miwhip?

This afternoon, on my way north from South Ken tube, I encountered these golden little vehicles:

It says “miwhip” on them. Who or what is that? I used to be content to just not know such things, and to forget I ever asked. But this is the age of the internet, in fact it has been for some while, as perhaps you have noticed. And the internet soon obliged.

It seems that “miwhip” is an Uber-challenger, and that if you are lucky, when you whisle up one of the above vehicles, you might instead find yourself travelling in one of these:

The best thing I read in the Evening Standard piece linked to above is that miwhip say they’ll pay their hirelings at the end of each day. If you have any friends hacking away at the coalface that is the gig economy, you’ll know how important that promise is. Provided, of course, that they keep it.

Quota gallery of Carnaby Union Jack photos

“Gallery” being the way I now do those little clutches of photos that I’m so fond of doing.

Here one I photoed (x4), in a place in London that now apparently calls itself “Carnaby”. Last I heard, which was about thirty years ago, there was only Carnaby Street. But now the name has spread, thanks to all the name recognition that has attached itself to “Carnaby”, over the years.

Sticking those four photos up here is about as complicated as sticking up just one photo on the old blog. Whereas on the old blog, this would take about a quarter of a day. So, I’m a happier blogger than I was. And that is bound to mean that all you massed ranks of readers of this blog will get happier, because happiness is contagious. And you will be happier for a more tangible reason, which is that you can now click on one of these photos, and then click on the arrows at the side to see all the others, with just three more clicks.

As for the sparkly Thing itself, well, I like it a lot. Ever since the Scottish Referendum, when it looked like the Union Jack could be about to die, I have admired the Union Jack itself. Actually, way before then, but especially from then on. It’s suck a distinctive thing, and will survive endless reworking and reinterpretation.

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.

Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog starts now

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog – this was the final posting there

And this blog stops now.

Not before time. For many years it has been too slow, too clunky and just too all round ridiculous. More recently, and longer ago than I care to think about, (my management of) the comment system went to hell, as I’m sure you noticed.

So, time for a new blog, and here it is. As of now, all new personal blogging by me goes there, and quite a lot of the old personal blogging done by me here has also started going there too, so that if I want to link back to it, nobody has to endure coming back to here.

I’ve hardly mentioned this new blog here, until now. A new blog is not something you want to be promising endlessly, before it finally gets going, far later than you had been promising. You just need to get it ready, taking as long as that takes, and then launch it, and then tell people about it, just as I’m telling you now.

Not that the new blog has been perfected before its launch. It has merely been – please allow me this neologistical verb – adequated. Many tweaks and improvements, both in working and in appearance, will surely follow, especially given that my good friend Michael Jennings set up the new blog for me, and will surely continue to take – not a “proprietorial” (that would be me), but you know what I mean – interest in its workings. My thanks to him, in advance for any future help and for all the work he’s already done.

My thanks to Patrick Crozier who started this blog up for me, many years ago when it wasn’t ridiculous, and to The Guru (he knows who he is) for all the help he has given me over the years, keeping this blog afloat when it would otherwise have sunk without trace.

So, goodbye, hello and welcome.

Quota photo of a signpost

Yes, I like to photo signposts. You know where you are, with signposts.

Here’s a signpost photo I photoed in March 2012:

But there’s more to it than just having a note of where I was, useful though that is. There’s something about actually seeing those particular names of particular places which makes the fact that this is where I really am – and then later: was – come particularly alive.

As you can tell from the previous paragraph, I don’t really know how to explain this fascination of mine. And just now, I am too knackered, having spent the day recovering from a Last Friday of the Month meeting that happened last night. Dominique Lazanski: very good. My front room: very full. Aftermath: lots of crap to tidy up.

Yesterday was a day when I had to be very energetic and alive, to get ready for that meeting. So, I was. (Hence those four blog postings yesterday.) Today, I could be knackered. So, I was.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Roz Watkins’s second book is out today

I read quite a while ago, because I got sent a proof copy. What do I think of it? Very good, and with one especially good moment near the end, which (spoiler alert: I’m about to say something about this moment) I thought was a very acute comment on the nature of human moral beliefs and intuitions, and which I thought was very well set up to achieve maximum dramatic impact.

