Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Sunday November 30 2008

On the left, the logo of the Libertarian Alliance, a bit fuzzy because it’s a long time I’ve had much to do with it, and it seldom now gets to be that big, ...

image  image

... and on the right, the newly minted logo of Linkin Park, a popular music combo from, I believe, California USA, although I could be mistaken about that.  I am not a devotee.

I rootled around on the internet for some clue as to their political stance, until I could no longer stand the din that accompanied many of my researches.  So far as I can tell, they are capitalists, but of the sort who are happy to echo the iconography of much nastier and more anti-capitalist people.  They have a reassuringly vast collection of merchandise for sale, adorned with their pseudo-revolutionary iconography, which you can obtain by parting with money.  My favourite is this.

imageLemon powered clock.  Well, gadget yellow anyway.

Saturday November 29 2008

Are you a fan of Harry Hill’s TV Burp?  You are?  In that case, you will greatly enjoy this Times headline, which reads: Home-made or bought baby food: which is best?

Friday November 28 2008

I took this bizarre photo today, while sitting in a taxi, waiting for the traffic lights to change, in Station Road, Egham, on my way to see my Mum.  So there I was in the back of the taxi, and I looked to the left, and saw a man in a sunbed machine, with the lid open.  I snapped his foot.  Blurred.  He got out.  I snapped again.  Et voilà!:!:!:!:!:

image

Perfect.  No cropping or processing, that’s exactly as it came out of the camera this evening.  No face, so he can’t complain about having his privacy violated on the internet.  Naughty costume.  Useful signage – “Solarium inside”, “Tan Tropic”, “Fantasy Available” - to tell you what’s going on in there.  It has everything you want in a casual snap.

And the thing is, if you flaunt yourself in a shop window like this, well, I reckon you are fair game for any Billion Monkey with a blog who happens to pass by.

Thursday November 27 2008

For the last few days, whenever I can, I have been reading a book called Fateful Choices by Ian Kershaw, which is about the various key decisions made by the various warring nations and their leaders in 1940 and 1941.  Britain decides to fight on after the fall of France.  Hitler decides to invade Russia.  Stalin decides Hitler won’t invade Russia.  Roosevelt helps Britain as much as he can.  Japan declares war on the USA and attacks Pearl Harbour.  Hitler declares war on the USA.  Those kinds of things.  It ends with Hitler deciding to kill the Jews of Europe.

The chapter in which Kershaw says how Roosevelt helped Britain is defective, not because of what it says, but because of what it doesn’t say.  Roosevelt is simply presented as the President who wants to get the USA into the Second World War.  But why did he want this?  No answer is provided, not even a few sentences about Roosevelt’s ideological preconceptions and general ambitions for his country and for himself.  The chapter on Hitler declaring war on the USA includes fleeting references to his Second Book (Mein Kampf having been the first), which was never published but which might well have been, in which Hitler apparently explains how he regards the USA as Germany’s final rival in its quest for global hegemony, after Russia has been crushed and Britain consequently forced to cave in.

A big reason why Hitler declared war against the USA was that his submarines could then let rip against all those American ships that were sending stuff to Britain.  But why were the ships doing this in the first place?  Why did the USA not stay truly neutral?  This was what most of its people wanted, after all.

Now, I am sure that Americans will forgive me for being rather glad that Roosevelt did not opt for neutrality, and for being glad that Hitler declared war on the USA.  Until now, I had refrained from reading stuff about Roosevelt by American isolationist libertarians, partly because of that, and partly because I just did.  I interested myself in other things.  But today, I typed “Why did FDR want war?” into Google, and quickly found my way to this, by Ralph Raico, about FDR.  And I’m finding it very interesting and illuminating.  FDR, says Raico, was, to put it bluntly, a warmonger.  When he said, just before WW2, “I hate war”, this was a barefaced lie.  He loved war.  He even took a brief look at WW1 close up, and loved that.  So says Raico.

