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Tuesday February 28 2006

Well how about that?  Not just something of mine quoted in the Telegraph, but something of mine written a year ago quoted in the Telegraph.  It’s in connection with the Capitalist Ball that happened last Friday.

He also quoted David Carr, writing in “a blog”, in February 2004, this being the posting in question.

No links from the Telegraph to these bits, though.  This may be electronic, is the subtext, but the real thing is the paper version.  Links would mean that reading the electronic version would be even better than reading the paper, and a new and superior product in its own right, and that would never do.  Also, no link means that how the guy found what I put remains an arcane journalistic mystery, instead of a simple piece of Googling.  I don’t blame him.  It’s the house style I’m talking about.

When the hand of the big media feeds you, bite it!

Still, this does show you how these blog entries can effortlessly get themselves read years later.  Which is something this guy seems not to get.  He talks about Marx, and contrasts the importance of Marx’s big books with the unimportance - i.e. non-longevity - of his journalistic writings and rantings.  But had Marx blogged all that stuff, people would now be reading that as well.  Which would not necessarily be to Marx’s advantage, but . . . people would read it.

And as stuff like Marx’s journalistic writings does become available on the www - that is, once Posterity has more to choose from – then Posterity may change its mind about what is and is not important.  Things don’t just last or not last.  They can be forgotten, but then dug up.  And before you say it, that we’d only bother with the blogged stuff because of the books, this means that a Grand Theory can be presented not in book form, but in a mere series of blog postings.  It all depends if Posterity is impressed.

Sunday February 26 2006

Phone call this morning.  First, a long pause of non-communcation, while India connects itself to the UK.  So, almost certainly, this is a junk call.  Eventually, contact is established.


“Hello, a very good morning to you.”

Indian accent.  Female.

“My name is Sandra.”

No it’s not.  End of phone call.

I get a lot of these now, about two a day, and perhaps even rising.  Presumably this is because my number used to be the contact number for the Libertarian Alliance, and once computers get that kind of thing fixed in their databases and they spread it around amongst themselves, there’s no telling them.  A month ago, I would check these calls out just in case they were real, and actually explain why I wasn’t interested.  Then, I just said I wasn’t interested.  Now the phone goes straight down.  It won’t be long before the phone goes down before contact has even been established.

Am I the only one reacting like this?  Assuming not, does this not suggest that the junk phone call bit of the Indian call centre industry might now be entering the territory of diminishing returns?  If they had better numbers to ring than mine, they surely wouldn’t still be ringing me.  Or, the better call centres have stopped ringing me, but new call centres are springing up which have had my useless number passed on to them.

But there are call centres and call centres.  When I call them, looking for answers to questions I actually have, then Sandra is just the girl I want to talk to.

“The Call Centre Years” will be chapter two of your stellar Indian autobiography of circa 2050.  The connection, by phone, has now been established for millions of smart Indians, willing to do anything, say anything, and have anything said to them, however nasty, for money.  That is bound to have consequences, even if me buying mobile phone services from whoever it was this morning will not be one of those consequences.

Good luck Sandra.

Another phone call. Pause while India connects itself to the UK.


Rather funny accent, male.  Phone goes down.

Have a good life mate.

No doubt India has Charles Dickenses even now penning their sprawling serialised novels and television sagas.  If so, there will be call centres.  Bounderby Phoning.  Gradgrind Communications.  Dothegirls Calls.

Phone.  Pause.

My name is David and I’m.”

Not any more you aren’t David.  Three in one Sunday morning.  If I hadn’t been writing this and hence able to use these interruptions, I might have got quite annoyed.  It’s noon now, here.  What time is it in India?

This weekend is a Six Nations rugby weekend, and Scotland v. England gets underway at Murrayfield.  Not for the first time, the ref provides the biggest laugh of the game so far.  It’s 3-3 and both sides are launching into each other like mad things.  And the ref just talked to a couple of the players, one of each colour, saying: “We’ve a chance here of having a really good game . . .”, provided you two are both good boys, presumably.  As if they care about a “good game”.  They care about winning.  What is this?  A day out at the beach?

I’ve blogged about this before I’m pretty sure, but I’ll never forget the time, during the closing stages of another equally ferocious contest, the ref said, to a similarly selected duo of combatants: “You two are spoiling it for everyone else.”

At the moment, it’s one hell of a game, and no-one is spoiling it for anybody.

Half an hour gone.  Still 3-3.  Grewcock has just come back from a ten minute rest, for who knows what arcane infringement of the bafflingly complicated rules of this game.  The score when he started his ten minute time-out?  3-3.  England have the look of a team who could score at any any moment.  It just needs one missed tackle, or misaligned defender, and one of the white guys could burst through the hole.  England pressing, two yards from the line.  England put-in near the Scottish line.  England forwards on the march.  England penalty.  But they take the scrum again.  Now the ref is telling the Scottish forwards to watch themselves.  Do not go in on the blindside with four fingers raised instead of three.  Remember a ruck is a ruck if two or more players have their heads in contact, and one or both of their knees are off the ground, and provided there’s a “y” in the month of course.  What could be plainer?

The England bloke drops it, with the line at his mercy.  Ben Cohen.  Scotland scrum.  If England lose, which they well might, that will be played and played.

What a contest.  Nearly half time.  Still 3-3.  It is half time.  Bloody hell.  Are we going to see one of those games where it ends something like 9-6.  Usually games end something like 25-12, or 30-18, with tries throughout and a burst of tries at the end.  I still think England are favourites to score a burst of tries at the end, if and when the Scotland defence finally caves in, but the commentators have all been saying that if Scotland are still in it with twenty minutes to go, they could grab it.

Earlier today, France beat Italy.  I am getting rather tired of all this pro-Italy blather.  All they do is try to stop the other fellows scoring and kick the ball up the other end and hope one of the other guys commits one of those weird infringements.  As soon as the French stopped trying to win the way they won against Ireland, by running in lots of twinkle toed threequarter tries before the opposition forwards were dead on their feet, and switched to running the ball back into the trenches, it was all over.  At the time they started doing this, France were 12-8 down.  At that point, and I wish I had it blogged or recorded or something, I said, out loud: France by twenty points.  I really did.  In the end, it was by twenty five.

France, when they deign to play, are the best team in this tournament, although unfortunately for France, deigning to play against everyone you play is all part of being a decent team.  But, against England, France will definitely deign to play, surely.  In which case, I fancy France to win that.

Meanwhile, England and Scotland have swapped penalties, and it is now 6-6.  And now, I kid you not, it is 9-6 to Scotland.  “The longer this goes on and the more the crowd gets behind Scotland . . .”

England are battering away but the Scotland tackling is relentless.  Ellis is now covered in blood, and that means Dawson will come on.  And Dawson, in my opinion, is a better scrum half than Ellis.  He is quicker at passing, it seems to me.  And guess what, Guscott agrees!  Quicker to get there in the first place, he reckons.  That too.

Moore: “England now will start to feel the pressure.” I’ll say.  “The pressure is mounting on England.” Indeed.  Could this be one of those games which just goes to show that it’s only a game, i.e. a game that England lose?  It’s looking likely as of now, I would say.  This reminds me of those iffy games against Samoa and Wales in the preliminaries of the last World Cup, which ended up not being only a game, as you may recall.

