Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday April 19 2014

Indeed:

image

Actually it’s National Theatre Bookshop.  But I prefer my edited version.

Friday April 18 2014

So I was in Lower Marsh this afternoon, where I photographed this:

image

Odd.  Why are most of them red, but two of them blue?  And why are the three to the top right seemingly not properly aligned?

At first I thought I was looking at a flock of birdcages. But following closer inspection, of the things themselves and of the photos I took of them, my bet now would be that these are light sockets, and that they will very soon be covered by a giant illuminated arrow, pointing towards the entrance to a new cafe.  But this is only a guess.

I know that you are all now very excited about this.  So, I will be sure to keep you informed, with further photos and reportage.

Thursday April 17 2014

On Monday I was in Trafalgar Square, and photoed this statue:

image

I was in a hurry, and had no time to dwell on what it said on the plinth, but it seemed to be saying “JACOBVS SECVNDVS”, or some such thing.  So, could this really be James II?  I proceeded to my Event and forgot about it.

But just now, seeking a quota photo, I looked it up, and yes, it is James II.

Description of it:

Sculpted by Grinling Gibbons or one of his pupils this is considered a very fine statue. It is a pair with that of Charles II, James’s brother and predecessor, at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in that they were both commissioned by Tobias Rustat.

Even better description of it:

A strong contender for the title “campest statue in London”, this statue has seen more sites than most, starting off in Priory Gardens, the centre of Whitehall, the forecourt of the Admiralty and now here.

I knew that the Romans tended to be held in higher esteem in former times than they are now.  But I didn’t realise that James II in particular was such an admirer of the Romans.

Was it James II’s decision to be dressed like this?  It had to be a decision he approved of, or would have approved of, because Tobias Rustat was an exact contemporary, and a servant of Charles II.  I.e. not a man who would have done anything to offend Charles II’s brother monarch.

Blog and learn.

As for the camp thing, James’s face in this statue does remind me a bit of this bloke.

LATER: I see that James II regarded himself as the king not only of England, Scotland and Ireland, but also of France.  Odd.

Wednesday April 16 2014

The pictures below were taken on April 16th 2004, in (on?) one of my regular snapping zones, Westminster Bridge, from which, then as now, you get great views of both Parliament and the Wheel, depending on which way you look.

Most of the things I was photoing then haven’t changed that much, but … I was just then starting to realise that my fellow digital photographers were an object worthy of my detailed and prolonged attention, which they have been ever since.  That summer of 2004 was the moment when I first got seriously stuck into this category of photo.  There are still lots of pictures of people just wandering around, being people.  But, the photographers were just tarting to figure strongly in the archives.  It took me a while to realise that the cameras mattered at least as much as the people using them, that aspect getting steadily easier as zoom got zoomier.

The privacy concerns associated with just shoving recognisable pictures of strangers up on the internet have only grown since then, but I reckon that pictures this old are not such a problem in that way.  Recognisable pictures taken yesterday, that I tend not to do these days, or not so much.  But pictures of people taken a decade ago, well, I’m more relaxed about that.

The little squares zoom in on the cameras.  Click and get the original pictures as taken that afternoon, which would appear to have been exactly as sunny as today is.

Enjoy:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

Mostly silver rather than black, mostly much bulkier than the equivalent cameras look now.  But of course there is one exception to all that.  Picture 3.1 shows a kind of camera that looked then pretty much exactly as it looks now.  Black.  Shaped like an old school camera.  These are the cameras that are actually just regular quite good digital cameras, but which enable you think of yourself as the beginnings of a Real Photographer.  My kind of camera, in other words.  Cameras in this category look now exactly as they looked then.  Nothing has changed with those.

Except what they can do.

Here is a series of photos I took, all in the space of a few seconds, of IEA Director Mark Littlewood speaking at lunchtime on the Sunday of last weekend’s LLFF14, while also being rather dramatically photographed by someone else besides me.

