Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Javier on Droneverts
Alastair on Wembley Arch lighting contrast
Rob Fisher on What does Thames "RIB" Experience mean?
Heathrow Transfers on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on So shiny it looks fake
Patrick Crozier on So shiny it looks fake
Patrick Crozier on So shiny it looks fake
Natalie Solent on Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Most recent entries
- The internet is for telling me what’s on the telly
- Pavlova under wraps
- Batman consults his smartphone
- The art of taxi advertising
- Drones are not toys
- Snake on a car
- A particularly good panoramic view of central London
- Coastline politics at Samizdata
- Wembley Arch lighting contrast
- A blown up airplane and a dodgy internet connection
- Rereading a Rebus
- Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
- More birds on a TV aerial
- Van – grey but very interesting
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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This and that
Category archive: Video
It’s for lots of other things, for other people, like: a telly. But that is definitely one of the things that the internet is, for me.
Whenever a new kind of information storage or information transmission comes along, people fret that it will replace all the previous ones. And the others, which when they started were things that people fretted about, become good for you. When reading by the masses got started, there was concern that the masses were doing too much of it, getting addicted to it, enjoying it too much. Dear oh dear, can’t have that. But then telly came along, and reading suddenly became good for you. Telly was the thing that people were enjoying too much, wasting their lives on, etc. etc.
And now that the internet is here, you even hear people moaning that Young People These Days don’t spend enough time watching telly, because they are, you’ve guessed it, addicted to their smartphones (on which they watch telly).
My own feeling is that Young People These Days spend far more time than is good for them gadding about in the open air and watching tiny screens and not enough time sitting at home watching proper telly and proper computer screens, big enough to see what’s going on, the way God and Nature intended. But that’s a feeling, based entirely on which exact generation I happen to be a member of, not a real opinion. Young People These Days, as always, have better eyesight than oldies like me, and, unlike me now, they like to get out and have fun. When I was a (moderately) YPTD, I loved small screens, like the one on the Osborne. (Look it up. Another thing the internet is is a machine for telling you things like what an Osborne was.)
The thing is, new methods of information storage or information transmission typically give the old ones a new lease of life, rather than the kiss of death, at any rate at first and often for ever. Printing didn’t stop people talking to each other, it gave them interesting things to talk about. Trains caused a surge in horse transport, to get people to and from the station. The telly adapts books into telly-dramas, and people buy the books to find out what’s going on and who these people all are. Telephones, email and now smartphones make it easier to organise face-to-face meetings. The first big internet business sold books. And lots of telly shows now consist of bits from the internet, for those who like telly.
And now, for me, one of the most useful uses of the internet is enabling me to keep track of what’s on the regular old telly. Recently, for instance, I recorded a whole stash of Columbo episodes onto DVD. But, which episodes were they and what order should they go on the DVD in? The Radio Times only tells you so much? How many Columbo episodes were there? Who else besides Columbo himself was in them? Step forward, the internet, to tell me all about that.
See also this other blog posting that I just did, in which, among other things, I give a plug to a face-to-face meeting that I will be hosting tomorrow evening.
I recently photoed this van:
What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message. “GREY MOTH”.
My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise. That’s what this posting was going to be about. (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”. I quickly learned all about VOITH.)
Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths. (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH. A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)
Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back. This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as: www.grey-moth.com, crucially including that all-important hyphen. Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be. And it turns out to be a very interesting business. I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it. Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.
I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while. And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no. If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two). Or: not. And I decided: not.
Drones, in other words, are not toys. But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out. Like Grey-Moth does.
Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.
One of the reasons I have such a pathologically enormous CD collection is that I fear the power that music holds over me. I fear being in the position of wanting to hear something, but not being able to.
This morning, on Radio 3, they played a piece of piano music which I liked a lot, both the piece itself and the playing, but did not recognise. I thought it was perhaps Mozart, played by Brendel, maybe. It turned out to be Haydn, played by Pletnev. I just dug around on the www, and here is Pletnev playing that same piece. Whether that’s the exact same performance I don’t know, but it is playing right now and it sounds pretty good to me. The piece is snappily entitled: “Variations in F minor”. Until now, this was not a piece I had paid any attention to.
