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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: Podcasting

Monday September 04 2017

A few weeks ago, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the First World War.  Patrick’s short intro, and the recording, are here.  (It would appear that Croziervision is now back in business.)

The “If only” of my title is because we talk about the question of “what if” WW1 had never started.  What might have happened instead?  The unspoken assumption that has saturated our culture ever since is that it would surely have been far, far better.  But what if something else just as bad had happened instead?  Or even: something worse?

We discuss the reasons for such pessimism.  There was the sense of economic unease that had prevailed since the dawn of the century, resulting in a time not unlike our own.  And, there was the fact that Germany, Austria, Russia and Turkey were all embarked upon their various journeys from monarchy to democracy, and such journeys are always likely to be, says Patrick, bloodbaths.  Whatever happened in twentieth century Europe, it surely would not have been good.

Sunday July 19 2015

As already related here, I had a delightful day out with G(od)D(aughter) 1, way back whenever that was.  And I got as far as telling you that we had succeeded, with the help of our mobile phones, in meeting up, not (as I wrongly related (apologies to anyone inconvenienced or insulted)) at the “Manor Park” Cafe, but at the Park View Cafe.  And I also wrote about how I nearly didn’t have my mobile phone with me, and about how inconvenient that would have been.

Once settled inside the Manor Park View Cafe, GD1 and waited for the rain to stop, and conversed.

GD1 was full of apologies for the fact that she had kept on postponing our expedition.  I, on the other hand, was rather pleased about these postponements, because they were caused by pressure of work, GD1’s work as a professional photographer.  And I think that her being faced with pressure of work is good.  Getting established as a professional photographer has been a bit of a struggle for her, but now the struggle seems to be paying off.

Another sign that GD1 is now photographically busier than she had been in former years was that she felt the need to apologise also about not having done much recent photoing for the sheer fun of it, as I constantly do, and as the two of us were about to do again.  “You put me to shame” was the phrase she used, in one of her emails to me before this latest walkabout.  But again, I see that as a good sign.  I mean, if you have spent a day taking important photographs for a demanding client, and being sustained in your efforts by the expectation of money, would your idea of a fun way to wind down be to go out and take yet more photos, with nobody paying you?  That she does rather less fun photoing than she once did means, again, that she is probably busier doing work photoing.  Good.  Under the circumstances, it was all the more kind of her to be willing to share a day with me doing this now, for her, ever so slightly uncongenial thing.

At the Park View Cafe, GD1 and I discussed the fact that, although becoming an established professional photographer may be a struggle, this line of business still most definitely exists.

Not that long ago, some were predicting that the ubiquity of cheap-and-cheerful cameras, wielded by cheap-and-cheerful photographers like me, would drive the formerly professional photographers out of business.  Well, it did drive some of the old pro photographers out of business.  But the world now is at least as full as ever it was of pro photographers, including many who started out as cheap-and-cheerful digital amateurs.

Yes, there have been big changes in the photography business, as my friend Bruce the Real Photographer long ago told me, when digital cameras first started catching on.  And change often registers first as bad news for existing practitioners, who then have to adapt fast or go out of business.  Because yes, lots of the kinds of photos that Real Photographers like Bruce used to charge for are now taken by amateurs instead.  Family portraits, for instance.  If you take photos of your kids constantly, you are pretty much bound to get lucky with some of them, and that’s all most people probably want.

And yes, amateurs like me can sometimes take nice wedding pictures.  But, would you want to rely on the amateurs to take those crucial never-to-be-posed-for again wedding moments, just for the sake of a few dozen quid?  I think not.

Or consider the house-selling trade.  The phrase “false economy” is the one that best explained why there will always be professional photographers alive and well in that line of business.  Imagine you are trying to sell a house, perhaps for several million quid.  Does it really make sense to rely on some fun-photographer like me to try to make the place look its best?  No it does not.  A crappy set of house photos or a flattering set of house photos could be the difference between sale and no-sale, a difference that could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds or more.  So, not spending a few hundred quid making sure that the photos are non-crappy is … a false economy.

