Tagged: London Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • feedwordpress 08:01:10 on 2017/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: Beer Flood, bertillonage, , facial recognition, , London, Meux's Horse Shoe Brewery, signalment, ,   

    “Why do people respect the package rather than the man?”*… 

     

    Alphonse Bertillon’s Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques was essentially a cheat sheet to help police clerks put into practice his pioneering method for classifying and archiving the images (and accompanying details) of repeat offenders, a system known as bertillonage. Beginning his career as a records clerk in the Parisian police department, Bertillon, the child of two statisticians and endowed with an obsessive love of order, soon became exasperated with the chaos of the files on offenders. The problem was particularly acute when it came to identifying offenders as repeat offenders (recidivists), given that the person in question could simply provide a false name. Before Bertillon, to find the files of the accused (or if there was even one already existing) the police would have to sift through the notorious “rogues’ gallery”, a disorganised mess of photographic portraits of past offenders, and hope for a visual match.

    Bertillon’s solution was to develop a rigorous system of classification, or “signalment”, to help organise these photographs. This involved — in addition to taking simple measurements of the head, body, and extremities — breaking down the criminal’s physiognomy into discrete and classifiable elements (the curl of ear, fold of brow, inclination of chin). What in other contexts might be the much loved (or reviled) expressions of a personality, in Bertillon’s world become simply units of information. Taking a note of these, as well as individual markings such as scars or tattoos, and personality characteristics, Bertillon could produce a composite formula that could then be tied to a photographic portrait and name, all displayed on a single card, a portrait parlé (a speaking portrait). These cards were then systematically archived and cross-indexed, to make the task of linking a reticent offender with a possible criminal past, infinitely easier. Put into practise in 1883, the system was hugely effective and was soon adopted by police forces across the channel, before spreading throughout Europe and the Americas, (though without Bertillon’s obsessive eye overseeing proceedings, its foreign adventures were not a complete success).

    Key to the whole endeavour, of course, was the new exactitude of representation afforded by photography, though this was still an exactitude limited to a particular moment. Over time faces change, a fact which rendered Bertillon’s system less than perfect. With the call for an identifier more fixed than the measurements of an inevitably changing face, and a system less complex, bertillonage was eventually, by the beginning of the 20th century, supplanted by the new kid on the forensic science block — fingerprinting

    An early ancestor of today’s Age of Surveillance: “Alphonse Bertillon’s Synoptic Table of Physiognomic Traits (ca. 1909).”

    * Michel de Montaigne

    ###

    As we try on a Privacy Visor, we might recall that it was on this date in 1814 that London suffered “The Great Beer Flood Disaster” when the metal bands on an immense vat at Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery snapped, releasing a tidal wave of 3,555 barrels of Porter (571 tons– more than 1 million pints), which swept away the brewery walls, flooded nearby basements, and collapsed several adjacent tenements. While there were reports of over twenty fatalities resulting from poisoning by the porter fumes or alcohol coma, it appears that the death toll was 8, and those from the destruction caused by the huge wave of beer in the structures surrounding the brewery.

    (The U.S. had its own vat mishap in 1919, when a Boston molasses plant suffered similarly-burst bands, creating a heavy wave of molasses moving at a speed of an estimated 35 mph; it killed 21 and injured 150.)

    Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:46 on 2016/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Graveyard Day, , London, , , railway, trains,   

    “When you’re dead, they really fix you up”*… 

     

    For 87 years, nearly every day, a single train ran out of London and back. It left from a dedicated station near Waterloo built specifically for the line and its passengers. The 23-mile journey, which had no stops after leaving London, took 40 minutes. Along the way to their destination, riders glimpsed the lovely landscapes of Westminster, Richmond Park and Hampton Court — no mistake, as the route was chosen partly for its “comforting scenery”, as one of the railway’s masterminds noted.

    How much comfort a route gives passengers isn’t a usual consideration for a train line. But this was no normal train line.

    Many of the passengers on the train would be distraught. The others — those passengers’ loved ones — be dead. Their destination: the cemetery.