Now, it’s 12-6, with a Dan Parks drop goal.

The good news about all this is that this is not England playing badly.  It is Scotland playing well.  Yes, England are making mistakes, but these mistakes are not an accident, if you get my meaning.  I mean, they are.  But the point is, they are the result of immense Scottish pressure.

So now, twenty minutes to go, and Scotland are “still in it”.  Six points ahead to be precise.  But, so are England.  When will Dallaglio come on?  England get a penalty, and, thank God (who does not exist), it goes over.  So now, if England can score a try, the conversion won’t be so crucial.  But, still no tries in this game at all.  An old fashioned game, a bit like that old fashioned armed robbery we had during the week.  In an open stadium, and with lots of cold, cold rain.

Here comes Dallaglio, the man whose neck is wider than his head.  Off goes Corry, the England captain.  How does that work I wonder?  Scotland “under pressure”.

England make another mistake, and Guscott will be tearing his hair out.  It’s easy for him to talk.  He’s Guscott.  But, I have a tape of Guscott failing to score a certain try by failing to ground the ball, so even he sometimes fails to be “clinical”, and to “finish it off”.

Displacement activity time.  I’ve already put insoles in a couple of pairs of new shoes, and I also have some washing up to do.  Scotland now deep in the England twenty two.  And they nearly score!

I do the washing up.  15-9.  15-12.  18-12.  All penalties.

Only a game.


I told you.

Saturday February 25 2006

Yes it’s quota photo time:


That’s a shot I’ve never managed to get for real, despite much trying.  That’s just a badly lit poster (click to get it all) in the tube.

So anyway, visit Malta.

Thursday February 23 2006

I have been brooding on the names of cities, and the way they change, that is to say, the way they get changed.

In connection with the televised Winter Olympics, Alice Bachini, who now lives in Texas, asks:

Why is everybody calling it “Torino” now? What was wrong with “Turin”? Do we all have to start referring to “The Torino shroud”? . . . or start calling all European cities by their local pronunciations - München, Köln, Firenze, Paris with an “ee” and so on? Seriously, is this a slope we want to ski-jump down forever more?

Add umlauts to taste, please, if they don’t show up at your end.

There have been two comments on this posting.  Scott Chaffin said the reason Americans are saying “Torino” now is because of the Ford Grand Torino, which is, I believe, the StarskyandHutchmobile.  (Yes.) And Tatyana (who has no blog, but who is, I think, my favourite commenter in all the world) says: yes it’s about time people stopped saying “Nueva York”, which makes the point that surely the people who live there should decide what a place is called, and that the linguistic imperialism charge can work in both directions.

That got me thinking that maybe what is going on here is a worldwide trend towards all of us calling cities by the same name.  And that got me thinking that maybe changing Bombay to Mumbai and Pekin to Beijing was part of the same process.

I was all set to write a piece for the Globalisation Institute about how it makes sense that city names are being standardised, even if it may be rather upsetting and inconvenient, so that when people get together in their big international meetings (of the sort they didn’t have so regularly before Globalisation) they can all use the same word to describe Pekin/Beijing.

Except that this is not what is actually happening.  Actually, most of these name changes are not being imposed in order to achieve linguistic standardisation across the world. Whatever the rights and wrongs of changing Calcutta to Kolkata or Pretoria to Tshwane, these names are being changed not in order to standardise, but in order to shove it to the damn British, or whoever.  In the case of Ahmedabad changing to Karnavati, it’s the Hindus shoving it to the Muslims, or trying to.

And I don’t see any way this can stop.  As power ebbs and flows between different powers, the names will change.  And the confusion, if only in signpost costs, is colossal and will continue to be.

Personally I have a fondness for Leningrad as opposed to St Petersburg, because of the old Leningrad Philharmonic, and perhaps because I don’t take saintness as seriously as St Persburgers evidently do.  Also I dislike all the confusion about how you spell, in English, the saint bit – St, St., Saint, etc.  (In England there the extra confusion of whether it’s St Pauls or St Paul’s.) Lenin was of course a piece of asterisks of the worst sort. Everything evil done by Stalin had already been sketched out and beta tested by Lenin.  But a name is a name, and I don’t like the idea of name changes. Maybe London is named after some psycho killer.  I don’t care.  London is what London is called.  You interfere with London’s name and you interfere with me.  Name changes, for me, flag up both the continuing power and the continuing impotence of politicians.  They change the damn names, because they can, and because they are so hopeless at doing anything real.  Politicians notoriously confuse renaming a problem with solving it.  Changing the name of an entire place seems to me to be taking that fatuous process to its ultimate conclusion.  At least in St Petersburg they had a vote which St Petersburg won.

On the other hand if EUrope decided to change London to something else - and I wouldn’t put it past those meddling twats – I would definitely want the name changed back again as soon as the chance arose.  If Martians arrived in England and created mayhem, and settlements with their own names, and then buggered off, I might also want those names changed, and I might well be in favour of that even if the new names were fairly bogus, based on not-that-nearby villages of dubious origin.

Wednesday February 22 2006

I’m now working on a Samizdata piece about these photos and about how I got to see them, of which this one . . .


. . .  is, I think, particularly extraordinary.  And since I haven’t worked out how to link to individual photos, I’m sticking it here, and will then link from Samizdata to this postwing.  And, when I’ve posted the Samizdata posting, this (done) will be the link from here to there.

I’ve been thinking that it’s time I had more wise quotes here, not just from other blogs and articles, and not just about blogging and the blogosphere, but scanned in from wise books.  However, this quote is from an article by a blogger and about blogging and the blogosphere.  But it’s fun, and wise, so here it is:

Even if the biggest, richest, and most popular blogs are hugely successful financially – and more importantly, even if they’re not – there will be millions of people out their generating and publishing their own content. Regardless of what happens, the vast majority will be doing it without being paid (they already are) and they’ll be doing it because, as I noted last week, it’s fun. Which is what should really worry the Big Media people, because it’s something that doesn’t change with the financial markets. From four years ago comes this advice: “Beware the people who are having fun competing with you!” Because it’s hard to put them out of business, so long as it stays fun.

My friend Adriana (keep clicking, it works after another go) uses the phrase “social media”, which I think catches both the non-commercialness of blogging itself and yet its huge impact upon everything else, definitely including commerce in general.  And by commerce in general I mean not just selling stuff, but how you get together to make stuff and how you learn about making more stuff and better stuff.

Not many people make money purely by telephoning people.  Junk phone-callers, and that’s about it.  Yet the economic impact of the telephone has been epoch-making.  Blogging is like that, I think.  The true impact of blogging is what happens when you combine it with life, rather than what happens when you do it instead of life.

