Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Centre Point and surroundings as seen from the top of the Tate Modern Extension
- David Hockney comes to Pimlico
- Another Big Thing alignment
- M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
- The Wembley Arch and The Wheel
- A very good meeting - and a quota horse with quota cart
- World’s tallest and longest glass bridge opens in China
- Views of Epsom and views from Epsom
- Sunny Croydon
- Bridge in Germany with houses on it
- A day in BMdotcom heaven (5): My belated photo-tribute to Kumar Sangakkara
- Quota Shard with quota cranes
- There’s a spiral staircase inside the Testicle
- Dernbach decisive again
- Windows in bright light
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Comments
I’m a big fan of the Samizdata Commentariat. It’s one of the best things about Samizdata. Part of the reason for its excellence is that when things get heated, a comment like this appears:
I’m not a huge fan, on the other hand, of the Guido Commentariat. Too big, too abusive, too given to tangenting off on only very marginally relevant subjects, just like most other big Commentariats, in other words. Still other Commentariats, like mine, are too small to be worth reading regularly. My commenters are very good, but there just aren’t enough of them (it being absolutely not the fault of those who do comment here (it’s the fault of all those who might comment but don’t (and is it really even reasonable to call that a “fault”?))). Samizdata manages to strike a happy balance. At Samizdata, you don’t get Comments (0), posting after posting, like you (I) do here, but nor do you get Comments (1538), or some such ridiculous number of mostly unreadable twaddle-comments. That, for me, is the Guido Commentariat.
But I keep going to the Guido commenters from time to time, because they do have their moments:
That was this morning.
I don’t know if I would call the immediate economic outlook for Britain “absolutely fine”, but compared to continental Europe, and especially continental EUrope, it remains quite good, both immediate outlooks having got rather worse because of Brexit.
The British policy for the last few years seems to have been: be the least worst governed country, but only by a bit. That way, capital and people flow in but don’t absolutely torrent in, even though our bosses are making most of the same mistakes as are being made everywhere else. Just not quite so much as rivals of comparable stature, like France.
If Brexit had only destabilised Britain, then British markets really would have crashed. As it is, it’s a toss up whether Brexit has destabilised Britain more than it has destabilised EUrope. (That guy means the EUrope won’t survive. Europe obviously will.) My belief is that money is both running away from Britain, and coming into Britain. (But what do I know?)
I love to write about digital photography, and have been tracking the selfie phenomenon since long before the mere word was invented, way back in the days when I referred to digital photographers as Billion Monkeys (which I don’t anymore (because some people thought I meant Muslims)). (But also way back in the days when I didn’t worry about showing the faces of strangers, the way I worry now.) And I also enjoy often public sculpture, especially of the more recent and less abstract sort.
So, I love this:
There have been complaints, of course, such as from all the commenters there at the Daily Mail. God forbid that vulgar people should find this vulgar statue so much fun. Sculpture is Art, and Art isn’t supposed to be amusing.
One of the Daily Mail’s other photos is of bloke photoing himself with his own mobile, in front of the selfie statue. But I prefer the more subtle response that consists of simply being photoed joining in, thus:
For once, the statueness, so to speak, of the statue, the fact that it is made of monochrome metal rather than realistically painted to look like real people, works really well, because it contrasts so nicely with the real people. It helps that it seems to be exactly life size.
One of the idiot grumpy commenters at the Daily Mail said that Sugar Land is a stupid name and they were obviously desperate for some attention, which they have never had until now. But wasn’t there a Goldie Hawn movie called The Sugarland Express, or some such thing? Yes there was. Early Spielberg. But, is Sugar Land the same as Sugarland?
According to a later Daily Mail report, it isn’t only their grumpy commentariat that objects to this statue. Could this be because a lot of people heard about this story partly through the Daily Mail, and those people being the sort that hears about things via the Daily Mail, immediately started objecting, because they object to everything. Whereas, the ones who liked it hadn’t heard about it so much.
