What’s in a name? (Part 1)

Perhaps you wonder how I hit upon “Highpoint One” for the name of my blog. Is it a forbidding and little-known mountain in Tibet? A reference to losing one’s virginity? A prototype spaceship? Codename for a new blend of scotch? A random collection of euphonious syllables I happen to fancy?

Well, it’s a building.

I love this building: Highpoint 1, one of two blocks of flats built by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton in Highgate, north London, in the late 1930s. There’s much to love about its modernist aesthetic: its clean lines, its brilliant whiteness punctuated by strips of windows, its clever and efficient double-cruciform plan (see below) that allowed bedrooms and living rooms to each capture the best sort of light at the proper time of day.


Lubetkin and his Tecton group were among the British pioneers of moderist architecture (although Lubetkin himself was born in Tiflis, Georgia), responsible for, inter alia, the penguin pool at London Zoo. And while projects like Highpoint 1 were most certainly grounded in a classic socialist (even communist) Corbusian vision of the way man ought to live, the design was good enough for the building to actually be used in a completely different way: the social experiment found itself well-suited to providing middle-class Londoners with a taste of modernism.

There are several reasons why I like Highpoint 1 — most of all its sheer architectural beauty, standing as a human triumph in an Edenic setting. I’m not suggesting, though, that Highpoint 1 is my favorite building — I have more than one — or even my favorite block of flats. Some time ago, I needed an anonymous username for a website, and the idea of using the name of a building seemed intriguing. Ever since then, I’ve been rather struck by the name’s pleasant evocation of all that was wonderful and whimsical about British design in the 1930s.

Speaking of British design in the 1930s, today I’ve been reading two articles (here and here) about one of my favorite British architects of the twentieth century, Oliver Hill. I feel a bit of affinity for the fellow, as he sounds more than a bit eccentric as well as quite funny. One of the commenters on the first link in this paragraph says that Hill was married to the writer’s godmother, and that a design he prepared of a country house for a tobacco plutocrat was based on the design of a packet of cigarettes. Also, Hill owned a musical toilet-paper dispenser. Any man with one of those must have some good in him.

Coming tomorrow: “What’s in a name? (Part 2) and Trance Around the Office — Stuck in the Skybox edition.” Stay tuned….

Posted November 16, 2011 by HighpointOne in Architecture, Introduction, Randomness, Words

Trance Around the Office #3

The Flyers & Mike Sonar with the original mix of “Because I Wish To,” a lovely choon that was the Web Vote Winner on TATW #373 — I was re-listening to it just now at lunch.

Posted November 16, 2011 by HighpointOne in Music, Trance Around the Office

Trance Around the Office #2

Rather a new release, this — posted on YouTube just today.

Posted November 15, 2011 by HighpointOne in Music, Trance Around the Office

Photos I like #2

Posted November 15, 2011 by HighpointOne in Architecture, Photography

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British Airways advertising, then and now

I must say, I’m rather impressed with British Airways’ new advert, which not only resurrects the old “To fly. To serve.” motto, but features some rather impressive (though no doubt digitally produced) footage of some notable aircraft, both those operated by British Airways itself and some operated by its predecessor companies. I particularly enjoyed seeing Concorde, of course — if one can think of a lovlier aircraft of any category or any time, I’d be (a) sceptical and (b) willing to admit that there’s no accounting for taste.

Concorde, of course, was Anglo-French — but the basic configuration of the aircraft was British, the wing was entirely British-designed, and the Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 was… mostly British. When developed, at M2 cruise, it was the most efficient powerplant in the world. And, of course, Concorde’s more than 600,000 supersonic hours in revenue service far surpass all the supersonic hours of all other Western aircraft combined (all of them military, of course).

Another reason I’m fond of this video is the appearance — indeed, even prominence, if the last frame is anything to go by — of the Vickers (later BAC) Super VC-10 (aka the “Funbus”). As BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation, one of the predecessor companies of today’s British Airways) was more or less responsible for the commercial failure of the technically brilliant VC-10, it’s pleasant to see the old Funbus remembered in this video. (The nickname “Funbus” apparently comes from the Vickers F.B.5 “Gunbus” of World War I vintage. And the Funbus continues to serve today in the RAF, though not for much longer.) I saw one in person once, as I was departing Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP); an RAF Super VC-10 was parked on a remote ramp en route between Brize and Red Flag.

All this historical discussion leads to the second portion of today’s post. In the August 1964 edition of Venture magazine (on which more another time), there appeared a BOAC advert that managed to be both sexist AND racist:

Good Lord. No, of course the gauche Westerners can’t be arsed to pronounce a Japanese name. Naturally, because she’s Japanese, she’ll be serving you chiefly Japanese dishes. And what of the just-this-side-of-sexual overtones of “[she’ll] thank you so nicely you know she means it. She does”? I guess we’ve all come a long way, baby.