But I hit the age of musical addiction combined with the money to feed the habit long before there was any www. For me, having music at my command doesn’t mean knowing about a link. It means possessing a shiny plastic circle, in a square plastic case. So, as soon as I had set the radio to record CD Review, as is my Saturday morning habit, I searched through my CD collection (subsection: Haydn), for that Pletnev performance. No show. But Amazon informed me that there is a Pletnev Haydn double album with Haydn piano concertos on disc one and Haydn solo piano music on disc two. I looked again, in the Haydn subsection (sub-subsection: piano concertos). Success. I possess the exact same performance thad was played on the radion this morning. So now, this music doesn’t control me. I control it.
The question of who is in charge of music and music-making is actually a big deal, historically. Beethoven’s career, and then later Wagner’s career, were all about Beethoven, and Wagner, being in charge of their music and of their music-making, rather than their patrons or their audiences. You can tell this from just listening to their music. Haydn, on the other hand, predated that era, and was dependent upon aristocratic patronage, and this shows in his music. He would probably not enjoy reading this blog posting, by this annoying and undeserving control freak from out of the future. But he would not have made a fuss. Or such is my understanding of his character.
Or, he might have rejoiced that he could have made recordings of his music, in circumstances completely within his control, and that I could then listen to them in circumstances completely within my control. For me, this is the best of both worlds, and it would be nice to think that it might have suited him also.
Sangakkara, having had time off to go and win the Caribbean Premier League with his team out there, has been back playing for Surrey in recent days, with his usual huge distinction. He made the highest score of the match in Surrey’s win against Warwickshire in the County Championship, and he made that match winning 130 not out against Northants, to get Surrey to the semi-finals of this year’s 50 overs tournament.
The best time for this photo-tribute to the great man would have been just after I took all the photos. But now feels like the second best time for it. Very late is not good, but it is a lot better than never.
The first lot of pictures are of Sanga scoring his 166, of him becoming increasingly tired while doing this, and of him walking off after getting out to first ball of the final over of the Surrey innings.
Several of these shots are of – ho ho – shots. One shot should be particularly noted. This is the so-called “ramp” shot, which is when the batsman scoops the ball right over where his head would have been, straight behind the wicketkeeper or thereabouts, hopefully for a boundary. Sanga did at least one of these last September, as you can see (2.2). And he did another, even more spectacularly, when he ramped a six in the last over of that one wicket victory over Northants. (Very short YouTube video of that here.)
I also particularly like the shot of Samit Patel of Notts congratulating Sanga (3.2), as he walks back to the pavilion.
And the second lot of photos are of what Sanga did after this great innings. He fielded (4.1). And oh look, who is that doing exercises in the foreground? That would be Jade Dernbach.
After the game had concluded with a narrow Surrey win, Sanga was given a Man of the Match medal (4.2), and a Man of the Match bottle of Champagne (4.4). Surrey commentator Mark Church interviewed Sanga (5.2). And then (5.3 to 6.4) Sanga mingled with us punters, and had his photo taken by lots of us including by a very happy me, who by then was but a few feet away from him:
Note in particular the Bald Bloke, with a very battered old-school looking camera, whom I managed to include in a couple of my shots (5.3 and 6.1). Maybe I am in some of his shots.
Finally, a bone weary Sanga decides that he really has done enough mingling, and he makes his bone weary way up the steps to the Surrey dressing room (6.3). But then, he gets ambushed yet again by an admirer, a kid (6.4), and he obliges with one last shot, before making his final exit.
Yes, I know, I show recognisable faces here. But a public sports ground is a very public place, and you don’t go there unless you are willing for your face to be included in photos and TV coverage of the event. Plus, if you place yourself right next to a Celeb, then you become fair photographic game, same as the Celeb himself is. Well, those are my rules.
All over the British bit of the internet, opinion mongers and trivia mongers are struck dumb by … this, the murder of a young woman, with a husband and two young children, who happened also to be a Member of Parliament.
Saying anything else, about anything else, is – and for once the word is apt – inappropriate. It feels inappropriate to me, anyway. So, we all say, pretty much, nothing, unless we know something that is relevant, like if we once met her or knew her or something, which of course I did not.
Obliged to comment, my comment would be: what she said. She being a wife and mother herself.
