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.

Friday creatures Twitter dump (3): All the others

Further proof that a dog will put up with just about anything, including being biffed by a cat half its size, if it has been subjugated by humans and if the humans say it mustn’t retaliate.

Well that didn’t take long. So, here are the rest, all in one Twitter dump posting.

Congratulations to Laurence Fox, for standing his ground against the mob. Live long and prosper, Mr Fox, and in the fullness of time become Sir Laurence, for services both to acting and to sanity. (LATER: Fox laughter.)

Also on the subject of acting, my favourite recent Babylon Bee story was this:

Hollywood Actors Pledge Never To Take A Role Where They Have To Pretend To Be Someone Else

Finally:

Saw that here.

That’s it for BMNB today, probably (I don’t promise nothing). I’m off out this evening, to do Something, and it will take several hours for me to get ready.

LATER: Bird carries shark.

EVEN LATER (not Twitter, but I’m dumping it here anyway): Robot jellyfish.

Today I did Something (and saw five e-scooters (which are cool))

Typically, for the last few months, I have days and days of doing nothing other than whatever I feel inclined to do. On such days, doing two, three or even four blog postings here is doable. But give me a Something that I have to do, and there goes about two thirds of the day.

Once again, I think this is one of the many symptoms of getting old, for poor old me, anyway. Being old, I now need an hour or more to get myself worked up into a sufficiently active state to do the Something in question, and then when it’s done, I need a couple more hours to recover my wits. On a day like that, me doing three or four blog postings is a lot less likely. Today, if you include this one, I will have done three postings. But the first two were very perfunctory, more like tweets done on a blog than your actual blog postings. This one is a bit longer, but that’s just because it’s a ramble.

The silly thing is, the Something I did today was all done and dusted within about one hour. I stepped outside, went to my nearby bank, did my bank business, and then, because the weather was rather filthy, I just went straight home again. But even that made a big dent in my day.

The reason I mention all this is to make that same e-scooter point I’ve been obsessing about here lately, to the effect that e-scooters are about to conquer the world, aka London. Every time I go out, even just to the shops and back, I see several e-scooters. Today, the e-scooter count was: five. That’s a personal record. Five. In the space of less than an hour. I didn’t even try to photo any of them. Like I say, the weather was filthy, and cameras and rain do not mix well. Also, e-scooters are fast and are gone before I can photo them. That they’re fast is why they catching on so fast.

Maybe I should stop this posting now, but here’s another e-scooter thing. A friend with whom I recently discussed my current fascination with e-scooters said: You may be right about why e-scooters make sense. Trouble is: They’re naff. The people who ride on them are twats. E-scooters are not cool.

This friend, however, although far younger than me, is nevertheless no longer of the age where she gets to decide these things. It is teenagers and twenties who determine the coolness of lack of it of things like e-scooters. All my e-scooter sightings today were of teenagers or twenties. Clearly, these teenagers and twenties think that e-scooters are cool enough for them to allow themselves to be seen on them in public, given the advantages to them, in such things as speed and convenience. What old codgers think is only of concern to them if they can be doing something that the codgers disapprove of. If the old codgers, under the delusional impression that they think they can decide such things, think that e-scooters are not cool, so what? That’s just their old codger way of saying they don’t approve. Good. That’s a feature, not a bug. Bring on the e-scooters!

I am still not fully recovered from doing all that tedious Something I did earlier today. So, I reserve the right to go through this tomorrow morning and do whatever grammatical tidying and spell-checking is necessary. As of now, I’m too knackered to bother. I trust it still makes sense, despite whatever communicational blunders now afflict it.

SpaceX building fewer rockets

Most of the news today seems to be particular bad. But not this:

SpaceX has gotten good enough at reuse that it’s building fewer rockets.

Space travel is finally getting back to being as fun to follow as it was when they did moon landings. The big difference this time round is that then, money was no object. Now, money very much is an object. Huge improvement.

Civilised disagreement works better face-to-face (therefore cities have a future)

The present dose of Plague History we’re having has caused much pessimism concerning the future of big, densely packed cities. Being an enthusiast for big city architecture, especially the seriously big and eye-catching sort, I am now more than ever on the lookout for people saying things about why cities confer, and will continue to confer, an advantage upon all those who live and work in them.

So, I particularly noticed this Bo Winegard tweet, when I encountered just now:

It depresses me how quickly a person on twitter can go from disagreeing with you to cursing and insulting you. Strikes me that there’s probably an evolutionary mismatch because almost all of our interactions were face-to-face. People are much nicer when they have to look at you.

I think that captures a key advantage of face-to-face communication, which is that it makes it more likely that those face-to-face communicating are that bit more likely to do it like ladies and gentlemen rather that like loutesses and louts.

I think people on twitter shout, so to speak, partly because they can. But also, maybe, because they feel they have to, to get their point across. If you do one of those oh-so-gently meaningful and very politely phrased criticisms, on Twitter, or for that matter during a conference-at-a-distance, you are liable to fear that your point will get lost. Your iron fist will be completely smothered by the velvet gloves you chose to wear. Face-to-face, you can literally see and hear and feel your point getting across. Or not, in which case you can politely rephrase it.

Being able to disagree in a civilised manner, in a way that doesn’t leave lasting scars or permanent feuds, is fundamental to the successful functioning of any organisation.

My dad was a barrister, in American: a trial lawyer. British barristers are always careful to call each other “my learned friend”, and the more fiercely they are quarrelling, the more they are careful to scatter these words upon all the insults they trade. That always used to amuse me, when my dad talked about it. But an important point was embodied in such drollery, not least because dad often spelled it out explicitly. When arguing, be polite. The more fiercely you argue, the more important politeness becomes. Twitter seems to make that harder. Face-to-face communication makes it easier.

So, cities will survive. Face-to-face communication is now one of their core purposes.