Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Peter Briffa on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Schrodinger's Dog on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Tatyana on Victor!
Daniel Hannan on Daniel Hannan's latest book(s?)
Tatyana on Michael Jennings photos the bridges of Porto
Brian Micklethwait on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Most recent entries
- La Porte des Indes
- Friend on telly
- Sculpture at St James’s Tube
- Digital photographers holding maps
- More photos of things past
- Father Christmas Aerodrome
- How big should these squares be?
- Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
- The Kelpies of Falkirk
- A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
- Polish girls in Moscow doing a selfie
- Music classified
- Quota videos
- Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: History
I’ve recently been doing a lot of trawling through old picture archives, and in the course of this I found a directory devoted to Digital Photographers Holding On To Their Maps.
So here is an enormous clutch of such photos, with the little squares below all homing in on the maps. Click to see the photographers in action, if you wish.
The photos you get by clicking are exactly as taken, but the little squares involved quite a lot of enhancement - brightening, contrasting, sharpening, etc. - the better to reveal their mapitude.
If you don’t wish to click on any of these map squares, fine, but at least reflect with me on how the age of maps, on paper, like this, is now drawing to a close. The above snaps were snapped between 2005 and 2007. I wonder how many such photographs I’d be able to take now. Next time I go out snapping snappers, I’ll make a point of trying to see if paper maps are still being carried by photographers.
My guess would be, yes, just a few. This would be because the keener you are on photography, the more likely you were to have had a nice camera before the smartphone thing kicked in, and the less likely you might be to get a brand new smartphone, to replace your regular, mapless old phone. So maps being held by people with regular cameras are still, I am guessing, around.
But, nobody taking photos with a smartphone will now be simultaneously waving a paper map. Such a person already has a map.
It’s surely worth me adding that I got my smartphone entirely for its map app. It’s lighter than an A-Z and much lighter than all the A-Zs you’d need if you travelled much, and also much nicer than google maps printouts from my computer, because my smartphone, crucially, tells me where I am. For me, a smartphone is a book of magic maps which also does occasional phone calls and textings, not the other way around.
Going back to the pictures above, it’s not just the map-flaunting that is now looking quaint. So do a lot of the cameras. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. A picture collection is like a well stocked wine cellar. It gets better with age.
I am starting to have a real problem with remembering the names of people. (And yes, this is another posting about the process of getting old, of the sort predicted in this earlier posting.) I see him. I know him. Or rather, I know that I should know him, and I do know him. But, I do not know him, as in: I do not know his name, despite have been told that name half a dozen times and more. Nothing is more disrespectful than forgetting someone’s name, yet I keep doing it, to people whom I really want to treat with respect.
The worst recent example of this syndrome concerns a guy who has attended several of my Last Friday meetings. He attended again last night, and once again I got his name wrong. My only defence is that I ask attenders to email me if they are coming. But this is not a condition of attendance, and he never does. So whenever he does show up, as he did last night, it’s a bit of a surprise. But that is a pretty feeble excuse. He’s on the email list.
He is a Spaniard, which I think makes it worse. I ought to be especially pleased when non-Brits show up to my evenings, and I am. So, why can I not do this man the elementary courtesy of remembering who he is?
So anyway, his name is: Victor. Victor, Victor, Victor.
It is my hope that the two pictures below (reproduced here with Victor’s permission) will finally nail Victor’s name (Victor) into my head:
On the left Victor, photoed last night in my kitchen. On the right: Victor.
What’s the betting that next time I meet Victor, I call him Vulcan?
Is this book … :
… the same book as this book?:
It turns out that they are the same book. Hannan:
But, are they precisely the same? I mean: same intro? Same preface? Any other small tinkerings? If the Yanks (maybe the Brits?) changed the damn title, what the hell else did they change?
I find this kind of thing intensely annoying. The whole point of reading something like a book, or watching something like a movie, is that you read (or watch) precisely the same object as everybody else. (This being one reason why I so particularly resent censorship. It prevents me, again and again, from seeing what others elsewhere are seeing.)
