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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

Tuesday July 14 2015

Another of those Wicked Camper vans, from the same fleet as this one:

image

It was never a totally White Van, but someone has painted some white on it.

I recently saw another of these vans with something like “Chuck Norris is the only person who can slam a revolving door”, but my photoing reflexes were too slow to capture it.  When I do photo this, I’ll try to remember that I said I might put the picture up here.

I agree with you.  Yes, it is a good marketing strategy.  Both of us are right about that.  And I see that these arseholes have been helping.

Monday July 13 2015

imageMore Dezeen catching up.  And this time the news is that Paris is about to get its first truly Grand Chose since the Montparnasse Tower.

Paris is, in certain Parisian minds anyway, suffering from London Big Thing Envy, and they want to change the place.

“The change in regulations is a historic moment,” the architects told Dezeen. “Paris is cautiously allowing tall buildings back into the city.”

Like Ken Livingstone, who did so much to make London’s recent Big Things happen, some of the Parisians angling most powerfully for Grand Choses are socialists.

But Big Things fit right in in London.  In London the antiquarian tendency is weak when confronted by the We Want More Office Space tendency.  But in Paris, it is the other way around.  Paris already has a look that lots of people like, and scattering Grand Choses all over it will radically change that look.  London has always grown in big ugly bursts of money-making, which everyone then gets used to and decides they like, so Big Things are just the latest version of a regular London process.  Paris was kind of perfect in the late nineteenth century, and since then it has been half city, half museum.  It was then neither bombed nor redeveloped by socialist maniacs, as London was.  It will be interesting to see if this transformation of Paris can be made to stick or whether it will be stopped in its tracks once again.

The opposition is gathering.  This particular Grand Chose has already been dubbed a poor man’s Shard, and in truth it really does look like a cross between the Shard and this infamous North Korean structure.

See also this earlier posting about Paris here, here

Sunday July 12 2015

One of the great pleasures of having Godot back in business is that I can catch up on what’s been on Dezeen.  And on July 1st, Dezeen had news of the next London Big Thing.

The Helter Skelter began to rise up a couple of years or so back, but then it stopped.  Now, the Helter Skelter has been reborn, as the tallest Big Thing in this faked-up picture, in the middle:

image

The really good news:

At the top, London’s highest bar and restaurant will sit alongside a free public viewing gallery offering vistas over the smaller neighbouring towers, including Richard Rodger’s Cheesegrater, Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie Talkie and Foster + Partners’ Gherkin.

Eat your heart out Shard.  Free public viewing platform. You’ll probably have to check in on a website the night before.  But even so, good.

I promise nothing, but … expect pictures here of the Cheesegrater, the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin, from above.

Wednesday June 24 2015

I like cricket.  And I like drones.  But which is best?

There’s only one way to find out.  Fight.

Actually, all the drone did there was hover, waiting to be clobbered, which, a minute and a half in, it duly was, by Chris Gayle.

What I want to see is a game where drones fight against each other.  Or a war.  Either would do.

Or, perhaps a demo.

Sunday June 07 2015

Today, two snaps taken in April 2012 from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, this being the Roman Catholic cathedral in the middle of Victoria Street, not the regular CofE Abbey, at the Parliament end of Victoria Street:

imageimage

On the left, the Gherkin, the Parliament tower that is Big Ben, and the above-mentioned Abbey.  And, in between the twin towers of the Abbey, we can also clearly see the tower of Tate Modern, and also the Stock Exchange Lloyds building.  On the right, the Shard (not yet finished) with its smaller elder brother Guy’s Hospital, and the Parliament tower that isn’t Big Ben.

It is possible that I have featured one or both of these views here before, but not lately, and anyway, my gaff my rules.

Lots of cranes.  Always, there are lots of cranes.

Thursday May 28 2015

I was out and about again today, and I have now got into the habit of photoing newspaper front pages, often in the shop where I usually buy my monthly copies of Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine (by “music”, they mean classical music).  Which means that the guy in the shop doesn’t mind me photoing other stuff.

The big story just now is of course FIFA, and the badness of Blatter:

image

But, this front page story also got my attention:

image

I don’t mean the FIFA stuff flagged up in the big yellow bit at the top of the page.  I mean the bit below, where it says “Cameron cuts off labour funding”.  Although the Daily Telegraph itself now lives behind a paywall, I managed to find the story here.

This would appear to confirm what my friend Tim Evans says about Cameron.  He is a much more determined and focussed politician than he lets on, and much more “right wing”.  He is systematically destroying the Labour Party.  Trying to, at any rate.

But, and this is what pisses off many libertarians, he is a politician whose focus is on changing institutions (in this case destroying an institution) rather than in spreading ideas.  Also, he does things one at a time, which means he leaves a ton of bad stuff untouched, and often does other bad stuff, to protect the main task in hand.

