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

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Category archive: Politics

Monday April 11 2016

The rise and (I now fondly hope) fall of Donald Trump continues to fascinate.

This bloke says it very well, I think:

Trump is powerfully illustrating the fraud at the core of his case for the nomination. He claims that because he is a successful businessman he would be much more adept than conventional politicians at mastering the intricacies of problems and processes. He will, he brags, figure out how to deal with challenges in a way that maximizes American interests, assembling the best, most competent people to execute his plans of action. As a result, we are told, American will “win, win, win” with such numbing regularity that we will be bored to tears by all the success.

But look what is happening. The process of choosing a Republican nominee for president, while far from simple, is not as complicated as many of the challenges that cross an American president’s desk. There are, moreover, countless experienced hands who know how the process works and how to build an organization nimble enough to navigate the array of primaries (open and closed), caucuses, party meetings, varying delegate-allocation formulas, etc., exploiting or mitigating the advantages and disadvantages these present for different kinds of candidates. Yet, Trump has been out-organized, out-smarted, and out-worked by the competition – in particular, Ted Cruz, whom I support.

Trump is not being cheated. Everyone is playing by the same rules, which were available to every campaign well in advance. Trump simply is not as good at converting knowledge into success – notwithstanding the centrality of this talent to his candidacy. Perhaps this is because he is singularly good at generating free publicity (and consequently minimizing the publicity available to his rivals). Maybe he underestimated the importance of building a competent, experienced campaign organization. But he can hardly acknowledge this because it is a colossal error of judgment – and his purportedly peerless judgment is the selling point of his campaign.

My first reaction to Trump was guilty pleasure, and the belief that he would win.  Now it looks like he won’t win.  Now it looks as though he has done America the huge favour of (a) destroying everyone in the Republican race except the man I support, Cruz, and then (b) showing himself to be unfit to run for President, let alone win, which means that Cruz could now be President, if he can beat Hillary Clinton (or whoever).  Would Cruz now have such a good chance of becoming President without Trump having flailed about like a wrecking ball, wrecking everyone except Cruz?

It is said that Cruz is a Bible Thumper.  (Trump worships only himself.) But for me, frankly, Bible thumping just now is a feature rather than a bug.  I reckon the Western World could damn well do with a bit more Bible thumping than it has been doing of late.

Yes, I’m talking about Islam.  The rich Christians right now are turning poorer Christian’s cheeks a hell of a lot too much at the moment.

On that subject, I also recommend this posting at Mick Hartley’s, where MH has this to say:

What I’d like to see is more robust criticism of Islam itself. Given the role Islam now plays globally in ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda; its insistence that the Koran is the immutable word of Allah; its general refusal to accommodate to the modern liberal scientific world; its misogyny; its violence, this shouldn’t prove to be that difficult. What stands in the way - apart from lack of courage - is that this comes at a particular post-colonial moment in history when we in the West seem to have lost confidence in our own liberal secular tradition.

There is also, perhaps more importantly, a general confusion about a belief and the people who hold that belief, which is perfectly exemplified in the term “Islamophobia”.

It’s a key part of our secular culture that we distinguish between the person and their opinions and beliefs. I think we inherit this to some extent from our Christian tradition - freedom of conscience, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, and all that - but however it was arrived at, it’s a key enlightenment concept that underpins our sense of justice and our sense of democracy. So we should be quite comfortable criticising Islam while maintaining a proper respect for individual Muslims. ...

The word is that Cruz has dared to criticise Islam.  Is that true?  It would appear so.  Good.  The anti-anti-Islam tendency is not happy.  Good again.

Sunday April 10 2016

Here (via Instapundit):

The tricky thing, Adam says, is how many of his clients insist on secrecy. If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know. Adam must balance his goal of spreading awareness of his company, so he can attract more clients, with the benefits of keeping the public in the dark. If people start to doubt the veracity of crowds, his business might suffer. “Right now, we’re still kind of this secret weapon,” Adam says. “We have the element of surprise. Yeah, you might’ve heard about political candidates paying to bring some extra bodies into their campaign events, but it’s beyond the realm of most people’s imagination that crowds are being deployed in other ways. Nobody is skeptical of crowds. Of course, in five years that could change.”