    In operation from 1854 to 1941, the London Necropolis Railway was the spookiest, strangest train line in British history. It transported London’s dead south-west to Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking, in Surrey, a cemetery that was built in tandem with the railway. At its peak, from 1894 to 1903, the train carried more than 2,000 bodies a year.

    It also transported their families and friends. Guests could leave with their dearly departed at 11:40am, attend the burial, have a funeral party at one of the cemetery’s two train stations (complete with home-cooked ham sandwiches and fairy cakes), and then take the same train back, returning to London by 3:30pm.

    The pairing of grief and efficiency may seem a little jarring. It did then, too…

    For the full story, hop aboard at “The passenger train created to carry the dead.”

    * J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

    ###

    As we struggle with our sugar hangovers, we might recall that today is Graveyard Day– or more politely, All Hallows or All Saints Day– a Christian celebration of all saints, “known and unknown.”

    “The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs,” Fra Angelico (c. 1423-4)

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2016/03/16 Permalink
    Tags: high rise, , London, , Rainbow Theater, , skyline, skyscraper,   

    “We have laboured long to build a heaven, only to find it populated with horrors”*… 

     

    The view of London’s skyline from the dome of St. Peter’s today (below) and visualized to reflect the completion of all currently-approved skyscrapers (above)

    436 new skyscrapers could be popping up in London soon: 114 are at the pre-planning stage, 233 have received approval prior to construction, and 89 are actually being built. A new set of extremely-detailed renderings from Visualhouse and Dan Lowe offer an idea of how this high-rise future might actually look. More (and larger) photos and more background at “A Striking Visualization of London’s Future Skyline.”

    * Alan Moore, Watchmen

    ###

    As we reach for the sky, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that a bill headlined by Kevin Coyne and Procol Harum played the “Closing Show” at London’s Rainbow Theater.  Built in 1930 as a cinema, it became a major concert venue in the 1960s:  The Rainbow was where Jimi Hendrix first burned a guitar, and where The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Queen, Genesis, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Little Feat, Kool & the Gang, the Ramones, and many others recorded live material for albums, television, and film.

    The Rainbow was used again, sporadically, for concerts beginning in 1977.  But it was subject to a Historic Preservation Order, the maintenance standards of which the owners couldn’t meet; their plans to convert the space into a bingo parlor fell through, and the venue went dark in 1982.  It stayed vacant until the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Brazilian Pentecostal order, converted into the church that it is today.

     source

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:20 on 2016/03/15 Permalink
    Tags: Bazalgette, Great Stink, , London, , perfume, , scent, , ,   

    “Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will”*… 

     

    Woodcut engraving from the mid-16th century depicting the process of distilling essential oils from plants with a conical condenser

    Since ancient times, people have felt that eliminating the foul odors of human bodies and effluvia is an effective– indeed, in some times and cultures, the most effective–  way to improve public health.

    Consider the sweet, intoxicating smell of a rose: While it might seem superficial, the bloom’s lovely odor is actually an evolutionary tactic meant to ensure the plant’s survival by attracting pollinators from miles away. Since ancient times, the rose’s aroma has also drawn people under its spell, becoming one of the most popular extracts for manufactured fragrances. Although the function of these artificial scents has varied widely—from incense for spiritual ceremonies to perfumes for fighting illness to products for enhancing sex appeal—they’ve all emphasized a connection between good smells and good health, whether in the context of religious salvation or physical hygiene.

    Over the last few millennia, as scientific knowledge and social norms have fluctuated, what Westerners considered smelling “good” has changed drastically: In today’s highly deodorized world, where the notion of “chemical sensitivity” justifies bans on fragrance and our tolerance of natural smells is ever diminishing, we assume that to be without smell is to be clean, wholesome, and pure. But throughout the long and pungent history of humanity, smelling healthy has been as delightful as it has disgusting…

    The whole stinky story at “Our Pungent History: Sweat, Perfume, and the Scent of Death.”

    * Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer [an amazingly good novel]

    ###

    As we hold our noses, we might spare a thought for Sir Joseph William Bazalgette; he died on this date in 1891.  A civil engineer, he became chief engineer of London’s Metropolitan Board of Works, in which role his major achievement was a response to the “Great Stink of 1858,” in July and August 1858, during which very hot weather exacerbated the smell of untreated human waste and industrial effluent.  Bazalgette oversaw the creation of a sewer network for central London which addressed the problem– and was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics and in beginning the cleansing of the River Thames.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:35 on 2016/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: drug bust, ecommerce, , , London, , , , ,   

    “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”*… 

     

    Greenwich Hospital (from the North Bank) source: The Queens’ London

    Accurately imagining what the world will be like one hundred years in the future is always going to be fraught with difficulties (see this attempt, and also this). The writer of this piece “London a Hundred Years Hence”, which appeared in an 1857 edition of The Leisure Hour, certainly swayed a little off the mark when it comes to an imagining of 1957 London – sadly in being a little too utopian. In addition to the eradication of all poverty and crime, the author talks of a smoke-free city, and the “crystal waters” of the Thames, with fishes seen darting over the “the clear sand and white pebbles lying at the bottom”. However, the vision is surprisingly accurate in other quarters. In addition to predicting the vast geographical expansion of the city in which “Kew and Hammersmith were London; Lewisham and Blackheath were London; Woolwich and Blackwall were London”, it also gets it right with specifics, such as the building of Embankment (which would actually begin only five years after the piece was published): “instead of shelving shores of mud, I saw solid walls of granite, … part paved for wheel-carriages, and part a gravelled promenade for the citizens”. There is also a foreseeing of the shopping mall:

    I beheld vast associative stores, the depositories of the skilled worker in every craft, where all that talent could invent or industry produce was displayed in magnificent abundance beneath one ample roof. One shop of this kind for each single branch of commerce sufficed for a large district, and the decreased expenditure in rent, fittings, and service, reduced the cost of management, and consequently the price of products … The purchaser walked through long galleries, where, ranged in orderly array, glittered and gleamed the gold, the gems, the jewels of every clime.

    The piece is really notable, however, for its anticipation (albeit a little too early for 1957) of internet shopping:

    I observed that from each of these district shops innumerable electric wires branched off in all directions, communicating with several houses in the district to which it belonged. Thus, no sooner did a house-keeper stand in need of any article than she could despatch the order instantaneously along the wire, and receive the goods by the very first railway carriage that happened to pass the store. Thus, she saved her time, and she lost no money, because all chaffering and cheapening, and that fencing between buyer and seller, which was once deemed a pleasure, had been long voted a disgraceful, demoralizing nuisance, and was done away with.

    And then also the connectivity across distances which the telephone, and then internet, would bring:

    The electric wires ran along the fronts of the houses near the upper stories, crossing the streets at an elevation at which they were scarcely visible from below; and I noticed that the dwellings of friends, kindred, and intimates were thus banded together, not only throughout the whole vast city, but even far out into the provinces, and, in cases where the parties were wealthy, to the uttermost limits of the realm.

    More at “London a Hundred Years Hence (1857),” where one will find the full text and links to scans of the original.

    * Samuel Johnson, as quoted in Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. (Vol 3)

    ###

    As we look right, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne faithful, and friends were busted:

    Just after eight o’clock, on the evening of February 12 1967, the West Sussex police arrived at Keith Richards’ home, Redlands. Inside, Keith and his guests – including Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, the gallery owner Robert Fraser, and “Acid King” David Schneiderman – shared in the quiet warmth of a day taking LSD. Relaxed, they listened to music, oblivious to the police gathering outside. The first intimation something was about to happen came when a face appeared, pressed against the window.

    It must be a fan. Who else could it be? But Keith noticed it was a “little old lady.” Strange kind of fan. If we ignore her. She’ll go away.

    Then it came, a loud, urgent banging on the front door. Robert Fraser quipped, “Don’t answer. It must be tradesmen. Gentlemen ring up first.” Marianne Faithfull whispered, “If we don’t make any noise, if we’re all really quiet, they’ll go away.” But they didn’t.

    When Richards opened the door, he was confronted by 18 police officers led by Police Chief Inspector Gordon Dinely, who presented Richards with a warrant to “search the premises and the persons in them, under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965.”