Speaking for myself, blogging is (a) a cheap hobby.  It postpones my next trip to the CD shops and stops me spending more money on other more expensive hobbies.  And it has (b) showcased my writing skills and writing commitment.  This has lead directly to what is already (doesn’t seem to be an author archive there - sorry) a trickle of income writing for donor-financed propaganda organisations (big gainers from the blogosphere, by the way – blogging has slashed the cost of propagandising), and to what may in due course become somewhat more than a trickle.  But, I promise nothing.

imageA week or two ago, I spent an evening with my friend Antoine Clarke, and discussed with him the idea of me interviewing him, on a fairly regular basis, about elections around the world.  (I want to get into internet broadcasting, and I now reckon the way to do that is to have conversations with knowledgeable and interesting people about their specialist subjects.) Everything about the conversation we had that night confirmed for me that Antoine would be an ideal interviewee.  The man just knows so much about party politics, and about so many places.  As you can learn yourself, if you visit Antoine’s blog.

At the same time as I was asking Antoine if he would like to do a weekly (say, maybe fortnightly or monthly, or whatever) performance about electoral and party political doings around the globe, he was finding that this was how needed to organise his own blog writing.

Since that conversation, he has done two such round-up postings.  If the idea was for this to be less work, then I don’t see how that works.  But, they are very good.

Antoine has the potential to be as impressive an internet presence as Guido Fawkes already is, the difference being that whereas Guido’s stamping ground is British politics and all its nuances and scandals and rumours, Antoine is looking at the entire world.  However, unlike a lot of the American bloggers who already do this, Antoine has that same blessed quality that Guido also has, which is that the man just enjoys it all so much.  Antoine has always taken a gleeful pleasure in the strange twists and turns that party politics can involve.  For him, party politics is just fun. Americans, with their empire to run and to argue about, too often find themselves writing not about politics as practised in Costa Rica or Azerbaijan, or Australia or wherever, but about how well America (aka President Bush) is doing in Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Australia or wherever, and being just too damn solemn and serious about it all.  In short, Antoine doesn’t just bring formidable knowledge to the blog party.  He also brings a particular and I would say, potentially, a very attractive attitude.  And it’s an attitude that would also make him an ideal broadcaster.

One of the great pleasures of the blogosphere is watching one’s blogging friends gradually homing in on their ideal way of using blogging to say exactly what they are best equipped to say and most inclined to say, because this is the kind of thing they have been saying for the last ten or fifteen years anyway.  I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Antoine talk, publicly or just in conversation, about the ironies and intricacies of French politics, which he is very well placed to do, on account of being bilingual in English and French.  (He’s not called Antoine for nothing.) And I vividly recall that he was one of the few of my acquaintances to predict not only the mere fact, but, very precisely, the scale of the first Tony Blair victory in Britain.

I hope this doesn’t jinx Antoine’s activities.  If for any reason he doesn’t sustain the plan of weekly global political round-ups, well, that’s fine.  This will merely mean that he is still at the stage of finding his blog voice.  But, I do get the feeling that he has found it.

As for my podcasting, or whatever it’s called, I am still fussing around about how to do it, talking to various people, arranging to borrow kit, etc.  I am always very slow at the early stages of these things.  I may well soon post a really bad sound file effort, just to find out how to do it.  But, I promise nothing.

Monday February 20 2006

The new comments arrangement is already making its benign presence felt.  Latest comment: Daniel Cuthbert, thanking me for something here from long ago about him, which I had quite forgotten about.  You’re welcome mate.  I must remember to email Daniel asking how things are now going.

The point is, even if I hadn’t done this special entry drawing attention to Daniel’s comment, my blog did this automatically.  This is exactly the kind of circumstance I had in mind when I asked for this alteration.

Russell Whitaker asked, when commenting on my earlier comments posting, about how this new arrangement works.  Well, the relevant bit of my sidebar gobbledegook reads as follows:

< h2 class="sidetitle">Recent Comments< /h2 >
< ul >{exp:comment:entries sort="desc" orderby="date" limit="10" dynamic="off"}
< li >
{name} on ’< a href="{comment_url_title_auto_path}" >{title}< /a >< br />
< /ul>

Not knowing any other way to switch off these commands, and to stop them doing what they do on my sidebar, I have, in every case (I hope), put a space after a ”<" and a space before a ">“ or “/>“.  I hope this works.  (It seemed to.) No doubt there was an easier way to achieve the same result.  Sorry and all that.  (Is the trick to use these: {}?  Probably not.)

But, Russell, or anyone else interested, this works for Expression Engine, and maybe for Expression Engine only.  How it works with anything else, I have no idea. He did this, not me.  But even if it doesn’t, that may well give a computer wiz such as Russell Whitaker is enough of a clue.

This is from a recent New York Times piece and I don’t know how long the link will last, so go there soon if you are curious about Reading the Whole Thing, etc.

The era of cheap, lightweight digital cameras – in cellphones, in computers, in hip pockets, even on key chains – has meant that people who did not consider themselves photography buffs as recently as five years ago are filling ever-larger hard drives with thousands of images from their lives.

Yes, but tell me something I don’t know.

And one particular kind of image has especially soared in popularity, particularly among the young: the self-portrait, which has become a kind of folk art for the digital age.

It’s good to learn that I’m not the only one.  Here are two recent self-portraits by me, bounced off car headlights:


That’s the new Mini.  This is the only recent headlight with the modern styling that interests me that also has a shiny rim.  It took me a while to realise the rim’s possibilities.

This next one, on the other hand, is more typical, and to find yourself in such a headlight you really have to wiggle around.


Click for the bigger pictures, i.e. of the headlights in their entirety.  By the way, behind me there is the tower block across the road from where I live.

I try to do this when there don’t seem to be all that many people around.

Incoming email from recent prolific commenter here Russell Whitaker (his blog Survival Arts is now on the blogroll to your left):

Today’s . . .

. . . i.e. Saturday‘s . . .

. . . featured pic on WikiPedia, seems up your alley.


Indeed it is.  What a fascinating object.  I had no idea that such things even existed.  This one reminds me vaguely of the front of a combine harvester.

The Falkirk Wheel, named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland, is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, which at this point differ by 35 metres in height.

It consists of two diametrically opposed caissons which always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their capacity of 600 tonnes of floating canal barges. According to Archimedes’ principle floating objects displace their own weight in water. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in less than four minutes while using very little power.

One of the nice things, if you think about it, about engineering things of this kind is that if is often quite hard to tell at a glance when they were built.  After all, what does the job does the job, no matter when.  Anyway, it turns out that this Falkirk Wheel is very recent, having been opened only in 2002.

Lottery money.  If they have to waste public money, this is definitely how to do it.


Wonderful.  And wonderful Wikipedia.  Thanks Russell.

Mike James, commenting on this at Samizdata, offers a rather flattering answer to a question that has long concerned me.  Why do Brits do all (well, a lot of) the villains in Hollywood movies?  Do the Americans not like us?

If British actors are too-frequently cast as villains, I don’t think it is because the British are hated or despised. An English accent of the right sort conveys to an American ear the idea of sophistication.

So, the villains in American film and television productions are very often played by British actors. Not because we’re still angry about the War of 1812 or quartering soldiers in our homes without the owners’ consent, but because a sophisticated enemy is one who possesses an edge, thus is regarded as being harder to defeat, and so any victory is that much more impressive.

So, when Bruce Willis dropped Alan Rickman out of a skyscraper, he was paying him a compliment.


I think that Mike James’s answer also throws light on the matter of why Hollywood villains so often like classical music.  Like being British, classical music is more sophisticated.  I seem to recall the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth featuring in Die Hard.

