Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Quote unquote

Tuesday June 28 2016

I’m a big fan of the Samizdata Commentariat.  It’s one of the best things about Samizdata.  Part of the reason for its excellence is that when things get heated, a comment like this appears:

image

I’m not a huge fan, on the other hand, of the Guido Commentariat.  Too big, too abusive, too given to tangenting off on only very marginally relevant subjects, just like most other big Commentariats, in other words.  Still other Commentariats, like mine, are too small to be worth reading regularly.  My commenters are very good, but there just aren’t enough of them (it being absolutely not the fault of those who do comment here (it’s the fault of all those who might comment but don’t (and is it really even reasonable to call that a “fault”?))).  Samizdata manages to strike a happy balance.  At Samizdata, you don’t get Comments (0), posting after posting, like you (I) do here, but nor do you get Comments (1538), or some such ridiculous number of mostly unreadable twaddle-comments.  That, for me, is the Guido Commentariat.

But I keep going to the Guido commenters from time to time, because they do have their moments:

image

That was this morning.

I don’t know if I would call the immediate economic outlook for Britain “absolutely fine”, but compared to continental Europe, and especially continental EUrope, it remains quite good, both immediate outlooks having got rather worse because of Brexit.

The British policy for the last few years seems to have been: be the least worst governed country, but only by a bit.  That way, capital and people flow in but don’t absolutely torrent in, even though our bosses are making most of the same mistakes as are being made everywhere else.  Just not quite so much as rivals of comparable stature, like France.

If Brexit had only destabilised Britain, then British markets really would have crashed.  As it is, it’s a toss up whether Brexit has destabilised Britain more than it has destabilised EUrope.  (That guy means the EUrope won’t survive.  Europe obviously will.) My belief is that money is both running away from Britain, and coming into Britain.  (But what do I know?)

Monday May 02 2016

As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old.  Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.

I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket.  This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket.  Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.

Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.

When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel.  Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting.  Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket.  I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades.  The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life.  But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.

Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do.  And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still.  So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now.  On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night.  As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains.  Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.

I know the feeling.  One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo.  I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst.  I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.

A bit of a meander, I’m afraid.  But don’t mind me.  You’d best be going now.  I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.

Sunday May 01 2016

While channel hopping in search of an entirely different TV channel earlier this evening, I happened to catch this snatch of dialogue, from the TV show New Tricks:

“When you’re looking for something, it’s always in the last place you look.”

“That’s because when you find it, you stop looking for it, you berk.”

Well, I laughed.  And I reckon it’s an improvement on any of these.

I didn’t know New Tricks was such a success in foreign parts:

These curmudgeonly coppers, baffled by new technology, hating modern policing methods and clearly in no state to mount a rooftop chase, proved gripping to viewers across the globe.

Actually, it’s pretty obvious why New Tricks is so popular with TV viewers everywhere.  It’s because TV viewers everywhere are mostly the same age as the curmudgeonly coppers in New Tricks, and at least twice the age of all the other cops on television.

Speaking as an oldie myself, I can tell you that jokes about not being able to remember where you put things speak to me, very loudly.  Yesterday, my oldie friend was helping me with my Ryanair checking in (another thing not all oldies to put it mildly are very good at sorting out) and during this my debit card was required.  So I produced it, from my wallet, and two seconds later I placed my wallet … into a black hole, and couldn’t for the life of me find it anywhere.  It just totally vanished into thin air, into a parallel universe, with its entrance portal on the far side of the moon.  And then it reappeared, on top of the plastic sugar jar.

Friday January 01 2016

Here is what the vans of Wicked Campers (which presumably started up in Australia) look like, photoed by me over the last few months, in Lower Marsh, where they often congregate.

I claim no artistic expression points for these pictures.  They merely show what these entertaining vehicles look like.  All the artistic expression points go to whoever decorated the vans:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

So far so excellent.  More Wicked Campers van décor to be found here, many of them equally excellent if not more excellent, and equally tasteless and un-PC if not more tasteless and more un-PC.

