Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rob Fisher on Round headlights equals an old car
Rob Fisher on ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
6000 on Nine reflections
Simon Gibbs on The River Thames carpet
Brian Micklethwait on The River Thames carpet
Simon Gibbs on The River Thames carpet
Alan Little on The localness of London's weather
Michael Jennings on Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Friday Night Smoke on The River Thames carpet
Michael Jennings on Bombardier Embrio
Most recent entries
- Quota selfie from 2006
- ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
- Nine reflections
- The localness of London’s weather
- Round headlights equals an old car
- The River Thames carpet
- Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
- Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
- ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
- Self-healing concrete
- Bombardier Embrio
- Football comment
- Quota bird
- ASI Boat Trip 5: Individuals
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: France
I plan to be going to the land of the foreign people. Quite soon. Early August. The air tickets are already bought. But, have just discovered that my passport needs renewing. It gave up the ghost in about February.
Bugger. Passports are just now being particularly delayed. Questions are being Asked In The House about it. So I guess they are now throwing money at the problem.
There is also a throw money at it option for us punters, about an extra hundred quid, which I have in mind to use, just to make sure that all goes well. But first I have to get a haircut and then I have to get some “passport photos” done. I know how to take photos of myself. I do not know how to take “passport photos”. This is why God invented shops.
About every other day Google sends me news of Emmanuel Todd, news in French. Sometimes it is news of him talking on video, in French. I can just about order a croissant in a French shop, but that’s as far as my French goes.
So, imagine my delight on learning about this video, of Emmanuel Todd talking … in English!
What he is saying is that the different family systems of Europe mean that the different nations of Europe are politically incompatible, and accordingly that the Euro is doomed. Worth a watch, if that kind of thing interests you. In particular, the way that the Euro is putting Germany in charge of France is not at all what the French elite had in mind, and this means that sooner or later the French will have to dump the Euro. But first, their elite has to explain why it made this hideous blunder in the first place. Because dumping the Euro would mean admitting they should never have done it in the first place.
Tim Evans recently gave a talk to the End of the World Club (silly name, great talks) about politics, David Cameron’s politics in particular. He said that Cameron has no problem with Britain leaving the EU, while he remains Prime Minister. Sure enough, about two days later, an email from Tim arrives, complete with the link, saying: And so it starts ...
Goddaughter 2 is at the very early, tadpole stage of becoming an opera star. She has already been identified as possessing operatic superpowers, but there are, of course, many obstacles for her still to overcome. So, fingers crossed.
This summer she will be performing at a Festival in Belle-Île, which is off the south coast of Brittany. Her family, who live in Brittany, are kindly including me in their expedition to see and hear GD2 in action.
Obviously, there is a Festival website, and equally obviously it is basically a French thing, but it also supplies an English translation:
Welcome to the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer.
With much excitement, the preparations for our 2014 season are well underway, with artists from all over the world preparing to travel to Belle-Île to rehearse and perform two dramatic masterpieces, Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Meanwhile the Festival Choir is busy rehearsing Haydn’s sublime oratorio The Creation, heard for the first time on the island. There will be an orchestral Mozart evening, the ever-popular Ad Libitum gala concert, early-evening recitals by our young artists at the Café Bleu in Sauzon, and a series of masterclasses.
As the excitement builds, we hope you will join our festival family, and be a part of this rich, unique and inspiring season.
Which is fine. But before reading that, on account of having not at first realised that they offered their own English version of the above, I accepted an offer from a little window at the top right of my screen to do a translation of the French original of the above, with some sort of mechanised-computerised process.
It went like this:
Welcome to the International Opera Festival of Belle-Ile-en-Mer.
The preparations for the 2014 season are progressing well, with joyful excitement. Artists from around the world are preparing to come to Belle-Ile to rehearse and perform two masterpieces lyric, Leoncavallo Pagliacci and Gianni Schicchi by Puccini which will be donated to Arletty room. Meanwhile the choir festival works and repeats Creation, sublime oratorio by Haydn, which will be given for the first time on the island, in the churches and the Cathedral of Vannes. Also on the program, the Citadelle Vauban, an orchestral concert of Mozart and the ever popular concert Ad Libitum. Finally, two concerts of our talents in the late afternoon at Café Bleu in Sauzon and a week of master classes.
While riding the excitement, we hope you will join the family of opera festival and be this rich season unique and exciting.
Which I prefer. It’s actually not that bad. Most of the mistakes seem to consist of getting words in the order wrong.
The Salle Arletty is mentioned in the original French version, so it also gets a mention in the mechanised English version as a place to which musical performances will be donated.
For the original French version, go here.
My family used to go on holidays to the southern coast of Brittany when I was small, to a place from which you could see Belle-Île, but we never actually visited it. Expect Belle-Île photos here, when all this happens. Are you already riding the excitement?