In general, whenever the economic difference made by good photos dwarfs the mere cost of good photos, then good photos will be demanded, and good photos will be paid for.

Here is a rather crappy picture which I recently took, of a non-crappy picture of a house interior, a house recently featured in the Guardian, a house which is (fingers crossed, for it is now (or was until very recently) owned by a good friend of mine) about to change hands for several million quid:

image

That’s a photo of a glossy brochure, devoted to this one, highly desirable house.  The house-sellers paid quite a lot for that glossy brochure.  For the same reason, they paid quite a lot for the photos in it.  Why would they not?  My friend described the mysterious things the photographer did with light when he visited.  “Ambient” light, was it?  I can’t even remember.  A simple way of putting it would be to say that if a muggins photographer like me had taken the photos, the garden would either have been invisibly white or the rooms would have been invisibly dark.  Plus, more generally, and for reasons I don’t even understand, it wouldn’t have looked like nearly such a desirable place.  No wonder the guy who took this photo makes a living at it.  And I’ll bet he doesn’t any longer go out fun-photoing in his spare time, any more than GD1 now does.

So, in the short run, Bruce the Real Photographer was suddenly faced with a hoard of crappy photographers like me, taking all the “good enough” photos that he had been taking, and he had to adjust to that by finding other photos to take.  This was not fun for him, at all.  But meanwhile, the same digitalisation-of-everything process that was making such miseries for Bruce the Real Photographer was also creating a whole new world of internettery where photos are now required.  Most of these photos need only be “good enough”, so Bruce the Real Photographer can no more make a living doing them than he can make a living with the many of the photos that he had been taking for a living in his younger days.  But, GD1, after a struggle, is finding work, illustrating all that internettery, for all those people - people like my friend’s house-sellers - for whom only very good is good enough.

If only because there are now so many more photos swirling about in the world, if you want your photos to stand out from the crowd, they need to be really good.  And really good costs.

My guess is that the photography profession is now several times bigger in number than it used to be, before cheap digital cameras erupted.

I say similar things from time to time (for instance towards the end of this recent posting here about the changing context within which Samizdata now operates) about the impact of the internet on the old-school news media.  Despite many individual failures to adapt to the new digital dispensation, and despite similar prophecies of doom at the start of the digital age, the Mainstream Media are in much the same sort of healthy state as, to adapt that phrase, Mainstream Photography.  And the current non-plight of the Mainstream Media is not only analogous to the non-plight of Mainstream Photography, but yet another cause of that non-plight.  After all, one of the biggest customers for Mainstream Photography is the Mainstream Media.

Friday August 24 2012

I just did a posting here about Doctor Theatre, which is about how performing stops you being ill for the duration of the performance.  But as soon as I stuck it up here, I realised it would also do for Samizdata, so I put it there instead.  Perhaps commenters will tell me about the physiological processes involved.  Hope so.

I seem to be almost the only person writing for Samizdata just now.  This troubles me.

Saturday October 08 2011

Well, I’m watching England go out of the World Cup to France.  At present it’s 16-0 to France, and who saw that coming?  Not me.  The French team seem to have decided that it’s time they started playing, and they have.

Earlier, Wales beat Ireland.  Who saw that coming?  Again, not me.

Earlier in the week, Michael Jennings recorded a conversation between him, me, Patrick Crozier and Antoine Clarke.  Antoine, like everyone, was pretty unimpressed by France, and in particular by Marc Lievremont.  But if France win this, as they look like doing, and if they then beat Wales (as they are also entirely capable of doing) and if they then upset the All Blacks in the final (ditto), will the Lievremont method be enthroned in rugby fan esteem?  Coaches everywhere will play totally different teams from one match to the next, and make a point of playing non-fly-halfs at fly-half, trying it first in a World Cup game against the All Blacks.

England have just scored a try.  I was just about to put that England are attacking, but look laboured.  This conversion has to go over.  It does.  In the first half, France scored two tries, but only kicked two kicks out of quite a few more than that.  Will this return to bite them?  Probably not.