Saturday February 18 2006

imageThe Micklethwait Clock, pictured right, has taken a bit of a battering during the last couple of nights.

On Thursday night, I was just about to go to sleep, at an already rather late hour, when I suddenly remembered that I had yet to post my weekly contribution to CNE IP.  So I got up and did it, but stayed up far too late.

Then, the next night, last night, I discovered that there was nothing on Samizdata for all of Friday.  Samizdata has had something up just about every day since the early eighteenth century or whenever it was that it was founded - 2001 I think it was - and it prides itself on this fact.  But, last night, there was nothing.  Now I know the Samizdatatistas.  They have lives, especially the more recently acquired ones who are doing most of the Samizdatistarising just now.  They go out on Friday night.  So it was down to lifeless me to shove up this or that variety of rubbish, to give the commenters something to moan about and generally keep things going.  And one entry was not, I felt, sufficient.  So I did three.  That took a while too, and again, I got to bed far later than I would have liked.

Tonight I am out, having a life come to think of it.  Hence this perfunctory ramble.  Is there enough of it yet to fill up the space next to the picture?  To hell with literary merit, that is all that bothers me now.  Plenty, I have now discovered.  I need not have bothered with this last paragraph at all.  Still, might as well keep it now, since it’s done.

Last night, after a most agreeable and advantageous dinner with a friend, I went home on a bus, in which there was a television screen with pictures of all us passengers, and I took some photos of myself taking photos of myself.

image image

Click click.

More and more of our lives are now spent as film extras.  What was interesting about this particular surveillance system is that they wanted us all to know that we were being surveilled.  Which, despite what a Samizdatista like me is supposed to think, I perfectly understand.  The driver can see everything.  And for lots of passengers, that’s reassuring rather than any sort of threat.

That The Government gets to watch all of this, in the unlikely event that any of it wants to, is really not, for most people, a problem.  That’s what governments are supposed to do.  Key an eye on things.

Friday February 17 2006

Says Samizdata commenter Samsung, appropos of this closely argued and elaborate essay that I posted on Samizdata yesterday:

This Flash animation cuts to the bone.


Full story here, with an ever more famous picture, by the man who took it.  Happy days.  My memories of the Great Man in question here.

I’ll write something about this Real Soon Now.  Via here.

Thursday February 16 2006

If I were ever to be on Room 101, which is the BBC programme where BBC lefty comedians etc. take it in turns to say what they hate, I would put “having to wash every day” on my list.  The point of this programme is not to hate racism or world poverty or politicians who lie.  “Socialism” would be a very hard sell indeed and one would obviously be tempted, but as I say, that really is not the point.  The point is to identify those maddenly annoying little things which you forget about except when they happen (and keep happening) or when someone reminds you of them when you are watching Room 101.  Or, in the case of having to wash, maddenly annoying big things which are so universal and permanent in the misery they inflict that most people just take them for granted as inevitable, and forget to hate them with the force and publicity that would actually be appropriate.

It can be a very enjoyable show when people choose really good things to hate.  Particularly apt objects of hate are greeted with a spontaneous “yes” of recognition and loathing.  Yes I hate that too!  But I’d forgotten about it!

One of the better Room 101 pet hates of recent years was chosen by the former England football manager Terry Venables, who chose the bizarre and dangerous procedures needed to unwrap a new shirt.  You’ll be lucky if the shirt has no bloodstains, was his point.  Plus, whenever you need a new shirt you are likely to be in a hurry.  There must be a better way to wrap shirts than with pins (and not even safety pins) everywhere.  The wrapping for every other damn thing that ever gets made now has been changed out of all recognition.  Why not shirts?

I would also nominate tables in coffee bars that wobble, thereby spilling the damn coffee everywhere.  This happens because the natural shape of a table from the point of view of sitting at it is rectangular, which means that the natural number of legs for it is four.  But, the natural number of legs for a table to have if you do not want it to wobble is only three.  Not four.  Certainly not two.  Three.  But, where do you put these three legs if you don’t want people’s knees bumping up against the legs.  Round tables with three legs and three people sitting at them might be an answer.  As would one big central leg in the middle which sticks out in three directions when it arrives the floor but not before, so you can put your feet on top of all that.  Don’t know.  Meanwhile, I hate wobbly tables in coffee bars.

Another thing I hate is another wobbling thing, namely paving stones which wobble.  When it has been raining, and when you step on it, as you do, in exactly wrong place, the paving stone disappears into a puddle which was hitherto hidden under the paving stone, and your foot with it.  Your shoes are your best ones, and one of them (but only one – very annoyingly) gets filled with muddy water and generally ruined.

I was going to elaborate on the washing thing, by writing about how I have recently started to play music to myself while bathing, but that can wait.

Regular patrons here will know my obsession with the Billion Monkeys, of whom I am one.  I digitally photograph digital photographers, like this lady:


I love that photo, one of my best Billion Monkey efforts of recent weeks.  The blur to the left is someone moving, but so what?  The blur doesn’t detract.  And her face is delightful, and the focussing wondrously good, considering how little light there was shining on her, what with it being dark.  I must have kept my camera very still.

Yesterday, however, I spotted photographic simians of a different league entirely, when a van went by me in Victoria Street, with this on the side:


Click to get the front of the van.  The van was stuck obligingly at some traffic lights, and I rushed round to the back to see the simians I could just about make out, and started to snap them.  At first, they were oblivious.  David Spielberg II, on the right, was busy explaining how big his personal zoom lens is, and (on the left) he had their attention totally.  But then (in the middle), one of these mighty Gorillas of (I assume) Celluloid, noticed me, and waved graciously, like the aristocrat of the lens that he is, at me, a humble little Billion Monkey.  Finally, these rare beasts (on the right), having all of them learned that they were themselves the objects of photographic attention, all smiled for the camera, be it ever so humble.


Click to get the whole troup, in their various stages of noticing.  I like to think of these Primates as being involved in things like these.

And hey, here‘s the website to hire the van, and here‘s the van.  The www is indeed wwwonderful.

I like it when people comment here.  Except if they say I’m an idiot, I don’t like that.  But if it’s anything like what Russell Whitaker says today about my photo-ing skills, in connection with this picture, I like comments a lot.  They prove that people come here, and read things.

Which is why I have added a Recent Comments thing on the left.  People sometimes comment on postings which are not that recent, and if they weren’t flagged up as recent comments, nobody else would read them apart from me.  And what I am afraid often happens is that I do greatly appreciate a comment, but then postpone replying to it in the depth and with the profundity that it deserves, and then postpone it some more, and then, well that’s it.  And people might get the idea from that that I don’t like comments.  But I do.

It’s not as if they come at such a hectic rate that the most recent ten are come and gone in a few hours, although I suppose that might happen one day.

I say I added the Recent Comments thing.  Actually my Technical Department did it, to whom deep thanks.

Wednesday February 15 2006

I have been fiddling about with and adding to my various rolls, on the left, and have perpetrated my first removal, Flickrzen.  This takes a long time to load, and hasn’t had anything new up reccently.  And the most recent picture is just a rectangle with “THIS PHOTO IS CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE”.  Looks like they’ve lost interest.