Regulars here, or for that matter there, will know that I have for many years now been at enthusiastic fan of the French historian and social scientist Emmanuel Todd. In recent years, this enthusiasm has at last started to become a bit more widespread.
Two of the world’s most important Todd-enthusiasts are now James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus. Quite a while ago now, they sent me an email flagging up a piece they had contributed to Hungarian Review, which contains some interesting biography about Todd, and about how his own particular family history contributed towards making him into the historian of the world that he later became.
Todd developed this grand theory, about how literacy triggers particular sorts of political upheavals in particular places, depending on Family Structure, and then when the political dust has settled fuels economic development, But what got Todd thinking about all this?
According to Bennett and Lotus, the starting point was: How Come The French Communists Are Doing So Badly And Never Seem To Do Any Better No Matter What They Try?
He was the product of an extended family of French Communist Party activists and journalists, and grew up hearing his father and relatives arguing around the kitchen table. Anglo-Americans had tended to regard the French Communist Party of that era as formidable, successful, and continually on the verge of seizing power. From the inside, Todd grew up hearing his family lament the eternal failure and futility of the Party. (He left the orthodox Communist movement quite early, and in fact was one of the first scholars to predict, in 1976, the coming collapse of the Soviet system.) For some reason, the Party was well established in certain regions, and completely without support in most others. The Socialists were dominant in others, and it was noticed that the same social classes would tend to support either Socialists or Communists, depending on the region, but never split between the two, and when they failed to support the one, would not switch to the other, preferring alternative parties. In other parts of France, neither party had a foothold, and the same social classes that supported either Socialists or Communists in their stronghold regions supported entirely different, and not particularly Marxist, parties. The reason for this split was constantly debated in Todd’s family circle, but no possible explanation seemed to hold water. It was a great mystery.
Once Todd began studies at Cambridge, and encountered what we are calling the Continuity School, he began developing a social analysis that perfectly predicted the voting patterns that had been such a mystery in his family’s kitchen debates. France is far from homogenous, and in fact is a patchwork of quite different cultures and family systems. When Todd saw the distribution of the various family systems of France, as established by inheritance rules and customs, he saw at once that both the Communist and Socialist electoral strongholds corresponded to the areas dominated by two distinct family systems. Where other systems prevailed, neither the Communists nor the Socialists could gain any real foothold.
You can see how Todd was perfectly primed to generalise the principle from France, and then England, to the entire world.
In the course of my Todd readings and meanderings, I probably was told (perhaps by Todd himself in his book about French politics (which I have long possessed (and which I see you can now get second hand for £2.81 (in English)))) that Todd had been raised by baffled and frustrated Communists. But I had not really taken it in.
One of the things I did today was copy, from one TV hard disc to another, a documentary (fronted by Richard Hammond) about the D-Day fighting that took place on Omaha Beach.
One of the shots at the end of the programme looked a lot like this:
That is one of the photos at the bottom of this page.
I recall flying over the Normandy Beaches, on the way to the South of France. Later in the journey, I took snaps like this one, of the Millau Viaduct, but I don’t recall seeing anything like that cemetery.
But I also like these ...
… which were taken in 2001, in Paris, using my very first digital camera, something called a Minolta Dimage EX1500, which I wrote about at the bottom of this 2006 posting here, complete with a photo of this strange contraption. First generation digital cameras like that one were lousy in low light, so for making portraits indoors (which was what I first bought it) you needed flash. But flash from straight in line with the direction the camera is pointing is horrible, a guarantee of red eyes and hideous shadow effects. But this Minolta Dimage had a flash attachment that you could hold out to the side, at the other end of a wire, which changed everything. I am surprised more cameras don’t still sport such a feature.
And the reason I mention this now, all of a sudden, is that yesterday, I took another selfie of myself, in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, where I had just picked out a cheap, nasty little portable DVD player the size of a laptop, costing about half what a radio used to cost, to watch in bed and send myself to sleep, which I need to do to cure my Ashes lag. There I was, wandering back towards the checkout, gawping at the giant flat screen TVs of the sort I can remember costing ten grand but which now cost not a lot more than one grand and some of them even less than that, and suddenly I saw myself on one of the screens.
Out comes the camera. Snap. Whenever I see something which startles me, I try to photo it, provided it’s still there to be photographed, as this strange sight was:
Unlike the above two photos, this one is not me photoing myself the wrong way round in a mirror, but photoing myself by photoing a photo of myself, which means that my photo is the right way around.
I’ve got the box with the little DVD player jammed under my left arm. I nearly put it in my bag while I was taking the photo, but that would have been half way to shoplifting and very dodgy looking. What with me being on camera at the time.
The other day, I stuck up a couple of pictures I took in Paris, in February 2012. Here are three more Paris pictures, taken a few days later, from one of the upper floors of the mighty Montparnasse Tower, which is just about the only very tall, modern tower block anywhere very near to the centre of Paris. My host for the week, Antoine Clarke, had a mate who worked in this building.