In that recorded conversation, the most eloquent points were made by Antoine, not about the actual games in this tournament, but concerning the process of qualification.  He said something like: “The Christmas Islands had to play about thirty games over four years to qualify.  Wales had to play no games at all.  This is obscene.” He didn’t use the word “cartel”, but he easily might have.  Good that the most important thing that got said will outlast any silly guesses we made about who would win the actual World Cup.  I guessed Ireland to win it all, and said Wales would be the most surprising winners other than Argentina.  We all agreed that NZ were looking unbeatable, but would find a way to be beaten.

France, stung by that England try, are looking to finish this off.  Less than twenty minutes to go.

Tuilagi - is that how he’s spelt? (it certainly isn’t how he’s pronounced) - has looked good all tournament.

France scrum looks well on top.  Shots of insanely dressed French fans celebrating.  Well, they deserve to be happy, after all the misery Lievremont has put them through.  France attacking again, with just ten minutes to go.  If England can’t scamper to the other end and score this will soon be over.  Oh.  France seem to have scored another three points, some way or another, and now lead 19-7.  A drop goal by Frenchman number 20.  That means England have to get two tries.  No chance.  England bashing away but it’s too much.  Or is it?  Have England scored?  I think yes.  Video refs confer.  Try.  This also has to go over.  No.  19-12.  “What a come back it would be”, says a commentator.  Indeed.

I’ve spent most of the game resigned to England losing, and still am resigned, so am not now suffering that much.  I still think it’s all done.  Seconds left.  But, I fancy Wales to beat France.  England retreating.  80 minutes up.  Penalty France, and they win.  Final twist of the dagger.  It hit the post and bounced out, but might have bounced into an England hand, at which point England would have tried to score a converted try at the other end.  Only a bounce off the post could have had that outcome.

Thursday January 27 2011

Meanwhile (i.e. carrying on from the previous posting about Patrick-Crozier-Brian-Micklethwait techno-collaboration), Patrick Crozier has been investigating doing Skype interviews.  He did one with me not long ago, about Austrian economics, the recent financial turmoil and its possible ideological consequences, with me, as usual, trying to be optimistic about what might happen.  I did it pretty much off the top of my head, when he told me that he was recording our conversation, which when it began I didn’t realise.  He reckons what we then said was worth listening to.  I hope that if you listen, you agree.  It lasts just over half an hour.  When it starts I was talking about another talk I was thinking about giving a couple of days later.

This is it.  Patrick’s blog posting about it is here.  I’m listening to it again, and technically, it is imperfect.  I am louder than I should be compared to Patrick, which means that my interruptive umms and mmms and ers, a problem under any circumstances (although when doing Cobden Centre interviews I have learned not to do this), keep trumping Patrick when he talks.  Sorry about that.

Tuesday January 11 2011

Last night, doing some homework for that architecture talk which I am doing next month, I googled “spontaneous architectural order”, with the inverted commas.  I found that I seem to be the only person who has ever used this phrase during the last decade, if the internet is anything to go by.  Which saddens me.

But I did find my way to this posting, and to this conversation about modern architecture with Patrick Crozier (useful (mostly) London pictures there, if you are a non-Londoner), which I listened to again.  I was actually quite pleased with it.  It covers a lot of the ground, more than I expected, and most of the judgements I then made struck me last night as between about right and very right. I hope I do as well (or better) on Feb 14.

Friday October 29 2010

At least as important as the eloquence of Jesus Huerta de Soto last night was the size of the audience that he addressed.  Here are a couple of snaps I took.  Click to get them bigger:

imageimage

The point about these people is that these were not the usual movement suspects, such as will be attending the Libertarian Alliance Conference this weekend.  These were mostly civilians (i.e. mostly regular LSE students), wanting to know the answer to the question that all civilians want the answer to just now: What the hell just happened?  And there are a lot of civilians out there.  This was preaching to the unconverted, big time, as the Q&A afterwards demonstrated.  They weren’t hostile.  It was just that half of them had never heard such stuff before.

Said somewhat grumpy Samizdata commenter “Snag” (on this):

It was good, it was also over-full, I was banished to a separate room to watch a live video link.

Like I said, they wanted a good-to-bursting type turn-out, and they got it.