I wish I knew how to display photos the way Simon Gibbs has displayed his set of LLFF14 photos here, so that you can just click once and immediately get to the next one.  All I can suggest is scroll down, and maybe get the effect that way.

imageimageimageimageimage

I enjoyed LLFF14 a lot, and not only because the thing itself was good, well organised, etc..  I think this was also because I did some preparatory thought about what I wanted to accomplish by attending and I then duly accomplished quite a lot of this, and that made me happy.  Signing up speakers for my Fridays, wangling invites to universities, that kind of thing.

Plus, I wanted in particular to learn more about this whole minimum income thing, concerning which I am deeply suspicious.  Again I find myself linking to a Simon Gibbs posting, this time entitled Don’t surrender the next 300 years for the next 15, although what good this lunatic scheme is supposed to do in the short run I do not know.  So anyway, I learned more about that, just as I hoped I would.

Just turning up at a event like this with no active idea of what then to do besides sit and listen, means you are liable to come away feeling (probably quite correctly) that you accomplished very little, and that can be depressing.  I did not make that mistake this time.

Tuesday April 15 2014

I love this, from AndrewZ at Samizdata, commenting on this piece by Natalie Solent, which quotes a couple of particularly demented pieces of writing in the Guardian, about cupcake fascism (this phrase should never be forgotten) and about the horrors of tourism.  (Natalie has been agreeably busy at Samizdata of late.)

Says AZ:

The online edition of any newspaper that isn’t behind a paywall relies on advertising to generate income and this depends on maximising the number of page views. The simplest way to do that is to publish outrageous and provocative opinions that will attract links from elsewhere and start a blazing row among the regular commenters. The great liberal newspaper of old is now little more than a group blog that trolls its own readers for advertising revenue.

No link from here to the original pieces, about cupcake fascism or tourism.  Oh no.  BmdotCOM is not falling into that trap.

Now that I have read the rest of them, I can report that all the comments at Samizdata on this posting are pretty good and worth a look.

Monday April 14 2014

This evening I visited New Zealand House, for an ASI do.  On the way out, I passed this bust, with “FREYBERG V.C.” on its plinth:

image

Inevitably, when you stick up a photo of such a notable, you do some googling.  Not only was Freyberg awarded the VC.  He also scored four DSOs.  My Uncle Jack got three of these, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone getting four.  It seems that sixteen men have won four DSOs, with just two of these (Freyberg and Frederick Lumsden (who died towards the end of WW1)) getting four DSOs and a VC.

Blog and learn.

I see that another of the DSO four-timers - but no VC, although he was recommended for one - was Group Captain Tait, who succeeded Cheshire (VC) as commander of 617 Squadron (aka the Dam Busters).  Tait lead them when they flew from Lossiemouth to Norway and sank the Tirpitz.  I remember reading about Tait when I was a kid, because the book I read about the Dambusters wasn’t just about the dams raid but recounted their whole war.

Sunday April 13 2014

Literally about three people whom I spoke with at LLFF14 may now or soon be flooding in to BrianMicklethwait.com, expecting, perhaps, libertarian profundities.  But this is not that sort of place, is it?  No it is not.

Here, I do things like display photos of London, like this:

image image

On the left, a shot taken by me on May 19th 2004, showing how Vauxhall bus station looked when it was under construction.  On the right, how the same building looked when completed, photoed by me last Christmas Eve.

What a very odd object this is.

The 2004 photo was taken with my second digital camera, which was a Canon PowerShot A70.

Saturday April 12 2014

Back quite late from LLFF14, and too tired to say much about that now, other than that I am enjoying it very much.  So here instead is a blatant quota photo of some painted people I snapped, down by the riverside, from Westminster Bridge, last Thursday, late afternoon:

image

It’s a tough life, having a painted face for a living.  She’s saying: I’ll be home soon.

I thought about cropping this snap, but if in doubt, not, is my inclination on that.