The Guardian is not amused

So then, I decided to search out the British HQ of Wicked Campers, which wasn’t hard because it is not far from Lower Marsh at all, in very nearby Carlisle Street.

And it looks as if the Guardian’s complaints, and the complaints the Guardian reports and seeks to amplify, may be having an effect.  Wicked Campers HQ was a severe disappointment, at any rate the day I visited, last week.  I found only two more vans, and both were appallingly tasteful, compared to the Wicked Campers norm.  The big clutch of vans above look like there were decorated by expat Aussies who don’t give a shit.  These two vans look like they were done by a British art student who probably reads the damn Guardian, every day.

Picture one here is just a pattern, with no in-your-face verbiage at all.  Pictures two and three are of the same van, opposite sides:

image image image

Ugh!

I really hope I’m wrong, and that Wicked Campers continue to prosper in their classic, tasteless, un-PC form.

Monday December 21 2015

I did a posting at Samizdata in 2012, about a trip I made to One New Change, but I don’t believe I ever displayed this photo, which I took soon after visiting the top of that excellent venue:

image

It is quite clear that this is a drycleaners.  Its name, alas, is not, in my photo, quite so clear.

Photo of this enterprise taken without my deliberate and rather malicious mistake here.

I have just got back from a party at Mchael J’s, having failed to do anything here before departing to it, and this was all I could manage.

But, I can add this.  During that party Michael said, while travel-talking about the Middle East:

The thing you have to remember about that part of the world is that Hezbollah are the good guys.

I think he was talking about Syria, but I could be wrong.  It was a good party.

Perry de Havilland also said something else very funny, but I have forgotten what it was.  It was a good party.

Good night.  Sleep well.  I will.

Wednesday November 25 2015

Last night I did a posting at Samizdata about Milo Yiannopoulos.

Until today, when I dug him up on YouTube, I didn’t even know what nationality this guy is.  American would have been my guess, but basically I didn’t know, although I did learn yesterday what he looks like.  But for me he was basically a name, that I couldn’t spell.

Turns out he’s British.  Very British.  Who knew?  Everybody except me, presumably.  Blog and learn. 

I asked for the opinions of Samizdata commentariat, and got some.  I don’t know why, but I expected more variety in these responses, more doubts, more reservations.  Actually, the Samizdata commentariat has, so far, been uniformly approving of this guy.

Now I’m listening to him babble away, and it turns out that, being a libertarian and an atheist, I’m “touchy” - meaning oversensitive about being criticised - times two.  As a libertarian I’m obsessed with marijuana and with computer hacking.  (Actually: No, times two.) As an atheist, well, it turns out I dress stupidly.  (Yes.  True.) He does love to wind people up, which he does by saying slightly untrue and quite funny things.  He’s like that classic old Fleet Street type, the Opinionated Female Columnist, whose job is to overgeneralise in ways that are quite popular and pile up the readers, and to make the Outraged Classes really really outraged, and who eventually gets … old.

I’m starting to think he may soon be a bit of a has been.  But, at least he now is.

I think the article that I linked to from Samizdata may have been a peak.  It is truly brilliant.

What I do like is his interest in the tactics of how to spread ideas, how to win arguments, how to be able to make arguments despite the efforts of people who want nothing except to shut him up, by saying things that shut them up.

Friday October 30 2015

6k:

As I published this, I made another mental note to look up a bit of the history of this place on Cambridge Street. I also made a mental note that my mental notes seem not to be working at reminding me to do things.

This is a big part of what blogs, and now Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of it, are for.  Never mind all those damn other readers.  What proportion of internet postings of various sorts are there not for anyone else, but for the poster himself to remember whatever it was?  This of course requires you to trawl back through your own output from time to time, which I do do from time to time.

Here is another internet posting vaguely relevant to the above, about people who find it impossible not to remember things, the things in this case being faces.  Most of us have heard of those unfortunates whose brains have been smacked and they can’t remember faces that ought to be familiar, like their children’s.  This is about people who have received a different sort of smack, from their own DNA, which makes them super-good at remembering faces, even ones they don’t want to.  When someone says to you “I never forget a face”, it just might be true.