As for the sound recording I made (see immediately below), in the end I just uploaded it to my blog-host.  But didn’t post it here; I just sent the link to Cobden Centre Radio. Duh.  If it is reckoned usable (which it may not be - it does sound a bit “bumpy”, as the background noise cuts in and out), they’ll have it up in the next few days.  Whether that happens or not, there will be a video.

LATER: Cobden Centre Radio did use my recording.

Last night I recorded the de Soto lecture.  Just switched on my little machine and stuck it on the table in front of him, and now it’s all in there.  So far so good.

But, I now have it as a huge .wav file, and have successfully converted that into another huge .mp3 file, in “stereo”, but with what appear to be two identical tracks.  Don’t know.  These files are, as I say, very huge, what with it lasting over an hour and a half.  The mp3 says: “Bitrate”: 96kbps, size: 65.7mb.  Emailing that to Cobden Centre Radio (who would like to have it) failed.

I am using Audacity to edit.  Does anyone know how to turn this huge file (either the .wav or the .mp3) into a smaller mono file, and generally make it smaller, by “compressing” it?  This is a generic problem that I keep facing with these things.  Can find nothing in Audacity suggesting any such processes.

Any help that anyone can supply would be much appreciated.

LATER: I succeeded in turning it all into a mono file, by following instructions here.  But, the damn thing is exactly the same size as before!  Why?  Still need help with compressing.

EVEN LATER: Did some compressing with something called “Lame”, which I already had on my computer, for converting mp2s into mp3s.  Why would anyone call a programme lame?  Anyway, panic over, I think.

Read the text of the lecture here.

Monday August 02 2010

I was glad to read this:

Unfortunately, although the conversation is timely and should be posted quickly, but I have not had the opportunity to give it a great deal of editing. (I am presently in Romania, as part of having a life, and a touch short of editing facilities). As a consequence, the conversation still contains a few ums and ahs and pauses, and I think it is a little slow in starting. However, for those who want to give us a fair shake of the sauce bottle, I think it is pretty coherent once we get going.  Enjoy.

Glad because when I do recorded talks involving Michael Jennings, I edit him a lot.  No offence, and all that, but Michael is indeed an um-er and ah-er, and also a pauser, especially, as he says, when getting started.  And glad because it’s always fun to read a deftly written apology for something potential listeners might otherwise fret about and not get past.

I have a special interest in this recording, because although I had no hand in making it, I am now its host.  I have listened to only a tiny bit of it so far.  I sounds a bit quiet to me.

Sunday February 28 2010

Here:

Far as I can see the BBC don’t do podcasts. They just make their radio programming available to time shift. This is fine but it’s not podcasting. Podcasting has an emotional tug that most radio doesn’t. I have this discussion/argument all the time with radio friends like Trevor Dann of the Radio Academy. They think radio does most of this stuff and I don’t think it does. Radio is organised to minimise the likelihood of people changing the channels. Radio is push. Podcasts are pull. At the exact moment you worry your podcast is getting too obscure or self-indulgent or detailed, it’s probably just finding its groove. Face it. If you wanted a balanced diet there are no end of places to get it. Podcasts shouldn’t be trying to be professional and polished. I can’t abide podcasts that begin with a menu that tells us what’s coming up. What’s the point of that? It’s more likely to make you change your mind about listening to it than persevere. I also hate the feeling that people are reading from scripts. I wince when I hear journalists trying to crack the same kind of jokes that look OK in print. We don’t need any of that print or radio or TV baggage. Podcasts are punk rock. They’re the first thing that comes into your head. They’re an evening down the pub. They blitz the divisions between the speaker, the thought and the personality. They have little use for conventional professionalism. They’re so direct they’re hardly media at all.

I copied and pasted this because I like it, but thinking about it some more, I realise that Hepworth is just right enough to be seriously, because rather persuasively and attractively, wrong.

