Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Katherine James on Quota quote
6000 on Cricinfo just said it didn't rain in Port Elizabeth on February 24th until after lunch
Katherine James on Cricinfo just said it didn't rain in Port Elizabeth on February 24th until after lunch
Alison Hendricks on Feline ephemera
A Cowardly Citizen on "In order to comply with Google's regulations ..."
Darren on The good done by the Apple Newton
Darren on Don't judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
Michael Jennings on The good done by the Apple Newton
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Tatyana on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Most recent entries
- Detlev Schlichter talking about Von Mises (and being videoed)
- Quota quote
- Cricinfo just said it didn’t rain in Port Elizabeth on February 24th until after lunch
- Christopher Seaman on conducting
- Under Blackfriars Bridge
- Feline ephemera
- The good done by the Apple Newton
- 3D printed baby in the womb
- A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
- Ashes Lag recovery continues
- A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
- “In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
- Blue wind
- Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
- Me trying to tell Norman Foster and Richard Rogers apart
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Category archive: Russia
There are some spectacular pictures now up at English Russia, taken from the air over the Russian Far East, i.e. Vladivostock and surrounding parts.
Here is a good one (scroll down at page 3 of the posting):
What’s good about that is that it shows how roads stop fires. On the right, fire! On the left, the other side of the road, no fire.
Other pictures in the set include several of two rather spectacular bridges in Vladivostock, of which this snap is my favourite (scroll down at page 2):
That is the bridge over the Golden Horn Bay. The other and bigger Vladivostock bridge joins Vladivoskock to Russkiy Island. See this Guardian report. This map, if you reduce its size and go north a bit, shows where both the bridges are.
Tonight on BBC4 they just showed a programme about Carl Faberge, blingster to the Czars.
I learned a lot. Next up, a show done by Jonathan Meades, about Brutalist architecture. He’s for it.
This seems an appropriate juxtaposition, and I am recording both. The insanely ornate and extravagant trinkets unleashed by Faberge, and all the other riche and nouveau riche junk that flooded into the world in and around 1900, had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the anti-ornamental puritanism of architectural brutalism. Many, including me, some of the time, react to Faberge eggs not just with indifference but with aggressive hatred.
I also beheld Brutalist architecture for most of the last half century with even greater loathing. This loathing is only now abating, as the buildings themselves start to diminish in number.
That building used to adorn the roundabout on the other side of the river from Parliament. It is now no more. I photographed it. Then, I photographed its demolition. I did not mourn its passing.
Meades is now, as promised, rhapsodising about Brutalism. Why, he asks, does architecture have to be nice? He is likening it to Victorian architectural oddities of earlier times.
What he misses, or is missing so far, is that Brutalism’s aesthetic aggression went hand in hand with huge collectivist power grabs. Brutalism was the architectural face of state centralism. For me, Meades makes a big distinction between “Brutalism” and regular modern. I don’t really see this. Both went hand in hand, I’d say.
Meades’ injunction that people should not hate Brutalism is rather like expecting conquered Europeans not to be such philistines about the obviously beautiful design of Junkers 87s or Tiger Tanks. Ah, correction. Now he is acknowledging quite explicitly the roots of Brutalism in second world war concrete bunkers, most notably those constructed by the Nazis. “Forget” that the Nazis built these things, says Meades. But I suspect that the Brutalists actually liked the very quality that made the Nazis do this kind of thing. Nazis conquered twee old Europe. Brutalism assaulted the twee architecture of post-war Europe, the Europe that is still awash with Fabergerie. There is a deep affinity here.
The show is still going as I post this, and is in any case only part one of two. This was live blogging.
Here are an extraordinarily large number of photos of the Airbus A380, showing off at a Russian air show.
Here is one of my favourites, in the photoing-planes-from-above-and-yet-also-from-the-ground genre, that the A380 so likes to encourage, when showing off at air shows, the point being that for such a big airplane, this is a bit surprising:
I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think a slogan like that – “Own the sky” - would be used in the primmer, prissier West, now so much more environmentally hesitant about jet airplanes. Not environmentally hesitant enough to actually stop flying them and flying in them, you understand, but environmentally hesitant enough for everyone to pretend they feel bad about it.