I also think that this posting, at a website usually distinguished by its willingness to be wondrously inappropriate, was good. It’s video of a most eloquent speech that Jo Cox gave in the House of Commons. It’s good that, nowadays, more and more people can be remembered in this sort of way, saying and doing the sorts of things they said and did best.
As I understand it, the big reason why miniature helicopters work is because modern computer magic can control all the propellers and stop them crashing. Proper big helicopter piloting is notoriously skilful. Now, a tiny little robot can fly a tiny little helicopter, all by itself. But, first generation consumer drones are going to look very foolish to later drone-flaunters, because so big, and because they are just so clunky and dangerous.
This looks much more of a serious prospect, especially for indoors:
If that does an Enrique Iglesias to you, it will do you far less damage and do itself far less damage, not least because humans are less liable to beat it to death after it attacks them.
Regular commenter here Michael Jennings is fond of enthusing about the miraculous advances in materials technology we’ve been having lately. I bet this gizmo is a fine example, especially those propeller covers. If they’re too heavy, they sink (literally) the entire idea.
I wonder how noisy it is.
Not very, if this quicky engadget youtube review is anything to go by:
You wait a decade for videos at BMdotcom, and now two come along at once.
LATER: 6k drone blues. Maybe cancel “Lily”, and get the above?
For years I have wondered how to put videos done by others at this blog. My problem has always been that they were too big. 560 pixels wide instead of 500 pixels, which is the width here. This evening, I thought I observed that “Brexit: The Movie”, as shown at Bishop Hill, was the exact same width as stuff at my blog. So, I rootled around in the source code for the Bishop’s posting of Brexit, and dug up what seemed to be the relevant bit. It turned out I was wrong about the width. It was 560, same as it always seems to be, But having got this far I tried just changing the bit in the code where it said “560” to “500”, and that seemed to work. The video seemed to get a bit smaller. (I changed 500 to 300 just to be sure I wasn’t imagining it.) I did some more sums, which told me to change 315 to 280, and here it is, 500 pixels wide, fingers crossed:
There is some kind of EUro-metaphor or EUro-moral buried in this story, concerning believing that a straight-jacket was actually tighter and more rigid than it really was, but I’m too tired to be bothering about that.
Tomorrow, I will watch it.
Today I attended Deirdre McCloskey’s talk for the Adam Smith Institute. I know what you’re thinking. Okay, okay, photos, as per usual. But: What did she say? Fine. Go here, and you can find out. What I can find no link to is any information about the event – when, where, and so on. It’s all now gone. Maybe it was never there in the first place.
But the Man from the Adam Smith Institute told me to send in some of my snaps, and these are the ones I sent them:
McCloskey’s basic point was what is rapidly becoming the libertarian orthodoxy, to the effect that (a) the world started getting humungously rich in or around 1780 (Yaron Brook‘s preferred date for this is 1776 (to coincide with America starting and Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s getting published)), and (b) we did this. Our enemies tried to stop us and they failed. We know how to make poor people rich, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Our enemies only know how to make rich people less rich and poor people more poor. Bastards.
My recent favourite example of enrichment is a very tiny one offered at today’s talk by McCloskey, which is that you can now use your smartphone as a mirror. Better yet, McCloskey said, before the talk she was giving, she spotted Steve Baker MP doing this exact thing with his smartphone, while perfecting his appearance prior to doing his MP socialising bit.
The reason I particularly like this is that I just recently learned about this trick myself, when I saw someone doing it, and took a photo of it:
If you photo someone looking in a mirror, they can see their face, but you can’t. (Unless it’s a crap movie, in which case the audience sees the face and the person with the face doesn’t. I know. Ridiculous. But this is truly what often happens.) But, if you photo someone using their smartphone as a mirror, both you and they can see their face.
McCloskey’s point was that enrichment doesn’t only come in the form of more money, but also in the form of the ever more amazing things that you can buy with your money. Like a phone that is also a NASA circa 1968 supercomputer. And a face mirror.
Finally, here are a couple more photography-related photos. On the left is the official photographer for the McCloskey talk:
And on the right there is a photo which I also took at the venue for the McCloskey talk, which I will not name, because the people in charge of this place might then learn of this blog posting and see this picture and then who the hell knows what might happen? Are you wondering what I am talking about? Click on the picture and work it out. I only realised what I had photoed after I had got home.