Indeed it could.  And something tells me that this story is going to get very well known, very quickly.  “How much are they paying you for this?” is going to be asked, a lot.

A longer term effect is also going to be that genuine protests are liable to look like they’re fake too.

People have been paid, in cash or kind, one way or another, to do this kind of thing for quite a while.  All that this guy has done is turn it into a pure, if that’s the word, business.

Monday March 28 2016

Indeed.  The old Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo is finally coming back to life again, for boring rush hour services, but life.

Until late in 2007, Eurostar trains used to come and go from the new station they built at Waterloo for that exact purpose.  But then they shut the place, and the Eurostars operated from St Pancras instead.  Since 2007, the Waterloo Eurostar terminal has been a corpse.

After much searching, I managed to dig up a photo I took in 2007 of some Eurostar snouts poking out of the Waterloo terminal, just before it died:

image

Once again, we see Century House in the background of a photo here that is basically of something else.  The previous posting in which this happened is here, at which there is a brief explanatory comment about Century House’s history.  Spooks, basically.  Now just flats.

Even older Waterloo Eurostar photos can be viewed here, posted here in 2013, but taken in 2003.  I also just re-listened to a conversation involving Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and me, about the new St Pancras, which we all liked a lot, and presumably still like a lot.

Friday March 25 2016

Guido links to a piece in GQ about Seumas Milne, and Guido picks out this bit:

Former colleagues reveal how, despite his slight figure, Milne had a remarkable habit of refusing to give way in corridors. Over several years, his fellow journalists grew tired of his insistence that oncoming co-workers make way for him. Eventually, one snapped, telling his desk, “I’m not going to do it again. Next time he plays chicken with me, I’m not going to get out of the way.” The whole office waited for the inevitable confrontation. Soon enough, it happened. As Milne walked down a corridor, the six-foot colleague approached from the other direction. They smashed into each other, sending Milne flying, along with the papers he was carrying. “Seumas was in shock,” recalls an onlooker. “No one had ever done that to him before. He expected people to show deference to him.

I still remember a collision of this sort, half a century ago now, that I once inflicted upon an equally impolite person, when we were both at Marlborough.  The IP was in the habit of pulling rank on me when we were walking in opposite directions along a certain very narrow footpath, the IP making no effort whatsoever to in any way get out of my way, me having to do all the avoiding.  So, one day, I didn’t do any avoiding, and me being shorter than him, I walked my head straight into his chin.  I knew the collision was coming but he didn’t, so he got the worst of it.  Nothing he could say or do, no matter how vehement, was going to change the fact that he got what he deserved and that we both knew it.

It’s amazing how much of the trouble in the world is caused by male human animals disagreeing with one another about their relative importance in the world.

Friday March 11 2016

I learned a lot (big thank you to the invaluable Guido Seen Elsewhere section) from Leslie Loftis about why the sort of person who likes him likes Ted Cruz:

The stubbornness against Cruz is personal. We are fellow Houstonians. I know many people who have worked with him and many more who know someone who has. I’ve followed his career since late 2010 when my husband asked me to look into a lawyer named Ted Cruz, former solicitor general. Word in the Texas lawyer circles was that he wanted to challenge Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for retiring Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s Senate seat. It was an impossible task according to the conventional wisdom. But many of the grassroots conservatives were tired of the party’s conventional wisdom.

Cruz covered every county in Texas, and he won votes with every hand he shook. People liked his ideas, and they liked him. He went from two per cent name recognition to an early call and huge victory in the Republican primary. (In Texas, that is the election.) I was there, and I liked what I saw.

But that is the people. And his staff. They are loyal. Intellectuals and party players, and the friends of those intellectuals and party players, however, sound like George W. Bush, “I just don’t like that guy.”

I’ve asked for substantive objections. They don’t come. Even the personality objections lack details. “Not nice.” Stories like mine about the kiss or videos of a dad taking a moment to airplane with his daughter, those don’t get air.