All of the above flies in the face of the Samizdata orthodoxy, which is perhaps why I am thinking aloud about this stuff here, rather than there.  If I put anything there about this stuff, I will have to think it through better than I have so far.

Friday May 08 2015

Indeed:

image

Photoed by me yesterday.  Definitely one for the front page collection.  Can’t find a link to the story though.  Anyone?

Today, starting in the small hours of the morning, I’ve been rambling away at Samizdata about this election.  Which was, I found, intensely dramatic and interesting, not least because all the polls were wrong.  I was apathetic about voting, in a soporifically safe Conservative constituency.  But I stopped being apathetic as soon as the drama of it all started to play out on the telly.

But, how could I have missed the news of this manifesto for cats, until today?  Answer, today was the first time I tried googling “cats general election”.

Thursday May 07 2015

Following on from yesterday’s ruminations, in among lots of stuff that doesn’t fascinate me, including one posting about shit, is a report about Paris’ tallest building in over 40 years.

Presumably “Paris” doesn’t include La Défense, which is out on the edge of Paris.  Those Big Things are very big indeed.  What they’re talking about here is building Big Things in the centre of Paris. 

And the thing is, this Thing not very tall at all:

image

In London, this sort of thing would hardly be noticed.

But the fact that this new Thing is not that big is deliberate.

“This project is not a high-rise, but embodies a shift in attitude, and this gradual increase marks a willingness to reconsider the potential of height and will change the city landscape little by little,” said the architects.

They know that if they are to get any new truly Big Things anywhere near the centre of Paris, the first step is to make some things that are not Big, but just a tiny bit bigger.  First you get the opposition to concede the principle, with something that doesn’t arouse huge opposition.  Then you gradually increase the heights, until finally you get your Big Things, and the opposition unites too late.  And by then it’s too small, because lots of people actually like the new Big Things.  This is how politics is done.  And this is politics.

The last, and so far only new and truly Big Thing anywhere near the middle of Paris (other than the Eiffel Tower) is the Montparnasse Tower, which was completed in 1973.  Compared to almost everything else in central Paris, before or since, the Montparnasse Tower is very tall indeed.  It aroused a lot of opposition by embodying such an abrupt, even contemptuous, change of Paris skyscraper policy, and judging by what happened for the next forty years, that opposition was very successful.  This time around, those who want Big Parisian Things are going about it more carefully, as the above quote shows.

Speaking of politics, who is that geezer in the picture, in the picture?  A politician, I’ll bet.

Wednesday May 06 2015

I am working on a quite big and unwieldy architecture posting just now, but this probably won’t be ready to go any time today, or even soon, so I’ll instead write a little essay on a related matter.  Which is: Why I feel more comfortable writing about architecture, of the contemporary and hence controversial sort, than I do about contemporary interior design.  The contrast between how fascinated I am by the architectural stuff (this is the posting that got me going with the architectural posting that I am now working on) at one of my favourite internet sites, Dezeen, and the indifference I feel concerning Dezeenery about interior matters, is becoming ever more extreme.  I mean, designer X has designed a chair.  And what does it look like?  It looks like a chair.  Hoo ray.

It’s not that I dislike or oppose interior design.  It’s just that I feel that what I feel about it, or for that matter what anybody else feels about it, is of no public significance.  We can all just pick whatever interior designs and objects appeal to us, and let others do the same.  Interior design is not a political problem.  There is therefore nothing vitally important to be said about it.  Why argue, when there is no need to argue?

If you are one of those people who likes to tease out why you feel the way you do, about everything in general and interior design in particular, fine.  Blog away about wallpaper, tea kettles, tables, chairs, standard lamps, stoves and suchlike, all you like.  You’ll surely find plenty of readers, probably a great many more than I have.  You certainly will if you specialise, as I do not.  I write about such things myself, from time to time, when the mood takes me. 

But on the whole, it tends not to.  When the answer the question is: each to his own, and when that answer basically takes care of it, I generally don’t feel like adding very much.

You could say that this mood, of insignificant self-scrutiny, is upon me right now.  After all, who cares what I put on my blog?  If you don’t like it, don’t read it, problem solved.  Choosing a blog to read is like choosing a chair.  Nobody else need be consulted, or imposed upon.

But architecture is different.  We can’t each step outside into a city like London and each have exactly the London that we want.  If I am to have those new Big Things that I like so much, you also have to put up with them, even if you hate them.  It therefore feels right to me to be explaining, to the entire world (even if most of the world pays no attention), just what it is about these Big Things that I like so much.  It makes sense for me to say (even if I haven’t done much of this lately) why I came to hate most modernistical architecture when I was in my twenties, and why I think that modernistical architecture has improved so very, very much since that time, at any rate in the places I mostly walk about in and see in photos.