The best you can say about this muddle is that at least this/these book/books seem to be coming out at approximately the same time.
How we invented Freedom is nevertheless in the post.
Anyone interested in new public sculpture should try googling for news about: Falkirk, Kelpies, sculpture, and such things. And be sure to include images in your searchings.
My favourite photos of these newly completed Kelpies are, I think, these ones, which were taken while they were still being constructed, and in particular, I like this one:
Horses heads, and also cranes.
I also like the one with the road sign in the foreground.
STV (Scottish TV presumably) news report today:
The Kelpies, by sculptor Andy Scott, are a monument to Central Scotland’s horse-powered heritage.
Each stands at a towering 30m and weighs over 300 tonnes. At a cost of £5m, the project is intended to be a symbol of regeneration in the Forth Valley.
They are part of the £43m Helix redevelopment of around 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth, including new parkland and pathways. It is hoped the site will attract thousands more tourists to the region and boost the local economy.
The statues were inspired by the supernatural water horses of Celtic mythology as well as the powerful heavy horses that were used in the early days of the industrial revolution.
Mr Scott, who also created the Heavy Horse sculpture on the M8 near Glasgow, said: “During the conceptual stages, I visualised the Kelpies as monuments to the horse and a paean to the lost industries of the Falkirk area and of Scotland.
I just caught the fag end of a TV news report on this, and google did the rest.
After a century of mechanised, industrialised warfare, if the troops really died for our freedom, we should be more free than people were in 1913 in Britain. We are not.
Well, it doesn’t follow. That might have been the aim, just not the outcome. And had they not fought, we might (would?) have been even less free.
But, interesting. Similar doubts. Similar concern not to be misunderstood to be dissing the dead.
I agree with Michael J that WW2 in particular was very unusual.
Today being Remembrance Sunday, but not having got out and about during it, I instead looked for Remembrance photos past, and came across the archive containing these.
I was struck by one in particular, in which we see the phrase “To All Our Heroes” inscribed on a cross with a poppy on it. That word “heroes” makes me slightly uneasy, especially in the plural. Were they all heroes? Similarly, the way all these dead are so often described as having “given” their lives for freedom, or for their country, or whatever. It must surely be more accurate to say that many of these men were victims, and that their lives were taken from them. It might be rather insulting to describe them thus in public displays honouring their memory, but maybe more accurate.
The cross on which the word “heroes” is inscribed is surely rather more accurate, as a description of what really happened, to most of these dead. I do not deny that there were indeed many heroes, in all these wars. But surely, for most, war, and death in war, were things they endured. That is a kind of heroism, of course, but is not quite what is usually meant by the word.
I lost an uncle in World War 2, although it happened before I was born. He was the victim of a training accident. I respectfully mourned him from time to time throughout my childhood and have gone on doing so ever since. But there was nothing especially heroic about his death, and that has just seemed to me to be yet further cause for sadness. Many times I wished that Uncle John had died heroically, if he had to die at all. But, he did not die heroically. War is like that.
The cross seems to me to be a somewhat more accurate representation of what happened to these countless men than does the word “hero”. This was surely more like a catastrophe which swallowed people up, in the manner of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood or a fire. Some who suffer or die in the course of events like that are very properly called heroes, because they did indeed behave, and perhaps die, heroically. Most, however, are merely described as victims. No disrespect is intended with that label, and I intend no disrespect in suggesting that many of these war heroes were really just war victims. Their deaths are no less worthy of being remembered and reflected upon, merely because we describe their deaths that bit more accurately.
A lot hinges on whether you consider the fights and wars that all these dead people died in were worth it. There is something inherently somewhat unheroic about dying in a fight that could not accomplish anything good. Part of being a true hero is that you choose the fight in which you will risk and perhaps lose your life, and that you choose it well.