Or: Spoughts thoughts? You choose.
Sport (spought) has been good to me of late. Last summer, England won the Ashes. My local cricket team, Surrey, got promoted to division one, and also got to the final of the fifty overs county knock-out tournament. England then defeated South Africa in South Africa. England (a different England but still England) won the Six Nations rugby Grand Slam. And now (back to cricket again) England have got to the last four of the twenty overs slog competition, alongside the Windies, India and New Zealand. Few expect England to win this. But then, few expected England to get to the last four. No South Africa (beaten amazingly by England). No Australia (beaten today by India (aka Virat Kholi)). No Pakistan or Sri Lanka. But: England still involved.
Concerning the Grand Slam, the best thing about it was England winning all its games, but otherwise it was … a bit crap. The recently concluded World Cup, in which England did rather less well loomed too large over it. The World Cup featured no Six Nations sides in its last four, and when watching our local lads stressing and straining against each other you couldn’t help (a) thinking that the Southern Hemispherians would murder them, and (b) that a lot of the best Six Nations players seemed to be Southern Hemispherians themselves. I mean, what kind of rugby world are we living in when the most threatening French back is called Scott Spedding and was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa?
The Six Nations was worth it just to hear Jonathan Davies, a man whose commentating I have had reason to criticise in the past, say that a certain game is “crucial”, and that Wales have “matured”:
As for the twenty-twenty slogfest now in full slog, well, I have been rooting for England (England’s best batsman being a bloke called Root), but also for Afghanistan. You might think that as a devout anti-Islamist, which I definitely am, I would be rooting for the Muslim teams to lose. But actually, I think sport is one of the leading antidotes to Islamo-nuttery, and it is my understanding that the Islamo-nutters regard sport and sports-nuttery not as an expression of Islamo-nuttery, but rather, as a threat to it. Sports nuttery ultimately causes fellowship with the infidels rather than hatred of them, underneath all the youthful antagonisms which it does indeed inflame. It’s hard not to get pally with people when you play or follow games with them and against them, especially as you get older, and remember previous hostilities with fondness rather than anger.
So, in short: go Afghanistan! The Afghanistan twenty-twenty cricket team, I mean. Afghanistan gave England a hell of a fright and nearly beat them. And yesterday, they actually did beat the West Indies, even though it didn’t count for so much because the Windies had already got through to the semis and the Afghans would be going home now no matter what. But, even so, beating the Windies was a big deal, and the cricket world will have noticed, big time.
Here is Cricinfo, at the moment of Afghan triumph:
I love it when a T20 game really boils up, and they put “dot ball” in bold letters, the way they usually only write “OUT” and “FOUR” and “SIX” and “dropped”, or, as in this case, “an amazing, brave, brilliant running catch!”
And soon after that climax to the game, came this:
Chris Gayle is quite a character. Having scored a brilliant century against England that won the Windies that match and put England in the position of having to win everything from then on, his commitment to the West Indian cause is not in doubt, as it might have been had he celebrated like this with the Afghans without having done any other notable things in this tournament. He has quarrelled with West Indian cricket bureaucrats over the years, and has definitely seemed to have like playing for the Bangalore Royal Challengers more than for the West Indies.
His demeanour after today’s Afghan game is in sharp contrast to his lordly impassivity after taking the wicket of David Miller of South Africa, which reduced South Africa to 47-5, a predicament from which they failed to recover
One of the delights of virtually following this tournament is that it has been possible to watch little videos of dramatic moments, like the one of Gayle taking this wicket and then not celebrating very much. The graphic additions to this posting are merely screen captures. Clicking on them accomplishes nothing. But if you go to the original commentary from which I took my graphics, you can click on the little black video prompts, and get a little video of the drama just described.
Also: Happy Easter.
As soon as I did that first posting this morning, about blogging early, I was freed from any obligation – self-imposed, but still an obligation – to blog any more today. At which point the idea of putting more up here, today, became fun, rather than any sort of chore. Hence the next posting, the one immediately below this one.
This one is here mostly so I can have postings called “Blog early” and “Blog often” up here on the same day.