For the same reason, it also makes sense, to me, for me to be celebrating roof clutter, cranes, this or that piece of public or semi-public sculpture, these or those public signs.  It is because these are public issues.  Political issues, even.  Definitely political, in the case of those signs I just linked to.  Things like these have positive (mostly, in my case) or negative (perhaps in yours) externalities attached to them.

Actually, it is most unlikely that you hate all the publicly obtrusive things that I love, because you wouldn’t want to be reading such opinions, day after day.  But, you get my point.

Sunday May 03 2015

In the early, at first brightly sunlit evening I went walking by the river, over Vauxhall Bridge and then turning right on the other side, towards Battersea.

I noted progress on the new flats.  The sky was a beautiful colour.  The flats are not a beautiful colour:

image

The river was adorned by bright reflections off the buildings on the far side.

image

The evening sun also lit up the bright green wall that keeps the river in its correct place:

image

There is a new US Embassy taking shape, …:

image

… although it will not be a very interesting shape:

image

Battersea Power Station is missing one of its chimneys:

image

This is probably something to do with the fact that it is having dwellings built in it:

image

And, when I looked inland, towards the south, over the railway, I saw some world class roof clutter:

image

So I was in a good mood.  Until, on my way back home, I saw this:

image

Yes, there is an election coming, and we will all vote in such a way as to try to deny office to the political party we most hate, which in my case is the Labour Party.  Which means I will probably vote for the bastards advertising themselves with the signs above.

As you can see, by then it had become rather gloomy.  As had I.

Thursday April 23 2015

I am reading In Defence of History by Richard J. Evans.  The attackers are the post-modernists.  In Chapter 3 ("Historians and their facts"), Evans writes about how evidence considered insignificant in one era can become highly significant in a later era:

The traces left by the past, as Dominick LaCapra has observed, do not provide an even coverage of it.  Archives are the product of the chance survival of some documents and the corresponding chance loss or deliberate destruction of others.  They are also the products of the professional activities of archivists, which therefore shape the record of the past and with it the interpretations of historians.  Archivists have often weeded out records they consider unimportant, while retaining those they consider of lasting value.  This might mean for example destroying vast and therefore bulky personnel files on low-ranking state employees such as ordinary soldiers and seamen, manual workers and so on, while keeping room on the crowded shelves for personnel files on high state officials.  Yet such a policy would reflect a view that many historians would now find outmoded, a view which considered ‘history’ only as the history of the elites.  Documents which seem worthless to one age, and hence ripe for the shredder, can seem extremely valuable to another.

Let me give an example from my personal experience.  During research in the Hamburg state archives in the I98os, I became aware that the police had been sending plain-clothes agents into the city’s pubs and bars during the two decades or so before the First World War to gather and later write down secret reports of what was being said in them bysocialist workers.  The reports I saw were part of larger files on the various organizations to which these workers belonged.  Thinking it might be interesting to look at a wider sample, I went through a typewritten list of the police files with the archivist, and among the headings we came across was one which read: ‘Worthless Reports’. Going down into the muniment room, we found under the relevant call-number a mass of over 20,000 reports which had been judged of insufficient interest by the police authorities of the day to be taken up into the thematic files where I had first encountered this material. It was only by a lucky chance that they had not already been destroyed. They turned out to contain graphic and illuminating accounts of what rank-and-file socialist workers thought about almost every conceivable issue of the day, from the Dreyfus affair in France to the state of the traffic on Hamburg’s busy streets. Nobody had ever looked at them before. Historians of the labour movement had only been interested in organization and ideology.  But by the time I came to inspect them, interest had shifted to the history of everyday life, and workers’ views on the family, crime and the law, food, drink and leisure pursuits, had become significant objects of historical research.  It seemed worth transcribing and publishing a selection, therefore, which I did after a couple of years’ work on them.  The resulting collection showed how rank-and-file Social Democrats and labour activists often had views that cut right across the Marxist ideology in which previous historians thought the party had indoctrinated them, because previous historians had lacked the sources to go down beyond the level of official pronouncements in the way the Hamburg police reports made it possible to do. Thus from ‘worthless reports’ there emerged a useful corrective to earlier historical interpretations. This wonderful material, which had survived by chance, had to wait for discovery and exploitation until the historiographical climate had changed. 

Friday April 17 2015

Abusive internet comments are usually very tedious.  But, having never heard this gag before, I liked this one.