    This then was the start to the infamous trial of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Robert Fraser…

    [More at “The Great Rolling Stones Drug Bust“]

    Richard Hamilton’s portrait of Robert Fraser and Mick Jagger under arrest

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:17 on 2015/12/08 Permalink
    Tags: fog, , House of Commons, London, , , streets, Tower of London, ,   

    “A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England”*… 

     

    With his collaborator John Morrison, Harold Burdekin photographed the streets of the city of London in the dark for his book London Night, published in 1934. In a time before stricter air pollution controls, the pair chose foggy nights to make their images, giving the light in the photos a sense of weighty presence.

    The book was printed a year after the much more famous photographer Brassaï published his influential project Paris de nuit (Paris at Night). Unlike Brassaï and the British photographer Bill Brandt, who published a book of nighttime photos of London in 1938, Burdekin and Morrison chose to record only scenes with no people in them. The resulting images are forebodingly empty…

    More (photos and background) at “Spooky, Beautiful 1930s Photos of London Streets at Night.”

    * Rudyard Kipling, The Light That Failed

    ###

    As we penetrate the pea soup, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940, during the Battle of Britain, that the German Luftwaffe launched a massive attack on London as night fell. For nearly 24 hours, the Luftwaffe rained tons of bombs over the city, causing the first serious damage to the House of Commons and Tower of London.

    One year later, on this date in 1941, the day after the air attack on Pearl Harbor, Great Britain joined the United States in declaring war on the Empire of Japan.

    The House of Commons, Parliament, after the attack

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:00 on 2015/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: , drug trials, , , , London, , placebo, ,   

    “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”*… 

     

    Drug companies have a problem: they are finding it ever harder to get painkillers through clinical trials. But this isn’t necessarily because the drugs are getting worse. An extensive analysis of trial data has found that responses to sham treatments have become stronger over time, making it harder to prove a drug’s advantage over placebo…

    Bad, good, or simply confusing news? Decide for yourself at Nature.

    * Salvador Dalí

    ###

    As we take the red pill, we might recall that it was on this date in 1814 that London suffered “The Great Beer Flood Disaster” when the metal bands on an immense vat at Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery snapped, releasing a tidal wave of 3,555 barrels of Porter (571 tons– more than 1 million pints), which swept away the brewery walls, flooded nearby basements, and collapsed several adjacent tenements. While there were reports of over twenty fatalities resulting from poisoning by the porter fumes or alcohol coma, it appears that the death toll was 8, and those from the destruction caused by the huge wave of beer in the structures surrounding the brewery.

    (The U.S. had its own vat mishap in 1919, when a Boston molasses plant suffered similarly-burst bands, creating a heavy wave of molasses moving at a speed of an estimated 35 mph; it killed 21 and injured 150.)

    Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery

    source

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:29 on 2015/08/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , London, one-way, , Roy Livingston, street, ,   

    “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable”*… 

     

    Everything looks cooler when you blast it with X-rays. The photography of Roy Livingston makes electromagnetic radiation his muse; in his colorful series, X-Ray Visions, the skins of alarm clocks, toy robots, old Crosley radios, and more bubble away to reveal their candy-colored X-Ray cross-sections.

    Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Livingston… didn’t always take such colorful X-ray photographs, but after experimenting with digitally adding color to his work as part of a study called “36 Robots,” “the flood gates opened.” Each of his photos begins on the analogue side by taking an X-ray and developing it. He then scans it into his computer in ultra high-resolution, manually cleaning the image as he goes. After cleaning, he creates hundreds of color variations in Photoshop—”I learned about saving large documents in Photoshop the hard way,” Livingston notes—then, after giving the project a few weeks to simmer, goes back to figure out which color paths he likes best.

    When it comes to deciding what to X-ray, Livingston says its all about design. “I’m a big fan of all kinds of industrial design whether it’s new or old,” Livingston tells me. “It’s incredible when you see the thinking, craftsmanship and machining that goes into creating some of these objects. They are works of art by themselves.” If there’s anything he’s trying to get across with his work, Livingston says, “it’s that the simplest things can be beautiful.”…

    More at “Colorful X-Ray Photos Illuminate The Beauty Of Vintage Industrial Design.”

    [Special summertime bonus:  The Best Water Guns of All Time and The History of the Squirt Gun…]

    * Buckminster Fuller (the inspiration for the title of Roman Mars’ wonderful design podcast, 99% Invisible)

    ###

    As we delight in design, we might recall that it was on this date in 1617 that the first one-way streets were established in London. An Act of Common Council was passed to regulate the “disorder and rude behaviour of Carmen, Draymen and others using Cartes,” specifying seventeen narrow and congested lanes running into Thames Street, including Pudding Lane (where the Great Fire of London began in 1667).

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:39 on 2015/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Bedlam, , , flag, graveyard, , James I, London, , Union Jack   

    “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs”*… 

     

    The digging of Crossrail, London’s new twenty-three-billion-dollar east-west underground commuter line, has been one long party for archeologists. Since construction began, in 2009, imposing encampments, clad in blue fencing and busy with trucks, have appeared across the city, providing access points for the cranes and the huge boring machines that are needed to carve out tunnels, vents, and stations along the line’s seventy-three miles. Almost always, there have also been archeologists on the scene, clipboards and trowels in hand, to see what can be unearthed from the briefly exposed soil. So far, there have been excavations at thirty of Crossrail’s forty building sites, yielding up a section of a medieval barge, in Canning Town; a Bronze Age wooden walkway, in Plumstead; and the remains of a Mesolithic campfire, in North Woolwich.

    On a recent, gray spring afternoon, I went to see the latest, and largest, Crossrail dig, across the road from Liverpool Street station, in the middle of the financial district, where a new ticket hall will soon occupy the space previously filled by London’s first municipal graveyard. The New Churchyard, an acre in size, was first used in 1569, not long after an outbreak of bubonic plague, as an alternative to the overcrowded parish plots inside the old city walls. It was not attached to any church, which made it a natural resting place for radicals, nonconformists, migrants, mad people, and drifters—Londoners, in other words. It closed some time in the seventeen-twenties, full many times over. Ten thousand people were buried there; in 1984, a partial excavation found graves dug through graves, eight skeletons per cubic meter…

    More urban archaeology at “Bedlam’s Big Dig.”

    * William Shakespeare, Richard II

    ###

    As we memento mori, we might recall that it was on this date in 1606 that King James I, having inherited the English and Irish thrones to go with the Scottish monarchy that (as James IV) he already had, decreed the design of a new flag for his domains, according to which the flag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George’s Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire on a blue background, known as the Saltire or St Andrew’s Cross), would be joined together, forming the flag of England and Scotland for maritime purposes. King James also began to refer to a “Kingdom of Great Britaine”, although the union remained a personal one.  The flag– known as the Union Flag or Union Jack– was adopted as the national flag in 1707, after the completion of the Treaty of Union and the passage of the Acts of Union.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:56 on 2014/12/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , George Franklin Grant, , , hippopotamus, Hofman, London, tee, Thames,   

    “Is a Hippopotamus a hippopotamus or just a really cool Opotamus?”*… 

     

    Dutch artist Florentjin Hofman, known for his massive sculptures (including his giant rubber duck), has floated a giant hippo, “HippopoThames,” down London’s iconic river.

    Follow it’s progress past landmarks old and new here.  And see more of Hofman’s work here.

    * Mitch Hedberg

    ###

    As we watch ourselves at the watering hole, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that George Franklin Grant was awarded a patent for the first modern wooden golf tee.  Grant was a dentist, one of trio who patented golf tees: in 1922, dentist William Lowell designed a red-painted, cone-shaped, wooden peg with a small concave platform that was patented and became the world’s first commercially produced golf tee called the “reddy tee.”  Recently dentist, Arnold DiLaura, patented the Sof-Tee, a tee that sits on top of the ground instead of in it.

    Grant was a graduate of Harvard dental school, where he later taught– Harvard University’s first African-American faculty member.  He was renowned internationally within his profession for his invention of the oblate palate, a prosthetic device he designed for treatment of the cleft palate.

     source

     source

     

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
esc
cancel