So, instead: the Flickr blog.  Recent nice picture featured there:


I notice that they do the ceramic tile thing that I also like to do.

Tuesday February 14 2006

This time taken on a grey old day, yesterday, when I was out buying a chair.  A little scrolling is needed, unless you have a very strange screen.


I like the mistiness supplied by the greyness of the day, which makes the tower look like an alien presence, rather than a mere earthly construct.  It never ceases to amaze me how grey can turn to nearly blue if you put redness next to it.  And the grey of outdoors can turn bright blue, if you photograph it from indoors, with indoors in the foreground.  Shades of these.

I know.  This is a quota photo, only very thinly disguised by its ungainly shape and size.  The good news with me is that the Micklethwait Clock is starting seriously to be corrected, and the thinness and feebleness of postings here in recent days may any day now be improved upon.  Early readers of this blog were warned.

Sunday February 12 2006

Via here, I learn that the original twelve Jyllands-Posten cartoons weren’t nasty enough to upset enough people, so they faked three more:

Akhmad Akkari, spokesman of the Danish Muslim organisations which organised the tour, explained that the three drawings had been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.”

And if this is true, shame on the BBC.

BBC World also aired a story showing one of the three non-published images, on 2006-01-30, and wrongly claimed it had been published in Jyllands-Posten.

In related news (from many days ago), it seems that South Park already did Mohammed, and with pictures of him, which was greeted with no great excitement.

Shakeel Ali, the head of the Glasgow branch of Young Muslims UK, said the lack of outrage over the South Park episode was probably due to the fact that most Muslims were not aware of it.

However, the fact that all this stuff is orchestrated (or not, depending) doesn’t make it any less real.  Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was orchestrated.  Does that mean that Beethoven didn’t really mean it, or that nobody else really cares about it?  The point is that the things being orchestrated here - human emotions - are only too real.

Saturday February 11 2006

I hear that the movie is no great shakes, but I do love movie posters.  And I also like the electric signs they now have at bus stops.

So when I took this snap at a bus stop last night, I was happy.  And I was even happier when I got back home and discovered that the bus messages had come out perfectly.


There’s a world of difference between hoping a bus may arrive any hour now, that might go where you want, and someone guessing that there may well be a number 14 to Tottenham Court Road coming along in 3m.  Big step forward.

Friday February 10 2006

imageNot the Tower of London, but the other big tower in London.  Long before the Gherkin and the Wheel, there was the Post Office Tower, now called the BT Telecom Tower.  Who knows what it will be called next?

But whatever it happens to be called at any particular moment, it has been one of my favourite London erections ever since it was first erected.  On the right, a photo I took of it yesterday, during Magic Hour.

Built to cater for the UK’s growing telecommunications requirements, Telecom Tower was designed by a team led by G R Yeats under the direction of Eric Bedford, chief architect of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works. The principal building contractors were Peter Lind & Co.

Eric Bedford, eh?  Not as famous as Foster or Rogers or Renzo Piano, yet in the same league in terms of visual impact, I would say.

You can still see other towers all over the country today, which are now in ‘civilian’ use (see: Birmingham Snow Hill BT Tower).

They are mostly circular, because the designers noted that the only buildings that survived in Horoshima [sic] and Nagasaki were circular; allowing the enormous blast wave to surge round them.

In other words, these things were part of Britain’s defence policy, and presumably they still are.

Apart from the height and the cylindricality, it’s the great microwave dishes that make the Post Office Tower so appealing.  What we have here is that rare thing, a piece of architecture that looks cool because of its function, rather than just because they decided to make it look cool, in the manner of the Gherkin and of practically all other items of cool-looking modern architecture.  (The environmental “function” of the Gherkin is just an excuse to make it look like a Gherkin, in my opinion.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Here (I know, incredibly crappy pictures), while trying to learn more about Eric Bedford (1909-2001, and he doesn’t seem to have done much else of great note) , I learned the following:

The Tower was opened to the Public at 3 pm on 19th May 1966 by Tony Benn and Billy Butlin.

Tony Benn was then going through his “white heat of the technological revolution” phase, and Billy Butlin was a famous holiday camp pioneer. He would love that.

Big discussion over at Samizdata about HMS Funny Looking.  No mention of iPods, so far.

War is complicated.  You never really know what it will consist of.  Says Old Jack Tar:

Bolting sophisticated weapons on when things are already going pear-shaped and the shooting has already started (a time honoured tradition in the cash-strapped RN, I assure you) just means nothing works quite right just at the time when lives depend on everything working as intended.

Old Jack Tar links to this reminder of the old days

I’m glad I’m not a defence planner.  Your chances of getting it just right, as per Fighter Command for 1940, are remote.  Just as likely is Singapore, with its huge guns pointing in the wrong direction.  And you send a big army out there just in time for it to be captured.

Another busy day, another fobbing-you-all-off entry.

This morning, before going off to be busy, I posted a piece about David Friedman on Samizdata, venturing a criticism of something he wrote, and he honoured Samizdata with a comment (deftly pointing out at the start that he only wrote it in passing – fair enough) as follows:

The analysis of present giving is indeed more complicated than the one sentence summary I used as the intro to discussing my Christmas books. The problem with your “he didn’t care enough to bother” is that bothering is itself a cost. If getting you the right present – one almost as good as you would have bought for yourself with the same amount of money – costs me ten dollars worth of effort, and the present also costs ten dollars, then simply giving you twenty dollars will prove the same amount of caring and leave you substantially better off.

To make your argument work, you need to carry it one step further. If I care about you - in my language, if I’m a Becker altruist with regard to you (for details of what that means see my Price Theory, webbed on my site) - it is in my interest to know a good deal about your utility function, so as to know when I can benefit you at a low enough cost to me to make doing so in my interest (allowing for the fact that I get utility from your utility). Knowing that reduces the cost to me of finding a suitable present.

So buying suitable presents can be viewed as a signal of altruistic feeling. It works as such because the signal is less expensive if the fact it signals is true than if it is false.

That’s my best economic explanation of present giving so far, but I don’t find it entirely adequate.

I still think “It’s the thought that counts” is better, if only because it’s quicker.  But “It works as such because the signal is less expensive if the fact it signals is true than if it is false” also gets to the heart of it.

Oh and one other thing.  I recommend the discussion of what killed slavery that Natalie Solent has been hosting.  In the unlikely event that you read this, but not her.  Even if you do read her, and have been reading that, you may still be mildly interested that I agree with you in thinking it interesting too.  My favourite explanation of what killed slavery is that it was . . . slavery!

Wednesday February 08 2006

Scott Wickstein links to this, about how the founder of Islam won’t now be appearing on The Simpsons:

“In light of the situation in Denmark, we have decided to withdraw our depiction of the Prophet out of sensitivity towards the Islamic community’s feelings,” creator Matt Groening said. “And also our sensitivity to our office being firebombed.”

Nicely said.  But sadly, made up, it would appear.  Maybe South Park could put the knife in for real.

See also this even more imaginative flight of fancy.

