Other creature news

In among all the vile bile, Twitter continues to serve up good Other Creatures news, especially in video form.

Here, for instance, is evidence that when it comes to shifting stuff around, while simultaneously showing a bit of common sense, robots would appear to have some way to go before they will be entirely replacing the working class.

Here is a delightful photo of two pigeons, who are checking out a photographer who is trying to photo a ceiling.

And, in otter news, here are otters doing something very strange, under a tree, in what turns out to be Singapore.

Meanwhile, via (the rest of) the blogosphere (David Thompson to be exact), an amplified cat and dogs who ate bees. The dogs look so happy, especially given how very unhappy they must feel.

On a more melancholy note, Mich Hartley tells of the Soviet whale “decimation” of the middle of the twentieth century. Decimation however, is surely the wrong word. It was far worse than that. The writer whom Hartley quotes seems to think this means killing nine out of ten, because he talks of whale species being “driven to the edge of extintion”. But decimation wasn’t killing nine out of ten members of a Roman legion. It was killing one in every ten. It was to punish, not to extinguish, a legion. That verbal quibble aside, there can’t be too many reports of what an insanely destructive economic system the USSR imposed upon all its victims. And its victims were not only human.

Cricket at Beckenham

Today I journeyed out to Beckenham, to watch the afternoon and evening sessions of Day 3 of Kent v Surrey.

Warning: do not follow the above link if you are allergic to pretentious writing. When Daniel Norcross writes about cricket he takes pretentiousness to a whole new level. What he is trying to say is that, even by the standards of the average day of county cricket, this day of county cricket was rather boring. But does he say that? Does he Samuel bloody Beckett.

This is how the County Ground was looking:

I photoed many more photos than that. I chose the above photos to give you an idea of how it all looked, in a general, scenic sort of way. That’s how it would look to a non-cricket fan. A cricket fan like me would zero in on the actual cricket, as I did in a lot of my other photos. But unless a camera is told to zoom in on that cricket, it simply gobbles up everything it is pointed at.

Beside the Thames at Laleham

Laleham is a place beside the River Thames, just south of Staines. I grew up a bit beyond Egham, which is the next station on the Reading Line from Staines. But I don’t recall ever going to Laleham.

Until this afternoon, when I went walking alongside the river there, with my friend Rob and his two young sons, who live around there. We made our way to a spot near the river in the family car, got out and walked along the river and then inland a bit to a pub, ate and drank in the pub, and then retraced our steps. Rob and I walked, and his boys were on their bikes. A most agreeable way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

The road we walked and biked along is called Thames Side. On the left, as we went pubwards, posh houses. On the right, the river, and attached to the bank on the other side, rather smaller and less posh but still very desirable dwellings, mostly rather shed-like bungalows.

Thus:

All of which made a pleasing change from my usual Thames-related photo-destinations, which are mostly to the east of me. Places like Laleham, out west, are basically finished. I don’t suppose the above scenes looked that much different to how things were when I was a kid, living around there. But the stuff out east, especially the stuff beyond Tower Bridge, is being constructed and reconstructed on a huge and hectic scale, even as I blog and even as you read.

This new blog makes it a lot easier to stick up a clutch of photos like this one, compared to how hard this kind of thing was to do at the old blog. And it is also a lot easier for you to view all these photos. You can just click on the first one, and then get to the next one with just one click, and then on to the next with one more click, and so on. A great improvement.

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.

What four friends told me about their experiences of architecture

I’m giving a talk about architecture, to the first of Christian Michel’s 6/20 gatherings next year, on Jan 6. By way of preparation, instead of just thinking about it all for myself, I am soliciting strongly felt architectural opinions and experiences from friends and acquaintances. I could go on the internet to seek such stuff, but internet discussions on any particular topic tend to be by a self-selected group with a particular axe to grind. I seek a collection of axes, so to speak. Lots of angles. Lots of agendas.

In this posting, I will record the opinions and recollections along these lines that I have collected, basically so I don’t forget them. So far there have four. Here are these four, in chronological order of them being told to me.

First, a friend who vehemently objected to the way that modern buldings are not built to last. Why tacky boxes that get ripped down after thirty years? Why not stuff like they used to build, that hangs around for hundreds of years, like Quinlan Terry still builds?

Second, another friend, married to the friend above, a rather high-powered nurse and manager of nurses, who has had experience working with architects on new healthcare buildings. She spoke in particular of a design for a new mental hospital, which contained, she said, several suicide opportunities built into it. Since suicide in such places is very spur-of-the-moment and opportunistic, this was inviting a regular trickle of such disasters. What my friend hated and despised was not the original design as such, but the refusal of its perpetrators to change it, once the above had been explained to them. These architects, said my friend, were more interested in getting awards from other architects than they were in designing a good building which did the job required. She kept on repeating the bit about them being “more interested in awards”.