I’ve come to the same conclusion as this citizen journalist, “I believe what these elitists hate the most is that they feel that Ted Cruz looks down on them. Ted Cruz doesn’t respect them because they have money, or because they went to Harvard, or because they are men of power. Ted Cruz is motivated by principle, not class. Ted Cruz has a political agenda and a love of constitution that overrules loyalty to his Ivy League brethren.”

For the egos of his Ivy League brethren and their friends, we are jeopardising our Republic. Because they “just don’t like that guy”, we risk nominating the fickle and hardly likeable Donald Trump for president and actually electing the conniving Hillary Clinton. The American experiment is at stake, and our elites are pouting that the man rising to lead is not their kind of guy.

True, he is not. And that is why the people like him.

All of which only serves to flesh out some of things said by Tom Grey in a comment he recently attached to my earlier Cruz piece.

In my opinion, an amazing proportion of the trouble in the world is caused by men - mostly it is men - disagreeing about their relative importance in the world.  The GOP’s top dogs think they are topper dogs than young whippersnapper Cruz, but Cruz does not acknowledge this, because he’s a whippersnapper.  Which is why the voters like Ted Cruz and why the GOP elite hate Ted Cruz.

It’s now looking like Cruz may be the Sun Tzuist, rather than Trump.  And it looks as though the long-term significance of the Trump phenomenon may be that he is clearing the path for Cruz, by making a sufficient number of Republicans like Cruz, simply because he is not Trump.  More probably, there is no Sun Tzu happening here.  This is just how it happens to be turning out.

More anti-Trumpery here.  Summary: Trump won’t stand up to detailed scrutiny.  For starters, he ain’t nearly as rich as he pretends.

All of which is great for people like me and Tom Grey, who like Cruz because he is Cruz.

On the other hand … Trumpophrenia strikes again.

Thursday March 10 2016

I like to photo the covers of newspapers and magazines.  Such snaps can be very evocative, when looking back at them.

One of the more memorable of such snaps recently was this:

image

The whole Brexit argument seems to be turning into a clash of pessimisms.  Which would be more ghastly?  Britain staying in or Britain getting out? 

Here is a piece that argues that Brexit would be ghastly, for the EU.  As well as all the hoo-hah about refugees, there’s also the little matter of the EU economy collapsing.  If Brexit happens, so might that.

So, will the Remainiacs argue, come the Referendum, that we must stay in, to save EUrope?  Could be.  The argument will be: if we leave, that will wreck EUrope, and that will wreck Britain.

And the Leavers will say: well, if EUrope is a wreck waiting to happen, we’d do better to get out.  Whatever happens, the immediate future looks terrible.  If we get out, at least we could then look toward our own longer term future with a bit of optimism.  We will save ourselves by our exertions, and then EUrope by our example, bascially by turning EUrope back into Europe.  Brexit will be like Dunkirk.

There has for some time now, I think, been a breed of “national” politician – Cameron and Osborne are such – whose first loyalty is to the global elite and to such enterprises as the EU, rather than to their own mere countries.  They are not really our leaders anymore.  They are more like District Commissioners for The Empire.

Personally, I do not oppose The Empire just because it is an Empire.  I oppose The Empire, now, because I don’t think the Imperialists are running it very well.  And I favour Brexit now both because I think that, on balance, Brexit will be better for Britain, and because the Imperialists need a good kick up the bum.  More politely, I think these people should stop being so “anti-patriotic”.  They need to stop regarding patriotism as their enemy.

More exactly and less windily, the Imperialists also need to follow better financial policies.  I think they are more likely to do this if Britain competes with EUrope than if Britain is a province of EUrope.  And what might these policies be?  Well, the world needs competing currencies, both because the best of these will be quite good, and because they will stir the world’s fiat currencies into being better.  That’s more likely to happen if the world consists of a looser affiliation of semi-sovereign states than a tight Empire of provinces, ruled unchallengeably by Cameron, Osborne, and their gaggle of rich, powerful, and actually somewhat stupid, friends.