I got a very similar shot of the A380 when it performed the same kind of dance routine at Farnborough, in the summer of 2010:
No mention of anyone owning the sky then, there.
Another difference you can see there - see planely, you might say - is the difference a better camera makes. Happily my 2010 camera is not the one I use now, which is rather better.
I just watched a tv show about hydrogen bombs. One of the things I never, until now, got around to finding out about was how hydrogen bombs work. What I had not realised was that hydrogen bombs include atom bombs inside them, to trigger the “hydrogen” bit.
Basically, they sick a stash of other stuff next to an atom bomb. When the atom bomb goes off, it turns the other stuff into an explosion that is even more spectacular than the original atom bomb explosion. I did not know this. Now I do. Tremble, world. Well no, I still couldn’t make a hydrogen bomb. But I now understand a bit better how others make them.
The funniest moment was when a bloke said that there comes a time when shoving more and more stuff next to the atom bomb to make a bigger and bigger hydrogen bomb stops being worth doing, because the blast is just so huge it disappears out of the earth’s atmosphere. This means, he said, that a bomb this big, when compared to a slightly smaller one, “does no good”.
You can just hear those bomber pilots, setting out for Dresden in 1945, saying: “Come on guys, let’s go do some more good.”
My attention has been drawn to some excellent photos by Michal Nuniewicz.
I, of course, particularly like this one:
A classic, in the genre recently referred to here.
Sub-genre: group selfie. An important sub-classification, I think.
And the first thing I photoed yesterday was newspaper headlines, about Britain’s Envy-of-the-World NHS. Those first three were literally the first three snaps I took yesterday, and the last one was photoed later, at London Bridge Station, more about which later, I hope.
Read, and be amazed:
I honestly cannot remember a day when Britain’s NHS has ever, ever had a worsE press than it had yesterday. (The same stories had been all over the telly on Wednesday evening also.)
I hope to write at greater length at Samizdata about these dramas, connecting it to my Alpha Graphs stuff, but promise nothing
The basic idea being that a nationalised industry collapses not when it merely starts deteriorating, but only when it is deteriorating so fast that a switch to the free market, although horrible, would be no worse even in the short run. And of course massively better in the long run. But it’s the short run that matters because it is during that short run that you or your elderly loved one dies, through being left out in a corridor or some such horror.
Libertarians are prone to assume that things like the NHS are untouchable, merely because people continue to swear by them when they are getting only somewhat worse. Brainwashed fools! They will never see sense! But they are seeing sense. And then suddenly, to the amazement of libertarians, they do suddenly see sense. Actually, just a bit more sense, along with the sense they had already been seeing.
See also: collapse of the USSR.
The NHS has a bit of a way to go before it folds, because people are still at the stage, as you can tell from these headlines, of thinking that sacking the Boss and installing a New Boss would turn things around. But, any year now ...
When you want to write a big old piece about Something Important, it’s not a bad idea for a blogger to rip out a little piece about it in the meantime, in a single figure number of minutes. That at least gets the meme out there and gives it a chance to propagate, even if a bigger piece at Samizdata would do that better.
Whenever, of a Friday, I go looking for cat news, there is always plenty.
Pride of place today goes to the news that the New York shooter loved his two cats. But, it is now argued, by some different scientists to the scientists who argued the opposite, that he can’t have caught brain cancer from his cats, because that doesn’t happen. Good to know. But, you might be driven by your cats to commit suicide. How about murder?
On the other hand, Cats that pester for food could be suffering from psychological condition. Yes. They’re cats.
News of a cat that is making itself useful: Cat opens new excavator plant in Texas. That must have been something to see. What did the cat say? Did it just chuck a champagne bottle against the side of the excavator plant? Is there video of this?
Next up, the encouraging news that M12 Cat 6A connector system delivers signal integrity up to 10Gbps.
And, in Israel, new born and very rare (apparently) sand kittens, like this one:
I actually don’t think the one on the right is very good. The cat connection is imposed, not explained.