The piece includes gratuitously irrelevant pictures of that actress who was in that favourite TV comedy series you know the one and of that other actor who was in that James Bond movie from way back, called whatever it was called I don’t remember.  It’s on the tip of my … that thing inside my face … you know, that hole, under my eyes …

Going back to 6k’s bon mot above, this only got typed into the www on account of his rule, and mine, of trying to do something every day.  You start doing a pure quota posting, and then you think of something truly entertaining to add to it, which you would never have put on the www had it not occurred to you at the exact moment you were in the middle of typing in a blog posting that was in need jazzing up a bit, e.g. with a bon mot.

Wednesday October 21 2015

imageIndeed.  It was front page news yesterday in the Evening Standard.  I’m guessing that the way Renzo Piano and Shardeveloper Irving Sellar have been emitting verbiage about how Paddington is now “soulless and has no life” may be what got this story onto the front page:

West London’s tallest skyscraper will be at the heart of dramatic plans for a £1 billion transformation of Paddington by the property tycoon who built The Shard.

Images of a 65-storey “skinny Shard” of apartments, offices, restaurants and a roof garden designed by Renzo Piano - the Italian “starchitect” behind western Europe’s tallest building - were unveiled today ahead of a public exhibition.

Irvine Sellar, chairman of Shard developers Sellar Property Group, said although Paddington was one of London’s most important gateways it had been overlooked for decades.

He said: “At the moment you only go to Paddington for two reasons - to catch a train or to see someone in hospital. It is soulless and has no life and yet it is only five minutes from Hyde Park and seven or eight minutes from Marble Arch.

“It is a fantastic location but it is stuck in a Fifties time-warp. We intend to create a place for people to go, where they will want to live, work, eat and shop.”

I imagine many current Paddingtonians actually quite like living in a “Fifties time-warp” that has been “overlooked” by the likes of Piano and Sellar “for decades”.

I of course love the idea of this new Big Thing.  I hugely admire Renzo Piano.  His new tower and its new surroundings, and in the meantime the process of building it all, will turn Paddington into the kind of place I will want to visit far more often than I do now.  And by 2020 there’ll be another London Big Thing for me to observe and photo from afar.  So I hope this goes ahead.  (Part of the reason for this posting is to remind me to check out that public exhibition that they mention.)

But these guys sure know how to talk about locals in a way calculated to piss them off.

Tuesday September 15 2015

It’s been a very bad last few days here at BMdotcom.  First there was the domain name fiasco, and then last night and into this morning there was another interruption, caused by a power cut in a totally different part of London to me, which was in its turn caused by all that rain we had recently.  And then the interruption was prolonged by the mishandling of this power cut by my rather creeky and out-of-date version of Expression Engine.  The two events were unrelated.  I think there’s a Macbeth quote that deals with this kind of thing.  One of those plays about a king for whom things are starting to go badly wrong.  But rest assured that there is no sign that BMdotcom is about to be dethroned permanently.

So anyway, here is one of those photo-postings made quick and easy by my “I just like them!” directory.

I just like this, taken in 2007:

image

And I just like this, taken a month ago:

image

That second one was already edited and ready to post, with its new name, but I don’t believe I ever got around to actually displaying it.  If I did, well, take another look.

I do not promise more substantial stuff tomorrow, but I do hope for it.

Monday September 14 2015

A notable Brian has just died. Close.

Scyld Berry writes about the bravest man to ever play cricket:

The story was that when a ball hit him on the head at short-leg, he shouted “catch it!” Eric Morecombe joked that the start of the cricket season was the sound of leather on Brian Close.

RIP Tweet by Alan Butcher (which was how I learned about this):

Was once in a Roller with Brian Close. Went over a speed bump too quick. His head went clean through the roof upholstery.

Close was also one of the few men ever to make Boycott get a move on (see para 11).

He was a great England captain, briefly, but was then sacked for … well, for wanting to win too much, basically.  Then reinstated briefly, much later.  Should have been captain all that time.