I was interested in what Charles Rosen has to say about the recently published writings of Richard Taruskin, because Taruskin figures prominently as one of the villains in this book, which I have also been dipping into lately.  I am curious to know what makes Taruskin tick, to discover what makes him so irrationally hostile to the idea that Shostakovich might have been some sort of semi-secret anti-Stalinist, and in general irrationally nasty to anyone who dares to criticise him, Richard Taruskin.

Meanwhile, in response to Taruskin, Rosen says fascinating things about the nature of music, and in particular the nature of some of the world’s greatest music.

Nor does the history of music fit neatly with social history. Of all the arts, music has the greatest kinship with science, even abstract science: Greek and Roman philosophers speculated about the relation of music to mathematics, and in the latter part of the eighteenth century the philosopher and economist Adam Smith remarked that listening to a fine symphony was like contemplating a great scientific system (it took the long development from the monodic Gregorian chant and the gradual emancipation of music from words for this observation to become possible). A musical system has important attributes of a language, like grammar and syntax, although some of the aspects of communication are very rudimentary – that is, you can convey emotion with music, and imitate cuckoos and babbling brooks, but you cannot make a dinner appointment or a train reservation without words. Nevertheless, as the musical system changes over the centuries, possibilities of exploiting the musical language suggest themselves that are too fascinating to ignore, but the works inspired by this stimulus may possibly have to wait a long time for their exploitation. A musical system appears to have a logic of its own that can be inflected but not completely controlled by social pressures; it can act as an inspiration to composers, who often feel as if they were discovering rather than inventing. That is what the greatest of music critics, E.T.A. Hoffmann, conveyed when he wrote that Beethoven was not the wild, untamed genius as so many of his contemporaries thought, but the soberest of all composers, because everything he wrote came from the nature of music itself.

Bach’s great Mass in B minor was never performed during his lifetime: as a Catholic Mass, it could not be played in a Protestant church, and the use of an orchestra was forbidden in Catholic churches during Bach’s lifetime, although he hoped it might eventually be possible. His “Goldberg” Variations is the most successful of all his works in concert performance today, yet the kind of concert in which it can be performed did not exist for another century, and it had to wait for recognition and acclaim for still another hundred years. Both these works fascinated many musicians during the long period before they could find a niche in the social world of performance. The first great set of works to become the staple of serious public piano performances was the thirty-two Beethoven piano sonatas: only two of these were played in a concert hall in Vienna during Beethoven’s lifetime. To judge a work, as Taruskin often does, by how it sounded in the conditions that existed when it was written is useful and even necessary, but it can lead at times to profound misunderstanding. This is where the irritating contradiction between the work as written and the work as heard begins to rear its ugly head.

In any case, many works of music like Beethoven’s Great Fugue for String Quartet appear principally as a response to possibilities of the musical system of the time, possibilities that are irrelevant to any kind of contemporary social conditions, and the system itself develops both as a response to social pressures and in ways that are completely independent. No social history of music can succeed that does not acknowledge the partial independence of the musical language, the way it can offer abstract possibilities to the imagination irrelevant to the social and economic world of the musician, but often too tempting to turn down.

Or to put it another way, composers might, were they now reincarnated, be disgusted by “authentic” performances of their music.  “You were doing so well!  Why did you stop?  Why do you now insist on playing my works only in the primitive ways that I was forced to endure, because of lousy musicians, lousy instruments, and stupid interfering politicians and priests?”

Is this argument a clue to Taruskin’s attitude to Shostakovich, and to the picture of Shostakovish presented in Testimony? Has Taruskin invested too much in the idea that composers generally are bound by their times (i.e. by people like Stalin) and cannot escape into a parallel universe of pure music, or for that matter even of musically encoded rebellion?  Is Taruskin, or was he once, a Marxist?  And is he now one of those non-Marxits who is still now more of a Marxist than he now realises?

Busy day, so a quota photo, taken today while I was out and about being busy, of peculiar looking trees in Rochester Row, with a pretty sunset behind them.


No point in clicking, because this is an upright photo and there is not a lot more room on a screen for it to get any bigger.  If you have an upright screen, my apologies.

Monday February 06 2006

As I like to remind you good people from time to time, my most important reader is me.  I will enjoy trawling through the archives of this blog long, long after the rest of the universe has entirely lost interest in it.

In that spirit, here are some souvenir type pictures of an enjoyable evening spent watching the Super Bowl (two separate words I now realise), at which the Rolling Stones played at half time.  Better and more focussed pictures of the Rolling Stones have been taken over the years, but I actually like how recognisable they are when blurry.  These guys do understand branding.  It stirred my patriotic heartstrings to see these venerable old gents bashing through a few of their standards, in the midst of this great American institution.  And I was struck once again by what a fine entertainer Mick Jagger is, with his unmistakable physical spasms and arm-wavings, big enough to fill a football stadium.  And for an old geezer he sure is in great shape.


None of Charlie Watts.  He is too dignified and normal to be interesting when blurred.  As for the actual music, well, I’ve heard better versions of all of them, basically on the CDs.  Never mind.

And as for the support act, the game, the high point was one of those amazingly accurate and amazingly long forward passes that they allow in American football, by a person with the strange name of Randall L.  He was not even one of the official quarter backs, i.e. a fly half.  But apparently he used to be a quarter back in college.  I supported the grey team, who ended up losing to the yellow ones, because the great Martin Johnson was in the studio and he supported the grey ones.

Earlier, I watched the Six Nations rugby and even managed to write something for Samizdata on the subject. 

What did I tell you?

Sunday February 05 2006

Here are two pictures of the latest warship, just launched, ready to serve in the Royal Navy in 2009, got from here, and here:



I suspect these both pictures make HMS Daring look a bit smaller than it really is.  I prefer the second, because it makes it look more warlike, on account of the weather being rather nastier.  The first looks like it’s on a pleasure cruise.

I am used to warships being covered in lots of spiky and bristly things, and this one isn’t, which again makes it look small.  And rather like a motor torpedo boat, it appears to have only one gun, in the middle, at the front.  Actually it has many fearsome weapons, but they don’t stick out as much as naval weapons used to.  Also, the disproporionately big tower in the middle again makes the rest of it look small, when in reality, I suspect that it is the tower which is big.

Oddy, there appears to be a big bald old man standing towards the back, with his arms stuck out and his hands up in the air.

The pleasure cruise aspect of the vessel is emphasised by this much commented upon paragraph from this Times report:

HMS Daring’s 230-strong crew should be happy too. She and her sisters will be the first “gender-neutral” warships to enter Royal Navy service, and the Hotel Facilities, as the living quarters are known, are the most opulent ever fitted in a British warship. Mess decks are replaced by individual cabins, each with their own I-pod charging points, CD player, internet access, five channel recreational audio and larger berths.

So, the big bobble on the top would be the internet connection. Actually, when you consider how skilful the people driving this vessel will need to be, it makes sense for them to have their own rooms.  Most students do, after all.

Will there be other similar boats to follow?  China News suggests maybe yes:

Splig splog splig splog splig splog splig splog splig splog (Dauntless) splig splog splig splog (Diamond) splig splog splig splog (Dragon) splig splog splig splog (Defender) splig splog splig splog (Duncan) splig splog splig splog splig splog splig splog splig splog splig splog.  Splig.  Splog.

Pardon my Chinese.