I first found about the statue via Amusing Planet, so of course I was already self-identified as the sort who would be amused. It was just that the Daily Mail had better pictures.
So, daily-blog-read-for-me David Thompson linked to a posting at ArtBlog, about the rights and wrongs of arts subsidies. I read that posting, and read through the comments too, just as David Thompson did. I find myself wanting to comment. But, can I be bothered?
And then, in comment number 16, courtesy of the Maitre D of ArtBlog, Franklin Einspruch, I discover that I have commented, thus:
The greatest art seems to happen when high art and low art combine, in the form of something that is superficially entertaining and stirring and popular, and also as profound as profundity seekers might want it to be. Arts subsidies harm art by dividing it into less good entertainment art, paid for by punters, and less good high art, paid for with subsidies. Arts subsidies in Britain are now being cut somewhat. The result will be somewhat better art.
Which Franklin found in this Samizdata posting and copied into his comment thread. How about that?!
The two arts that best illustrate this opinion of mine are probably Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan theatre (i.e. Shakespeare and all that), and classical music in the days of its glory, from about the late 1700s until around 1900 (i.e. Mozart, Beethoven and all that).
Shakespeare’s plays are now considered just about as profound as Art with a capital A can ever get, but at the time, his stuff was considered rather middle-brow. Too commercial, too appealing to the rabble. About half of Shakespeare’s mere plays - the very word suggests something not to be taken truly seriously, doesn’t it? - were nearly lost to us:
Of the 36 plays in the First Folio, 17 were printed in Shakespeare’s lifetime in various good and bad quarto editions, one was printed after his death and 18 had not yet been printed at all. It is this fact that makes the First Folio so important; without it, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Tempest, might never have survived.
What will posterity, in its various and many successive iterations, consider to be the Great Art of our time? And how much of it will be lost, on account of it not now being considered artistic enough?
I’ve already done one posting about the walk that GodDaughter One and I did along the New River (further reaches of) last Saturday, and as I result I learned (thank you Natalie) about Pollarding. Here is another posting, about a duck which GD1 and I observed that day on the New River, and this time what I hope to learn is what make of duck this is.
Here is the duck:
Here are a couple of shots of the duck with his Mrs.
Here’s one of those shots where the principle of a good photo photoed badly is taken to its outer limits. You can see what I was going for and how great it might have been, but you can also see that it didn’t work:
Don’t bother clicking on that one. No point in that being any bigger, is there?
To compensate for the above failure, here is a final head shot of Mr Duck:
I don’t usually post pictures of wildlife on this blog, basically because I feel that I don’t have anything to contribute. Other people – a lot of other people – do this several dozen times better than I ever will. But this duck genuinely interested me. Until I saw it, I had no idea that such a bird was to be seen in the vicinity of London, looking like it had just flown in from Africa or Brazil or some such luridly colourful place.
And whereas, when you have a question about the modern world, you can usually now just type that question into a computer and up comes the answer in just a few seconds, that doesn’t work when you have photoed a fancy-looking bird. I’m sure that this will come, but unless I entirely missed it, the time when this works is not with us quite yet. I cannot now just stuff this photo into my computer and say: What brand of bird is this?
Perhaps this can already be done. In which case a commenter can tell me this, and tell me the result that he or she got when he or she carried out this procedure. He or she can tell me both about photo-searching, and about the duck. Win win.
Blog and learn. That’s the plan, anyway.
After writing the above, I tried typing “fancy duck london” into the www and asked for pictures, and a picture appeared in among all the irrelevant nonsense that looked like what I saw. So now, I know the answer:
Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century a large feral population was established in Great Britain; ...
Mandarin duck. Blog and learn.
Indeed. The old Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo is finally coming back to life again, for boring rush hour services, but life.
Until late in 2007, Eurostar trains used to come and go from the new station they built at Waterloo for that exact purpose. But then they shut the place, and the Eurostars operated from St Pancras instead. Since 2007, the Waterloo Eurostar terminal has been a corpse.
After much searching, I managed to dig up a photo I took in 2007 of some Eurostar snouts poking out of the Waterloo terminal, just before it died:
Once again, we see Century House in the background of a photo here that is basically of something else. The previous posting in which this happened is here, at which there is a brief explanatory comment about Century House’s history. Spooks, basically. Now just flats.
Even older Waterloo Eurostar photos can be viewed here, posted here in 2013, but taken in 2003. I also just re-listened to a conversation involving Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and me, about the new St Pancras, which we all liked a lot, and presumably still like a lot.
I did an earlier posting about some birds I had spied on a walk with GD1, and 6k identified them:
I can help with bird identification!
Your ducks are red-crested pochards (a female and a male), ...
Pochards? You made that up mate. Well, no. But, first I’d heard of it.
… while your ibises are African Sacred Ibis, which are regular visitors to our local dumps and beaches, scavenging what they can, where they can.
Sacred Ibis? More like profane.
I can confirm that these Ibis, Ibises, Ibes, Ibix, whatever, look good in the air, because on that same trip, moments after taking the shot I showed in that earlier posting, of two Ibi squatting on a horizontal tube, I got a shot of one of them flying. Inside their cage, yes, but still flying. And suddenly, a squat little pre-war propeller driven failure of an aircraft turned into a post-war jet bomber:
Let’s have a closer look at that:
Profane on the ground, but sacred in the air.
I recently said here that I was finding it to be a pleasure to be contemplating the rise and rise of Donald Trump, but I also said that it was a guilty pleasure, and I really meant that. Mostly, the phrase “guilty pleasure” is used to describe a pleasure that is merely rather uncool, like liking Abba even before the gays did, which is exactly what I did because I liked them as soon as I first heard them win the Eurovision Song Contest, and this despite their absurd trousers. But that’s not a “guilty pleasure”. A guilty pleasure is when you enjoy something immoral, like Donald Trump and Donald Trump doing well. There was never anything morally wrong about Abba, and I never felt in the slightest bit guilty about liking them.
The immorality of Donald Trump is that he is the living embodiment of crony capitalism, and crony capitalism is the problem, not the solution. He might become a good President, but only if he turns over an entirely new leaf and starts believing in non-crony capitalism. This is not impossible. Having been one of these creatures himself, Trump may at least be able to spot other creatures of this genus, and he may decide that whereas being a crony-capitalist was good for him, a super-abundance of crony-capitalists is bad for America.
But why take the chance? Just as likely is that Trump will carry right on being a crony-capitalist, this time by obliging all the other crony-capitalists with little slices of his Presidential power, and charging them each a fee.
Based on what little I know of him, Cruz seems like the least worst Presidential candidate with a serious chance of winning, and now it is starting to look as if he just might win. I said in that earlier piece that Trump was going to walk it, but now it seems he might not even stagger it. Cruz might win. I have liked Cruz ever since I heard an interview someone did with him, during which Cruz revealed that he was enthusiastically pro the Constitution of the United States. Wow, that’s subversive talk, of the kind that I personally like a lot.
Here is how a commenter ("Prince of Whitebread"), on the piece linked to above, puts it:
I would ask the Trump supporters why Trump continues to get press and airtime far in excess of the others. Answer: Trump is the Candidate the MSM wants to face Hillary. The PajamaBoy Press soils their onesies every time they contemplate Ted Cruz debating Abuela Hillary. They know he’d destroy her with logic, facts, the Constitution, and her own gymnast principles.
“Abuela” is, I believe, the Spanish for Granny.
So, are the hoards of Trump enthusiasts now starting to agree with such anti-Trumpery, and to switch to the man that the establishment truly hates and truly fears? Would Cruz winning the Republican nomination, and in due course the Presidency, be a non-guilty pleasure? Or is he just another version of the establishment? Is he terrible too?
LATER: Roger L. Simon:
Which leads me to the real topic: Trumpophrenia. I suffer from it and it’s only getting worse. I change my opinion about Donald almost every five minutes - and I can’t be the only one. There may be millions of us.
I am not alone.
I am greatly enjoying the progress of Soon-To-Be President Trump. File under: guilty pleasures. My libertarian friends mostly express horror at Trump’s irresistible rise, and his terrible opinions, and his terrible hair, but surely you never really know what you’ll get with a new President. During the Thatcher years some of the people who most agreed with me did very little that I liked, while others, impeccably governmental sorts, who were just doing what seemed sensible to them, did quite a lot of good things. See: privatisation. Maybe Trump will turn out like that. Maybe he will even decide to have dignified hair.
Trump seems to me like he’s going to be the USA’s first Television President, by which I mean someone who got to be President via television. Didn’t they have one of them in Brazil not so long ago? Some guy who had got well known by being some kind of TV talent show host, or some such thing, and then, to the horror of the Horrified Classes parlayed that into being President. It was probably a disaster, but Brazil usually is. And now, Brazil has one of the strongest libertarian movements in the world, does it not? Maybe that’s how libertarianism wins. First you have a crazy TV guy, and then libertarianism. I can hope.
Anyway, Trump. This piece about Trump by Scott Adams is a good laugh, as are comments on it like this:
I liked the one in Arkansas when the manager of the facility announced that Trump broke the all time attendance record set by ZZ Top in 1978. lol
He is certainly a canny operator, as Adams explains very cannily, cataloguing Trump’s many previous successes, such as a best selling book on how to negotiate.
Part of the skill of getting the Republican nomination is to behave like a guy the Mainstream Media are confident they can easily destroy, in due course. Which means that instead of destroying you straight away, they destroy all the other fellows, who they thought were stronger than you, which by definition they can’t have been, can they? You have to be like Russia, and look either much weaker than you are, so the media don’t bother with you, and then much stronger than you are, so the media then grovel, as they do when they face a force of nature, in other words a force bigger than them.
I could of course be quite wrong, but I reckon Trump is going to walk it, when he gets around to dealing with whichever car crash of a candidate the Dems stick in front of him. And it will either be Clinton or that old socialist guy, the ones already in the race. Nobody else will want to join, because the prize for winning the Dem nomination will be getting Trumped all over, and who needs that? Those two old crocks both joined the race while Trump was still in his ridiculous phase.
August 15th of this year was a good photography day for me. I did particularly well on the Blokes photoing front, although I’m not sure if all the male humans here pictured are actually Blokes. Bottom Middle and Bottom Right definitely. But Top Middle and Top Right are probably what you’d call Guys. Bottom Left might well be a Gent, if we looked at his face, and the face of his lady. And as for Top Left, well, you decide.
Once again, I have confined myself to subjects whose faces are not visible. Apart from the subject Top Left. That Top Left one was taken in one of my favourite Strange London Places, which is the little market space, off to the left of the trains (as you look towards the trains) in the concourse of Charing Cross Station. From it, you can then walk along the side of the street towards the river, but at about second floor level, looking down on the street, until you arrive at the down-stream half of the new Hungerford Footbridges, which are on both sides of the old Hungerford railway bridge. It’s one of my favourite little London walks.
The two definite Blokes are both photoing Big Ben, I think. The Bloke holding a “selfie stick” is, I believe, not actually using it as a selfie stick. I’m pretty sure he is photoing what’s in front of him rather than himself. Big Ben, in other words. Could he be far-sghted?
The fountain, being photoed by a Guy, is the one outside the Royal Festival Hall. The other Guy is photoing that Citroen DS23 that has already been shown here.
The bald Gent photo is not technically very good. But he too is photoing Big Ben, as you can see on his screen, which is what makes the photo non-banal.
Nobody ever comments on my photo-collections-of-photoers postings. Which makes me suspect that I am the only one here who really likes them. But, that’s all it takes for a posting here to be a posting.