Third, a newly acquired friend now based in London but who grew up in Dublin. He spoke about a Dublin terrace, long and elegant, violated by some electrical techies who needed a switching station. Instead of hiding their damn switching station behind the facade of the terrace, as they well could have, they insisted on bashing a gap into it, to insert their modernistical box of tricks. It was quite a cause celebre when this all happened, although I’ve not been able to track it down on the internet.

Fourth, and last so far, a friend who recalled a recent visit to Budapest. She loved it, with its tall apartment buildings, with their frontages all beautifully and individually designed, in antique or art nouveau styles, early in the twentieth century. It took her back to her childhood in Bucharest, where they had just the same kind of urban housing. Until Ceausescu smashed in all into oblivion to make way for his fascistic monstrosities.

The above experiences and recollections have in common that they involved huge anger as well as plenty of intelligent thought. Two of the four involve the destruction or desecration of old buildings, and the first is about the refusal to build in an antique style in the first place.

The second, about the award-seeking mental hospital designers, is a bit different. Modernism prides itself on being functional, but is often not functional. My sense is that things have been getting better in this respect. (They could hardly have got worse.) But if the above anecdotage is in any way typical, then there’s clearly room for improvement.

On this day

Madsen Pirie:

May 1st could be remembered for many things. It was on this day in 1707 that the Act of Union joining England and Wales with Scotland took effect, creating the United Kingdom. It was also on May 1st that the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued, creating the UK popular mail service that was used so skillfully to disseminate leaflets by the Anti Corn-Law League.

It was also the date in 1851 that Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition, to demonstrate the UK’s achievements to the world, and to sell them. Another great opening on the day was in 1931, when the Empire State Building was dedicated in New York. So iconic was it that it featured two years later in the classic movie, King Kong.

To all of the above can be added that May 1st 2019 was the day that Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog was loosed upon the world. That’s certainly how I’m going to remember May 1st, from now on.

Pirie goes on to discuss how Mayday, in Britain, means celebrating workers, and the amount of revolutionary mischief they can be persuaded to inflict upon the world.

I prefer my version of this date. Although, I also liked what Pirie went on to say about the contrast between when the dates celebrating Labour happen in Britain and in America. It’s the difference, he says, between hope and experience, between failure and success, between socialism and capitalism.

Now you see it now you don’t – then you do again

In that chat that me and Patrick had yesterday, about Christianity and its influence, I mentioned, for some reason, how part of the reason the Shard is shaped like the Shard is that it is also shaped like the steeple of a typical sort of London church.

The church in these photos, that I photoed the same day I photoed these photos of the Optic Cloak, is Christ Church Isle of Dogs:

The little game I played there with the two spires, as I walked back towards the middle of London from the Greenwich Peninsula, is exactly the sort of thing Renzo Piano had in mind when he designed his spire.

This is not the first time I’ve played now you see it now you don’t with a church and the Shard, aligned.

The trick is for the church to be very near, compared to the Shard.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quimper Cathedral photos from a year ago

Earlier today, Patrick Crozier and I recorded another of our recorded conversations (by and by it will appear here). Patrick laid out the agenda which was Christianity, and how, although he could never believe in it, nenevertheless regrets the diminution of its influence on our world.

He mentioned the way the Western Roman Empire fell apart after it had been conquered by Christianity (echoing Gibbon, although I didn’t say that; he mentioned ecclesiastical architecture; he mentioned the intimate relationship between Christianity and secular power; and at one point we rather digressed, into the matter of French domestic architecture.

Here are four photos I photoed in Quimper, Brittany, exactly one year ago to the day, which illustrate these various talking points:

Photo 1.1 a history lesson inside Qumper Cathedral which covers the ground Patrick alluded to about the Roman Empire (protected by glass, hence the reflection of the stained glass window).. Photo 1.2 is a view of one of the towers of Quimper Cathedral, as seen from the other tower. Photo 2.1 is of an equestrian statue, from the same spot. And finally, 2.2, also from the same spot, is a photo looking out over the city of Quimper.

The weather could have been a lot brighter, but you are only allowed to the top of Quimper Cathedral on the one day each year, and April 29th 2018 was the day that it was

I will greatly miss Quimper and its Cathedral, now that my friends in France no longer live there. I won’t be going back on my own, just to see it but not them.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog