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: Bloggers and blogging

Tuesday February 16 2016

Blogging, as I just was, about assemblages of London’s Big Things, here is another such assemblage, albeit quite a small one, which has been staring me in the face for weeks, but which I only just properly noticed:

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This is to be seen at Guido Fawkes, whenever, as you can see, London’s Mayoral election is being blogged about.  Very horizontalised, so no big blogging deal.

Monday February 01 2016

Last Friday evening, at that meeting, I talked with Perry de Havilland about writing for Samizdata.  I told him that I have recently been taking longer to finish my postings, to get them nearer to completely right.  He compared blogging to rock ‘n’ roll.  The clear implication being that blogging, like rock ‘n’ roll, is most truly itself when done, so to speak, live.

Each to his own.  I now find that one of the symptoms of advancing years is that I am no longer as confident as I once was about the first thing that comes out of my mouth, or about what emerges from my tapping fingers.  I prefer to have several reads-through of it, with gaps of time between them to think more.

My two most recent Samizdata postings are results of this more considered manner of writing.  They may not seem so to readers.  But they are much better than they would have been without any polishing.

Such polishing is not new, for me.  I used to do it to stuff I wrote for the Libertarian Alliance.  Stuff like this piece, which Patrick Crozier kindly linked back to, in one of the comments on the first of those two recent Samizdata pieces.  As Patrick said, what that earlier piece said was very similar to what the Samizdata piece said.  Appropriately enough, both pieces (separated by a quarter of century) were about how reluctant people are to change the basic way that they think about things.

Then as now, such polishing did not make my writing perfect.  But it did make it quite a lot better.

Well, now, I seem to be reverting to writing more considered and revised essays, short or not so short, rather than “blog postings”.  Rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game, and I do not feel comfortable writing in that manner.  I used to.  If Perry de Havilland still does (and he does), I am very happy for him.  But it seems now not to suit me so much.

However, I do actually think that rock ‘n’ roll is now less appropriate.  The novelty of just anyone being able to shovel stuff onto the internet has now passed.  The mainstream media have now thoroughly internetted themselves, and the “any old stuff” approach (such as prevails here) does not get a blog like Samizdata the traffic that it used to get.  I think that some of us at least should be polishing.  More and more, my role model is becoming the late Findlay Dunachie.  Not in the sense that I intend only to review books from now on.  I mean that I find myself wanting to write more in the way he wrote, more thoughtfully, in a way that is more considered.

I am not now deciding to write differently.  (I promise nothing.) I am merely noting that this is what seems now to be happening.  An earlier stage in the change of attitude I am describing was earlier described in this posting here.

By which I mean, what seems to be happening at Samizdata.  Here will continue to be the impulsive, sloppy, last minute, thinking aloud, what you get is what you get operation that it has always been.  I did a little polishing of this piece, but not a lot.

Friday January 15 2016

Today I was in Borough High Street, doing some things with some people, and after that ended I was able, finally, to enjoy some proper winter weather.  Instead of warm and grey, it was cold and blue.  Bright blue:

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That’s the Slug and Lettuce in Borough High Street, which I assume to be but one link in a franchised chain of some sort, which is very ordinary.  But behind this slug and this lettuce is: the sky, which is not ordinary, given the very ordinary indeed weather we’ve been having lately.

This posting is my attempt to emulate the great Mick Hartley.  I know that won’t work, but as soon as I got home after my wanderings and saw his blue sky posting, done this morning, I knew that I had to find the snap with the bluest sky in it that I had taken.  The secret is to light the building very strongly, by firing the the sun straight at it.  This turns the sky dark blue.  There were not that many dark sky pictures like this one to choose between.  A lot of my snaps today were taken down in those shadows that you see down at the bottom of that picture.  So the above snap was my clear winner.  Very clear.  Hartley probably had dozens of dark blue sky snaps to choose between.  Either that, or he’s a Real Photographer and he took only the pictures he blogged, and gets every shot right first time.