Friday April 11 2014

So I made my way to the Opening Do of LLFF14 earlier this evening, at a bar near Kings Cross Station.  On my way, the light was so good I just had to take some photos.  Not many, but those I did take came out very nicely.  These three were my favourites.  The first is me looking back along Pentonville Road at St Pancras Station.  To think they were once going to knock this down.  The second is just a random piece of domestic architecture.  And the third I took because it looked like it had some rather good cushion type things, such as I might want to buy if I ever get around to making myself a sofa:

image image image

The Do itself was great, until eventually the noise of everyone shouting at each other became more than I could take.  As I said to someone, I couldn’t even hear myself talk.  Not hearing others was bad enough, but when I couldn’t even hear the sound of my own voice, well, there went one of my deepest pleasures in life.  So I left.  That wasn’t a problem.  The main business of LLFF takes place during the day, on Saturday and Sunday, and I will of course return.

On my way from the bar back to Kings Cross tube, I got very lost, despite having my Smartphone with me, with its invaluable map app.  And that was when I noticed something very odd and different about this part of London, compared to where I live.  No helpful signposts, telling you where the nearest tube is, or where Kings Cross or St Pancras Stations are.  I’m guessing because this is a part of town where tourists tend not to go, and most people there just know all that sort of stuff already.  Apart from me.

Thursday April 10 2014

In this:

image

Well, it won’t have taken you long.  But even so, impressive, I think.

The photograph is one of these.

I seem to recall that, in Total Recall (I wish), people’s homes were decorated not with static pictures, but with images that constantly changed.  We are definitely heading that way.

My computer screen now was amazingly cheap, and is by some distance the best one I’ve ever had, a trend that doesn’t look like stopping at all.  Michael J, I know, has two screens attached to his computer, rather than just the one like me.  That too is, I should imagine, a growing trend.  I might do that myself one day soon, if I ever get round to that remodel of my desk that I keep promising myself.  (At present it’s a total shambles, having been designed for one of those horrible pregnant out the back TV sets, and what is worse, one that I hated and immediately swapped for a better pregnant out the back TV, now long gone, of course.)

So, how long before the typical householder connects his computer to about a dozen different screens, scattered around his home.  I’ll never do this, because I have books.  Remember those.  Actually that isn’t very funny, because of course books still abound.  This is because, as Alex Singleton was saying to me only yesterday, the business of reading books off of electronic screens has yet to be perfected.  A few years back, screens to read books with were excellent, because they were built for that and nothing else.  But the arrival of the smartphone, tablet, phablet, thingy has actually caused book reading on the move to get worse, because there’s a trade-off now being made between reading perfectly, and thingy screen perfection.  What you want is a button on all those thingies, to switch to a perfect reading screen when you need that.

These thingies have got to the stage of being essential, but to put it mildly, they are not yet perfect.

An interesting moment will happen when screens are pretty much flawless at doing reproductions of great paintings.

Or to put all this another way, when people look back on our time, they’ll not be impressed with our screens, any more than I am impressed by the screens we had thirty years ago.

And with pictures of the quality of the one above, or of all the others in the set I found it in, being so abundantly available on the www, there’ll never be any shortage of stuff to show on all our screens.  And that’s not even to mention the ones we take ourselves.

Wednesday April 09 2014

As already noted here, I did a piece last week for Samizdata entitled The Institute of Economic Affairs and its support for Liberty League Freedom Forum 2014.  “Hayek1337” has just added this interesting and informative comment, which I want to remember before it disappears off the bottom of Samizdata:

It’s worth noting that Liberty League is ultimately run by Anton Howes, James Lawson, and Will Hamilton – who I’ve considered great friends since their first conference (and the 80s dance floor in some dingy Birmingham club).

Their contribution in the silent background is huge, even if largely ignored. They had the entrepreneurial drive, and they’re the ones who make sure the conference actually has worthwhile speakers,and young people filling the rooms. They do it on the side, Anton’s a full time PHD student for example, but often has a bigger impact than a lot of these full time think tankers. They don’t make a penny from their efforts, it all goes to the conference and supporting student societies. There’s also whole Liberty League team around them, promoting Liberty across all corners of the UK at student societies.