If anything in the above angers you in any way, the chances are that this is because I didn’t say it right. I’m trying to say something that is somewhat hard to pin down, and maybe said it wrongly. I am not trying to say anything demeaning or disrespectful, either towards the dead themselves, or towards the feelings of those who still, like me, mourn them.
Yes, incoming from Rob Fisher:
I am fascinated about why old things look old. Certainly print quality is part of it. Change, too: the Heinz beans logo (which has never changed as far as I can tell) does not look old in the way that some of these logos do.
I’m guessing this is follow-up to what I said here about how photography used to make people from the past look overly solemn, and what Rob said there, in jest, about the past being all in black and white.
Mark Twain must surely have been a bit more merry, in general, than he looks in the photo of him there, now colorised but still very grim looking.
What a lot of the colorised photos look like is stills from “historical” Hollywood movies. You expect Brad Pitt, dressed in olden times clothes, to step forward at any moment.
As for the logos, it is noticeable (although this doesn’t apply to all of them) that in quite a few of them, there was a flurry of (often quite radical) changes in and/or up until the 1950s and 1960s, but somewhat less in the way of change since. Often the later changes (see for instance: VW) are mere polishing. It’s like they were trying to get it right, and then they do get it right and stuck with it. At first they didn’t know quite what a logo was for and what logos are. They they did know. That is reinforced by the Firefox logo, which started in 2002 and then did the one early change in 2003, and that’s it.
How has the internet affected logo design?
More old photos, this time from the time when the Eurostar trains used to depart from Waterloo:
Taken with my old Canon A70, on June 21 2003. So, over a decade ago. I think the sign on the right of these three snaps is something of an exaggeration. That’s about how long it takes now, isn’t it? Not sure about that.
The pictures are all pleasingly worse than the ones I take now, with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150. It would be terrible to think that neither I nor my cameras had got any better between then and now.
Eurostar came and went from Waterloo from November 1994 until November 2007. Since then, not a lot.
In 2012 a new proposal for the future use of the station was made, namely that it becomes the London destination of all the UK’s sleeper trains. This may become necessary as the phasing out of Mk2 vehicles and their replacement with Mk3 will make the trains too long for the platforms at Euston, and construction of HS2 will make the long sleeper dwell times at Euston untenable. If the Paddington sleepers were also diverted this would concentrate all sleeper services at Waterloo International, thus making use of the former Eurostar lounge facilities for sleeper passengers.
I can’t say I quite follow the logic of all that, but at least Waterloo Eurostar-that-was has not been completely forgotten about.
Increasingly, I am coming to think of the summer as the photographing season, and the winter as the time when I look back through what I’ve got and tell you good people about some of it, and generally try to catch up with myself.
So, this summer, obviously, there was The Wedding. But there were also other weddings. Weddings serendipitously encountered, at places like Westminster Abbey (Aug 19) …:
… or in the Kings Road (Aug 31):
Am I entitled to steel the souls of other people’s weddings like this, by not only photoing them but also by sticking up some of the photos on my blog? I say yes, and I am the one who decides because if I decide yes, nobody stops me. Probably someone could stop me, but nobody does. And how can you stop photoing outside Westminster Abbey? Can’t be done.
The way I see it, if you make a big public show of yourself like this, in a public place, you are fair photographic game. The guests are all snapping away, so why shouldn’t a stranger join in? And more to the point, how would anyone Official be able to decide, right then and there, who is a digitalised guest and who is merely a digitalised wedding crasher? Can’t be done.
So, there the photos are, of the brides, the grooms, and of course of the photographers, Real and digital.
These two sets actually make a nice contrast. In the first, we see the Real Photographer in action, waving his arms around to telling the bride and groom where to stand and how to stand and what to look like they are feeling, like the whole show is for his benefit, which this bit of the event sort of is. And the bride and groom pose anxiously, communicating love as best they can, but actually looking more like dutiful than adoring.