Sunday March 06 2016

I recently said here that I was finding it to be a pleasure to be contemplating the rise and rise of Donald Trump, but I also said that it was a guilty pleasure, and I really meant that.  Mostly, the phrase “guilty pleasure” is used to describe a pleasure that is merely rather uncool, like liking Abba even before the gays did, which is exactly what I did because I liked them as soon as I first heard them win the Eurovision Song Contest, and this despite their absurd trousers.  But that’s not a “guilty pleasure”.  A guilty pleasure is when you enjoy something immoral, like Donald Trump and Donald Trump doing well.  There was never anything morally wrong about Abba, and I never felt in the slightest bit guilty about liking them.

The immorality of Donald Trump is that he is the living embodiment of crony capitalism, and crony capitalism is the problem, not the solution.  He might become a good President, but only if he turns over an entirely new leaf and starts believing in non-crony capitalism.  This is not impossible.  Having been one of these creatures himself, Trump may at least be able to spot other creatures of this genus, and he may decide that whereas being a crony-capitalist was good for him, a super-abundance of crony-capitalists is bad for America.

But why take the chance?  Just as likely is that Trump will carry right on being a crony-capitalist, this time by obliging all the other crony-capitalists with little slices of his Presidential power, and charging them each a fee.

Based on what little I know of him, Cruz seems like the least worst Presidential candidate with a serious chance of winning, and now it is starting to look as if he just might win.  I said in that earlier piece that Trump was going to walk it, but now it seems he might not even stagger it.  Cruz might win.  I have liked Cruz ever since I heard an interview someone did with him, during which Cruz revealed that he was enthusiastically pro the Constitution of the United States.  Wow, that’s subversive talk, of the kind that I personally like a lot.

Here is how a commenter ("Prince of Whitebread"), on the piece linked to above, puts it:

I would ask the Trump supporters why Trump continues to get press and airtime far in excess of the others.  Answer: Trump is the Candidate the MSM wants to face Hillary. The PajamaBoy Press soils their onesies every time they contemplate Ted Cruz debating Abuela Hillary. They know he’d destroy her with logic, facts, the Constitution, and her own gymnast principles.

“Abuela” is, I believe, the Spanish for Granny.

So, are the hoards of Trump enthusiasts now starting to agree with such anti-Trumpery, and to switch to the man that the establishment truly hates and truly fears?  Would Cruz winning the Republican nomination, and in due course the Presidency, be a non-guilty pleasure?  Or is he just another version of the establishment?  Is he terrible too?

LATER: Roger L. Simon:

Which leads me to the real topic: Trumpophrenia. I suffer from it and it’s only getting worse. I change my opinion about Donald almost every five minutes - and I can’t be the only one. There may be millions of us.

I am not alone.

Saturday March 05 2016

I enjoy books that consist of quite a lot of short biographies.  I feel that I learn a lot from such books, very quickly.  Which is why, when I recently, in a charity shop, came upon Brief Lives by W. F. Deedes, I snapped it up.  I particularly enjoyed this bit, where he describes the rise to prominence of Stanley Baldwin, my enjoyment being caused by having previously known nothing about how this had happened.

The turning point in his career came in April 1921 when at the age of fifty-four he was promoted to President of the Board of Trade in the coalition government under Lloyd George.  There were no great expectations of him among senior ministers but the House of Commons took a liking to his patience and good humour and felt they could trust him.  That element of trust counted, for in the autumn of 1922 strained relations within Lloyd George’s coalition came to breaking point.  The Liberal party was in tatters while the Conservatives were increasingly restless under Lloyd George, and divided about his value to them.  Baldwin had been tramping round Aix-les- Bains, his favourite holiday resort, brooding over his party’s future.  He decided that the Tories must detach themselves from Lloyd George and his wily ways, and return to responsible parliamentary government.  Behind this decision lay profound anxiety about the future of his party rather than promotion of himself.