Following the alleged threat by US politician John McCain to kick the s*** out of another US politician, Harry Reid, a commenter commented (April 16 12:43am):

(Harry Reid) – s*** = 0

Here in the UK, our politicians seldom issue such threats to one another.  They are, alas, almost all of them on the same side.

Wednesday April 15 2015

In an earlier posting I mentioned that I had ordered Marc Morris’s book about The Norman Conquest, and I have now started reading this.  (Although for some reason the version of it that I have seems to be the American one.)

Morris takes the Bayeux Tapestry as his starting point (as already discussed here in this and (because of its elongated shape) in this).

The events depicted in the Tapestry are of course highly dramatic, but as Morris relates, so too was the subsequent history of the Tapestry:

By any law of averages, the Tapestry ought not to exist.  We know that such elaborate wall-hangings, while hardly commonplace in the eleventh century, were popular enough with the elite that could afford them, because we have descriptions in contemporary documents.  What we don’t have are other surviving examples: all that comes down to us in other cases are a few sorry-looking scraps.  That the Tapestry is still with us almost I ,000 years after it was sewn is astonishing, especially when one considers its later history. It first appears in the written record four centuries after its creation, in 1476, when it is described in an inventory of the treasury at Bayeux Cathedral, from which we learn that the clergy were in the habit of hanging it around the nave every year during the first week of July (an annual airing that would have aided its conservation).  Its survival through those four medieval centuries, escaping the major hazards of war, fire and flood, as well as the more mundane menaces of rodents, insects and damp, is wondrous enough; that it successfully avoided destruction during the modern era is nothing short of miraculous.  When the cathedral’s treasury was looted during the French Revolution, the Tapestry came within a hair’s breadth of being cut up and used to cover military wagons.  Carted to Paris for exhibition by Napoleon, it was eventually returned to Bayeux, where for several years during the early nineteenth century it was indifferently stored in the town hall on a giant spindle, so that curious visitors could unroll it (and occasionally cut bits off). During the Second World War it had yet more adventures: taken again to Paris by the Nazis, it narrowly escaped being sent to Berlin, and somehow managed to emerge unscathed from the flames and the bombs.  The Tapestry’s post-medieval history is a book in itself - one which, happily, has already been written.

What next for it, I wonder?

Wednesday April 08 2015

Indeed:

Police in India have a new weapon for controlling unruly protesters in the world’s largest democracy: pepper-spraying drones.

Yashasvi Yadav, police chief of the northern city of Lucknow, said on Tuesday that his officers have successfully test-flown the newly purchased drones with a view to better crowd control.

So, when will BrianMicklethwaitDotCom be linking to a story about how the protesters have their own drones, to attack the police drones with?  Drones are not just the automation of aerial warfare.  They are the potential degovernmentalisation of aerial warfare.  I mean, how the hell will they stop this?  Drones are ridiculously cheap compared to regular airplanes.  It’s only a matter of time before no major political demonstratiion will be complete without a struggle for command of the air.

I wonder if people like Police Chief Yadav realise what they may be starting.

Monday March 23 2015

First, an outstanding White Van photo snapped from what looks like the inside of a cafe, by Simon Gibbs, to whom profuse thanks:

image

I’ve been photoing White Vans for a month and more, but have never got three of them in one go like that.  That arrived chez moi first thing this morning.

And then, to my amazement, this was this at Guido, also today:

image

That’s right.  Labour have launched there very own White Van!  You wouldn’t dare make that up.  I knew I was onto something with all this White Vannery.

The problem for the Labour Party here is that Essex White Van Man, the original beast, doesn’t work as an employee driver for Wellocks, or for Office Revival or for Yate Supplies (these being the enterprises who own and whose glory is proclaimed by Simon’s three White Vans above), and certainly not for the Labour Party.  He has his own White Van, which is entirely white, as you can see when you peruse that original tweet that got all this fuss started:

image

That snap being a recent one of mine.  And, as Guido points out, a proper Essex White Van is not a Merc, as the Labour White Van is.  He doesn’t go on to say that it should be a Ford Transit, as above, but it should.  The White Van in the original tweet is a Transit.

This new Labour White Van is supposed to separate Labour from the la-di-da world of London and to assert its connection to the common (i.e. non-rich-London) man.  But it fails to do this, because, as these recent White Van postings of mine have been explaining, White Vans covered in poncey graphics are now quintessentially London.  I assume that they have also become quintessentially Wigan and quintessentially Rotherham and for that matter quintessential Dagenham.  But I further assume that when true-blue Wiganians and Rotherhamians and Dagenhamians look at them, they see, not their local culture, but cultural imperialism by bloody London.

(Damn.  I did everything to this posting put actually post it “today”, so I’m leaving the date I originally attached to it.  Cheating I know but it talks about Monday as today, so Monday it is.)