Here’s another of those horizontal slices I like to do. It’s from one of these photos:
Which was one of the things linked to in the latest of David Thompson’s Friday ephemera.
See also these awesome frogs, which really are awesome. The harlequin tree frog, which looks like some kind of liquorice based sweet, has a mouth whose inside is blue. Frog number 6, not named for some reason, is entirely blue, but that looks comparatively normal.
The reed frog, on the other hand, in its extreme decorative implausibility, reminds me of this hippo.
One of the pleasures of blogging is that you learn about new and interesting blogs from comments on existing blogs. From a comment on this posting which I recently did for Transport Blog, I learned of this blog, which is something to do with some kind of broadcasting venture. Not sure what kind of broadcasting venture. More research is needed on that.
Judging by the blogroll, I should have alerted myself to this blog long ago. And the fact that whoever did this posting found these posters via David Thompson’s blog (one of my favourites), and found them interesting, suggests that he and I are even more on the same wavelength, aesthetically and culturally as well as merely politically.
I’ve spent most of my blogging time this weekend editing an interview I did earlier in the week. But I’m glad I found time to read this, which was, however many minutes or hours ago it was, then linked to by Instapundit and is now being read everywhere that the truth about the evilness of those who tried to excuse the horrors unleashed by Marxism is understood. I.e. not in most parts of most Anglo-Saxon universities. In places where thinking straight about things is the rule.
The internet is changing everything. The rules about what can be said and read have changed. Changed so much, I believe, that it is taking time for everyone, wise and foolish, good and bad, to realise it. New methods of communication are always like this, if my reading about earlier communicational dramas is anything to go by.
The important thing is to go for the morals of the Marxists. They were and are not just wrong as in mistaken. They were and are wrong as in wicked. Not least, they were wicked because of how persistently they bashed on with their mistakenness.
Pejman Yousefzadeh quotes David Pryce-Jones:
A mystery peculiar to the twentieth century is that intellectuals were eager to endorse the terror and mass-murder which characterized Soviet rule, at one and the same time abdicating humane feelings and all sense of responsibility towards others, and of course perverting the pursuit of truth. The man who sets dogs on concentration camp victims or fires his revolver into the back of their necks is evidently a brute; the intellectual who devises justifications for the brutality is harder to deal with, and far more sinister in the long run. Apologizing for the Soviet Union, such intellectuals licensed and ratified unprecedented crime and tyranny, to degrade and confuse all standards of humanity and morality. Hobsbawm is an outstanding example of the type.
Says Yousefzadeh himself, concerning something said by somebody called Paul J. Cella, who promptly thanks Yousefzadeh for the link!
Writing on Eagleton’s mash note to Hobsbawm and Marxism, Paul Cella says that Eagleton’s essay “shines with a palpable warmth.” No, it doesn’t. Rather, it misleads with a palpable malice; a malice shown to facts, to the intelligence of readers, to history, and to all of those who suffered at the hands of the Marxist cause.
This claim that Eagleton’s essay “shines with palpable warmth” is the one bit in Cella’s piece that Yousefzadeh disagrees with, and this bit by Yousefzadeh is the one bit in his piece that I disagree with. Can an article not shine with a palpable warmth and mislead with a palpable malice? Can warmth not be switched on, to mislead? Surely yes.
Lucky I followed the link to the Cella piece, or I would have had him tagged as just another cretinous apologist for Marxism. He is no such thing.
There is no political cause comparable to Communism in at least this respect - it allows respectable men to endorse mass butchery, connive at sedition, falsify scholarship, and still live to be revered by the very sort of men and women who would surely perish, had that “radiant tomorrow actually been created.”
But the point surely is that there was no “radiant tomorrow”. There was only a nightmare of terror and mass murder. And there was no “very sort of men and women” who were particularly singled out by the nightmare for terror and death. Everyone was in the firing line. Seriously, Stalin used to instruct his murderers to murder people literally at random, just to make this very point, that nobody was safe.
Details. What matters is that now we are arguing about the details of how evil Marxism was, and about the details of what exactly are the right words and phrases we should use when denouncing it and its evil apologists. As Samizdata‘s Perry de Havilland would say, the metacontext has changed.
I particularly like this, from Instapundit:
Oh, my mistake. I thought, somehow, that Hobsbawm had died. Oh, well - all the more reason to speak ill of him now, then.
It’s is at English Russia, so I looked at it ...
… and assumed that it is just a rectangle of blocks put there for some idiot reason, which has gone a bit wrong, USSR style. Some of the blocks have sunk a bit. A few have been stolen. But there it still sits, because nobody can be bothered either to fix it or to remove it. Then, I got it.
I still prefer my Mac one, but that might not make such a cool sculpture.
English Russia is worth visiting, if not daily then at least fairly regularly. My latest visit took me to this collection of Russian construction cock-ups. However, my favourite of these pictures, on the right here, is not so much a cock-up as a case of, I would say, inspired improvisation, in the form of a new twist on the ball and chain method of demolition. And since the object of the exercise is to knock something down rather than build anything, who can doubt that the story will end in this mission at least being entirely accomplished, with absolutely no snigger-worthy defects lingering on? Epic fail? Surely not in this case.
Sorry about the temporary violence done by this posting to the one below. I can only tell how these sorts of postings are looking by posting them.
A comment by James Waterton on this, deserves to be a blog posting in its own right:
A former colleague of mine was one of those exceedingly cerebral Russian science/maths boffins. He would teach maths in English for four months of the year to rich Chinese high school grads destined to study in the West. Then for the remaining 8 months of the year, he’d burn through the money he earned working on whatever mad scientist projects he could dream up. An extremely intelligent but also mild-mannered and courteous gentleman.
I had a number of chats with this man, and once sounded him out regarding his political views. He told me that his ideal political system was one where the more educated and intelligent you could prove yourself to be, the more votes you would receive in an election. Furthermore, access to public office would be made easier based on the same criteria. I remember finding this amusing. It seems obvious to me that out of all the countries that have been ill-served by extremely intelligent people (and there are many), Russia would have to have suffered the most under the yoke of the super smart who thought they were so intelligent that they had the right to tell those who they saw as less intelligent how to live.
The irony that this borderline genius still wasn’t smart enough to heed the abundantly clear lesson from his country’s past, and would, in his ‘perfect world’, introduce something similar, was not lost on me. Clearly people like this should be kept as far away from the levers of power as possible.
And now it is.
Incoming from Michael J:
Indeed. Follow the link and gaze upon some truly excellent photos of world class USSR cranage and clutter, in a state of advance decay:
Not being a reader of Russian, I was only semi-sure what this stuff once was. Pictures like this settled the matter:
Although that piece of decay seems to have been given a facelift. It reminds me of how they make dead bodies look their best for funerals, but don’t actually fool anyone.
From English Russia:
One would think, how sweet of them, people of Saint-Petersburg fixed up several monuments commemorating their favorite pet… but it turned out to be that the cats themselves deserved that.
September 8, 1941, the city was besieged and the blockade lasted for 900 days. Soon enough there was no food in the city at all and the inhabitants began dying of hunger. During the terrible 1941-1942’s winter dwellers of the city ate everything they could and even pets were eaten (and that saved many peoples’ lives.) But if people are dying – rats begin to proliferate.
A few months later there were literally tens of thousands or even more rats prowling about the city and terrifying all the citizens. No weapon could do any harm to these monsters whether it was bombing or fire. The beasts ate even the smallest bits of food, all the provision remnants that were left in the city at the time. Moreover, because of rats the city was under the threat of epidemic diseases. And then the government put a fabulous idea through, they decided to gather cats all over Russia and send them to the city where they were right in place.
Altogether, during the blockade period more than 5000 cats from Omsk, Tyumen, Irkutsk and some other cities were sent to Leningrad and completed they job well – the city was cleared off.
Somewhat Russian English but a great story.
It reminds me of another concerning how they parachuted cats into ... Malaya, was it? Also to deal with rats? During the emergency? Link, anyone?