Baldwin prepared his ground by consulting Conservative colleagues, though up to the last moment he did not know how some of them would respond.  As G. M. Young has observed, what Baldwin’s speech to Conservative backbenchers at the Carlton Club in 1922 did disclose, though not everyone realized it at the time, ‘was that this countrified business man, who seemed to have reached the Cabinet by accident, was the master, and the unequalled master, of a new eloquence: direct, conversational, monosyllabic: rising and falling without strain or effort, between the homeliest humour and the moving appeal.’ Baldwin’s simple earnestness carried the day.  The coalition broke up. Lloyd George resigned. The Conservatives won the 1922 election and Bonar Law, though a sick man, became Prime Minister and appointed Baldwin as his Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, any sense of triumph was soon dimmed by the task of negotiating settlement of the American debt. But Baldwin took a stride forward with his speech on the Address which closed with these words:

The English language is the richest in the world in mono-syllables.  Four words of one syllable each ... contain salvation for this country and the whole world, and they are Faith, Hope, Love and Work.  No Government in this country today which has not faith in the people, hope in the future, love for its fellow-men, and will not work and work, and work, will ever bring this country through into better days and better times, or will ever bring Europe through or the world through.

The House of Commons had not heard language like that for a long time. Baldwin followed this up with a Budget speech which was sound, entertaining and, some thought, brilliant.  He used his mastery of plain English as a key to the hearts of Members of Parliament - and many outside Parliament.

Baldwin spent a long time thinking over what he proposed to say, though speeches were usually delivered from rough notes, never a script.  I can remember watching him from the press gallery as he sat on the government front bench apparently idly browsing through the Order Paper while the House was engaged in business outside his area.  He did this to escape from his office, the telephone, the private secretaries, colleagues and visitors and thus earned a reputation for indolence.  But these spells in the Commons gave him a sensitive ear for other Members’ feelings, which is why some of his speeches caught their imagination.  They also gave him the chance to think things over quietly. These days the Prime Minister is expected to be perpetually in motion and action; he has no time to ruminate.  ‘My mind moves slowly,’ Baldwin sometimes remarked. What he then had to say was all the better for it.

He understood his countrymen, not merely those he associated with in business and politics, but the working man and woman; and, as many of his speeches showed, he had insight into their thoughts and aspirations. I once heard him speak at Ashridge, which was then a Conservative college.  The Morning Post had sent me there disguised as a student to report on whether the teaching was true blue.  Baldwin’s contribution was a bit of a ramble, but his earnest tone of voice drew you into what he was saying. I do not think I ever heard him utter a cliche.

So when ill health compelled Bonar Law to retire Baldwin was a serious contender for the premiership. His main rival was Lord Curzon, who, though Baldwin’s senior, was a controversial choice as it would mean a Prime Minister sitting in the House of Lords.  Baldwin also had his drawbacks: he was not well versed in foreign affairs nor greatly interested in them and he was not well known, partly because he disliked publicity.  Baldwin himself had doubts.  To a journalist who congratulated him on the steps of No. 10, the new Prime Minister replied, ‘I need your prayers rather.’ He took to a cherrywood pipe, wore the incongruous mix of a wing collar with a tweed jacket and waistcoat and took over a nation in a delicate state of health.

The war had played havoc with our overseas trade. Britain had not become, as Lloyd George had promised, a ‘land fit for heroes’; on the contrary, many of the heroes were out of work.  Baldwin took the plunge, dissolved Parliament and sought a mandate for protection. His miscalculation meant that the Tories lost but neither the Liberal nor Labour parties won outright.  Baldwin favoured giving Labour a chance to experience the trials of office and this came to pass. Today, his head would be on a charger for losing an election so soon after entering No. 10, but Baldwin had made his mark on his party and the country.  Even as a rather indifferent Leader of the Opposition he survived, and in little more than a year the Conservatives were back in office with a big majority and a mandate to govern from 1924 to 1929.

Thursday March 03 2016

As soon as I did that first posting this morning, about blogging early, I was freed from any obligation – self-imposed, but still an obligation – to blog any more today.  At which point the idea of putting more up here, today, became fun, rather than any sort of chore.  Hence the next posting, the one immediately below this one.

