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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

Thursday February 07 2019

There’s a bridge right near where I live that is wending its way through politics to the point where geography and physics and civil engineering will take over, and they will actually start building it.

I refer to the biking-and-walking-only bridge that will eventually join Battersea to Pimlico:

image

The bridge is at the stage where they are trying to pacify objectors to it.  Hence this Canaletto-like pseudo-photo, in which the actual bridge itself is hardly to be seen at all!  How could anyone possibly object to this wraith-like presence, scarcely visible through the mist rising from the river and bathing everything in obscurity?  The steel struts that will eventually to be seen holding up the actual bridge are invisible in this pseudo-photo, so it’s just as well that the bridge itself, as (just about) seen here, is made by laser-beams projecting into the mist and weighs nothing at all!  If you want to protest, protest about those big lumpy old boats clogging up the river and making such a rumpus, not the ghost bridge.

That’s the trouble with infrastructure.  Those who will be disrupted by it know exactly who they are, or they think they do.  But the far greater number of people who will have their lives somewhat improved by by this or that item of infrastructure only find out about this after it comes on stream.  On in this case, on river.

My guess is: I will like this bridge, and will quite often walk across it, if only to avoid a there-and-back-the-same-way walk to and from Battersea.  (Now, to avoid this, I often take the train from Battersea to Victoria, and then walk home from there, past my local supermarkets.) But that’s only a guess.  Meanwhile, those who now live in the peace and quiet of Georgian Pimlico just know that their sleep will from now on be ruined by noisy bike gangs at 4am, making their way from Notting Hill (after a spot of carnival rioting) to Brixton, and if not by that then by something else equally unwelcome, perhaps originating in Battersea and walking across the river, while probably being drunk.  Why take the chance?  So, if they can stop the bridge, they’ll stop it, just to make sure.

Saturday January 26 2019

This looks promising.  I’ve been waiting all my life for a really good orchestral concert hall, to replace the abominable Royal Festival Hall, and it looks more and more like the City of London is going to oblige.

Here’s how they are now saying it will look:

image

Well, maybe it really will look like that.

Here’s what the outside will look like:

image

Combines being boring with being ungainly and awkward.  But then, that was what I thought when I first saw the fake-photos for the Walkie-Talkie, and now I love that Thing.  Maybe this Thing will play out the same.  Hope so.

This is how the top of it will look:

image

This is apparently where the horror that is Jazz will be perpetrated.  Sorry, if you like Jazz. If you like it, like away.  But I hate it, ever since it stopped being pop music.

But, that view looks great.  So, the question is: Do I like great views out over London, more than I hate Jazz?

A good way to learn more about this building, what it consists of and where it is, is to watch the video in this Classic FM report.

As for their report, I particularly like when they quote Simon Rattle, whose musical castle this will surely be:

At the press briefing for the new concept designs, Simon Rattle batted away concerns surrounding Brexit, saying: “It’s important for us to remember there are other things going on in this country other than Brexit.

“It won’t make anything easier, but we are trying to deal with something else at the moment. I think we also have to place our confidence in the extraordinary cultural life of this country, and support it.”

Life goes on.  I sense that Brexit Acceptance may now be setting in.

They say it’s going to cost a mere £288 million.  You can double that.  But The City will surely find the money, and I am very glad that The City is having to find the money.  I love classical music, more than life, but nobody who is indifferent to it should be forced to pay for the likes of me to listen to it being performed.  (Any more than I should have to pay for Jazz.)

Monday January 21 2019

This:

Baffling insanity to read more attacks from People’s Vote types on Norway this morning. What in the bowels of fuck are you doing? In what possible world is that an appropriate target right now?

I have very little idea of what this Twitter-storm is about, other than Bexit in a general sort of way, and frankly I don’t care.  But I love that “bowels of fuck” bit.

He’s mixing “What the fuck” with this famous Cromwellian utterance.  Just the one word, “bowels”, makes this unmistakable, because there is surely no other famous quote with this word in it.

I love the fun you can have with the English language, mixing it and matching it like this.  Do other languages work just as well for this kind of thing, or is English a bit special in this regard?  Sadly for me, English is the only language I know at all well, for purposes like this.

