Category Archives: Pictures

The future as it was

Colliers 1901When I was a small boy I had a book about science which ended with a few pages of illustrations of how life would be in the 21st Century.

I am pretty sure that it told me that we would farm the sea. (I think there was some kind of marine combine harvester in action). Nuclear power would be a perfect solution to our energy needs, so safe that we all might have miniature power plants underneath our kitchen sinks.

As in all such predictions there would be flying cars which would transport individuals down the city’s canyons and land them safely on the roofs.
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How our bodies were in the 1950’s


Since this picture has a reference to Stuttgart, I am assuming that it is a German representation ofthe way our bodies work. From the style I would guess that this is from the 1950's. It is all very industrial with lots of cogs and iron. Today we would probably portray things differently with integrate circuits and wireless connections. Of course, in order to be really up-to-date, we would have had to outsource and offshore a lot of these functions. If you are surprised at how much German has changed since the 1950's, the text on this copy is in Turkish. I picked it up from the pharmacy on Turnacıbaşi sokak.

Here's an enlarged view of the head. Is this the way yours works? Is that a spider's web or is it some old scentific apparatus ? If those are people deciding in the upper right compartment, I think I have about twelve. And today I have a cold, so I really do feel that I have those 1-ton cast-iron wheels going round and round in my nose.


Etceteras for the next 25 kilometers – Good Road Signs


It’s the etceteras you really have to watch out for.


Hold on to your hats when crossing railway bridges ?


Women can dance the samba on the pedestrian crossing.


Siblings crossing.


Kids kicking the stuffing out of triangles.

Sigwchair A warning to people in wheel-chairs ? Or to alligators (wheel-chairs being hard to digest) ? Or to vehicles trying to drive through in-between.


When wet, the wheels on the left-hand side may end up on the right-hand side.


All pictures from Icons, Taschen

Volcanic money

Krakatoa I remember that the first time I was given this 100 rupiah banknote in Indonesia I thought to myself, “Is this really the best way to promote confidence in currency stability?”

You can’t read the writing clearly in this picture, but I can assure you that the island towards which the sailboat seems to be sailing is Krakatoa or Krakatau, which has erupted several times. The most famous eruption was in 1883. According to Wikipedia its power was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT – about 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the Little Boy bomb that devastated Hiroshima.

I think it would have been even more interesting if they had also added the motto on the US dollar bills “In God We Trust”, perhaps just underneath the volcano.

However, this could have been a useful logo (with the addition of thick fog) for some of those incomprehensible financial instruments which began to explode in 2008.

This banknote was printed from 1992 to 1999 if I am not mistaken. But if you really want to test people’s nerves, you could always issue something with a picture of Mount Tambora, also in Indonesia. Mount Tambora’s eruption in 1815 was the biggest in recorded history. It caused climatic abnormalities and 1816 became known as the Year Without Summer. Crops and livestock perished in much of the Northern hemisphere, causing the worst famine of the 19th Century.

Maybe there will be a Central Bank brave enough to print a Mount Tambora note with the motto “Keeping our fingers crossed”.

(On the other hand, Byron rented a house near Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816. Among his guests were Percy Shelley and his wife Mary. The weather was so bad that they stayed in and challenged each other to write the scariest tales they could. Mary Shelley produced Frankenstein, which therefore owes its existence to a volcano in Indonesia.)

Wee Klinks 3

Wee klinks It’s raining today where I live and it rained so much yesterday that when you ask someone for the time water pours out of their sleeve when they look at their watch. There are glum expressions all around me, but I am actually fond of rain. I think the reason must be my childhood memories from South-East Asia. The way the earth suddenly surrendered up its smells, but even more than that the sound of the rain falling on the bamboo umbrellas everybody had. Being under your own umbrella and listening to the rain beating down was like having your own wonderful sky-drum.

Because of this I was very much attracted to this set of pictures on Flickr all about umbrellas. If you are not lucky enough to have rain falling where you are today, you can always watch the pictures to the accompaniment of this soundtrackLotsumbrellas

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Wee Klinks 2

Weeklinks2 copy
When things don’t work properly one classic strategy is to continue doing the same thing and call it by a different name. Having trouble with the Global Strategy ? Launch the World-Wide Initiative. Is the Post Office falling apart ? Forget about repairing the roof, just call it a Data Communications Hub. This was the reaction I was instinctiveIy primed to adopt when I discovered that fifteen days had gone by from Wee Klinks 1 without any sequel. Perhaps I could rename it New Klinks and avoid any suggestion than something would happen once a week. Or else, since I defined the meaning of Klink last time, couldn’t I re-define week to mean some arbitrary extent of time ? In the end I decided to take another classic approach, make use of a brilliant  mystifying slogan like Wee Klinks – once a week (some weeks) which is what the series will be officially known as – at least until we need some further obfuscation.

This week (or whatever time period it really is) we start with the legendary Egyptian singer, Oum Kalthoum.

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Wordle Quiz

wordle obs car You can’t get away from word clouds by now. Tags, authors and names get pasted into swirls and displayed in patterns everywhere. The presidential and vice-presidential debates were followed immediately by a pictorial analysis of the words most frequently used by each contender. So my subject is not a particularly original thing to write about.
But some time ago I came upon a page called Wordle where you can generate word clouds by pasting in text or linking to a website with an RSS feed.
I thought it would be interesting to learn something about the way I wrote myself and so I pasted in the English text from my book The Observation Car. The result is here on the left.  For those who are new to word clouds it might be worth pointing out that the higher the frequency of a word in a given text the bigger it will appear in the word cloud. “One” seems to be my favourite word, though it is so common and can be used in so many ways that I think it could have been filtered out along with “and”, “a”, “the”, “which”, etc.  “Two” and “three” also get a fair share of hits, but then my numbers peter out, though “five” puts up a shy hand.
I should obviously put up a sign on the wall behind my computer to remind me how prone I am to using “just” and “like”.
I find it interesting that going through the arrangement of words as you would pick up nails or beans scattered on a floor, it seems to come natural to put together clumps of pidgin haiku fragments.

Stare sounds, glass city

Rain made three go away, another keep shoes. Klaxx ! Bang !

Umbrellas stand behind waiting

Door faces seem oh !

Sit like air.

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Two glimpses of Icarus


This painting is Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. You will probably need to click on the picture to enlarge it in order to see Icarus clearly. If you were visiting the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels in a bit of a hurry and didn’t know the painting’s title, you might even walk by without even noticing that Icarus is in the painting at all. This, according to two very great poets who wrote about this painting, is the whole point.

The human mind has a few very unuseful questions it seems to be tugged back to by some kind of primeval mental gravity whenever it can’t think of anything better. One of them is Whose is it? – which has probably caused more trouble than any other question we are capable of framing. Not  far behind is Which do you prefer? We love splitting into teams, especially if we can reduce ourselves to just two of them which are bitterly opposed over something totally unsubstantial, as in the case of the Blues and Greens in Byzantium,  Catholics and Protestants or the Big Enders and Little Enders who Gulliver ran into.

So while I will try very briefly to  make a comparison between the approaches taken by W.H. Auden and William Carlos Williams to this painting, I want to stress out of hand that, although they get there by different routes, they are in my opinion both as good as one can get. Read more…