Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Simon Gibbs on Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
6000 on Painted people
Michael Jennings on Painted people
6000 on Painted people
Michael Jennings on The Mayor and the towers
Michael Jennings on T20 fun and games
Michael Jennings on T20 fun and games
Antonio Cidoncha Mellado on A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
Katherine James on Two bits of hospitality trivia
Michael Jennings on Art has its uses – but where did it have its uses this time – and what is it?
Most recent entries
- Ten years ago today
- Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
- Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
- VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
- Vauxhall bus station now – and when it was being constructed
- Painted people
- A slightly foreign part of London
- Spot the owl
- Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
- Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
- Battersea park in the sky
- Premier League soccer news
- Nothing from me here today
- Two badly lit views of “Victoria Tower” and why Big Ben is not St Stephen’s Tower or Elizabeth Tower
- The Mayor and the towers
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Quote unquote
Two photos of signs, taken on the south side of the river between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge, about a fortnight ago.
On the left, some of the verbiage on this statue. My reason for showing it here is simply that I think this writing photographs so very well:
And on the right, snapped moments later, another sign, on the side of a coffee stall. It must be a very old joke indeed, but I was encountering it for the first time.
In general, signs make very good photos, I think.
Because he is definitely some personal kind (is there any other kind?) of libertarian (he and this guy are mates from Eton), I have instructed Google to send me emails about popular entertainer Frank Turner whenever anything is said about or by him, which is quite often because he really is very popular.
Here’s an interview Turner recently did. They asked him how it feels to play in an “arena”, i.e. a very, very big place.
It’s a funny thing because I think whenever anyone starts out playing music you have a bucket list, or a ceiling of achievement that you might think of … and I’m really not trying to sound like Mr CoolHipsterPunkRock here, but the biggest bands I went to see when I was a kid played The Astoria, maybe Brixton Academy.
But then, straight after that, comes this:
I’d never been to an arena show before I played one.
How cool is that?
Which just goes to show that a precondition for being cool is not trying to be.
Shame about that Libertarian Party (see the “this guy” link above). That didn’t turn out quite so cool.
From Tim Berners-Lee, no less, on the occasion of the twenty fifth anniversary of his glorious invention, the www:
Berners-Lee also mentioned something about a Magna Carta for the web, but I am afraid the cat remark has overwhelmed all that stuff.
Or, maybe the cat angle has drawn attention to the Magna Carta stuff, which would otherwise have been ignored even more. (I am starting to notice many rather irrelevant cats in adverts nowadays.)
They were both as pristine and polished as life-size dolls recently removed from their cellophane boxes; rich-girl thin, almost hipless in their tight jeans, with tanned faces that had a waxy sheen especially noticeable on their foreheads, their long, gleaming dark manes with centre partings, the ends trimmed with spirit level exactitude.
I claim no expertise in the matter of the differences between male and female writers, but might not paragraphs like that have caused suspicions that “Robert Galbraith” was really a woman, even if the information had not been revealed on the front cover? It’s the detail. The waxy foreheads, the centre partings, trimmed like that. I don’t think a man would have gone into quite such detail, nor - in this age of male timidity about being anti-female – been as wonderfully rude about it.
I could be imagining all that. I don’t read much fiction by men either, and maybe the best men writers are just as exact about the women they describe and can be just as rude when doing it. And maybe most women writers would not refer to a spirit level in such a context. Really, I just liked it.
Quoted by “Robert Galbraith” (aka JK Rowling) at the beginning of The Cuckoo’s Calling:
Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.
Celebrity and its discontents are nothing new.
Christopher Seaman, in his book Inside Conducting (pp. 89-90):
If you truly love a work, you’re bound to feel emotionally involved while you’re conducting it, and if this doesn’t get across to the musicians you’ll get a cold performance. Some conductors need to use bigger gestures than others to communicate with an orchestra. It takes great aptitude and long experience to pour your heart out yet still maintain the necessary composure. Professional musicians don’t need a good conductor to be over-demonstrative in order to pick up his musical ideas and feelings. I sometimes tell students who thrash around ineffectively with paroxysms of emotion that they’re meant to be cooking the music, not eating it. (The French term for conductor is chef d’orchestre, but that’s a coincidence.) James Levine is reputed to have said, “My tears only hurt my ability to make the audience cry.” And Richard Strauss said to Rudolf Schwarz, “Don’t sweat – let the orchestra sweat. Don’t weep – let the public weep!”
I came across an approving reference to the bit about “cooking the music, not eating it” in a review of this book in the BBC Music Magazine, November 2013 issue.
I do like how you can chase these things up properly nowadays.
However, when I copied and pasted it into my word processor, it started out looking like this:
How did that happen?
In my youth, I would have panicked, but with age comes experience, and faced with dramas like this, I now do nothing, and then do the sensible thing. Which in this case was to try reformatting in “Default Formatting”, which at once turned it into normal writing again.
Presumably, my copying had picked up on some weird Bonzo Dooh Dah Dog Band font of some kind. But how?
I thought it must be that one called “Dingbats”, but it turns out it was “Open Symbol”, I think. How do the above hieroglyphics get called Open Symbol? (I was going to put higher oh gliffix, and now I have, but in the age of google and its “did you mean …?” feature) there is no excuse for such behaviour.)
Is there a rock band called the Dingbats? Of course there is! Is there a rock band called the Open Symbols? My googling says not. Shame.
I think that this piece by Megan McArdle, entitled Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators is good.
Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.
This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not - indeed, probably won’t - be the best anymore.