Some discussion of that kind from Kershaw, however brief, should surely have been included in his book.

I’d be interested to read a defence of Roosevelt, along the following lines.  Hitler had the USA in his cross-hairs all along, and sooner or later, the USA would have had to fight a war against Germany, a defensive war.  Better to do it in faraway parts than when Hitler finally got around to attacking the USA, from a position of far greater strength.  (And yes, that does have a rather modern sound to it, doesn’t it?)

Apparently Hitler gave quite a bit of thought to taking the Azores, so that he could build an airbase there and use it to bomb the USA, with long-range bombers.  If Russia had been defeated quickly and completely, as he still hoped would soon happen at the time he declared war on the USA in December 1941, then that, after the British had been told what was what, would have been the kind of thing that might have come next.

I haven’t yet got to the bits in the Raico stuff about how FDR loved Stalin.  I’m looking forward to that, although I expect few surprises.  For the truth of the matter, I think (and the reason why no merely American national defence of FDR – see above - can be made to stand up), is that what Hitler, Stalin, FDR and yes, Churchill, all had in common was that they all pretended to be serving the national interests of their various separate domains, but that they were really motivated at least as much by more global concerns and visions.  They each had their various ideas of how the world should be, and they all believed in their mere countries fighting for those visions, and especially in fighting against the global visions they didn’t like, fiercely and punitively.  For me, the unexamined assumption too often rife in all writings about the terrible century just ended is the one that says that all national leaders should only have in mind the good of their own particular citizens, and to hell with the rest of mankind.  (This is my beef against Raico.) Why?  There’s nothing wrong with global visions as such, and besides, they are inevitable, in times of instant intercommunication.  The problem is that most such visions tend to be bad ones, yet so splendid in the eyes of their devotees to be worth sacrificing millions of lives for them.

See also this pair of postings at Patrick’s.

This went here rather than to Samizdata because it’s a thinking aloud piece, not anything like my final thoughts on such matters.

Wednesday November 26 2008

imageI’m watching a DVD of the late Herbert von Karajan conducting his Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the last three Tchaikovsky symphonies.  I’m glad I can do this, as well as just listen.  Those who don’t like watching conductors conduct don’t have to.

I recall writing, some while ago (either on this blog or on a ruined predecessor of it), that the conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim plays the piano as if conducting himself.  He seems to be two separate people, pianist-Barenboim with the fingers who actually plays, and conductor Barenboim who, standing back from his playing, metaphorically if not literally (although he does sometimes seem to be moving his body as far away from the keyboard as he can while still being able to reach it), judging and modifying the music-making of pianist-Barenboim.

Karajan, on the other hand, conducts the orchestra as if playing solo on the piano.  When the music is loud and dramatic, Karajan is completely swept up in it.  There is no Barenboim-like detachment.  He is utterly absorbed in the music and the only messages he sends to his musicians are through his involuntary facial gestures and arm gestures.  There’s no eye contact.  The orchestra is simply his instrument.  His orchestra knows what every gesture means, and does that every time, just as a piano plays whatever note it is when whatever key it is is struck.

It occurs to me that an interesting question to ask about any conductor would be: how good would he have been at acting?  Karajan’s current Berlin successor, Sir Simon Rattle, would, one guesses, have been an excellent actor.  Rattle is hyper-sensitive to the effect he has on people.  When he conducts, there’s lots of eyes and teeth, lots of projection of personality, lots of “collaboration”, lots of admiration communicated by him to the musicians who are (as he perfectly well understands) doing the actual playing.

When Rattle talks, he communicates that feeling you often get with actors that he is so busy calculating the right impression to give, and giving it, that you feel you are being conned, by someone who has no “there” there.  Karajan, on the other hand, I believe, would have been a hopeless actor.  But, if he could squeeze you into his schedule, he was a very straightforward and honest conversationalist (I once heard him talking on the radio), rubbing you up the wrong way with many of his pronouncements precisely because he was not willing to adapt the wording of them merely to suit you, or to suit his idea of you.  He strikes me as having been a very simple and straightforward man.  His alleged power-freakery was, at root, the simple desire that his orchestra sound exactly as he wanted it to sound.  So that he could just stand there and play it.