And in the second, we see the wedding party emerging from Chelsea Town Hall, to confront a digital scrimmage, with all concerned looking thoroughly relaxed and happy and celebratory.
I recently read a piece, somewhere (sorry about no link – commenters?), about how in the Old Days, i.e. the days when there was Extremely Real Photography (tripod – stand very still) or no photography at all, people made a point of looking severe and grim in front of the camera, on those rare occasions when they encountered one, because if they relaxed they risked looking like a total prat, in what might well be the only photograph that anyone ever took of them or ever remembered them by. As a result we now get a relentlessly false picture, literally, of what life was like for these people in times gone by. We, on the other hand, treat any particular snap that someone snaps of us as no big deal, and we grin away to our heart’s content, and trust our mates mostly to pick the picture that makes us look okay. The whole idea of the Uptight Victorian, said this piece I read, compared to relaxed and happy us, is a consequence of the changing nature not of life itself, but of photography. Interesting idea, I think.
And I further think that these two sets of photos illustrate this contrast rather well.
Last night, in the post immediately below this one, I said that photos get better with time because the things in them change. The illustration, a shop that is a shop no longer, was pretty feeble. But after posting that, I went looking for better pictorial proof, and I think I found it:
This picture is of a big London building, in the middle of the big roundabout across the river from Parliament. This building no longer exists. I then went looking for one of the numerous photos I have taken since of the swanky new hotel that has replaced this old, brutal, Brutalist monstrosity, but of course I could not find one. Follow that link to see what the new Thing looks like.
And my picture also features a bendy bus. These are likewise no longer with us.
The photo was taken on March 10th 2004, with my now antique Canon A70. I also, while on my travels through the archives, found other particularly choice old digital cameras in action. Some of them soon, probably, possibly, I promise nothing.
Photos mature with age. The most commonplace snaps can turn into something a bit more interesting, with the passing of time.
Consider this one, one of the very first that I took with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150:
I know. It’s a shop.
But the thing is, it’s now boarded up. That photo was taken in January 2012. In January 2013, this happened:
The administrators to Jessops face a battle to rescue any of the company’s 192 shops after leading camera makers tightened the terms on which they sell products to the company following a downturn in the market.
Rob Hunt, joint administrator for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Without the support of certain people, we are looking at complete closure.”
Jessops has since made a partial return to life, but so far, that Jessops, which is in Strutton Ground, near where I live, has remained shut.
In the years just before it closed it had an unbearably “helpful” shop assistant, who behaved like he’d been on some mad American training course in how to relate to customers. He wouldn’t leave you alone, and instead would engulf you in loud, totally fake bonhomie. I used to browse around in there from time to time, occasionally buying things like batteries and SD cards, and pondering my next camera. But because of this person, I stopped going there. Was I the only one, I wonder?
Talking of Strutton Ground, did you know that the Goon Show first saw the light of day in Strutton Ground? Yes, on the top floor of the pub at the far end of it from me. I saw this in a TV show about Spike Milligan.
I guess that’s probably more interesting than a Jessops closing. I’ll see if I can dig out more photos of things that have changed, that are rather better than that one, taken longer ago.
I am at the moment struggling to complete a long piece for Samizdata, about America 3.0 and Emmanuel Todd, and so forth and so on, so as of now, all other bloggings are off. I hope that saying this here will get me finishing this, but fear it may delay things even longer, because that is what often happens when I make promises of this sort. I generally prefer to promise nothing.
Meanwhile, here is a photo of a butterfly, taken by me in Burgess Park, in May of this year:
I took that photo on the same day that I took this photo. Alas, the Butterfly also had to twisted anti-clockwise.
Read more about the strange history of this butterfly here. Apparently that building is now a boxing club. Muhammed Ali - Mr “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” - would surely approve.