Ah, yes, from that Times report:

The second and third ships in the six-ship order - HMS Dauntless, Diamond, Defender, Dragon and Duncan - are already being built. BAE Systems hopes the order will be extended to eight. The contract will keep about 3,000 workers employed until the end of the decade at Scotstoun and its sister yard Govan, across the river.

Which leaves me with the uncomfortable feeling that keeping Scotsmen lucratively occupied may be all part of what this is about.

To follow: Dodgy, Delicate, Dubious, Deficient, Dellboy, Dipstick, Dildo, Drongo, etc. etc.  Actually, no.  These things apparently cost six hundred million quid a go.  Those Scots will be lucky if they get to build even the entire first set of six.

Saturday February 04 2006

A large part of the point of blogging is to steal other people’s bits of good stuff, on the grounds that your little band of readers almost certainly missed it.  I mean, what are the chances that you people have read a piece of prose picked from the internet with, basically, a pin, wielded by a satellite?  If you get my drift, as I always seem to say when one of my metaphors takes to the skies but then crashes twenty yards later.

So, Barry Beelzebub, take it away:

I ADJOURNED to the Dog and Blunkett for a post-New Year livener (I call it “retox”, i.e. getting drunk again) only to find the local Hunt hardcore gathered in the back room sticking labels on bricks.

It turns out that the League Against Cruel Sports has launched a fund-raising appeal so that they can equip their legions of crusty agitators with video cameras to film alleged transgressions of the absurd Hunting Act. Fair enough, those lentils don’t pay for themselves and just keeping a rescued Beagle in fags costs a tidy amount.

To encourage bunny-huggers nationwide to contribute, they have generously set up a Freepost address so that they pick up the bill for anything posted to them. I fear they might not have thought this through.

Hence the large number of horny-handed, ruddy-cheeked countrymen gleefully addressing bulky parcels to The League Against Cruel Sports, Freepost SE 5087, London SE1 1BR. I won the contest for most expensive “donation”. I waited until my man Whitaker passed out, wrote the address on his forehead in felt pen and posted all 20 stone of him.

In other Loony Left news, animal rights nutters in Devon raided a farm before Christmas and “set free” 60-odd wild boar destined for the dinner table. Local farmers were not amused as the beasts can wreak havoc amongst the crops so called in the Dulverton West Foxhounds to hunt down the escapees.

As there is an exemption in the new legislation allowing the pursuit of escaped animals with unlimited numbers of dogs, a jolly day was had by all. I told you it was a stupid Act, didn’t I?

This is almost an entire Tom Sharpe novel, but in six easily read paragraphs.

The last time I found myself watching an aging popster/rocker on the telly, it was Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and I’m afraid I wasn’t that impressed.  Beach Boys have to be young, and Brian Wilson now isn’t.  Sad, I’m afraid.

But now I am watching Cream, and age, although it has withered them, has not withered their music at all, nor staled their variety, such as it was.  Everything of importance is being done absolutely right, despite the fact that the concert was in 2005, three and a half decades after their first pomp.

It may even be that being old geezers actually helps.  After all, this music has its roots in the music of old American geezers from the Mississippi Delta (if I am not too badly mistaken).  Lots of the tunes being played are about how the singer “went back” somewhere and still remembered this or that and has various wisdoms to impart about it all.  When Cream first sang this stuff, they were only pretending to be experienced enough to be suffering from The Blues.  Now they have all Paid Their various Dues - musical, medical, hating each other and splitting up, crazy teenage children, whatever - they can Do The Blues, if anything, even better and more persuasively.


Ginger Baker, the drummer, if the documentary that preceded this show - about the making of the album Disraeli Gears (I know – these guys did love to baffle) – can hardly now talk.  But he can still drum.  Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton still have the voices for this stuff, Clapton’s voice especially still being a thing of wondrous beauty.  The musical togetherness is total.  I never really got into Cream the first time round.  Their stuff just went on too bloody long for my impatient pop tastes, and had too many self-indulgent solos, and not enough tight Rolling Stones type togetherness.  Back then, I reckoned, they needed to grow up.  But I know musical excellence when I hear it, and I hear it now.  They have grown up.

Total surprise.  Never knew anything about this re-union concert.  Never saw it coming in the Radio Times.  I just channel hopped into the Disraeli Gears documentary and left the TV on while I was posting the two previous bits here, and kept watching.


People say British free-to-air TV nowadays is not what it was.  But most of TV has always been crap, only occasionally what it was, most of the time. And it isn’t now what it was, but thirty years from now they’ll be saying it was.

Tomorrow, the Six Nations.  Sunday, more Six Nations, and then the Superbowl.  How’s that for telly splendour?  That’s what it was alright.  But I wouldn’t want the telly to be what it was all the time.  When would I live?

They rather frown on the word libertarian at Samizdata, which by the way, seems to be doing very well indeed just now no thanks to me, so I’ll put it here.

It’s an email from Tim Evans:


I have just Googled the words Marxist and Libertarian. For the first time ever, we seem to be ahead.

On a world wide search ‘Marxist’ scores 8,400,000.

‘Libertarian’ scores 11,900,000.

I am rather surprised by this.

Four years ago, when I last did this exercise, the situation was very much the reverse.


What you might have got for Marxism, or Karl Marx, or Libertarianism, I don’t know.  The significance of the exercise is that Tim did the same two words both times, a few years apart.  Neither operation on its own would count for that much.  Together, they do say something, I think.

The direction things are heading in is important, even if you don’t know exactly where you are.

Via Normblog, I got to this:

The leader of a campaign to cheer up German citizens has been forced to apologise after dismissing weblogs as “the toilet walls of the internet”.

Jean-Remy von Matt, the head of the leading German advertising agency Jung von Matt, fired off a furious internal email to colleagues after his “Du bist Deutschland” campaign was criticised by the media and in cyberspace by bloggers.

“What on earth gives every computer owner the right to exude his opinion, unasked for? ... and most bloggers really just exude,” he wrote.

As with so many disputes, this is two dogs bristling at each other, disagreeing about their relative importance.  Old Dog reckons he’s still Top Dog.  New Dog begs to differ.  Showdown time.

The blogging community responded furiously when Mr von Matt’s comments were leaked on the internet, calling him a “low-level moron” and accusing him of blaming his audience for the failure of his campaign.

Woof.  There it goes again - that sacred distinction between the private and the public, created by the printing press, still worshipped by the lords of the printing press like Herr von Matt, but now taken to the cleaners daily by the new media.

Mr von Matt’s email quickly became one of the most searched-for items on the web and he was forced to issue an apology, sending an email to prominent German bloggers.

I wonder what the German for “prominent blogger” is.  Blogmeister?  Blogfuhrer?  It’s got to be one word.  Everything in German ends up as one word.  In fact, someone once told me that a German word can, in theory, go on for ever.

“My mother taught me something,” he wrote. “If you make a mistake, apologise . . .  I was agitated, and I wrote an email to my colleagues, who had worked hard for months on the campaign and deserved some encouragement against the criticism, justified or unjustified.”

But Mr von Matt still can’t quite bring himself to treat the blogosphere with the complete respect that the blogosphere accords to itself.  He still wants to be Top Dog.  He still wants to decide what opinions will be asked for.