This one is here mostly so I can have postings called “Blog early” and “Blog often” up here on the same day.

Earlier this evening I attended a Libertarian Home meeting, addressed by Tim Evans.

One definite improvement over previous LH meetings in the same venue is that on the blackboard behind the speaker, it said his name, rather than the names of lots of things you can eat.

So, behind Tim Evans, underneath where it says “Specials” it also, this evening, said “Tim Evans”:

image

Better.  In particular, better than this:

image

The speaker in that picture was Allum Bokhari, last August, and that picture of him is most unflattering.  Alas, this is the picture I took that night that best shows all that food.  Go here to see Allum Bokhari looking better, even if he is wearing headphones.  To hear him also, talking about the “censorship” (if that’s what it is) of the social media, by the social media.

So, the video of Tim Evans talking will look better, in this particular respect, than did earlier videos, of LH speakers in front of that blackboard.  You build an ideological movement one step at a time.  This was a small step, but a definite step.  Nice one.

Sadly, I am not so confident about the likely sound quality of any video that transpires.  Tim has a way of talking rather quietly when in a smallish room such as this one is, but the hinges of the door to the room had no such inhibitions and were squeaking something terrible, every time anyone came in or out, as happened quite often.  We shall see, and we shall hear.  Hope I’m wrong about that.

Thursday February 25 2016

I am greatly enjoying the progress of Soon-To-Be President Trump.  File under: guilty pleasures.  My libertarian friends mostly express horror at Trump’s irresistible rise, and his terrible opinions, and his terrible hair, but surely you never really know what you’ll get with a new President.  During the Thatcher years some of the people who most agreed with me did very little that I liked, while others, impeccably governmental sorts, who were just doing what seemed sensible to them, did quite a lot of good things.  See: privatisation.  Maybe Trump will turn out like that.  Maybe he will even decide to have dignified hair.

Trump seems to me like he’s going to be the USA’s first Television President, by which I mean someone who got to be President via television.  Didn’t they have one of them in Brazil not so long ago?  Some guy who had got well known by being some kind of TV talent show host, or some such thing, and then, to the horror of the Horrified Classes parlayed that into being President.  It was probably a disaster, but Brazil usually is.  And now, Brazil has one of the strongest libertarian movements in the world, does it not?  Maybe that’s how libertarianism wins.  First you have a crazy TV guy, and then libertarianism.  I can hope.

Anyway, Trump.  This piece about Trump by Scott Adams is a good laugh, as are comments on it like this:

I liked the one in Arkansas when the manager of the facility announced that Trump broke the all time attendance record set by ZZ Top in 1978. lol

He is certainly a canny operator, as Adams explains very cannily, cataloguing Trump’s many previous successes, such as a best selling book on how to negotiate.

Part of the skill of getting the Republican nomination is to behave like a guy the Mainstream Media are confident they can easily destroy, in due course.  Which means that instead of destroying you straight away, they destroy all the other fellows, who they thought were stronger than you, which by definition they can’t have been, can they?  You have to be like Russia, and look either much weaker than you are, so the media don’t bother with you, and then much stronger than you are, so the media then grovel, as they do when they face a force of nature, in other words a force bigger than them.

I could of course be quite wrong, but I reckon Trump is going to walk it, when he gets around to dealing with whichever car crash of a candidate the Dems stick in front of him.  And it will either be Clinton or that old socialist guy, the ones already in the race.  Nobody else will want to join, because the prize for winning the Dem nomination will be getting Trumped all over, and who needs that?  Those two old crocks both joined the race while Trump was still in his ridiculous phase.

No wonder the Chinese are nervous.  They surely know a true son of Sun Tzu when they see one. 

Tuesday February 16 2016

Blogging, as I just was, about assemblages of London’s Big Things, here is another such assemblage, albeit quite a small one, which has been staring me in the face for weeks, but which I only just properly noticed:

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This is to be seen at Guido Fawkes, whenever, as you can see, London’s Mayoral election is being blogged about.  Very horizontalised, so no big blogging deal.