Anton Howes spoke earlier this evening to Libertarian Home, about what made the Industrial Revolution get started. I took this photo of Howes, as he relaxed afterwards:
Howes really is a class act, as I already knew from when he addressed my Brian’s Last Friday, in July. What he has to say about the Industrial Revolution is already fascinating, and full of fascinating detail. When he has done all his research, then this talk will turn into something very formidable.
Meanwhile, a way to understand where Howes is coming from, and what kind of thesis he is exploring the further biographical and other detail of, is to read a book called Bourgeois Dignity, by Deirdre McCloskey. Howes recommended this book at the talk he gave in July. I bought a copy and am reading it now.
McCloskey’s basic thesis is that the thing that made the difference was ideas. The Industrial Revolution was not merely a bunch of people responding to economic incentives. It was people doing something they had come to believe in, surrounded by other people who also got the point, enough to let them get on with it. The Industrial Revolution was an ideology, brought to life by a core community of industrial inventors and creators, and sufficiently bought into by the wider society for those creators not to be suppressed.
The Industrial Revolution had plenty of chances to happen far earlier, in such places as China and Imperial Rome. That it did not happen earlier in such places is because, although the material conditions seemed to be all present and correct, they just weren’t thinking the right way to make the breakthrough. So McCloskey says, anyway.
As to what Howes said, well, the good news is that, unlike the talk he gave at my place, tonight’s talk was recorded on video by Simon Gibbs, and will accordingly materialise at Libertarian Home, by and by.
Incoming ("A quote you may like") from Richard Carey, who gave a great talk at my home last Friday, at my latest Last Friday, about The English Radicals at the time of the Civil War:
Here’s a quote from Algernon Sidney’s ‘Discourses on Government’, which lost him his head but gained him the admiration of Jefferson and others. Somewhere into the second paragraph, you will know why I have sent this!
The book is a riposte to one by a fellow named Filmer who wrote in support of the Divine Right of Kings, a notion Sidney found odious and false.
So, Richard having already supplied me with this excellent SQotD, penned by John Lilburne, we now have this:
Implicit Faith belongs to Fools, and Truth is comprehended by examining Principles
Whilst Filmer’s business is to overthrow liberty and truth, he, in his passage, modestly professeth not to meddle with mysteries of state, or arcana imperii. He renounces those inquiries through an implicit faith, which never enter’d into the head of any but fools, and such, as through a carelessness of the point in question, acted as if they were so. This is the foundation of the papal power, and it can stand no longer than those that compose the Roman church can be persuaded to submit their consciences to the word of the priests, and esteem themselves discharged from the necessity of searching the Scriptures in order to know whether the things that are told them are true or false. This may shew whether our author or those of Geneva do best agree with the Roman doctrine: But his instance is yet more sottish than his profession. An implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer. I wonder by whom! Who will wear a shoe that hurts him, because the shoe-maker tells him ’tis well made? or who will live in a house that yields no defence against the extremities of weather, because the mason or carpenter assures him ’tis a very good house? Such as have reason, understanding, or common sense, will, and ought to make use of it in those things that concern themselves and their posterity, and suspect the words of such as are interested in deceiving or persuading them not to see with their own eyes, that they may be more easily deceived. This rule obliges us so far to search into matters of state, as to examine the original principles of government in general, and of our own in particular. We cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or know what obedience we owe to the magistrate, or what we may justly expect from him, unless we know what he is, why he is, and by whom he is made to be what he is. These perhaps may be called mysteries of state, and some would persuade us they are to be esteemed arcana; but whosoever confesses himself to be ignorant of them, must acknowledge that he is incapable of giving any judgment upon things relating to the superstructure, and in so doing evidently shews to others, that they ought not at all to hearken to what he says.