But Mr von Matt was not entirely contrite. “Even if most of the criticism of my email was serious and constructive, I still see it as a breach of respect that an internal memo of mine could be sent scampering like a sow through Little Bloggerville,” he complained.

He knows what is happening.  But he refuses to like it.  Why would he?

Note that the story I am copying and pasting comes from that venerable Old Dog, The Guardian.

Respect.  (Woof.)

Friday February 03 2006

Yes indeed:


My verdict on all this will shortly be appearing here, I hope.  When it does, and if I remember to update this, the link to the piece will be this.

My thanks to Michael Jennings for alerting me to this contretemps.

I actually did LOL, as they say, at this:

In that sense, the Hughes election is the merest extension of the Liberals’ long tradition of unprincipled opportunism. Any Bermondsey “homophobe” who marked his X for Mr Hughes on the grounds that the other bloke was a poof has received belatedly a cautionary lesson in the perils of the protest vote. Even Mr Hughes’ current claim of “bisexuality” has the whiff of artful centrist positioning about it: bi- is the proportional representation of sexuality in a world where most of us – straight or gay – operate a first-past-the-post system.

This is basically why I often think that all this chitchat in my part of the political spectrum about the Orange Book is a load of old hooey.  It’s just the Liberals – now the LibDems - telling me what they think I want to hear, but sufficiently diluted so that it doesn’t frighten all their other various horses.  When in that mood, I find myself despising the LibDems even more than usual.

That’s my opinion of the LibDems on Tuesdays, Thursdays (i.e. today), and Saturdays.  On Mondays and Wednesdays I reckon that the LibDems are the least worst bet for classical liberalism, rather as Rob Knight does.

But today is Thursday, and I have just read this piece of puff . . .

In this stimulating collection, the next generation of Liberal Democrat leaders, including MPs and MEPs David Laws, Edward Davey, Vince Cable, Steve Webb, Chris Huhne, Nick Clegg and Mark Oaten, proposes a vigorous future for the party and its policies. Building on traditional Liberal values and principles, they bring new and often provocative thinking to every area of social policy. Topics include the rejection of ‘nanny state’ liberalism, a fairer tax system and promotion of social justice, the need to encourage and support stable and secure families, a tougher prisons regime and stronger local government – as well as proposals for global governance, healthcare choice and pension reform, better incentives for environmental protection, and a balanced approach to EU reform and integration.

Up-to-the-minute, original, and persuasively argued, the thinking in this book demonstrates the Liberal Democrats’ vitality and social commitment, and gives a valuable insight into how the party will move in the future.

. . . and the vomit bag wins, today.  It’s the weasel words I hate: “fairer”, “encourage and support” (how exactly?), “social justice”, “global governance” (governance seems to be the new word for nice government), “a balanced approach” (between what?), “stronger local government” (in what way?), blah blah blah. Okay you can’t say much in two paragraphs, but you can say a whole lot more than this.  They might, for instance, have included the word “Gladstone”.

Much of party politics consists of saying things like “social justice” and “balanced approach” to great rooms full of idiots, who all nod their idiot heads.  Who believes in anti-social injustice, or an unbalanced approach?  Nobody, apart from people like me.  (I believe in a totally unbalanced mixture of good and evil, consisting entirely of good, which means, e.g., lower taxes.) So, nods all round.  Yet no two idiots are actually nodding their idiot heads at the same actual ideas.  One idiot wants taxes to go down, but another idiot wants taxes to go up, because this is what both idiots take the word “fairer” to mean.  And so, they go out canvassing for the same bloke, and achieve, what?  Nothing.  The Orange Book is classical liberalism translated into the vacuous language of idiot-nod, the idea being that I will recognise it as my opinions, and nod, but that everyone else in the LibDems will nod too.

Thursday February 02 2006

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from Samizdata of late, and actually I’ve not even been reading it very throughly during the last week or two.  But it’s only a break.  I’ll be back.  That 20,000 a day hit rate is not something a blogger like me can ignore indefinitely.

But I did like this recent observation there, by Philip Chaston:

Necessity may be the mother but thrillseeking is the father of invention.

From this posting, about the Olympic 2012 menace.

This is the spirit we want:

“Enough lessons from these reactionary bigots!” France Soir editor Serge Faubert wrote in a commentary explaining why his newspaper had printed the cartoons.

“Just because the Koran bans images of Mohammed doesn’t mean non-Muslims have to submit to this.”

Germany’s Die Welt printed a similar piece to accompany the cartoons.

“There is no right to be shielded from satire in the West,” it said. “Christianity has been the object of ruthless criticism . . . being able to make fun of the holiest things is a non-negotiable core tradition in our culture.”

The West is learning how to handle itself.  Yes, this kind of thing causes offence.  But demanding that anti-religious jokes be illegal also causes offence, to me.

imageBut what is all the fuss actually about?  I found one of the offending creations here.  But when I followed this link for the rest of them, it didn’t work.

Ah, here we are.  Go here and scroll down.  After a bit it goes blank, but keep scrolling down slowly, and you get to them.  I can’t understand most of them.

I can see why the one I have reproduced is the one getting the most copying.  That bit of game playing with the rectangular holes for the ladies and the rectangular blind for the gentleman is the subtlest thing in these pictures that I can make out.  It helps a lot that it is visual rather than verbal humour, which is what the best cartoons tend to be.  This means you don’t have to be able to read any of the relevant languages.

Wednesday February 01 2006



Click on that to get who is doing the half time show.  I’ve known who it was for about a fortnight now, ever since I watched the quarter finals, or whatever they call them.  But it was only when I saw it nailed down, today, incontrovertibly, in the Radio Times, that I knew for sure I would be able to witness this glorious Americana extravaganza.

Coincidentally, I also purchased this today.  That Amazon review of it (entitled “90% talk, 10% music") starts thus:

A complete waste of your money. A bunch of Englishmen on very comfortable couches explaining the obvious.

. . . and it never gets any better.  Oh pillocks.  Come to think of it, I haven’t unwrapped it yet, so I can probably take it back and swap it for something else.  I thought it was the Rolling Stones just playing.

Time for more pictures.  All words and no pictures makes BrianMicklethwaitDotCom a dull blog.  My regular reader expects them.  So, here are two from the Summer 2005 archives.

So, first, an example of a genre I often attempt but rarely bring off, even as moderately as I did here.  I refer to the Billion Monkey snap where the focus of attention is not the Billion Monkey, but the Billion Monkey screen.  This is where world famous and immediately recognisable tourist trap style objects really come into their own.


No point in me arranging for you to click on that.  Bigger would only be even blurrier.

And second, another pigeon!  Also blurred, not because it was flapping its wings but just because it was, but posing in front of another brand new, world famous and immediately recognisable tourist trap style object, itself quite nicely focussed, which I believe I will never tire of photo-ing.  Click to get this pigeon even bigger and blurrier.


World famous and immediately recognisable tourist trap style objects are no good if they just sit there, being the entire photo.  That kind of thing is just a rather bad postcard.  But if your granny is in the foreground, or a pigeon, or if the thing appears in a Billion Monkey shot, then it contributes, I think.