Posted November 14, 2011 by HighpointOne in Advertising, Aviation

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Photos I like #1


Posted November 14, 2011 by HighpointOne in Beverages, Motoring, Photography

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Trance Around the Office #1

One of the regular features of Highpoint One will be what I like to call Trance Around the Office, a selection of some of my favorite trance (or other electronic genre) tracks. Clearly the name of this feature is a direct borrowing from Trance Around the World, a weekly radio show produced by Above & Beyond. In case Jono, Tony, and Paavo are reading this, thanks guys, great work, I’m not trying to make any money via this site, and I hope everybody buys lots and lots of stuff from Anjunabeats.

To inaugurate this feature, this edition of Trance Around the Office has not one, but three wonderful tracks.

Posted November 13, 2011 by HighpointOne in Trance Around the Office

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Hello, good evening, bonjour, konnichiwa, and welcome to Highpoint One — my blog. You’ll find it, I think, about as random and meaningless as anything on the internet — possibly even more so. I intend for it to be a collection of my thoughts, opinions, moods, amusements, and interests. I’m writing it more for myself than anyone else.

A typical blog post on Highpoint One might well look like the following.

I splashed a bit of an old cologne of mine on this evening, and was immediately struck by how certain smells can evoke such strong memories.

In my case, this cologne — a rather pleasant, woody scent that was a gift from my father — brought to mind a brief period of my life of about ten or eleven months ago. The mossy notes of the stuff brought simultaneous memories of “Mr. Brightside,” by The Killers (a song to which I was much addicted at the time), the taste of vodka and Red Bull cocktails (don’t ask me why, but for some reason I thought I was going to find the perfect way to make them, and love them deeply; in the end I drank far too many of them a time or three and haven’t had one since), darkened bars, and a tendency I then had to make out with girls in said darkened bars (and, in fact, memories of those individuals as well). It was not a happy time, and I’m glad to say that I somehow moved past it. I still listen to “Mr. Brightside” occasionally, and the same memories are brought back.

At a pub quiz tournament I found myself overhearing one night not long ago when I was feeling very low indeed (more on why some other time, perhaps?) I found myself feeling impressed with the degree to which I know trivia about Maryland. I don’t live in Maryland, though of course it’s not far away, and I wouldn’t have said that I know much about the place. Well, maybe I don’t, but I could at least tell you what Baltimore boy was well known for stories of the macabre (Edgar Allan Poe, obviously — one wishes one had his facility with language and one looks at his life and death with a mixture of sympathy and apprehension) and the old name of Baltimore’s airport (which was Friendship — in many ways a far lovlier name than Thurgood Marshall). 

Speaking of airports, isn’t it a bit of a pity that National Airport (DCA) has been renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport? I don’t say this because I don’t like Ronald Reagan — I do, actually — but because, if you want to name something in honor of someone, good taste dictates that the thing being named is worthy of the person being honored. And that, I’m afraid, DCA is not. John Wilkes Booth National Airport might be a more fitting name, and not because the passenger facilities are really all that bad. About the best you can say for DCA is that its location could hardly be better for access to the center of Washington. This great asset, however, has led to the place’s two worst drawbacks: its pathetically short runways that limit the size of aircraft that can land there safely, and its proximity to the Capitol and the concurrent desire by politicos to place bizarre restrictions upon it (the “perimeter rule” never made much sense and today it’s completely arbitrary).

Ronald Reagan would probably have felt prouder about an even more prominent use of his name:

Finally, having introduced the subject of hardware, a word might be in order about the new Fiat 500. Out of curiosity, I test-drove two of the little pluguglies last week, and came to the conclusion that if you are looking for an automobile that handles almost exactly like every other economy car on the market yet is grimace-inducingly cute, this may be the econobox for you. Truthfully, from the standpoint of a driver, the thing has nothing to offer that you can’t get in a basic Ford, Toyota, Honda, or Hyundai — and frankly, what did you expect? It’s a mass-market Italian car, being sold by Chrysler in this country as some sort of boutique or otherwise upmarket product (and Chrysler’s last exercise in making a retromobile was certainly disappointing). Neither its Italianness nor its relationship with Chrysler are particularly confidence-inspiring. Besides, given a choice between a set of wheels made by a firm that aided Il Duce and one that worked for the Allies, I know which option I’ll always select. I continue to prefer a good sturdy piece of English hardware ironmongery:







Well, that’s how a blog post here might look, anyway.