His argument to prove this is more admirable. If an implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer in his craft, much more to a prince in the profound secrets of government. But where is the consequence? If I trust to the judgment of an artificer, or one of a more ingenuous profession, ’tis not because he is of it, but because I am persuaded he does well understand it, and that he will be faithful to me in things relating to his art. I do not send for Lower or Micklethwait when I am sick, nor ask the advice of Mainard or Jones in a suit of law, because the first are physicians, and the other lawyers; but because I think them wise, learned, diligent, and faithful, there being a multitude of others who go under the same name, whose opinion I would never ask. Therefore if any conclusion can be drawn from thence in favour of princes, it must be of such as have all the qualities of ability and integrity, that should create this confidence in me; or it must be proved that all princes, in as much as they are princes, have such qualities. No general conclusion can be drawn from the first case, because it must depend upon the circumstances, which ought to be particularly proved: And if the other be asserted, I desire to know whether Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vitellius, Domitian, Commodus, Heliogabalus, and others not unlike to them, had those admirable endowments, upon which an implicit faith ought to have been grounded; how they came by them; and whether we have any promise from God, that all princes should forever excel in those virtues, or whether we by experience find that they do so. If they are or have been wanting in any, the whole falls to the ground; for no man enjoys as a prince that which is not common to all princes: And if every prince have not wisdom to understand these profound secrets, integrity to direct him, according to what he knows to be good, and a sufficient measure of industry and valour to protect me, he is not the artificer, to whom the implicit faith is due. His eyes are as subject to dazzle as my own. But ’tis a shame to insist on such a point as this. We see princes of all sorts; they are born as other men: The vilest flatterer dares not deny that they are wise or foolish, good or bad, valiant or cowardly like other men: and the crown doth neither bestow extraordinary qualities, ripen such as are found in princes sooner than in the meanest, nor preserve them from the decays of age, sickness, or other accidents, to which all men are subject: And if the greatest king in the world fall into them, he is as incapable of that mysterious knowledge, and his judgment is as little to be relied on, as that of the poorest peasant.
My googling abilities are wayward, to put it politely, but based on a fleeting mention of a Micklethwait who was the grandson of “the physician”, the physician Micklethwait does appear to have been quite distinguished. And since he’s a Micklethwait, spelt Micklethwait (without, that is to say, any terminal e), that makes him a relative of mine, or so I have always assumed.
In the course of this googling for ancient Micklethwaits, I also came across this picture, which the National Portrait Gallery has in its collection, of my paternal grandfather, who was a lawyer. Hopefully the sort of lawyer whom Algernon Sidney would have been content to consult. Grandpa Micklethwait died when I was four and I think I must have met him, or at least been shown to him, but I have no recollection of this.
Tomorrow evening I have another Brian’s Last Friday. Richard Carey will speak about “The English Radicals: 1640-1660”. Click on Contact (top left) to cadge an invite.
Until now, I have been slightly struggling to get good speakers soon enough for these evenings, but now I have at last got ahead of myself and have fixed, barring mishaps, the next three speakers also.
Oct 25 - Preston Byrne on Mortgage Subsidies: Why They Didn’t Work in America and Won’t Work Here.
Nov 29 - Dominique Lazanski on Digital Freedom in the UK and Europe.
Dec 27 - Antoine Clarke on Immigration and the Bad Arguments Against It.
Note in particular December 27, Antoine Clarke. This might seem like the sort of date I might want to cancel, but actually, the more that a date might seem like cancellation fodder, the better this is, by not cancelling, an opportunity to tell people that there will be a Brian’s Last Friday, every last Friday, every month, no matter what. Even if it’s just me talking to myself on Christmas Day, or some such strange thing.
I’m already starting to get emails from people who are just assuming there will be a meeting on Friday the whenever-it-is, and simply asking who will be speaking and can they come. I want to encourage this sort of thinking. You know the dates for years in advance, just as I do.
So, I am especially grateful to Antoine for agreeing to do that one in December. I have no idea how many people will show up, but I have a feeling that the day after the day after Christmas Day might prove quite a draw. Public transport will be back in business, unlike on the previous day, and … what else is there to do on that particular day? Work? Play with presents? Go to other meetings?