One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin


I thought I was going to intensely dislike One Way Street (1993) owing to the deployment of that bane of documentary film and television: the actor impersonating a historical figure. But these moments are sporadic, and John Hughes’ film is a reasonable introduction to Walter Benjamin’s elusive philosophies. It probably helps if you already know something of Benjamin’s life and work; there are several allusions, for example, to the famous “angel of history” thesis, and we even get to see the Paul Klee print to which the thesis refers (and which Benjamin owned); but there isn’t a reading of the thesis itself, an omission that the BBC in its documentary heyday wouldn’t have allowed. Various writers and academics do their best to convey something of Benjamin’s thought in sound-bite form, and the film as a whole can probably evade some criticism by claiming to be Benjaminesque in its disjointed and fragmented nature (although that would also be an evasion). I think if I hadn’t read any of Benjamin’s books there’d be enough to stimulate my curiosity, in which case the film would have succeeded. Watch it here. (Via Open Culture.)


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Passage des Panoramas

Callanish panoramas


Photo by Serge (SEB) Bogdanov.

A post for the Summer Solstice. I’ve linked to panoramas of the Callanish standing stones before but these are more recent photos at 360Cities where the full-screen views are more immersive, especially if you have a large monitor. The stones are situated on the Isle of Lewis in north-west Scotland, and still tend to be overshadowed by the reputation of their more visible relations in the south of England. Stonehenge and Avebury may be more famous but they’re ruined cathedrals next to the Callanish stones which have survived four thousand years of harsh Atlantic weather very much intact by virtue of being so remote. In that respect they retain some of their original aura: anyone planning a visit has to really want to see these things, you can’t simply drive past them on the way to somewhere else.


Photo by Alan McLean.


Photo by Alan McLean.

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Underwater panoramas


Under Bonaire Salt Pier by Andre de Molenaar.

Who wants to go diving? A small selection from the many examples at 360Cities. There were fewer wrecks than I hoped but some of the pictures contain surprises, such as the manatee descending to investigate the camera in the Red Sea photo below.


Cape Maeda by Hitoshi Olkawa.


Olho D’Água River by Marcio Cabral.


Dugon, Red Sea by Igor Baskakov.

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London zoom


I’m generally indifferent to panoramic views of cities, especially London where the sprawl lacks the distinct contours of Manhattan or the Napoléonic severity of Hausmann’s Paris. This view is different, however, being a 320 gigapixel panorama of the capital seen from the top of the BT Tower. This view is currently the world’s largest panoramic photo, and while the wide view is of the usual grey cloudscape and undifferentiated vista of 19th-century roofs and 20th-century ducting, the ability to zoom down into the streets (and, in some cases, into windows) is unprecedented at this resolution.


These screengrabs show a zoom towards the river from the widest angle down to the painted sign of the Duke of York pub on the corner of Rathbone Street and Charlotte Place in Fitzrovia. At the end of the zoom there’s a reverse view from Google Maps showing the pub itself, and the tower, the one landmark you won’t otherwise see. MetaFilter’s members have bookmarked various points of interest. I’m surprised there are so many roof gardens in this area of London although I think Paris still has the edge in that department.



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Maze and labyrinth panoramas


Parc del Laberint d’Horta, Barcelona by Valentin Arfire.

Continuing the maze and labyrinth theme, a selection of panoramas at 360Cities. Panoramic photography helps when viewing these constructions at a distance, especially when the camera is centrally positioned. The selection may be small but it shows how universal the urge is to build these things, with examples from Europe, the heart of Russia (where we learn that labyrinths are called “Babylons”) and China. Some of the pages have links to additional views. There’s a plan of the Parc del Laberint d’Horta hedge maze at Wikipedia.


Granite Maze, Kirchenlamitz, Bavaria by Martin Hertel.


Centre of the labyrinth (4 of 6), Castle Weldam, Netherlands by Jan Mulder.


“Vavilon” (Babylon) labyrinth, Kandalaksha District, Murmansk by Andrei Kuznetcov.


Labyrinth at the Uithof, the Hague by Marco den Herder.


Beijing Old Summer Palace 4, Labyrinth in Yuanmingyuan by Yunzen Liu.

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Mazes and labyrinths
Jeppe Hein’s mirror labyrinth