Monday February 08 2016

More and more, as I browse around in places like dezeen, I come across pictures looking like this:

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The this in question being the idea of connecting the tops of towers with footbridges.  And that particular picture having been produced to advertise a new scheme for jazzing up Paris.

I love bridges of all kinds, and footbridges just as much as any other sort, so I have been paying attention to such pictures as the above for quite a while now.  And I reckon there’s now something of a buzz developing around this idea.  Simply, there are about to be a lot of such bridges as those fantasised above, connecting the tops of buildings, and often for the use of the general public, rather than just the people in the buildings directly connected.  There will, in some big cities, in only a few years, be entire new alternative worlds at the old roof level, where you will be able to travel for miles without ever touching the regular old ground.

I am now going to scroll down at dezeen, to see if I can find more pictures like the above.  Bear with me. …

Well, it took a while.  Dezeen has lots of postings about stand-alone little modernist buildings, which, frankly, don’t interest me that much.  My feeling about such stand-alones being: we already know how to do those.  Modernist versions of big sheds or older school houses are just stylistic tweaking.  Nothing profound is going on.  But pictures like this …:

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… and this …:

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… (which I found in this posting, and which I remember being very struck by when I first set eyes on them) tell me that a seriously different urban future will soon be happening, in cities all over the globe.

The underlying story here is that cities are ceasing to be mere machines for living in and for working in, with occasional little spots that tourists will like to visit and have fun in (but which the locals ignore).  They are becoming nice experiences.  Everyone is becoming a tourist in them, you might say.

Central to this process is the banishment of big old road vehicles, and an alternative emphasis on being a pedestrian.  Or even a speeded up pedestrian.  Think of how the old dock districts of big cities are being turned into nice new developments with lots of waterside footpaths.  Think of what has been happening to canals.

What’s going to happen is that one city – maybe Paris? – will do this in a big way, and tourism, including by the locals, will surge upwards, in the city and on the graphs.  People will love it.  And then lots of other cities will do it.  Including London, because London has a natural pre-skyscraper height at which this will make sense, and because London is now so full of stuff that is worth seeing from this particular height.

A big reason why all this is going to happen is that it will not be all that expensive to do, one of the big reasons why pedestrian footbridges are already a major design flavour the decade being that public money is now tight, and footbridges are relatively cheap.  Designers love them, because although footbridges do not involve that much metal or timber or concrete, they do often involve a lot of design.

The picture at the top of this posting has the words “Ternes-Villiers, La Ville Multi-Strate by Jacques Ferrier” attached to it at dezeen, and I just googled those words.  And, I immediately found my way to this, here:

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It’s not clear from this picture just how public these bridges are intended to be.  Other pictures suggest that the “community” able to use these bridges will just be the people who live in the apartment blocks thus connected.  But this doesn’t alter the fact that the general public are going to want to get involved in all this high-level fun and sightseeing (and photography), if only because it will all be so clearly visible from below.

Saturday January 30 2016

Yes, I have struggled over the years to get good photos of what my meetings are like.  The problem typically is that I can never get everyone into the same picture, and the pictures look like about half as many people attended as actually did.  Since the number wasn’t that huge to start with, that’s not what you want.

Here is a different approach:

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That was the scene today following last night’s meeting, me having done almost zero tidying up to that point, bar hoovering up a few crisps.  Now, Imagine that space with as many people sitting in it as you can fit in.  That was what it was like last night.

If you reckon that the “table” in the middle looks like it could be improved upon, you are not wrong.  There was a disaster when it collapsed last night, luckily not during the Tim Evans talk, and some fruit juice hit the carpet, along with lots of potato crisps.  And it was then only imperfectly reassembled.  More work is needed on that front.  But it was a great evening, partly because of the table collapsing, because that sort of thing adds to the anecdotage factor.  But mostly because it was an excellent talk, and because a very classy group of people who came to hear it.  Including a baby, who was very welcome.