I love the photo at the other end of that link, a classic in the Lined Up Big Things genre, the Big Things in this case being the Montparnasse and Eiffel Towers, and behind them, we see, once again the distant Big Things of La Defense.
On the left, I’me looking in the same direction, but instead of photoing the Montparnasse Tower, I am photoing from the Montparnasse Tower, thereby lining up the two things that were in the two separate pictures in the earlier posting, namely the Eiffel Tower and La Défense:
In the middle of the middle picture is the Big Thing from which my earlier two photos were taken, the Pompidou Centre. This is not a view I have seen very much. Usually the Pompidou seems to be photoed from below. Very impressive roof clutter, even if a bit arty and self-conscious.
On the right, we see the Sacré Coeur in the far distance, and in between, how Paris looks, on a very cold but sunny day. Paris, untouched during WW2, looks a lot different to London, doesn’t it?
The sky is so dark because actually, the city itself was so bright.
Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography. The Eiffel Tower features in many photos. The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.
That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.
I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is. Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.
Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place. Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time. But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.
What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know. I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these. Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is. When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care. There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris. But maybe you would like to know.
And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.
One other thing. This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong. When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger. Is this either too big, or too small? I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.
Last night, at Chateau Samizdata, I and all others present drank this:
Until last night I did not know that there was any such thing. Well, I knew there was Sauvignon Blanc, but not called that.
Sadly, I failed to properly include the hippo at the top of the label on the left, but you can see plenty of the hippos here, because of course there is a website and you can read all about it.
Clever marketing, I think. The real wine buffs will like it, if they like it, regardless of the name. “Oh yes, it’s actually rather good, you know” blah blah. And the wine unbuffs like me will like it too, because it’s a laugh, and a bit of a tease of wine buffs of the sort who expect wine not to be called such a thing. So, win win.
More old photos, this time from the time when the Eurostar trains used to depart from Waterloo:
Taken with my old Canon A70, on June 21 2003. So, over a decade ago. I think the sign on the right of these three snaps is something of an exaggeration. That’s about how long it takes now, isn’t it? Not sure about that.
The pictures are all pleasingly worse than the ones I take now, with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150. It would be terrible to think that neither I nor my cameras had got any better between then and now.
Eurostar came and went from Waterloo from November 1994 until November 2007. Since then, not a lot.
In 2012 a new proposal for the future use of the station was made, namely that it becomes the London destination of all the UK’s sleeper trains. This may become necessary as the phasing out of Mk2 vehicles and their replacement with Mk3 will make the trains too long for the platforms at Euston, and construction of HS2 will make the long sleeper dwell times at Euston untenable. If the Paddington sleepers were also diverted this would concentrate all sleeper services at Waterloo International, thus making use of the former Eurostar lounge facilities for sleeper passengers.
I can’t say I quite follow the logic of all that, but at least Waterloo Eurostar-that-was has not been completely forgotten about.
Incoming from Craig Willy, of whom I did not know until now:
I see you’ve written a great deal on Emmanuel Todd. I have just written a summary of his big history book, L’invention de l’Europe. I thought you might find it interesting.
I also see you have the impression he mainly criticizes the U.S. for being a “hollowed out,” financialized “fake” economy. In fact he is incredibly critical of the eurozone, for that very reason, which he argues is responsible for the hollowing out, dysfunction and financialism of the French and peripheral European economies.
All the best, and feel free to share if you write anything new on Todd. My Twitter.
In response to my email thanking him for the above email, and asking if he has written anything else about Todd, Willy writes:
I discuss him a fair bit on my Twitter feed as he offends many with his criticism of Germany and euroskepticism. Otherwise I just wrote this short piece on Todd and the euro from a while back.
This I have now read. Very interesting, and I think very right. Interesting parallel between the Euro and the Algerian War.
Things appear to be really motoring on the Todd-stuff-in-English front. At last.
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
Madsen Pirie has a posting up about the Parisian origins of the Statue of Liberty, featuring one of my all time favourite photographs. Which gives me an excuse to exhibit some snaps I took in Paris last February, of the Statue of Liberty.
There are two miniature Statues of Liberty in Paris. Before visiting Paris I didn’t realise there were any, and since being in Paris until now, when I looked it up on the www, I hadn’t realised that Paris contained two. There is a very small one in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and a less small one next to Grenelle Bridge, which is the one I went to see:
I still have tons more Paris photos to show off, but that’s a start.
However, I don’t believe the Moists actually care that their precious prophet has had his picture flashed about. I think they’re just looking for a fight, and I am giving them the oxygen of publicity. Oh well. But you can’t just ignore this crap. Here’s hoping the Gendarmes get them.
Don’t agree with the French politician (second link) who wants everyone to “respect” all opinions. Just tolerate, even as you despise and/or detest, is quite sufficient.
What’s Mo saying, by the way? Anyone? Ah, answer here.