Thursday August 13 2015

Yesterday’s posting was about, among other things, a photo I failed to take.  But not long after that failure, I succeeded in taking these snaps.  Which were a lot easier because nothing was moving:

image imageimage image

Not long ago, I photoed another selfie stick clutch.  But the selfie stick clutch above came out better, I think.  Less clutter in the background.  Better light.

That joke card was obviously composed and printed and sold by people who take it for granted that it is the government’s job to make you rich, because the implication is that government cuts make you poor.  But if you have an honest job, then government cuts will make you richer, especially if they knock it off the income tax.  And the graphic design should have been more deadpan.  As it is, it rather draws attention to itself and spoils the comic effect.  But I like it anyway.  Not enough to want to buy it, you understand.  But enough to photo it.

Strictly speaking, that scaffolding is not in Oxford Street, merely visible from Oxford Street.  But when it comes to scaffolding, rules don’t apply.

Friday August 07 2015

More and more, I find myself interested in not only architecture but vehicles.  Time was when I would always wait for vehicles to move out of the way, while I took photos of more properly photographic things, like buildings.  But vehicles are also interesting.  It is interesting, for instance, that most of the photographers I like to observe still regard vehicles only as an aesthetic interruption, rather than as being worthy of aesthetic reflection in their own right.

A particular category of vehicle I have recently been hoovering up with my Lumix FZ200 is “black cabs that aren’t actually black”.  I chose this particular specimen because this is Friday and there is a big cat involved:

image

For Londoners, it’s an obvious fact, a fact not worth discussing, that whereas many black cabs are indeed black, many are not.  But how many of those unfortunates who do not live in London, or who do not even visit London regularly, or who may never have visited London, know that black cabs aren’t necessarily black?  Such persons may be interested by this, to them, unobvious fact.

Okay, not so very interesting, especially if you are a Londoner.  But what do you make of this car?:

image

I photoed that soon after photoing the bald selfie stick guy in this earlier posting.

As it sped away I took another photo of this car, which was very blurry but which did just about tell me what its very distinct number plate was.  And I can definitely tell you that the car is this car.  It’s an example of something called “car wrapping”, whatever that may be.  Comments anyone?

Even weirder is this car, which I photoed yesterday afternoon, in Victoria Street, soon after photoing the taxi in picture number one above:

image

What on earth is that?  The www told me nothing.

I note that this weirdmobile has a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour to it, including what looked (in other blurrier pictures) like quite a lot of Middle Eastern writing on it, in among the English verbiage.  But what it all means, or what kind of service is being sold or publicised, I have no idea.  Again: can anyone tell me more?

Sunday August 02 2015

Playing?  Yes.  It’s like they think test match cricket is some sort of mere game.

Cricket, says Cricinfo’s George Dobell, is no longer like this:

A few years ago - 2004 if memory serves - an elderly spectator settled down to watch a day of cricket at Horsham before the 11am start of play and promptly died. It was not until 9pm that anyone noticed. Such was the character of the crowd, and the cricket, that one more silent, motionless man in a chair hardly stood out.

He’s right.  The current England side is full of one-day cricketers.  And when they tried to beef up their top order for their latest test match, all they could think of to do was to sack one of the top order grafters (Ballance) and bring in yet another one-day batsman, a one-day batsman (Bairstow) who has done well in county championship cricket this year, so in he came.  Nobody will be surprised if they sack another grafter (Lyth), and I would not be surprised if another one-day belter (Hales? Roy?) came into the team to replace him, because one-day belters is all that there are to pick.

After all, if batting like Kevin Pietersen is what all the best batsmen do best these days, why try to find old-school grafters in the Boycott manner, if no such people exist of the necessary class?  (By the way, a basic reason why there is no clamour for Pietersen to return to the England team is that he now has no rarity value.  Bell, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, all bat the way Pietersen does.  So does Bairstow.)

One day cricket also rewards those who can bat, in a twist-or-bust sort of way, and who can bowl in a similar fashion.  This doubles their chances of making an impact in a one-day game.  They get to place two bets instead of just the one.  England now have two such, Stokes and Ali.  Plus, Broad can bat after a fashion, and Root can bowl after a fashion.  Which means that England now bat, in a one-day sort of way, right down to number eight, where Ali now operates, and they now have five regular bowlers, because two of them are now Stokes and Ali.