Sunday January 20 2019

... but it ended up there.

This posting included the fact that I am out and about this evening, so here, today, that’s your lot.

Tuesday January 15 2019

Yes, I do believe it has finally happened.  Stokes, Woakes and Foakes are all in the same England cricket team.  Truly, an historic day.  Too bad Stokes is not Stoakes, and that Chris Woakes is not Ben Woakes.  As it is, we have to make do with Bens Stokes and Foakes, and Chris Woakes.

In other news: this.  My opinion?  What Steve says.

Thursday December 20 2018
Sunday December 02 2018

Tom Holland, agreeing with this lady, says that this thread is a perfect illustration of why the Cromwell Museum’s approach to Twitter …:

… is an absolute model of what museums can achieve with the medium …

What the Cromwell Museum was saying, quite a while back now, was this:

A myth about Oliver Cromwell seen in films & TV is that he dressed dourly in black. The idea that all Puritans did is a Victorian myth; there isn’t a single contemporary portrait of Cromwell in black. He’s always depicted instead in armour or fine clothes.

Interesting.  I agree that this is a very good use of Twitter.

I am still pondering whether to bother with Twitter.  Its censoriou left-wing political preferencesrepel me, and its wearisome slagging contests seem hard to avoid.  (Said he, slagging off Twitter itself.) Postings like the above make me suspect that I may persevere.  They also tell me how to use Twitter myself, if I ever do this more actively than now, even though I am not a museum.

LAT|ER: See also, this, about another “myth”, this time based on a misunderstanding of clothing evidence.

Monday November 26 2018

As I earlier said, about this taxi, and various photoshopped variants of it:

I hope I chance upon the original, and get a go at photoing it myself.

Well, yesterday, in Warwick Way, I did chance upon it:

image

I speculated recently that photoing sculpture might be easier to do well in cloudy light.  I also recently speculated that something similar might well apply with brightly coloured vehicles.  The above bright yellow taxi would seem to confirm this.

Next advert-taxi target, this very cute Swarovski taxi.  I have already spotted one of these taxis twice, but my first sighting was in the dark with me burdened with laundrette stuff, and my second sighting was yesterday morning, but after I had been shopping and was thus similarly burdened.  I tried to photo it, but it had moved on before I could.

Photoing taxis is a lot easier when they are parked.  It is also easier if the driver is not present.  If he is, I say I am interested in his advert, and ask permission to photo first.  Once they know you aren’t snooping on their parking habits, they’re usually very agreeable.

Sunday November 11 2018

Yesterday, I went on a shopping expedition which involved boarding a train at Charing Cross, which I planned to reach by going first to St James’s Park tube.

The first of the photos below (1.1) is of a taxi, parked close to where I live, with some sort of poppy related advert on it.  I like to photo taxis covered in adverts.  Temporariness, the passing London scene, will get more interesting as the years pass, blah blah.

Then, in Strutton Ground, just this side of Victoria Street, I encountered two besuited gentlemen wearing military berets and medals.  I photoed them both, with their permission, and I post one of these photos here (1.2), also with their permission.  Sadly, the other photo didn’t come out properly.

It was only at this point that I realised that, the following day (i.e. today) being Remembrance Sunday and what’s more the exact one hundredth anniversary of the Armistice of November 1918, London in the Westminster Abbey area would already be awash with Remembrance Sunday photo-ops.  My shopping could wait a while, and I turned right down Victoria Street.

The seven other photos below mostly involve small wooden crosses and dead autumn leaves - autumn 2018 arrived at Peak Dead Leaf yesterday - but they also include another poppy related advert, this time on a the side of a bus (3.3), which I photoed in Parliament Square:

imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

Sadly, the plasticated documents referring to “British Nuclear Test Veterans” (2.1) were insufficiently plasticated to resist the effects of the rain.  It began to rain some more when I was arriving at Charing Cross station and it did not stop for several hours, so I’m guessing these lists suffered further rain damage.  It’s odd how little sadnesses like this stick in your mind, in amongst the bigger sadnesses being remembered.

