The London Underground, as photographed by Bob Mazzer

Wednesday, 22 January, 2014

London Underground, photo by Bob Mazzer

As if anyone could get enough of the London Underground… a collection of photos, taken by London photographer Bob Mazzer, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Read more posts on related topics

, , , ,

London now, and in 1927… things change, or things stay the same?

Monday, 20 January, 2014

Colour film footage of London, that was recorded in the late 1920s by British cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene, was floating around online last year. Now London based filmmaker Simon Smith has revisited the locations Friese-Greene filmed, and cut the works together, producing a then and now comparison video.

(Thanks Chloe)

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

An illustrated history of the world, courtesy of the British Library

Monday, 20 January, 2014

Image by William Henry Giles Kingston

The British Library has recently posted over one million images from its collections to Flickr. An invaluable study resource I think.

The above illustration comes from a book, “Great African Travellers from Mungo Park to Livingstone and Stanley, etc”, by William Henry Giles Kingston, published in 1874.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The night club owner who devised his own body language

Monday, 13 January, 2014

Sherman Billingsley at the Stork Club, photo via LIFE

Sherman Billingsley, owner of erstwhile New York City nightclub, the Stork Club, which was apparently the place to be seen during its mid-twentieth century heyday, used a series of hand signals to discreetly communicate with his staff.

He might have been conveying messages that ranged from “bring these people another round”, to “get these people out of here”, to “the music’s too loud”, as above.

Might someone in Billingsley’s position be able to operate just as subtly via, say, text messaging, today? No, I’m not so sure about that.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Might 2014 be a re-run, of sorts, of 1914?

Friday, 10 January, 2014

Are there parallels in today’s world with that of a globe one hundred years ago, sitting unwittingly on the brink of the First World War? Some people feel they are seeing some uncomfortable resemblances:

The driving force behind the catastrophe that befell the world a century ago was Germany, which was looking for an excuse for a war that would allow it to dominate Europe. Yet complacency was also to blame. Too many people, in London, Paris and elsewhere, believed that because Britain and Germany were each other’s biggest trading partners after America and there was therefore no economic logic behind the conflict, war would not happen. As Keynes put it, “The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of [the Londoner's]… daily newspaper.”

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Neologisms from the year you were newly born

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

Did the words/terms gazillion, air guitar, or nu skool, come into being the year you were born? Find out with the OED birthday word generator, compiled by Oxford Dictionaries Online.

Read more posts on related topics

, , ,

Statistics can prove anything. Even the greatest person in history?

Friday, 13 December, 2013

Statistically, who is the greatest person in history? More to the point, can such a question even be answered? Steven Skiena, a professor of computer science, and Charles Ward, believe it is possible.

And what about religious leaders, scientists, philosophers, artists, and novelists? Can they be ranked as well – in terms of greatness or importance? Might we be able to play some kind of Moneyball with Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy? Can cultural figures from diverse fields be ranked against each other? How might we compare Einstein, Plato, Descartes, Hume, Michelangelo, Suzanne Farrell, and Bob Dylan? True, it might be ridiculous, or even a bit crazy, to try. Skeptics might wonder about the point of such efforts: what kind of game is this?

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Could 2013 be the best year for movies since “Gone with the Wind”?

Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

It seems like a big call but Bruce Handy, writing for Vanity Fair, thinks 2013 has been the best year for movies since the days of Gone with the Wind.

Meanwhile, independent filmmakers have released Mud, The Place Beyond the Pines, Side Effects, Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station, Blue Jasmine, Blue Caprice, Europa Report, The Spectacular Now, Lee Daniels, The Butler, Enough Said, and Don Jon. Between those films and the bigger-budget fare I called out in the previous paragraph, you could fill a perfectly respectable roster of Oscar nominees.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

There have always been tight pants, always slang terms for them

Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

Those residing during Victorian times appeared to enjoy their slang as much as anyone else, in fact, the era was awash with an array of jargon and colloquialisms. And tight pants it seems, that were obviously common enough to be accorded an idiom of their own, “gas pipes”.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

It’s not so much London loves tunnels, than tunnels love London

Monday, 9 December, 2013

By the sounds of it, there are more tunnels of some sort under London than any other city in the world. Sure tunnels are there for the London Underground, sewage, and the like, but beyond those purposes, there are still many more, often little used, or even known of, channels below the British capital.

But why so many? Did someone once believe London’s inhabitants may one day need to live in subterranean caverns on a permanent basis? Actually it may have more to do with the fact that much of London sits atop a clay base, which is ideal for tunnelling through. If tunnels can be built, why not build them then?

London’s congestion created the need for tunnels and its booming economy provided the financing. But what made them feasible was the city’s location. The clay on which most of the city sits provided an excellent tunnelling medium. It is soft enough to be excavated easily, but impermeable enough to stay dry. Once it is burrowed through it will not crumble. It has a “stand-up time”, says Roger Bridge of the British Tunnelling Society; when the first Crossrail tunnel was being built, parts of the section could be bored out and then explored as the clay stayed in place.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,