The usual story about Karajan was that he was obsessed with his image, in other words obsessed about the impression he made on others, at the worst some kind of Nazi.  But to me what all these stories say is that actually, manipulating his own image was not something that came at all naturally to Karajan, or that he was all that comfortable doing, hence the ham-fisted and over-the-top way he often did this.  When you are being subjected to successful image manipulation, manipulation is the last thing that you or anyone else thinks about.

Tuesday November 25 2008

Them as in you.

I’ve reached the age where I can’t eat or drink any time immediately before going to bed, or the air that goes down with it won’t come up again, on account of me not being up.  The stuff itself, on the other hand and for the same reason, can’t be relied upon to stay down, and last night it didn’t.  So had to get up during the not all that small hours and stay vertical for a couple of hours.  Then this morning: dentist, so couldn’t catch up with sleep.  Then this afternoon: teaching at Kings Cross.  Luckily the children were so cold that they lacked the energy to misbehave, i.e. disobey us.

Later, pigging out in front of the telly, thought I saw the perfect thing to brighten up this blog, the Mondo Spider.  But then realised that Mondo Spider had to go here.

So, quota photo time:

image

Photoed minutes from home this afternoon, directly into the afternoon sun, from which procedure my camera’s automatic setting gets that excellent colour.  It looks like a sunset but it’s really still daytime.

You can see one of the chimneys of Battersea Power Station.  I seem to recall showing that view here before.  If so, well, I don’t know.  Sorry?  Not really.  It’s nice.

Monday November 24 2008

imageNew addition to the blogroll.

Quote, Nov 16th:

To all those readers of this blog who have requested shorter, snappier, less technical and abstruse postings, the following.  I write this blog for me, not for my readers.  Writing things down is the only way for me to communicate effectively with myself about complex issues.  By doing this writing in the form of a blog, I gain the option of taking on board the comments and criticism of those who read my scribblings and feel compelled to respond to it.  I gain this benefit at the cost of having to plough through a lot of stuff that makes little or no sense, in order to uncover the few pearls hidden among the swine.  There are minor vanity/ego rents to having people read what I write, and my consulting income may receive an indeterminate boost from these activities. But all that is secondary to my need to write.  I don’t know something unless I have written it down.

I started this blog quite independently, at http://maverecon.blogspot.com/.  I was invited by the Financial Times to move my blog to their site.  Because of the likelihood of greater vanity/ego rents and the possibility of more frequent intelligent feedback through wider readership, I accepted this invitation.  When the FT lose interest, I will go private again.  I don’t get paid for this blog.

So no, my blogs will not get shorter, snappier, less demanding, less abstruse, complicated and confusing.  My blog postings are and will be excessively lengthy, long-winded, demanding, abstruse, complicated and confusing where the problems are complicated and confusing.  I make no concessions to my readers.  Why should I?  The readers I lose or miss as a result of writing the way I do are the readers I don’t want in the first place.  They can always go to the National Enquirer, Bild or the News of the World.

PS Some people say I’m arrogant. No idea where they get that notion.

It’s similar with me, but whereas this guy is wrestling with profundity and complexity, I like to wrestle with what strike me, but very possibly nobody else, as significant trivialities.  Under the radar wisps of cultural semi-significance.  Intriguing aesthetic conventions, colliding with one another.  But unlike a real “cultural reporter”, of the paid sort, I fixate on a few such things, and nag away at them.  Billion Monkeys, roof clutter, cranes, skyscrapers in the background of other things, the cheapness of classical CDs, Evening Standard hand-done billboards, sport and how we follow it and how it fits into our real lives, kittens, etc. etc.  And if you don’t like what I put, just remember who I mostly write this for.  It’s not entirely me.  I do hope others are entertained.  But me is the beginning and end of it.