If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
That last pararaph certainly rings bells for me. Which is why I find that the cure for blogger’s block is the opposite of self-esteem. Self-esteem, as McArdle says, gets in the way. Self-abasement can get you going again. I’m a crap writer, so anything I do manage to put now won’t make me any worse. And hey, it may even cheer me up by making me better!
As for that thing about having it too easy in school, I recall Geoff Boycott saying the exact same thing about cricketers. The ones who were effortlessly good as kids, and who therefore didn’t have to scrap, later often came second best to others who did scrap when they were kids.
Of course, sportsmen don’t procrastinate, because they have a set timetable when they have to perform. Instead they just do badly.
And I also recall Malcolm Gladwell throwing older brothers into the mix, in one of his books. Ace basketballer Michael Jordan had an elder brother, who he had to scrap against when young. I think it was Jordan.
I wrote this just before going to bed, even though I have had the whole day to do something better.
To the right of this image is to be found the following verbiage:
The reasons for why East London has seen the flowering of street art are manifold. The post-industrial legacy of Shoreditch’s crumbling low-rise warehouses, not only provides an environment in which the artists and designers can do their work, but East London’s proximity to the City of London provides an economic source of support for the artists and designers; and finally Shoreditch with its building sites, old dilapidated warehouses provides a canvas upon which those artists can display their work and increase their commercial value.
Mostly revolutionary chic to pay the rent, I’d say. Which, on balance, I quite like, because it gets up the noses of the real revolutionaries.
Plus it gets up the noses of the Art Twats by being understandable and entertaining without them having to explain what it means.
More East End street art here. In fact, lots more, if you scroll back through the archives there.
I like this, from David Byrne:
I’m not saying that the artist doesn’t put their feelings into it, or any part of their biography, but that there’s a lot of constraints and considerations and templates that they work with – unconscious decisions or constraints put upon them that guide what they’re going to do.
Otherwise, why didn’t people in the 14th century start writing full-blown operas with giant orchestras and whatever? These things just weren’t available to them. Our imaginations are constrained by all these other things — which is a good thing. There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you. And if you decide you want to make pop songs, or whatever, there’s a format. You can push the boundaries pretty far, but it’s still a recognized thing. And if you’re going to do something at Lincoln Center, there’s a pretty prescribed set of things you are going to do. You can push that form, but kind of from inside the genre. So I guess I’m saying that a lot of creative decisions are kind of made for us, and the trick is then working creatively within those constraints.
Happy is the artist whose inner inclinations happen to fit perfectly with the artistic forms he is offered, with audiences as they are - or as he can easily make them.
And, happy is the artist whose artistic wishes are in alignment with his artistic talents.
It is constantly said that “if Mozart had been alive today” he would have done this or that, and in all cases: a lot. But maybe he would have done nothing. Maybe he would have turned away from music-making nowadays in disgust and contempt, or maybe just frustration that it could not be what he wanted it to be. We can never know.
When tube drivers get above themselves and start doing stand-up comedy routines over the intercom during tube journeys, I find this nearly unbearable. I think this is because, when on the tube, I go into a sort of trance, basically to cut out the din of the train, but comedy over the intercom makes that trance impossible to stay in. I find myself listening carefully, despite myself, in case the exhibitionist failed comedian says something of importance, and with that, I am obliged to listen also to the train noise. Horrible.
This (photoed yesterday by me at Embankment Tube Station), on the other hand, is not something I mind at all:
That’s right, platitudinous philosophical ruminations where there should be significant information about service interruptions. But, it didn’t bother me. In fact, I quite liked it.
Writing, as I recall writing in this piece (about how to argue), is a branch of good manners. (In that I actually said “publishing”, but the point is identical.) This is because writing is easily ignored. It puts the reader in control.
The same applies to blogging, in fact to the internet generally. It isn’t an interruption. You are in complete control of it. Except when the damn thing starts making noises (like those damned tube comedians), that you have to spend ages tracking down the noise and switching it off.
Referred to by a Radio 3 announcer, this afternoon:
If Music is a Place - then Jazz is the City, Folk is the Wilderness, Rock is the Road, Classical is a Temple.
I heard it, googled it, and was able to copy-and-paste it from here.
Like the space in an Elizabethan court masque that the performers left for the courtiers themselves to step forward and take part, today everyone needs to work out how to create a stage on which the constellation of divas formerly known as the audience will strike their own pose.
That’s to be found under this headline:
The Long View: Bob Dylan and the selfie: The world’s now a stage and we’re all performing
And under this photo:
Are yes, selfies. Says Sidwell, re this new word:
Even as I cling to my old-fashioned desire to take photographs of the things that I see, “selfie” – the new nickname for a photographic self-portrait – has been declared Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, following a 17,000 per cent increase in usage year-on-year.
I have been long been studying this phenomenon. We may not have had the word “selfie” in 2007, but there were already many, many people doing selfies:
That being one of my all time favourites from my selfies archive.
LATER: Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Taken, says Michael, on a ferry between Greece and Albania in July.
I used to defer gratification when I was a teenager. Now that I am middle-aged I take it when it presents itself. Not only have the opportunities become rarer and more precious, but the benefits of deferral are always in the future. And my future is getting shorter every day.
“A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.” This equation advises us to forgo the pleasure of tasty but fattening food. It may be good advice when you are 20. But as you age and your hips’ lifetime shortens, the scales begin to tip in the direction of instant labial gratification. No one counts the calories of his last supper.
Those are the first two paragraphs of the first column in a collection of columns entitled Free Thoughts, by Jamie Whyte. All available on line.
I found them while looking for this (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), which is by Preston Byrne. Byrne is my next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), this coming Friday, as I’ve already written about on Samizdata.