This is like those articles circa 2002 about blogging, which defined blogging in far too much detail - it’s about this long, it’s about this, it sounds like this, in this kind of style, and so on.  All of which blinded those who took such articles seriously to the true potential of blogging, which was that, potentially, along with a few more tweaks and widgets like Twitter, it could swallow “Fleet Street” whole, and several other ancient and venerable institutions besides, such as party politics, old school advertising, and several more yet to be identified.  To put it another way, those early observers of blogging, many of them bloggers themselves, made the mistake of imagining that all that blogging was ever going to be was BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.  Me in pyjamas, opining about this, and that, and kittens, and stealing all the real content from elsewhere apart from the occasional pretty photo of nothing very much.

Remember when the journos said blogging would only ever be, basically, verbal masturbation plus kitten pictures.  Now: Climategate.  Now: the Tea Party movement.  What next?  Not just more kittens, that’s for damn sure.

In other words, while trying to be completely open-minded, Hepworth is actually an old media pro telling himself and the rest of us that podcasting is amateur hour, and won’t ever be any more than that.  It most definitely is amateur hour, if what you are is an amateur, and you want to have your hour.  I am, and I do.  And like Hepworth, I despise the banalities of lowest-common-denominator broadcasting, and idiot podcasters who imitate this bullshit.  My particular aversion is shoving muzak on the front of people talking.  But podcasting is so much more than than a mere trip to the pub.  “Podcasting”, by which I mean everything that anyone can do with a sound file, is the next version of radio itself.  Amateur, that is to say, only in the economics of most of it.  The biggest and best “podcasters”, like the very best of the bloggers now, will turn out to be so blazingly professional (as in very good) that they will put the average BBC wonk to shame.

Tuesday October 14 2008

The conclusion that Antoine and Michael arrived at in this conversation was that there should be no more inflation, but that there should be public spending cuts, but that whatever was done there would be huge grief in the short run.  The only question was how soon the grief could be got out of the way, and something like normal service resumed.

Thinking about this some more, I think we libertarians are in a position to be a bit more upbeat about all this, because we have the only real answer to this mess.  Serious public spending cuts and serious tax cuts are how you get an economy to go from mediocre to good.  We know this.  And this is also how you get an economy to go from disastrous to non-disastrous.  Politically, getting people to want better than mediocre is hard.  But getting people to prefer non-disastrous to disastrous is automatic.  You only have to say it.  It’s the difference between most people having an okay life and you threatening to poke them with the stick of economic dynamism, and most people having a seriously depressing life and you promising to wave the magic wand of economic dynamism.  Similar policies, but opposite politics.

That’s one reason to be optimistic about the immediate prospects for libertarian-ish ideas, certainly in Britain.  Another is that as soon as measures like these are even talked about, the prospect of economic improvement, which would definitely be perceived by “the markets” if not immediately by the general public, becomes an economic fact in its own right, now.  Announcing measures like these is the only feasible way for the government to effect any improvement in the economy, now, and it would indeed achieve benefts now.  The politicians are all running around bleating that they must somehow, anyhow, restore “confidence”.  This is the way to do it.  Even shouting from the touchline that this is the way to do it will improve things a bit.  So, we should shout as loud as we can.

In terms of such things actually being done any time soon, everything hinges on the difference between what people who matter would like to be true, and what they actually think is true, the latter being the important thing, as George Stigler (I think it was) explained long ago in a particular good essay (link anyone?).  Many people, including some very powerful people, would like nationalisation to work.  They would like to be able to command the economy to become more dynamic, in fact they would love it.  They would love to believe that they possess the power to micromanage the world into being a better place.  But far fewer such people any longer believe that such things are actually possible.  The evidence is now in that if you want to get an economy to motor some more, or in this case to motor at all, you have to cut public spending and cut tax rates.  Whether you like these policies does not matter.  Reality does not care what you think of it.

Some now fear a depression, basically because, then as now, the answer to the problems caused by inflation was widely believed to be more inflation, at least in the short term.  Which is what has just happened.  But there are, thank goodness, differences between now and circa 1930, one huge difference in particular.  Then, the option existed greatly to expand government spending, government regulation and government interference in markets local, national and international, and there were an appallingly large number of people who thought that such interference would improve matters.  But we now live in a world in which such illusions are far harder to sustain.  We’ve tried all that nonsense, and look what happened.  Those delusions were what created the Great Depression, and the great war which followed.  The Crash only caused the Depression in the sense that it provoked idiots into doing these idiotic things.  I think think that policy makers are now still rather foolish, but not this foolish.