The economics of Willem Buiter are intriguing.  He doesn’t get paid, yet he does contribute to the “mainstream media”.  He’s a sort of licensed writer of letters to the editor, which they have promised to print beforehand, sight unseen.  Until, one day, any decade now, either he or they will call time.  Actually, as he hints here, he is paid, in the form of slightly bigger consultancy fees.  And my guess would be that “slightly”, for him, is a lot.  Meanwhile, down here in kitten-blogging land, my psychic income is more than slightly increased.

I will be interested to see how Buiter’s preoccupations, the big financial picture, impinge upon mine, in the next few years.  Will gadgets start to look dreadfully 2007?  Will shiny modern architecture come to a shuddering halt, and will deputy dog soon be making lists of half-finished towers, still brutally concrete, without any shiny cladding?  Will the shift of interest among Billion Monkeys away from little Billion Monkey cameras to pseudo Real Photographer cameras be reversed, and will the new story be: what can you now get for £30?  Will proposed new roof clutter, now blessedly invisible to the aesthetic police, become the only thing they have left to fuss about, and will they, accordingly, fuss, and will roof clutter be put into ugly little boxes?

What’s that?  You’re confused?  You don’t know what this posting is supposed to be about?  I don’t mind.  I understand it.

Sunday November 23 2008

A little over a week ago, as already reported here, I gave a talk to the Oxford Libertarian Society.  I recorded it, but they went one further and filmed it.  I don’t recommend watching the whole thing, although neither do I disrecommend this.  Suffice it to say, there it is.  Better, for most, might be to glance through this posting that Oxford Libertarian Andrew did at the Oxford Libertarian Society /blog.  Although be warned that it is very flattering.  He doesn’t like the idea that he chose a crap speaker any more than I like the idea that I was a crap speaker.

This is the first time I’ve had the chance to watch myself perform.  I have been on the telly a few times, on embarrassing things in the eighties now all forgotten, many of them in Birmingham, but I never got to see myself in action, if only because I possessed no video recorder then.  This time around, I can watch.  The main bad thing I remember about this performance was that a few minutes into the Q&A my brain snapped.  My answers from them on went on twice too long, partly because of pauses during which I scrabbled about inside my brain looking for the relevant things to say and failing to find them, and partly from saying irrelevant things instead at tedious length.  Watching it brings this back to me.  Oh well.  Live and learn.

More to the point, I was extremely impressed by these Oxford Libertarians.  They struck me as modest, thoughtful and intelligent people who are, as I said at the end of my prepared talk, probably doing much better and making much more impact than they now realise.

Saturday November 22 2008

Earlier today I was at Liverpool Street Station, and was photoing some cranes through one of its modernised windows.  A Billion Monkey man said to me: “You keen on films then?” No, I said instantly, which was a lie but less likely to result in an annoying conversation.  “Cos yeah,” he said.  “That’s the staircase Tom Cruise ran down in Mission Impossible.” Oh, I said.

imageimage

So, on the left there, is the bloke, photoing the staircase down which Tom Cruise ran.  And on the right, the window I was photo-ing.  With photo-ing, you can either photo indoors or outdoors.  Both is harder.

In an ideal world, Tom Cruise would have entered the main concourse of Liverpool Street Station by crashing through the window.  Then, we would both have been photo-ing the same thing.

Today I spent most of the time I had available for blogging, by not blogging but tidying up instead.  My main conclusion is: I have a lot of wires.  But, I do not want to throw them away.  What if, on some future occasion, someone helping me with my various incomprehensible items of electronic equipment asks me if I have a wire to join one of them to another of them?  I need to be able to show him the box, so that he can choose.  If I had thrown that particular wire away, I would have to wait three days while more wire is obtained.  The only way to keep that wire, is to keep all the wires.

image

Also, these wires seem rather expensive and complicated.  You can’t throw them away.  While trying to find somewhere to put this box of wires, I have encountered more boxes, filled with more wires.

