Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday September 30 2006

Yes I’m back now, and there’ll be daily postings here for the foreseeable future.  Later today, Alex Singleton and I will be having our September classical music chat (here‘s my posting about the previous one), and unless it all goes horribly wrong I’ll be sticking that up tonight, what with today being the last day of September.  We’ve both been busy, and left it to the last few hours of the month.  But never mind, we’ve used that as the hook.  How does classical music listening fit into everyday lives doing other things?  That will be our starting out question.

Does going on holiday count as being busy?  You feel busy.  Last week I went to France, to see Goddaughter II’s family, from last Saturday to Thursday.  They used to live in the Deep South of France, near Perpignan, but now they live in Brittany, Goddaughter II’s mum being a serial house mover.  However, I didn’t want to flag up my absence on this blog until I got back from it.  This would be like putting up a big sign saying: “Now would be a good time to plunder my flat”, which I do not care to do.  It’s not that there’s much in my home that would be very valuable to a plunderer, but it is all extremely valuable to me, and any attempt to plunder would cause me deep grief.

So much for my opinion of the senior London copper’s idea that you can now feel safe about leaving your front door unlocked, so crimeless has London now become.  What a twat.  Last night there was a crime right outside my block’s front door, just as I was trying to get to sleep.  Someone seems to have beaten up a car.  A dispute about parking, perhaps?  Eventually I got up and looked out, and a couple of policemen, one regular and uniformed, the other in plain clothes and a Crime Scene Investigator of some kind, were walking around the wronged car with a torch and a camera, trying to make sense of things.  If the car is still there later this morning I will investigate further.  I’m rather surprised that cars don’t get assaulted more often.

Speaking of attacks on my home in my absence, I try not to make enemies, but I am now nearly sixty and have accumulated a few over the years.  What if one of them had picked his moment to ruin me?  My fifty ninth was celebrated in Brittany, last Tuesday.  My friends say I don’t look nearly that old, and in fact I never have looked “that old”, having sung boy soprano until nearly twenty.  True.  But being younger than you look only lasts so long.  As you get old, you get more scared of attack, probably because recovering would take so much longer, if it was even possible at all.

That’s enough for now.  I’ll end with a photo, the best Billion Monkey snap I took in Brittany.  Billion Monkeys were not very abundant, despite many circumstances where I would have expected more of them.  Basically, the tourist season was over, with only a few stragglers wandering about, of whom these oldies were my favourites:

image

This snap was taken in the coastal town of Concarneau, which makes its living from tourists, and from fish.

Friday September 22 2006

So yes, my blogging my be only sporadic just now, but my podcasting continues to be . . . sporadic.  It was Patrick on Monday, and then my monthly natter with Antoine the night after that.  Click here to listen.  It’s somewhat over 35 minutes.

This month we slimmed down the list of topics, and had just two, as itemised above, the discusion dividing itself, time wise, about in half.

Tuesday night was, it transpires (i.e. Antoine told me), the one hundred and somethingth anniversary of Votes For Women in New Zealand!  Which gave us an excuse to talk about how women voting has changed things, and I asked if we could tack Votes For Teenagers onto the conversation, and Antoine was happy to do that.  The biggest minus with Votes For Teenagers, from the point of view of whether it might happen, is that nowadays, Muslims in the rich democracies tend to be disproportionately teenaged, so the infidels might nix it for that reason alone.

As for Sweden, they’ve just had a general election there.  The Moderate Party (only in Sweden) apparently did very well for themselves, and their leader is now about to be/is the PM, although I’m afraid neither of us knew his name.  The trouble with Swedes is that they don’t suicide bomb or invade places, so who – outside Sweden – cares?  Well, a few people, such as Germans and Brits, where this result may have ripple effects.  Plus, I remember the Swedish Moderate Party as having a Youth Wing that was authentic loony libbo, and nothing pleases me more than the thought of a few dozen libertarian sleepers quietly ensconcing themselves into grown-up politics, even if it’s only in Sweden.

For more facts, such as the name of the likely new Swedish Prime Minister (Fredrik Reinfeldt), and further commentary, try reading this blog posting by Kristine Lowe, and following the links she supplies.

Last Monday evening, Patrick Crozier and I did another mp3 this time about Japan.  I have never been anywhere near Japan, but Patrick has visited Japan twice, although both visits were brief.

Here is a picture of Patrick in Japan.

image

During his first visit, Patrick was able to pursue his interest in the world’s various railway systems by going on a guided tour of Japan’s railways – bullet trains and all.  Japan’s railways run on time.

On his second trip, however, Patrick was struck down by appendicitis and had to be operated on.  Luckily he had insurance, and equally luckily, Japan seems to have a fine medical system.

So, what does Patrick think of Japan?  His answer: everything made by the Japanese works, but is ugly.  Especially the buildings.  Why?  And that’s basically what we talked about.  Our answer: a kind of spontaneous collectivism.  We said nothing especially startling or original.  At the end we veered off into comparisons with the Anglo-Saxon way of doing things, and the Ancient Greeks also got a mention.  Enjoy.  Our chat lasted about 35 minutes.