The bad news is that this open goal for libertarian measures only exists because things have become seriously worse than adequate, not because there is any widespread hunger for things to be seriously better than adequate.  The public would still be content for us to jog along at the top of the Laffer Curve.  All that has happened is that we have now, very suddenly, been revealed to be sliding down the far side, the right hand side, of the Laffer Curve, the bit where tax rates are seriously more than the economy can survive, and the public demands whatever corrective action will work.  But correcting the mere mediocrity of life at the top of the Laffer Curve, by demanding a slide down the left hand side of it, to tax rates and tax yields that are seriously lower than the economy could manage, resulting in life that would in most ways be seriously better, is something that electorates don’t yet seem to be ready to accept.

Friday October 10 2008

imageIncoming from Patrick Crozier, transport blogger and transport podcaster:

Didn’t you cover this?

Indeed I did.

Anyway seems the cat has saved the whole railway.

Tama the stationmaster now has two assistants, Miko and Chibi.

Saturday October 04 2008

imageLast Thursday Tom Burroughes – aka, I am now allowed to reveal, Johnathan Pearce of Samizdata – and I sat down to talk, chez moi, about the recent dramas on the financial markets and banking industries of the world.  What the hell is happening?  What should be done about it?  And finally, and a bit of an afterthought: what effect will these dramas have on the libertarian ideological enterprise to which both of us have long been contributors.

The entire thing lasted for fifty minutes.  The first half, roughly, was a description by Tom of what has been happening, with me only asking the occasional question.  Half of the rest was Tom saying what to do about it, and then we both talked about the impact of it all on the ideological background.  I was happy with part one, and with part three, but somewhat less convinced by part two.  As I said to Tom during our talk, he came over as a libertarian being asked to clean up a nationalised industry, and it was not a question he seemed comfortable with.  It was a bad sign, I felt, when he began his answer about what should be done by talking about what shouldn’t.

But the point of these things is not simply to instruct the masses with perfect fluency, who in any case are unlikely to be listening in mass type numbers.  It is to educate us.  If Tom agrees with me that he has a bit of a way to go before he has a convincing answer to the what-is-to-be-done? question, well this recorded conversation will speed up his thinking on that.  So, no worries about that.

More about all this from Tom Burroughes aka Johnathan Pearce here, here, and here.

I also particularly like this.

Sunday December 16 2007

Patrick Crozier at Transport blog:

The other day a bunch of us Transport Bloggers met up at the new St Pancras and recorded a short podcast on the new station.

So in other words, we (Patrick, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and I) did this on location, so to speak - sitting at a table outside a coffee bar - rather than in a studio, i.e. at my home or Patrick’s.  Plus, it still worked okay and you can hear it fine.  So, a technical first, for my little bit of the podcastosphere.  I’m sure we’ll do more such things.

My St Pancras pictures, and more by others, here.  Michael Jennings’s blog here (where a couple more St Pancras snaps have been at the top since the beginning of the month), and Rob Fisher’s blog here.

Thursday November 01 2007

I just had a (for me) weird experience.  For some reason I was watching this YouTube thingy that Jackie D had put in a blog posting, about a couple of musicians getting together to sing inoffensively soppy middle-of-the-road duets that are all the rage in America just now.  And then I started work on the previous posting here.  That involved checking the links in the posting, including the link to this podcast.  And, both of them ended up playing on my computer at the same time.

I didn’t know my computer could do that.  We can do that, by listening to two machines at once.  But I always thought my machine would insist on one thing, or the other, but not both.  Live and learn.  Presumably if they both wanted to use the same software this wouldn’t have happened, but because they used different software, they didn’t quarrel, but just both talked on top of each other.

Samizdata has a “How very odd!” category.  Maybe I should too.

LATER: This only works if I go to Jackie D’s and then click on the YouTube bit there, and then click on the podcast link.  If I go straight to YouTube and click there, and then click on the podcast: nothing.  Like I say: weird.