More blue sky, from another of my blog-favourites.  “Zuma”.  That’s a dance/exercise craze, right?

Saturday December 12 2015

One of the things I have had to learn as a blogger is to go ahead with my little photo essays, even if I absolutely know that there are more relevant photos to be found in my archives, which I would love to include if only I could find them quickly.  When that happens, I should just go ahead anyway.  If I later encounter the photos I would like to have included the first time around, fine.  I should do another posting and link back to the first one.

You are probably expecting a photo here, to back up the above point …:

image

… so there is a photo.  It’s a nice photo.  But it doesn’t really make the point above it.  Perhaps, somewhere in my archives, there is a photo which does exactly make that point.  But, it would take too long for me to find it.

Friday November 20 2015

I see that of Counting Cats, in the person of Julie near Chicago, recently linked to a piece by the late Antony Flew entitled The Terrors of Islam, a piece which I had totally forgotten about.  But I am sure that this piece influenced me very strongly when I read it.  And I definitely did read it because I published it, for the Libertarian Alliance (Chris Tame Tendency).

It always pleases me hugely when someone links to an old LA effort of mine like this.  Not exclusively mine, you understand.  Somebody else had to write it.  But … mine.  And this particular piece of Flew’s is downright prophetic.

Counting Cats had a strange outbreak of junk postings about fake university essays a week or two back but seems to be over it now.

Tuesday November 03 2015

... causing them to stay stuck inside my head for ever.

That’s it really.  Provided something can get out of hand inside a head.

What I am talking about, in the event that you don’t already recognise the syndrome, is that you think of something to put on your blog, and start seeking out links, and you find highly pertinent links to add, but at the far end of them, you find further highly pertinent things to add to the original posting, until it ceases entirely from being the piece of fun that blogging ought mostly to be, and becomes a giant piece of homework that never gets done.

So, memo to self: Stop it.

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.

Friday October 09 2015

Later on, in Richmond, still beside the river, but upstream, practically in the country, I espied a cat.  Here is the context, and the cat:

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In other cat-related news, 6k did a cat-related posting for me to link to last Friday.  He mentioned me in the first line, and then showed one of my photos, but I only realised that there was cattery later in the posting too late for last Friday so I had to wait a week.  He went on to mention that video of that giant white fluffy Goodie stroke James Bond villain kitten attacking the BT Tower.  Said 6k:

Yes. Kittens were huge (literally) in popular culture, even before the internet was around.

Very true.

And if Brian reads this before the end of the day, he’s got a lovely Feline Friday tie-in opportunity with his post from yesterday.

Better a week late than never.  (There is also a cat connection in this posting, which is about the head of another sort of big cat.)

6k is taking a bit of a break, or so he says.  I’ll still keep checking in, just to see.  “For personal reasons”.  Ah yes, there are lot of those about, rampaging the earth, closing blogs and generally causing havoc.  Me, I try to avoid having personal reasons.

Another favourite blogger of mine features more cattery here, in the form of East End high end graffiti.

Saturday October 03 2015

Here being Epping Underground Station, which is not actually underground, but you know what I mean.

As already recounted here, I was recently in Epping.  But I just looked again at the photos I took that day and realised that, fascinating though the M11 is, this sign is even more interesting:

image

I did not know there was such a thing as the Epping Way.  But there is.  It is 82 miles long.  Did you already know about this “way”, from Epping to Harwich?  I didn’t.

This is not really a case of “blog and learn”, but blogging did help, because as so often I was looking for something interesting to pass on.  Which meant I first had to learn something more about it besides its name on a sign.

I also like the photo.  Without photography I would have completely forgotten about this.

When I was at Essex University, I used to go there from London by train, or by car, or by bus.  Now I learn that I could have walked, by what would presumably have mostly been a rather scenic route.

Friday July 24 2015

Well, it hasn’t really worked has it.  No way have I caught up.  But before today ends, I do want to show you this, because it is a cat and Friday is my cat day:

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This photo is not mine.  It is Mick Hartley‘s.  I really like his photos, both the ones he takes himself and the ones he picks out for his blog that other people have taken.

What I love about Hartley’s photos is his attitude to colour, and to black and white.  He loves both.  He loves the black and whiteness of black and white, and he loves the colourfulness of colour.

So, that white cat above, for instance.  It adds an extra something that the white cat is surrounded by a white window frame, and that it is black behind the white cat.  And, neither the cat nor the window frame would be as white if it were not for the blue wall.

So, go to Mick Hartley.  You may not want to read the whole thing just because I do.  But, look at the whole thing.

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.

Monday July 06 2015

This is another of those “memo to self” postings.  Well, really, all the postings here are memos to self, but this one is more than usually of that sort.

Earlier today, I managed, at last, finally, to do a Samizdata posting, after a gap of well over a month.  It seems to have been quite well received, which is very nice, but really the big thing for me now is that I have done it, well received or not.

And in the course of doing it, I think I have identified an error in my thinking about how I should be writing for Samizdata.  I think I was in the grip of what “writing for Samizdata” was supposed to be, for me, and what writing for Samizdata was supposed to be was writing one or nearly one Samizdata posting per day.  And then, there came a time when I was unable to do this.  And since I couldn’t do it, I pretty much stopped doing it.  By aiming at too difficult a target, I was failing, day after day, and that made me just give up totally.  That is very silly.  But that, I think, is part of what was happening.

But now I think the time has come (in fact the change is long overdue) to revise my model of what writing for Samizdata should now, for me, mean.  Me writing for Samizdata means not that I post something on Samizdata pretty much every day, but rather, that I work on my next Samizdata posting, pretty much every day.  This means, for example, that by close of play tomorrow, I should have made some headway, not necessarily very much headway, just some headway, towards doing another posting there.  The sequence of events will be: decide what to write about at Samizdata, and then start.  Make some headway every day.  Work at it.  Polish it.  Try to make it good.  When it is good, or seems so, then publish.  And if that takes a week, it takes a week.  The idea of doing something once a day survives, but not in the form of a finished blog posting once a day, just some work on a blog posting, every day.  Believe it or not, I took several days to concoct this latest posting, coming back to it again and again.  And that felt like the way I should now be doing it.

The thing is, posting something here every day is quite easy.  Not a total breeze you understand, but quite easy.  This is because my standards here are very low.  When I say something, I do mean something, aka anything.  But Samizdata demands stuff that is better than that.  It demands stuff that has been polished, worked on, really thought about.  In 2005 you could shovel any old junk onto Samizdata and get thousands of readers, and we did, and actually it was pretty good stuff because we had all spent the previous quarter of a century thinking about it, and because we knew that thousands of people were reading it, and commenting in their hundreds.  Now, that doesn’t work, or not for me.  I now feel that Samizdata, unlike this place, needs better than just any old thing if it is to compete with the mainstream internet media, as it now does.

We shall see.

Wednesday May 06 2015

I am working on a quite big and unwieldy architecture posting just now, but this probably won’t be ready to go any time today, or even soon, so I’ll instead write a little essay on a related matter.  Which is: Why I feel more comfortable writing about architecture, of the contemporary and hence controversial sort, than I do about contemporary interior design.  The contrast between how fascinated I am by the architectural stuff (this is the posting that got me going with the architectural posting that I am now working on) at one of my favourite internet sites, Dezeen, and the indifference I feel concerning Dezeenery about interior matters, is becoming ever more extreme.  I mean, designer X has designed a chair.  And what does it look like?  It looks like a chair.  Hoo ray.