The autumn-leaves-among-crosses photos, all taken outside Westminster Abbey, are but a few of a million such that must have been taken over this weekend, in London and in many other places.  Is it proper to include two mere advert photos, even if they are poppy related adverts, in such poetically symbolic and dignified company?  I chose to do this because one of the things I find most interesting about these Remembrance remembrances is that, as each year of them passes, they don’t seem to be getting any smaller.  People still want remember all this stuff, even though all the veterans of World War 1 are now gone.  Hence the adverts.  If the adverts didn’t get results, they’d not be worth their cost.

As to why these remembrances continue to be remembered, and by such huge numbers of people, year after year, I think one reason is that each political tribe and faction can each put their own spin on the sad events being remembered, but in the privacy of their own minds.  For some political partisans, these ceremonies and symbols are a chance to wallow in the pageantry of patriotism.  For others, they are an opportunity to rebuke such nationalists, for stirring up the kinds of hostility that might provoke a repeat of the sad events being remembered.  “Patriotism” and “nationalism” being the words used to salute, or to denounce, the exact same sentiments.  But declaring red poppies to be a warning that the defence budget should be increased, or that they are anti-Trump and anti-Brexit symbols that Trump supporters and Brexiteers have no right to wear, would be too vulgar and partisan, so on the whole this kind of vulgarity and partisanship is not indulged in, not out loud.

The phenomenon of the political meeting where all present hear the same words but where each understands them to mean different things – I’m thinking of such words as “Britain”, “freedom”, “democracy” and “common sense” – has long fascinated me.  Remembrance ceremonies remind me, on a larger scale, of such meetings.  I attended many such little political meetings myself before I decided that mainstream politics was not for me, and switched to libertarianism, where meanings are spelt out and arguments are had rather than avoided.

For less obsessively political people, Remembrance ceremonies and symbols are simply an opportunity to reflect on the sadness of history in general, and in particular the sadness of the premature deaths of beloved ancestors – or, perhaps worse – hardly known-about ancestors.  We can at least all agree that premature death, in whatever circumstances, is a sad thing to contemplate.  And until young men entirely cease from dying in wars, Remembrance Sunday will continue to be, among other things, a meaningfully up-to-date event.

And so, year after year, these ceremonies continue.  Will this year’s anniversary come to be regarded as Peak Remembrance?  We shall see.

Tuesday November 06 2018

I remember, during the reign of President Bush Jnr., how I used to blog about how photography was used to glorify President Bush.  Well, here’s another political photo of a rather similar sort, which has been an open window on my computer for some time:

image

What I find entertaining about this photo is the extreme contrast between the clearly very humdrum appearance, for real, of the old guy in the photo, and the way that (I suspect) pushing just one Photoshop button has turned this same guy into something almost heroic.

The headline above the photo is telling:

The most consequential conservative leader of the century? He’s still alive, in office and owed an apology

The old guy in the photo-edited photo is US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the Tea Party people used to regard as a waste-of-space sell-out, but who is now being lauded to the skies by the Trumpsters.

Says Jewish Chronicle writer Marc A. Thiessen:

While President Trump deserves credit for making outstanding judicial nominations, long before Trump declared his candidacy McConnell was laying the groundwork for a conservative transformation of the federal judiciary. It was, he told me in an interview last week, “entirely premeditated.”

McConnell reminds me of a particular American actor, whom I recall having seen in a number of movies.  Trouble is, that actor is the sort of actor you recognise the face of, but whose name you never quite register.  It’s that sort of face.

Friday November 02 2018

I do like Dezeen.  Mostly it’s just Posh Modernism, but every so often it reports on something a lot more interesting.

Like: what is now the world’s tallest statue, four times the size of the Statue of Liberty, recently erected in Gujarat state, India.

This looks for all the world like it’s Photoshopped, but it truly isn’t:

image

Vallabhbhai Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950), popularly known as Sardar Patel, was an Indian politician who served as the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He was an Indian barrister and statesman, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and a founding father of the Republic of India who played a leading role in the country’s struggle for independence and guided its integration into a united, independent nation. ...

