.

First photos with the FX150

I can still remember the Great Leap Forward that the Panasonic Lumix FZ150 “bridge” camera was. For me if not for all of photoer-kind. For me, the best “bridge camera” I could have was my perfect camera. Tons of zoom, but no faffing about with different lenses to at once capture whatever sscene presented itself to me, near or far.

I went rootling through the photo-archives looking for some early photos I photoed with this wondrous new contrivance, looking at the first photo-expeditions I embarked upon, along the River, to the Victoria Docks, or just to Westminster Abbey and Bridge, to photo my fellow photoers, to pick out some photos that brought back the shock of pleasurable surprise I had when I first got my hands on it.

But then I realised I was looking in the wrong place. What I needed to see were not merely some “early” photos, photoed days or even weeks after I got this super-camera. What I wanted to see were the absolute first photos I took with this camera, on January 26th 2012.

And the very first one of all was this:

That scene, of my kitchen window and surroundings as seen from my swivel chair around which most of my life revolves, if you get my meaning. (It’s the chair that does the actual revolving.) I am happy to report that the big grey Thing, bottom left, which was for making ice, has been replaced by a slightly bigger black box, which also makes ice, and also looks after food of many other sorts, including in particular ice cream. Otherwise, nothing has changed.

On each side of the window are CD shelves, and the next few photos I photoed were all close-ups of CDs, edge on:

That was when it hit me, and I believe I can still remember this glorious moment. This was the camera I had been waiting for, all my life. The key point was not just that these were successful photos of distant details. I can tell from the numbering of these photos in the archive that there were no failures. None. All of my first dozen or so photos with this new camera came out fine, even the one of my pop music department, which was where it still is, way off to the left and way up near the ceiling.

Only the following day did I photo anything beyond my front door.

The first outdoor photo I photoed with my new FZ150 was this, dated January 27th, i.e. the following day, just before it got dark:

That’s looking across Vincent Square at the building activity in and around Victoria Street, which has been pretty much continuous, one place or another, for the last decade. Mmmmmm, cranes.

Since then, I have upgraded to the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and then to the FZ330. But they are both really just the FZ150 with frills added. If my current camera, the FZ330 were to be snatched away from me, and I was given another FZ150 and told that this would be my last camera, I’d not be that bothered. Were I told that I would have to go back to the crappy camera I had before the FZ150, that would be a disaster. Soon after acquiring this FZ150, I wrote about it at some length for Samizdata. This confirms what, up until re-reading that, I had merely remembered. The FZ150 really was a huge step forward.

Hurrah for capitalism. It really is ridiculous that the world’s schools are now cranking out a whole new generation of nitwits, an appallingly significant proportion of whom seem genuinely to want to put a stop to this glorious process.