It’s not that I dislike or oppose interior design.  It’s just that I feel that what I feel about it, or for that matter what anybody else feels about it, is of no public significance.  We can all just pick whatever interior designs and objects appeal to us, and let others do the same.  Interior design is not a political problem.  There is therefore nothing vitally important to be said about it.  Why argue, when there is no need to argue?

If you are one of those people who likes to tease out why you feel the way you do, about everything in general and interior design in particular, fine.  Blog away about wallpaper, tea kettles, tables, chairs, standard lamps, stoves and suchlike, all you like.  You’ll surely find plenty of readers, probably a great many more than I have.  You certainly will if you specialise, as I do not.  I write about such things myself, from time to time, when the mood takes me. 

But on the whole, it tends not to.  When the answer the question is: each to his own, and when that answer basically takes care of it, I generally don’t feel like adding very much.

You could say that this mood, of insignificant self-scrutiny, is upon me right now.  After all, who cares what I put on my blog?  If you don’t like it, don’t read it, problem solved.  Choosing a blog to read is like choosing a chair.  Nobody else need be consulted, or imposed upon.

But architecture is different.  We can’t each step outside into a city like London and each have exactly the London that we want.  If I am to have those new Big Things that I like so much, you also have to put up with them, even if you hate them.  It therefore feels right to me to be explaining, to the entire world (even if most of the world pays no attention), just what it is about these Big Things that I like so much.  It makes sense for me to say (even if I haven’t done much of this lately) why I came to hate most modernistical architecture when I was in my twenties, and why I think that modernistical architecture has improved so very, very much since that time, at any rate in the places I mostly walk about in and see in photos.

For the same reason, it also makes sense, to me, for me to be celebrating roof clutter, cranes, this or that piece of public or semi-public sculpture, these or those public signs.  It is because these are public issues.  Political issues, even.  Definitely political, in the case of those signs I just linked to.  Things like these have positive (mostly, in my case) or negative (perhaps in yours) externalities attached to them.

Actually, it is most unlikely that you hate all the publicly obtrusive things that I love, because you wouldn’t want to be reading such opinions, day after day.  But, you get my point.

Monday May 04 2015

Part of getting old (new category here – I still have a lot of categorising to do so bear with me on that) is that you just forget to do things, even things that you like.  Thus, I have recently been forgetting to read Anton Howes.  Today I remembered, and started reading, in particular, this posting, which is most recent as of now.

Fun quote:

Uber isn’t a taxi company; it is a market. It provides a trust-based platform made up of assurances and ratings in order to let anyone ask “Can I have a ride? / Want a ride?” without sounding creepy.

Nicely put.

I will now read the whole thing.

Monday March 09 2015

Just before Christmas, Goddaughter 2 arranged for the two of us to see and hear a dress rehearsal of a Royal Opera House Covent Garden production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.  This was, for all practical purposes, a performance.  I didn’t much care for Verdi before I went to this event, and I still don’t, but the show was at least notable for the outstanding singing of the lead tenor, Joseph Calleja, a new name to me.  I was extremely happy whenever he was singing.  (He has a blog.) The rest of the show I found somewhat forgettable, mainly because Verdi seems to have been opposed to doing nice tunes that you can remember, unlike my operatic composer favourites, Mozart, Puccini, and Richard Strauss.

But very memorable indeed, almost as good as Calleja’s singing, was the bar we visited afterwards, which is right next to the main performing space.

From the outside the opera house and the bar look like this:

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The bar being the thing on the left as we look there.

And on the inside, the bar looks like this:

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The ROH refers to this place as the Paul Hamlyn Hall.  What regular people call it for real I have no idea, but I like it.

I especially like that disembodied clutch of drinkers, suspended up there as if in mid air, but actually in mid mirror.

Here is a closer look at that same feature:

image

I know exactly what is going on here, and how this weird effect is achieved, but still I’m impressed.

A bit of hasty googling has failed to tell me what this place used to be and when it was first built.  I’m guessing it was at first something to do with selling fruit and/or veg, but that’s only a guess.  Anyone?