Australia have the same feel about them.  Mitchell Marsh is supposed to be a batter and a bowler.  Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous slogger.  They too are inclined to try to hit their way out of trouble, David Warner style, rather than to graft their way out of it, the way they used to in the days of people like Bill Lawry, Australia’s Boycott (i.e. the guy Boycott was England’s answer to), whom I remember from my childhood.  Lawry grafted always, whatever the situation was.  Now, Warner slogs, whatever the situation is.

And now, all wicket-keepers can bat up a storm, ever since Gilchrist created that template, and actually, before that.  I remember am England chap called Parks, who could bat better than he could keep.  Now everyone picks the wicket-keeper who bats best, and they then give him extra tuition with a wicket-keeping coach.

The most memorable old-school test match I can remember was this one.  Six hundred played six hundred, and that was it.

For me, a turning point was Kevin Pietersen’s innings on the final day of the final test of the 2005 Ashes series, at the Oval.  England were 126-5, with Warne threatening to finish them off and leave Australia needing 150 to win and with plenty of time for them to do just that, and level the series and go home with the Ashes.  So, the one surviving front-line England batsman, Pietersen, had a match to save.  There were two ways for him to do it.  He could try to bat for a long time and make no runs.  Or, instead, he could try to slog lots of runs and thereby get England too far ahead, which is what he actually did.  Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood batted for about an hour and got next to nothing, which was also useful, but nobody except me remembers that.  Giles was spared having to bowl, but batted very capably instead.  I remember at the time how the commentators said, after Pietersen had just hit another six, that this was a strange way to save a match, but save it he did, and rather quickly, because England were suddenly way beyond Australia’s reach.

The most one-day thing of all about the current England v Australia contest is the way that these supposedly five-day games have all so far finished early, with one, one and then two entire days to spare.  At one point that most recent game looked like it might end with three days to spare.

Also very one-day is that all three games have been won, by whoever happened to win them, by large margins.  One team just happens to slog or bowl its way into a dominant position.  The other team tries to slog quick runs or take quick wickets to get itself back into the game, and, as teams doing this usually do, they fail, and the dominant-from-the-start-to-the-finish winner wins by a mile.

England crushed Australia in the first game.  But then, after they were crushed even more crushingly in the second game, everyone said, oh, England will now go back to grafting.  But no.  They didn’t.  They couldn’t.  They didn’t have the players to do that, even if they had wanted to.  And they won the third game by eight wickets, and only right at the end was Boycott a happy commentator, because the Australian tail in the third innings, and then the England top order in the final innings, both did a bit of “old fashioned” Boycott-type batting, or as close to that as modern batters can now manage.  This was why the match lasted a whopping three days, instead of a mere two.

Thursday July 23 2015

Said I to myself - said I, on the 10th of this month:

I need to get out less, and this weather is not helping.

Tomorrow, the weather will be helping very much:

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This is perfect.  My life today, in the last few days, and for the last few weeks, has been one mad social whirl after another, my contented solitude being having been violated seemingly every other evening and sometimes more often even than that, which is all fun and all that, but I find that an evening out puts a blight on creativity for the entire day, because what if I start something, want to finish it, but then don’t have time to, because I have a social whirl to attend and to get ready for and to find my way to and to find out about finding my way to?  Last night I whirled out to watch theatrical stuff in an unfamiliar and transportationally complicated part of town with a theatrical friend.  Tonight, I face another social whirl, to meet Perry II.  Every time I go out I take photos, but because of all this going out I have no time to show them to you people or not with the sort of insightful commentary that I want to attach to them without which what’s the point? - They’re just pictures.

So tomorrow (a day during which I have nothing else planned), I will stay in all day, and try (although I promise nothing) to do here a mammoth day of catch-up blogging, showing you a tiny fraction of the pictures I have been taking lately, all properly explained, and anything else I’ve been meaning to put here for some time that I decide to put here tomorrow, in not one, not two, but many postings.

We shall see.

Tuesday July 14 2015

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

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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.