This afternoon I was meeting someone at London City Airport, and while waiting for their flight to arrive I took this photo, of the big TV screen showing flight arrivals:
Milan, Alitalia. Amsterdam, CityJet. Exeter, Flybe. Isle of Man, British Airways. Okay. But what is Rotterdam, “Jet Centre”? And what of London Biggin Hill, “Jet Centre”? That was the one that got me noticing this. Biggin Hill? I didn’t realise that was any sort of regular London airport.
Googling, when I got back home to my desk, confirmed my earlier guess that wherever it says “Jet Centre”, this means it’s a private jet, leaving from the “Jet Centre” at wherever it was. I am still not entirely clear about this, but that does seem to be what is happening. Can anyone confirm or correct this?
Private jets, and the people wafted hither and thither in them, inhabit a world that I pretty much never encounter. But at London City Airport, assuming I’m right about the “Jet Centre” equals private jet thing, the worlds of value-for-money regular-people aviation and of money-no-object plutocrat aviation overlap, to the point where both of these worlds appear on the same London City Airport TV screen. Whether the plutocrats use the same airport facilities as the rest of us, I do not know. Same runways, presumably. But same arrivals and departures places? I suspect not.
Either way, I bet it costs them. I guess it’s a case of if you have to ask, then you can’t afford it, but I have to ask. How much do they charge to land a private jet near to the middle of London? Excuse me while I do some more Googling. …
Well, I still don’t know, but according to this piece, there is no London airport in the top ten on the list, so it must cost less than £2,530. I was expecting it to be a bit more than that, somehow.
There is every chance that, by and by, Michael Jennings, globetrotter extraordinaire, will append a comment to this posting. If he does, you can be sure that his comment will be a lot more informative than this posting has been.
This coming Friday I have another of my Last Friday of the Month meetings at my home in London SW1. This coming Friday is, after all, the last Friday of the month, so the logic is inexorable. Every Friday (even if the last Friday of, say, December 2014, happened to be Boxing Day, as it was) there is a Last Friday of the Month meeting at my home.
I have been having email problems, in the form of people using gmail suddenly not receiving my emails, so even if you thought you were on my list but hear nothing via email, be assured that this meeting will happen. Try emailing me (which should work) and then telling your spam filter not to reject my reply, which you will have to do despite it being a particular individual reply. I know, crazy. I hope to write more about this problem in a posting at Samizdata, Real Soon Now.
Or, if you intend coming to this particular meeting, you could leave a comment below, and I will respond saying message received and look forward to greeting you.
Anyway, this coming Friday (Feb 27), Pete Comley will be talking about inflation. He has recently published a book on the subject, which you can learn about in this posting at Comley’s website. And you can hear what Comley sounds like and a little of how he thinks by listening to this short interview with Simon Rose of Share Radio.
The thing about Comley is that he takes a long-term - very long-term - view of inflation. He began a recent talk I attended by discussing inflation at the time of the Roman Empire.
And in the long-term, there are not one but two major influences on inflation. There is, of course, the supply of money, by the powers that be who have always insisted upon supplying money. And when they make too many coins, too many bank notes or create too much bank credit, the price of regular stuff in shops goes creeping, or rocketing, up. But there is also the demand for that regular stuff. In particular, human population fluctuates. At some moments in history, population shoots up. At other times it falls, or at the very least the rate at which it increases falls. Just now, in country after country, the birthrate is falling, and that has consequences for inflation.
Before you say it, I’ll say if for you. Many simply define inflation as the first of these two processes but not the second. Inflation is what money issuers do to the money supply. A price rise caused by rising demand is simply not inflation. It is a mere price rise. Fair enough. It certainly makes sense to distinguish these two processes from each other, however hard it may be for consumers to do this when both are happening to them. And if you do that by restricting the definition of inflation in this way, then be aware that Pete Comley’s talk will be about inflation thus defined and about price rises sparked by rising demand, and for that matter about price stability caused by static demand. (He says, by the way, that we might be about to enjoy just such a period of price stability. And although you can never be sure about such things, better handling of the recent financial crisis, and we might have got there already.)