As I have to keep explaining, Roz Watkins is my niece, that being why I keep plugging her books at this blog when most of what you see here is stuff about London and my photos of London.

Trouble is, writing about detective thrillers is a bit of a mug’s game. I am used to writing about books of the sort where you are allowed to go into the details of what the book actually says. If I find the argument presented in a book, of the kind I’m used to writing about, to be persuasive, then I can say so and say why. But when you are writing about a detective thriller, telling everyone what it says, and especially how it concludes, is a big no. Those who “review” books like this one seem often to be reduced to cliches, all about how they stayed up all night reading it, did not see the end coming, liked the general atmosphere, the leading characters, the dialogue, and so on and so forth, in pretty much those sorts of words. In particular, reviewers compete with each other to find out how many generalised adjectives they can deploy as a substitute for “very good” (see above).

So, yes, I think this book is very good, but if you want to know why I think that, you’ll have to read it. Even then, you might not discover, because maybe you’ll disagree with me. (At which point you too will be forbidden to explain in any detail why you didn’t like it.)

One thing I can say without any fear of giving away any plot details is that the title on the cover of this second book is a lot easier to read (light coloured lettering, mostly dark background) than the title of the first one (lightish lettering, light background) was. I thought that the first book, The Devil’s Dice, was very good, but I think this second one is a bit better, partly for the reason vaguely alluded to in the first paragraph of this, and partly because I found the politics of it (there is some politics, loosely defined (as in: not British party politics)) to be intriguing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Me and my camera at the ENO

Today, thanks to GodDaughter2, who is a singing student, I got to see a dress rehearsal of a new opera being staged by English National Opera called Jack The Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel. I had my camera with me, but these places don’t encourage photography, so I was assuming I’d emerge from the Coliseum with only the memories of what we’d seen and heard.

The story was, of course, gruesome, and GodDaughter2 grumbled about the lighting, which was relentlessly dark and depressing. However, the music was pleasingly tonal, drenched in melodies, and most especially in harmonies, of a sort that seemed, in my youth half a century ago, like they’d vanished from the world of new opera for ever.

Back in that stricken post-Schoenbergian musical no-man’s-land, posh music was thought to “progress”, like science. And it had progressed up its own rear end into unmelodious, unharmonious, unrhythmic oblivion, and because this was progress, no way back was permitted. But then, that was all blown to smithereens by the likes of Philip Glass and John Adams. Iain Bell, the composer of Jack The Ripper, operates in the musical world established by those two American giants.

So even though we were about a quarter of a mile away from the action, up near the ceiling, and thus couldn’t make out anyone’s face, just being there was a most agreeable experience.

And then come the curtaln call at the end, there was another nice surprise:

That being the final surtitle of the show, to be seen in the spot up above the stage where all the previous surtitles had been saying what they had been singing. So I got my camera out, cranked up the zoom to full power, and did what I could.

The curtain calls looked like this:

I was particularly interested in the lady in the yellow dress, on the right of the four ladies (guess what they all had in common), because that lady was Janis Kelly, who is GodDaughter2’s singing teacher at the Royal College.

Rather disappointingly, for me, was that most of the photos I took of Ms Kelly were better of the lady standing next to her when they were taking their bows, a certain Marie McLaughlin:

But I did get one reasonably adequate snap of Ms Kelly, suitably cropped (the photo, I mean) to remove Ms McLaughlin, whose nose had been sliced off in the original version that had emerged from the camera:

My camera now has much better eyesight than I do, and the gap seems to grow by the month. Okay, that photo is rather blurry. But there was a lot of zoom involved. I only managed to decipher about a third of those surtitles. One of the key members of the cast was black, but I only found this out when I got home and saw her in one of my photos (see above).

I hope a DVD, or perhaps some kind of internetted video, of this production emerges. And I think it might, because this is a show full of pro-female messages of the sort that appeal to modern tastes, and featuring one of the most spectacular exercises in toxic masculinity in London’s entire history.

I’m now going to read the synopsis of the show at the far end of the first link above, to get a a more exact idea of what happened.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Trafalgar Square Mascot Mystery of 2007

Here are three photos I took, on May 21st of that year:

I vaguely recall refraining from showing them here (and there was indeed a here then) because I had no idea what was going on. I still have no idea what was going on. I should have asked more questions at the time.

Some kind of sporting event promotion perhaps?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog