Thursday, 23 May 2013

1953 and all that

"Before setting out on the expedition Tenzing Norgay sought the blessing of his mother, Kinzom, at the Thyangboche monastery. She wanted to be sure he was fit and well enough to go; having satisfied herself, she returned to her home>"

How green are the shoots?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Swivel eyed loons 1

Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, champions the government's relaxation of planning controls because "we cannot think of our built environment without thinking of beauty" and we should welcome the prospect of new Chatsworths, NashTerraces of Regent's Park, Edinburgh New Towns, and Salisbury Cathedrals that the government "reforms" are about to unleash upon us. These new buildings of "grace and beauty'" will not only "ravish the eye and lift up the soul" but will provide new affordable housing for thrifty, aspiring, freedom-loving, socially mobile families. (Why be mobile when you live in a Chatsworth?) "No-one who believes in social mobility, in aspiration, in pro-family policies, in thrift and in freedom can be anything other than delighted by the release of more land for housing." The fact that "too few modern buildings can aspire to real beauty is a challenge to the architectural profession". That is the architectural profession which he has recently shouldered out of the business of designing new schools. The property developer "profession", hitherto bound hand and foot by those wicked mediocre architects, is not mentioned, but it is believed to be as delighted as Mr Gove.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

People's Daily architecture

What do they call this in Beijing?
Signature buildings are now everywhere. As one looks downstream in Dubai-on-Thames, crossing Waterloo Bridge, the cityscape is now dominated by them, even as the monstrous 'Walkie Talkie' rises still to its as yet unreached bloated heights, making the slender and much talked-of Shard appear almost insignificant. The Gherkin still holds its sway, appropraitely, as the building that, whatever its merits or demerits, opened the way to a host of clamorous successors, a signal that conspicuous architecture cannot divorce itself from Mammon. The public is right to ascribe nicknames to these buildings, which may, some of them, be 'world class' (if that is a good thing) when seen from a distance, but are seldom world class to the folorn pedestrian who skirts their bases- or even pause to afford him a minimal respect.

Turner Contemporary, Margate - a question of respect?
'World class' was a phrase much beloved of Michael Heseltine, the tory politician and perpetual would-be prime minister who famously (and unacceptably to patrician tories whose extinction we now lament) 'had to buy all his own furniture'. I found myself momentarily warming to the late Margaret Thatcher (who also must have bought her own furniture) when I read that she supposedly said of Michael Heseltine that he had all the attributes necessary fro political success except intelligence.

Donald Winnicott, about whom BBC radio recently ran a programme, used to applaud the ordinary 'good enough mother'. Perhaps we need more ordinary good enough architects. Sadly we are likely to find them, as we find ourselves, as we are so often reminded now by our politicians, in a 'global race' on every side (a phrase that has won out over 'world class' in the great uplifting cliche flat race). We are, however, seldom, if ever, told what lies at the winning post of these global races.

Tweets without end

The end is less nigh than we thought - or maybe not.

I read (in a newspaper) that it is possible to subscribe to a service that coverts tweets into a link, thus freeing them of the limit to 140 characters.

Apparently as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was leaving Margaret Thatcher's funeral service in St paul's Cathedral (though perhaps not quite on the steps), where he was caught on press cameras with a tear trickling down his cheeks, he felt obliged to tweet a comment on how moving the occasion was, in order to regain seeming control of the perception of things. Is there a new career path as tweet-writer for the great and mighty opening up?

"...we came across the word 'twitter', and it was just perfect. The definition was 'a short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds'. And that's exactly what the product was." – Jack Dorsey

Sunday, 5 May 2013

More on sherpas

True Sherpa
See the link in the caption for more information.

A decade or so after the Ascent of Everest, so well coincided with the Coronation, the British idea of a Sherpa was a British Leyland delivery van.

British Leyland Sherpa

If not now, when?

'[British Foreign Secretary] Hague has yet to make a statement since Obama's pledge [to renew his effort to close Guantanamo], but Tory MP Jane Ellison revealed that, during a meeting with MPs campaigning for [Shaker] Aamer's release, he had raised the option of upping the ante through a public plea.'

'Concern is rising about the health of Aamer, who has spent more than 80 days on hunger strike.'

'Aamer's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said he was growing increasingly worried about the seriousness of his physical condition. Last week Stafford Smith twice attempted without success to contact Aamer via US authorities, prompting fears that Aamer, who is significantly beyond the point at which a hunger strike can cause "irreversible cognitive impairment", may be seriously ill.'

'Aamer, who has been held for more than 11 years, was cleared in June 2007. US documents dated November 2009 told him that the "United States government intends to transfer you as soon as appropriate arrangements can be made".'

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Climb every mountain

Sixty years ago
"There's an underlying feeling among the Sherpas that they've been treated quite badly by westerners and that clients don't have any respect for them. If you look around at how incredibly luxurious some base camps are, you can see their point," he said.

"It's not that we pissed them off and there was a fight. This is 10 or 20 years of frustration spilling out. Mob rule shouldn't happen anywhere, let alone Everest, but something needs to change."

"That's the issue that everyone at base camp will now have to resolve. They'll have to listen to the Sherpas. I don't know how this will affect Everest. Part of me thinks the show will always go on. The only way things will change is if the money stops coming in."

Jon Griffith, British climber and leader of an expedition that has left Mount Everest after being attacked by a large group of Nepalese sherpas.