Earlier this evening I attended a Libertarian Home meeting, addressed by Tim Evans.
One definite improvement over previous LH meetings in the same venue is that on the blackboard behind the speaker, it said his name, rather than the names of lots of things you can eat.
So, behind Tim Evans, underneath where it says “Specials” it also, this evening, said “Tim Evans”:
Better. In particular, better than this:
The speaker in that picture was Allum Bokhari, last August, and that picture of him is most unflattering. Alas, this is the picture I took that night that best shows all that food. Go here to see Allum Bokhari looking better, even if he is wearing headphones. To hear him also, talking about the “censorship” (if that’s what it is) of the social media, by the social media.
So, the video of Tim Evans talking will look better, in this particular respect, than did earlier videos, of LH speakers in front of that blackboard. You build an ideological movement one step at a time. This was a small step, but a definite step. Nice one.
Sadly, I am not so confident about the likely sound quality of any video that transpires. Tim has a way of talking rather quietly when in a smallish room such as this one is, but the hinges of the door to the room had no such inhibitions and were squeaking something terrible, every time anyone came in or out, as happened quite often. We shall see, and we shall hear. Hope I’m wrong about that.
And I do mean eagles. Yes, it’s more fun and games from dezeen:
London’s Metropolitan Police force is considering using trained eagles to grab drones from the sky following a rise in unmanned aircraft crime ...
Next step, the drones will start shooting at the eagles.
Jemima Parry-Jones, director of the International Centre of Birds of Prey in Gloucestershire, told the BBC she thinks the idea is a “gimmick”.
Well, yes. Some journo with nothing to write asked the Met about if they’d use eagles, and the Met said yes they’d consider it. Which they no doubt did, for about five minutes. I mean, if you were an eagle, would you want to fly towards a thing with propellers? But where would fun come from if nobody could ever suggest gimmicks?
The story does throw interesting light on the fear provoked by drones, and, I think, on the reluctance of regular British people actually to want to buy these contraptions. I noted the arrival of drones in the shops, but they have not, as it were, taken off. Not in London anyway. They are strictly specialist devices, to enable the controllers of large bits of land, mostly out in the countryside, to control the land better and more cheaply.
Today I spent my blogging/libertarian time transcribing a talk given by Syed Kamall MEP to Libertarian Home, back on June 4th of this year. The following very early bit from this talk, which was no more, on the night, than the self-deprecating self-introduction, convinced me that transcribing the whole thing, even though it will also be available to view on video, might be worthwhile.
Having joined the Conservative Party in 1987, I actually stood for my first election in 1994, in the London Borough of Lambeth. As you can imagine, I lost. A year later, I had my first post-doctoral job at Bath, and they asked me to stand, and I lost, in some local elections. In 2000, the Greater London Council was formed, and I stood in the GLA elections for the first time. And I lost. This is going somewhere, I promise you. [laughter]
In 2001, I stood in that well-known Conservative stronghold of West Ham, and thought I could defy history. And I nearly did. I think I lost by about fifteen thousand votes. [laughter] And then – a year later, no, when was it? - in 2004, I stood in the European elections, and I was fourth on the list, and we got three Members of the European Parliament in London. So therefore I lost, but a year later another MEP became a MP, … she became a Member of Parliament and, thanks to the list system, I moved up.
So, you can summarise my political career up to that date as: stood five times, lost five times, and ended up as an MEP. I know my Party is supposed to be against Proportional Representation, but I’ve done all right out of it, thank you very much.
There is an old cliché that goes: it matters not who won or lost, but how you played the game. I only know this because it was mocked in Beyond The Fringe, but in times gone by people took this sort of thing very seriously. Well, the case of Syed Kamall illustrates that there are circumstances when this cliché can literally be true. Because you see, the secret of Syed Kamall’s success, is that he lost all these contest so very gracefully and sportingly. That way, everyone in his Party liked him, and he levitated.
There is also the fact that, in politics, it is probably unwise to win any of your early elections, because then you have to hang around and actually do a rather insignificant job, instead of moving on to a bigger and better contest, and winning that.
Last Tuesday I attended the A(dam) S(mith) I(nstitute) Xmas Party, to which I had been looking forward. Sadly, when I got there (and this is nothing whatsoever at all to do with the quality of the ASI Xmas Party) I found that I was in a decidedly anti-social mood. Grumpy Old Men are not a cliché for nothing.