Prediction: a Global Big Statue Race.

Monday October 15 2018

I just watched Dominic Frisby, accompanying himself on the ukulele, singing a right wing comic song, recorded live at something called Comedy Unleashed.

I watched it on Facebook.  Here is a link.  Does that work?  Does it work only if you are on Facebook?  Does it work only if you are on Facebook and a “friend” of Dominic Frisby?

I have just suggested that this video be stuck up at Samizdata.  If that happens, I’ll add a link to that here.

Anyway, whether you get to see this video or not, it did make me think about that mythical beast that keeps on being talked about as something that exists or could exist, but which is now so seldom actually sighted.  I’m talking about right wing comedy.  In Britain.

What distinguishes Dominic Frisby from what you’d think a right wing comedian would be like is that he is so nice.  When he does comedy, at the usual comedy places, and as he has been doing it for years, he clearly fits in.  He is part of it all.  He likes – or does a damn good job of pretending that he likes - doing it, and the people he is doing it for.  He is mates with the other comedians, or comes across as that.  He has been following the time-tested rule for all challengers of the status quo, which is to start by thoroughly acquainting himself with that status quo, and showing that he is perfectly capable of winning by its existing rules.  That way, he learns his craft, he learns his audience, and he proves that he is not dissenting from orthodoxy merely because that orthodoxy is something he cannot do.  The new product he is offering is not sour grapes, but a new sweetness.

In this particular song, Frisby does not clobber his audience with confrontational opposition to assumed lefty wisdom, which he assumes his audience all shares and which he hates them all for all sharing.  No, he starts, in the manner recommended by noted philosopher Karl Popper, by summarising the case of those he disagrees with in the most respectful possible manner.  Only then does he suggest, in the most modest possible way, that there just might be another way of looking at the matter (maybe Tommy Robinson has a point, maybe Trump’s not all bad), and in a way that suggests he isn’t the only one who has been having these heretical thoughts.  He is leading his audience in a direction he really thinks they might follow him along.  It’s all done in the manner of George Formby, with grins and hints and merriment, with enjoyment simply assumed.

I never thought I’d hear a comedian get a laugh with one note played on a ukulele.  But that is exactly what happens, in the intro to verse three (which says that maybe Theresa May should get the sack).

More about right wing comedy in this, if you can decipher it.  It’s a photo of a big Sunday Times spread.

Let me try to make it easier to read:

imageimage

On the right of all this, not included in the above, this:

I saw a woman in a T-shirt that said “Smashing patriarchy!” on it.  Nice to see that some of them appreciate the hard work we put in.

That’s not Frisby.  That’s another right wing comic.  As you can read above, there’s a whole bunch of them.

But this is Frisby.  It’s another song called Secretly In Love With Nigel Farrage.  Sadly, the sound balance is all wrong and I couldn’t hear the words properly.  I hope Frisby has another go at recording that, on some future comedy occasion.

I’ve been a Frisby fan ever since I first heard of him, and I’ve not been wrong.  He even did a couple of my Last Friday meetings, doing very early try-outs of future Edinburgh shows.

Friday October 12 2018

That’s the plan anyway.  Read about it in a Dezeen posting entitled Urban Nouveau wants to save Stockholm’s Gamla Lidingöbron bridge by building homes in it:

Urban Nouveau has designed the scheme in response to Lidingö Municipality’s plans to tear down the Gamla Lidingöbron bridge, which links the Swedish capital to the island of Lidingö, and replace it with a modern structure.

I like the sound of this, and the look of it:

image

Oh, sorry, no, that’s the old version of London Bridge.  (I recommend having a browse of that full-size. (it’s 6144 x 1024.))

The thing is, a bridge, for all the grand vistas you can often see from it, can be a rather forbidding and even boring thing to walk across.  It’s like walking along a huge boulevard.  Sounds good, but too little changes as you progress.  To make bridges pleasurable to walk across, you need stuff on them.

Which is why I am prejudiced in favour of this Stockhom scheme, even though what I know about it is only what I have skim-read about it in this one Dezeen posting.

There’s a Petition.