Obviously the IEA is a big backer, and it’s got a hell of a lot of financial muscle, but Liberty League is very close to others in the Free Market movement, and isn’t an IEA project. I’ve seen those three at every Adam Smith Institute Next Generation since time began, and I met two of them at Freedom Week, back when it was set up by JP Floru of the ASI. So, you’ve got to look at return on investment, and those in the background. People like Madsen Pirie of the ASI, and Donal Blaney in the more Conservative movement have played a key role here – identifying and developing entrepreneurs in the battle of ideas, or as Atlas calls them, “multipliers for liberty”.

I guess it’s a case of the more multipliers for liberty the merrier …

Indeed. Quality is good, but quantity of quality has a extra quality about it.  It’s not just more of the same.  Things become possible, even inevitable, that were impossible before quantity kicked in.

I’ve admired Anton Howes for quite a while, and I hope to get to meet and learn more about James Lawson and Will Hamilton at LLFF2014, which is happening next weekend.  Here are some pictures of these three, at the top of this clutch.

What I’ve heard about James Lawson (him in particular) says he might be an excellent Brian’s Fridays speaker.

Tuesday April 08 2014

On Sunday morning, just before attempting to visit a friend, I discovered that I did not have my wallet in its usual pocket.  Frantic search around my home, nothing.  Must have left it somewhere on Saturday.  But where?  Frantic expedition to the supermarket in Lower Marsh, which I visited on Saturday evening.  No.  Nothing.  Start walking back home.  Then remember, was in Marie’s Cafe, Lower Marsh, after being in supermarket.  It has to be there.  But, it’s Sunday.  Will Marie’s Cafe in Lower Marsh be open?  Go back past supermarket to Marie’s Cafe.  Shut.  Only when I go back to Marie’s Cafe yesterday do I discover that they have it.  All is present and correct.  Debit card, money, other crap.

Thank you Marie’s Cafe:

image

So, basically, I am back to where I was on Saturday night.  But, feel ludicrously happy for all the rest of Monday.  And am happy still.

To quote myself, after an earlier episode of a similar sort:

The ridiculousness of the pleasure I now feel is that all I did was correct a stupid mistake, with much fuss and bother and dust up my nose.

This time around, the dust up the nose was only metaphorical.  That time it was literal, because that previous piece of error correction was error correction that involved a vacuum cleaner.

But pleasure is what I feel, and I am going now to continue to enjoy it.

Same again.

Marie’s Cafe has for some time now been my favourite eating out place in London.  Used to be the West End Kitchen in Panton Street.  Mainly it’s the food, and what it costs.  But there is also the fact that all the classical CD places in the West End have vanished and only Gramex, also in Lower Marsh, remains.

I see that the latest review at the other end of that link say that Marie’s Cafe is “overrated and overcrowded”.  Which is hardly her fault.  Personally, what I especially like is that there is a table for one right near the front door that is almost never in use, and I have started sitting there whatever the scrimmage state elsewhere.

Monday April 07 2014

No, this is not a plan to reduce the height of Battersea Power Station until it is mostly only its chimneys.  This is a roof garden:

image

A slice of urban heaven, if that picture is anything to go by.  Alas, it may not be, and most of us may never be allowed up there to check.

I heard about this at Dezeen, and found bigger versions of the same pictures here.

It looks like London is going to get itself some Frank Gehry wobbliness.

The English language is strange.

Consider this.  We’re talking football, not something we often do here, but we are.

Suppose one of us says: “Liverpool are back.” This means that Liverpool, as in the single club Liverpool, is now doing very well, and much better than they have been doing for the last couple of decades or so.  Which it is.  Top of the Premier League as of now.

But suppose someone says: “Liverpool is back.” It would be clear from that remark that what is meant is that the entire city of Liverpool is on the up-and-up, footballwise.  And it is.  Both Liverpool (the club) and Everton, the other big club in Liverpool, are doing well just now.  And Everton … are.

So, “are” is singular, and “is” is plural.

Very singular.

In other soccer news, check out the new Spurs stadium that they are going to build, which is to be called the Naming Rights Stadium.

Prediction: Spurs will do surprisingly badly (i.e. they’ll be eleventh rather than seventh, their current default position) for the next few years.  Why?  Because of this syndrome.