But before making my gracelessly early exit, I did manage to strike up a conversation with a young woman fresh out of studying the history of media censorship, at Cambridge. This, she said, “could not be a more libertarian subject”. True. Good. More and more libertarians seem to be emerging from universities these days, in considerable part thanks to the ASI.
Me carrying a camera caused her to mention that she too was keen on photography. I asked her what is the best photo you’ve ever taken? And she said, tapping away at her iPhone: probably one of these. Definitely a cat person. I reckoned it a bit too uncouth to be photoing her, but I did photo her iPhone, which is also good when the light is a bit dodgy, as it was that evening.
Later, I cursed myself for not remembering to ask Anton how his expedition to the USA had gone. But, as I keep having to remind myself, this is the twenty first century. You can look things like this up. And sure enough, at Anton’s Twitter Feed, I found this ("U can now watch my presentation (of thesis for the very first time!) at Columbia’s Center for Capitalism & Society: ..."), which takes you straight to this, the second this being the video of him in action. I just watched it. Excellent. And recommended to all who want to know how the world got from almost universal penury to something rapidly becoming almost universal creature comfort, in which all can have, if they wish, cat pictures on their iPhones.
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.
This is a hastily drawn illustration of a characteristic urban phenomenon of the late twentieth century, namely: the Meaningless Triangle:
The blue lines are the edges, aka the curbs, of two city streets, which, for reasons lost in history, meet each other at an angle.
The black lines are are piece of Modern Movement type Modern Architecture, circa 1970, made of grey concrete, with big, boring windows. Something like an office block or a department store. The Meaningless Triangles are the pink bits.
In the days of Modern Movement type Modernism, architects were obsessed with making everything rectangular, which explains that jagged, saw-like edge to the big Modern Movement type building, at the bottom of my diagram. In order for the building to be in line with one of the streets, it has to be at an angle to the other street, because the streets are not themselves at right angles.
So, why not just have wall to the building that are not at right angles? This is what is done now. Why not then?
There are many reasons. One is that doing this kind of thing, in the days before computers, was a bit difficult. But more fundamentally, right angles were, you know, Modern. Only the despised higgledy-piggledy Past had walls at crazy angles.
More fundamentally, Modern Movement architecture was not so much about building a mere building, as about building a small fragment of a potentially infinite urban grid. In a perfect world, the Modern Movement type building would not stop at the boundaries of the site. It would instead stride madly off in all four directions, covering the whole earth in a single rectangular grid. You think that’s mad? Sure it’s mad. But this was how these people thought, in those days. They really did publish schemes to cover the entire world with just the one new building, and smash all the others.
The boundaries of the site were an affront to the building. The building did not end gracefully and decorously at the boundary, and then show a polite face to the world. No. It merely stopped, as gracelessly and rudely as possible, and in a manner which threatened to go bashing on, just as soon as a socialist upheaval (preferably worldwide) could clear all the higgledy-piggledy crap of the past out of the way. In a perfect world, there would be no boundaries, no property rights. No arbitrary lines where one bit of “property” stops and another bit starts. Oh no. All would be owned by the People in Common, and our architect is the instrument of the People in Common, and supplies them all, all I say, with a new and infinitely huge new building.
I know, insane. Don’t blame me. I’m just telling you what these lunatics were thinking.
Luckily, the higgledy-piggledy old world kept these maniacs under control. They had to stop their damn buildings at the edge of the site. If they had tried to bash on beyond the site, they’d have been arrested. But, they could make the ragged edge of the building look as ragged and ugly as they liked, and they did.
Hence all the Meaningless Triangles.
If you want to hear me talking about the above, go to this video, of me giving a talk about Modern Architecture, and start watching at 41 minutes.
What got me blogging about Meaningless Triangles was that I recently, in the course of wandering through my photo-archives, came across this photo:
What we see there is a very meaningful building, built to fill in a Meaningless Triangle. As I recall, this is a few dozen yards from the entrance to Kensington High Street Tube station. Yes, I just found the Caffe Nero in Wrights Lane, near that very tube station. That’s the one. I took my photo of it in 2010.