Saturday September 22 2018

At my home on the last Friday of this month (Friday September 28th – which is in six days time), Michael Jennings will be speaking about Iran, and in particular about how he recently spent some time exploring its capital city, Tehran.  The easiest link to learn more about Michael’s amazing globetrottings is to this list of his Samizdata contributions.

Each month, I solicit a few words from the speaker, to email to my list of potential attenders.  A few days ago, Michael sent me rather more than a few words about what he’ll be speaking about, more words than I need for that email. But I don’t want all these words going to waste, so, with Michael’s kind permission, here they all are.  In the email I send out tomorrow evening, I will be quoting from this, but will include the link to this posting, so that all who want to can, as they say, read the whole thing.

So, Michael Jennings on “Exploring Tehran”:

In recent years, I have done quite a lot of travelling in the Middle East.

From the western perspective - and particularly from the perspective of the western media - it is very easy to look at the Muslim Middle East and see something homogeneous. If you are inclined to see militant Islam and related terrorism as a threat, it is easy to see it as a single threat. However, there are two main strains of Islam, Shia and Sunni, and these are centred in two quite different cultures and civilisations: the first in Iran and the second in the Arab world.

These are two of the three largest cultures in the Muslim Middle East - the third being Turkey. These three cultures speak three unrelated languages - Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish - and the history and differences between these three cultures go back thousands of years - long before the time of Mohammed. These cultures are tremendously divided today. Iran fought a truly ferocious war with Arab Iraq between 1980 and 1988, the memory of which hangs over the country the way World War 1 probably hung over Europe in 1935. Much of the wars of the past 15 years in Iraq and Syria have been about Shia Iran (Persia) and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia jostling for position in the Middle East. As to where Turkey stands in all this - I think Turkey is trying to figure this out.

I am not remotely an expert in any of this stuff. I have, however, spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. I love to explore cities on foot. I have done this, or attempted to do this in many places. Slightly less than two years ago I spent 10 days exploring Tehran on foot. Despite the fearsome (justified) reputation of the regime that rules Iran, I found - from my perspective as a Christian westerner - the most culturally familiar and welcoming culture that I had found travelling in the Middle East. Despite the fact that Iran is the only country in the entire world where all women are required to wear a headscarf at all times, I was struck by the fact that the role of women in public life was clearly much higher and that women are clearly much better educated and have a far more prominent role in the economy than in any Arab country I have been to. The Iranian middle class is substantial, and it is a very westernised middle class. At times in North Tehran I found myself in cafes and restaurants that easily could have been in hipster areas of Los Angeles, apart from the lack of alcohol.

I also found something that I should have known already - Iran is a trading, commercial nation. In South Tehran I found myself in shopping streets and bazaars that resembled East Asia - possibly commercial districts of Bangkok or Hanoi - more than anything elsewhere in the Middle East. I found myself sitting in stores being made tea (and being offered illicit alcohol) by merchants who wanted to tell me all about their trading trips to Shenzhen. It was fascinating.

And yet, this is a country that faces sanctions, and is cut off from the official system of international trade. What happens when you cut such a country off from the official system of international trade, and international academia, and international everything and so impoverishing the country, even though this is a culture that wants to participate? Come along to my talk, and I will speculate. Or possibly just show you my holiday pictures.

The basic point of my meetings is for people to attend them, but another point of them is for me to spread a gentle wave of information about people who have worthwhile things to say and interesting stories to tell, even if you do not actually attend.  This posting now means that, this month, that second mission is already somewhat accomplished.

Thursday September 20 2018

To me, nothing says Abroad quite like a poster, somewhere in Abroad, advertising an English speaking movie, whose English title I already know, with a foreign title that is different, but with all the same star names:

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La Taupe means The Mole.  I preferred the TV series, but I love this poster.  Photoed by me in Paris in February 2012.

As was this, on the same expedition:

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In the same directory, I encountered other photos of posters advertising the following movies: Drive (Ryan Gosling), Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage), Underworld (Kate Beckingsale), and Star Wars Episode 1 (whoever).  But in those posters, the titles stayed in their original English.  Why?