There is also the question of what causes money issuers to inflate, in the second and more restricted sense of inflation. They seem to do this more at certain historical junctures than at others. Inflation, restrictively defined, does not just cause bad economic experiences; it is itself caused, more at some times than at others.
All very interesting, or so I think. Libertarians like me tend to be quite well informed about recent monetary history and about the evils of fiat currencies, the Fed, the Bank of England, and so on and so forth. We tend to know a lot less about similar episodes in the more distant past to what he have recently experienced. In general, we are more interested in the fluctuating supply of money than in the way that population fluctuations influence prices.
Pete Comley has a small but particular soft spot for me, on account of me having been the one who drew his attention to this book about the long-term history of prices (The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer), which seems to have had quite a big influence on his latest book, which is called Inflation Matters. It certainly does.
After an interminable day in trains, disconnected from the www, I finally got home, plugged myself back in again, with my British keyboard, and came across this (a comment on this), from Michael Jennings:
On dynasties, if the 2016 presidential election is Bush v Clinton, America will have definitively jumped the shark.
I went on a photo-expedition to Erith, last Tuesday. Well, strictly speaking, from Erith. What I did was go to Erith by train, and then walk back along the south side of the river, to Woolwich.
I took about a thousand photos, truly about a thousand, of which the one below was one of the first. My journey to Erith by train started at London Bridge Station, and this photo was taken at that station, while I awaited my train to Erith.
This guy has the full story of this strange circumstance.
First off, he notes, it’s not a V2. It’s a sixties vintage Atlas booster. So, what gives? Someone, he pointed out, is looking after this object, so it must be there for a reason. But, what reason?
A commenter explains:
It’s advertising the Britain at War experience below London Bridge Station.
And all is explained. That link no longer works, on account of the Britain at War Experience having now been closed down, on account of the redevelopment around London Bridge Station. But advertising the Britain at War Experience is how it got to be there.
Maybe the Not-V2 will soon start to look at bit tatty. It may even vanish altogether. All the more reason to photo it now.
This morning, did an SQotD about Uber.
Other Perry (Metzger) added this:
Uber does not always offer cheaper service. They operate on a market pricing mechanism to assure availability.
This means that, for example, on New Year’s Eve in NYC, you are assured you can get an Uber car even though normal taxis are essentially unavailable because of excess demand, but you will also discover the Uber car will be quite expensive. This is, of course, as it should be — the spike in price encourages as many Uber drivers as possible to work during a rush period. However, it is also decried by those who do not understand economics.
You could turn this around and say that Uber will be a sort of ongoing economics lesson for the citizenry.
Libertarians like me are always going on about how prices are a signalling mechanism. Uber makes this extremely clear, I think.
Whenever I am hit by a question about modern life, I generally get better answers from my tiny band of readers than I do by merely googling.
Today’s question is: What are “chinos”? I missed it when chinos first arrived, and since that moment of arrival, at which point presumably chinos were explained, nobody has taken the time to explain chinos to me.
What is the difference between chinos and long trousers. According to this website:
Designed for the British and French military in the mid-19th century, chinos were originally called khakis and are made from a twill fabric usually in cotton.
A “twill” fabric? What the hell is that?
So, I’m guessing that they stopped calling them “khakis” because they wanted to be allowed to change the colour, and khaki is a colour as well as a style of clothing.
Also, is there any connection with China?
It was like this for me at school. I kept getting left behind by, you know, things, and then when I asked, people would laugh at me. But if you don’t ask, how will you ever learn?
I think what the laughers were trying to prove to me was that I was not as clever as they thought I thought I was. But cleverness is not knowing stuff already all the time. It’s knowing that you don’t know it and knowing how to find it out, and understanding it once you have found out. And the way to find things out is to ask.
“Laugher” doesn’t feel like a word, does it? Laughter (larfter) yes, but laugher (larfer), not so much. But according to google, laugher is a word. However, my blogging software puts a squiggly red line under laugher, so it doesn’t think laugher is a word. But then again, my blogging software puts a squiggly red line under “google”, and that’s definitely a word.