Talking of unsatisfactory tables, I wasn’t feeling so good myself today.  My sleep last night was full of weird dreams, which I can still remember bits of, which is not normal.  Plus, I have a new blender, and this morning’s concoction was terrible.  The trouble with most vegetables is that they don’t taste of anything.  Or, they taste rather nasty.  Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes.  But, all my current stash of cherry tomatoes got consumed last night by all the people that you can’t see in the picture.

Thursday January 28 2016

This is weird.  When I did a posting at Samizdata called My 2015 in pictures, I intended to include a picture I took of one of my meetings last year, the one at which Aiden Gregg spoke.  But, although I talked about it, I didn’t actually include the picture.  Rather humiliatingly, nobody noticed, or if they did notice, they didn’t care, or if they did care, not enough to complain.

So here is that picture:

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I have also added it to that Samizdata posting, which absolutely nobody at all will notice.  But, get it right, eh?

I think I got this picture by standing on a chair.

I mention all this now because I have another of these meetings, the first of this year, tomorrow evening.  Speaker: Professor Tim Evans (also mentioned in that Samizdata posting), talking about Jeremy Corbyn and all that.  Turnout looks like being just right, with the room comfortably as opposed to uncomfortably full.  Luckily the seating arrangements have been improving.

Here, for good measure, is the photo I took of Tim when he gave his Inaugural Professional Lecture at Middlesex University, last summer, and which was also included in that Samizdata posting:

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Not being accustomed to the ways of Academe, that get-up makes Tim look, to me, like he is in a very trad production of Wagner’s Mastersingers.

Monday January 18 2016

An informative piece by Rowan Moore in the Guardian, about the hoped-for replacement for the dismal failure that is the Royal Festival Hall:

It’s an amazing thing that for the sake of some fractions of a second of reverberation time, and some other acoustic niceties, and for the sake of acoustic properties that can only be described with vague adjectives such as “warm”, it is proposed that several hundred million pounds be spent on a completely new concert hall in London, to improve on the existing Royal Festival Hall (built in 1951, extensively renovated in 1964 and 2007) and the Barbican (built in 1982, extensively renovated in 1994 and 2001).

This is what Simon Rattle, future music director of the London Symphony Orchestra, is saying, and he has got George Osborne and Boris Johnson to support him.  Rattle says that London needs the best possible concert hall, where you can “experience the sound of a great orchestra with brilliance, immediacy, depth, richness and warmth”, to attract the best possible musicians, which means shifting very many tons of building materials to fine-tune the vibrations of air. And if there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on in this contentious project (why spend so much in straitened times? Wouldn’t it be better to back performers directly rather than their carapace? Should so much be spent in culturally well-endowed London?), it is that the acoustics of the city’s existing large auditoriums definitely don’t work well enough.

Which means that if this project is to go ahead, it definitely, absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, must get its acoustics right. ...

Indeed.

Moore also writes about the surroundings.  These must be nice, but not attention seeking.  Satisfying for concert-goers, but not “ikonic” if that in any way jeopardises the accoustics, or the satisfaction of concert-goers.  Play your shots and don’t get out, as the cricketers say.

The logic of what Moore says tells me that they should first build the concert hall with absolutely no “surroundings”, and keep on building it until the acoustics are world class.

The basic fact here is, as Moore explains, that you only know for sure if you have a great concert hall after you have built it.  And a bad concert hall, well architected, will be a total failure.  London already has at least one of those (or two, depending on what you think of the Barbican’s architecture), and the last thing it needs is another.

So: build the new hall, as a separate process from all the subsequent architectural tarting up.  If the acoustics are unfixably bad, smash it down and do it again, until the acoustics are satisfactorily superb.  When the acoustics are superb, then get to work on the surroundings, and if that is fucked up first time around, well, do that again too.  And then, if anyone feels inclined, why not then slap some ikonic stuff on the top?  But: one thing at a time.

This is not the usual way that big architecture is done.  The usual way is to do everything at once, and make damn sure you get everything as right as you can.  But then, concert halls are not your usual architecture.