Right at the beginning, I say, as I always do, David Frost style: “Hello, good evening and welcome.” But this time the “good evening” gets lost, for some reason, which does not inspire confidence.  But from then on, all seems, technically, to be well.

Wednesday September 20 2006

In the event that anyone is wondering how often the 29th Best Political Blogger is posting postings these days, the state of play here is that my Blogging Pause will continue until the end of this month, in other words it will be extended for another fortnight.  (See the previous blogging break announcement here.) On October 1st, there will be a posting here, about something, and from then on, daily posting will resume.  As always the rule will then be, a daily something, about something, but not necessarily anything much, about anything profound.  Until October 1st, I will also post things if I feel inclined, as and when, as this posting not only states but illustrates.

I find such annual breaks from the daily blogging routine rather unsettling, like drug withdrawal.  Daily blogging is like a drug – for me not the process itself so much as the mild spasm of pleasure I get when I have just done it.  But I also find such blogging breaks to be good, because they allow me ponder how to blog better.

Monday September 18 2006

I got an email about a week ago from Guido plugging Iain Dale’s Guide to Political Blogging, saying “you’re 29”.  But this made no sense to me so I put it to one side, or to whichever side one puts (without actually deleting) emails that make no sense.  It seemed like some mass mailing mistake.  But apparently it is so.  Iain Dale has me as the 29th best political blogger in the UK.  And the 14th best non-aligned blog, which is just bizarre.  That’s me, not Samizdata – which gets no mention that I can detect, perhaps because it is too international or perhaps because it just doesn’t.

My instant reaction, apart from hastily interrupting my blog-holiday with this posting for all the masses who will now be visiting, is to say that evidently political blogging in the UK has some way to go if I score this highly.  But more truthfully and politely, what it probably really means is that, rather as Natalie Solent first leapfrogged to prominence by arousing the admiration of Mark Steyn, so I seem to appeal with particular something-or-other to Iain Dale.  (Perhaps he likes my political writing and my silly photos.  Maybe he even listens to my interminable podcasts.) My attention span being what it is (when I am not talking that is), I prefer the tabloidy Guido to broadsheety Iain, Guido being my number one calling place just now.  But Iain Dale is generally number two.  He is too polite to politicians for my taste, mainly by giving them such prolonged attention, so I don’t read everything he puts up.  But I always look to see what political scandals he has broken or given a shove to, or then again downplayed.

To be more serious and less egotistical, this book is very well timed, and a credit also to Iain Dale’s sense style and to his industry.  Between them, Good Cop Iain and Bad Cop Guido have propelled blogging into the heart of British politics, and have also and not coincidentally, started to turn blogging in Britain into a serious if still as yet rather small media business, as opposed to just the Dead Rich Parent (that’s me) or Proper Job funded hobby that it will always remain for most of us.

Friday September 01 2006

This mp3 has been festering in my Sony podcasting podule for even longer than the latest Antoine and me mp3 referred to in the previous posting.  But classical music doesn’t change much in a week, so a delay with that mp3 is, I trust, rather more excusable.  Anyway, there it finally is, just inside our once a month deadline.  It lasts twenty five minutes.

We talked about Saint Saens, with a digression into radio sound quality and radio station classical CDs, reissues of concerts, etc., because we just happened to wander into the topic.  (I have recently been listening to this BBC Legend CD of Geza Anda.) I also mentioned the recently issued CD set of the original Joan Sutherland Covent Garden performance of Lucia di Lammermoor.

I seem to have a completely opposite experience of radio sound quality to Alex.  For him, analog works, but digital doesn’t, while for me, digital saved me from analog horror.  Maybe it’s just where we happen to have been living.

Anyway, Saint-Saëns.  Alex chose Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) to talk about basically because he reckons his Third Symphony, the one with the organ crashing away in the midst of it, is the Greatest Thing He’s Ever Heard.  I remember exactly the feeling when I first came across this astounding piece.

Other Saint-Saëns pieces we talked about were the Carnival of the Animals, the piano trios, especially the first one, the piano concertos, the first cello concerto and the third violin concerto.

I am finding the expert tag that Alex insists on fastening to me – as a joke but still he does it - hard to live up to, and as always, I made mistakes.  This time, they were mistakes of omission.  I made no mention of two of Saint-Saëns’s best and most popular shorter pieces, namely the Danse Macabre and the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for violin and orchestra, both featured on this, in which the excellent Kyung Wha Chung plays the violin solo in the latter piece, and in which Charles Dutoit conducts.  The Danse especially displays Saint Saens’s particular forte, which was finding unusual and evocative sonorities, often somewhat oriental in flavour.

My main frustration with Saint-Saëns, as I did manage to say, was that he didn’t really get what kind of talent he really had.  A bit more sonic oddity and mockery, or himself and of everyone else, and a bit less of the Great Composer posturing, would have made him an even better composer than he was.  Basically, the man should have lightened up.  Lightened up more often, that is to say.

Anyway, if you try it, we hope you like it.