As new generations succeed one another, they each have to learn to chuck away more stuff.  Ikea, I have recently been reading, ushered in the age of throw away furniture.  Judging by what I see in the street, people are now throwing away bicycles.  How soon before they are throwing away cars and houses?

Friday November 21 2008

Yes here I am waiting to be an extra in a vampire movie.  I figure if I embark on a blog posting, with a picture and everything, I will be interrupted, on the same principle as the one that says if you want more people to show up for a meeting, start the meeting.

This is Matthew Baldwin, who is playing the blood suckee in this movie:

image

His make-up is not yet done, and his hair will be more dishevelled.  He too is waiting for things to start, and they are working on his lighting.

Well, that didn’t work did it?  Still waiting.  They’re now talking about starting, but that will probably go on for at least another half an hour.

Thursday November 20 2008

Okay, it’s the next morning, but still using only Jesus, I’m going to try to do this resizing thing right.

imageTake photo of domestic clutter.  Remove SDHC card from camera and shove in Jesus.  Right click on the photo in Photomanager.  Go to “external tools”.  Go to “KolorPaint”.  Enable the crop tool.  Crop.  (Need to be able to do that as well.) Then, and this is important, enable the select tool next to the crop tool.  Fail to do that all when you resize, you mere get a full-sized fragment of the original, right size, but not the whole picture.  Then go to “image” and click on “resize / scale”.  Choose “smooth scale” - don’t know why.  All the others do the useless fragment thing.  Then resize it, setting the preferred width and clicking off and on again with the “keep aspect ratio”.  Ok.  And the photo is resized, without having to load it onto the www for about ten minutes.

I’ve done two different sized versions of this photo, a small one to click on, to get the big one.  And I cheated, at the click on stage, because I needed a bit of code to put the small picture on the right with a margin, which I copied over by hand from God.  This is why you always test fun complicated stuff.  No individual step is that hard to get right, once you know it.  But getting all of it right is something else again, because with all those things to get right, you are always liable to forget something.  Although, come to think of it, I could have copied this bit of code over from another posting, so if out on the road, I could have managed this manoevre also.

Why am I telling you all this?  I’m not.  I’m telling myself.  So I learn it, and so if I don’t learn it, I can come back here and relearn it.

Wednesday November 19 2008

Success, I think.  I am at Michael J’s and have uploaded a picture:

image

My camera is a bit bad in low light conditions, so I photoed Michael’s telly rather than real life.  Details.

Actually, on further reflection, I didn’t resize the picture.  I merely cropped it a little.  So I will now try resizing another picture for real:

image

Odd.  The “resizing” seems to have reduced the size of the file, but not the size of the picture.  Oh well, if it works.  The basic purpose here is to take a good picture, which I can later publish in coffee table books etc when I become famous as the Assistant Grand Vizier of the Milky Way (Southern Region), but reduce the picture enough to put a pale shadow of it up here, in the meantime.

That will do for now.

The Chinese pianist Lang Lang was recently (in August) on the cover of the BBC Music Magazine, and in the interview of him inside, it was hinted that there was some kind of rivalry between LL and Yundi Li, the “other” famous Chinese pianist, so to speak.  That is to say, LL was asked about Yundi, but pointedly said nothing.  Both are signed up to Deutsche Grammophon, or rather, they both were.  For, according to Norman Lebrecht, the rivalry is indeed very real. 

Lebrecht’s interpretative opinions about the classical scene can be all over the place, but as a collector of classical gossip he is superb.  This is from a recent Lebrecht piece about classical music and in particular orchestral rivalries in China.

Orchestra managers told me they can no longer afford fee demands of a million RMB (just over £100,000) for a Lang Lang concerto performance, not to mention other other superstar conditions. One manager was told by Lang Lang’s father than his son would not play with his orchestra if his arch-rival Yundi Li was engaged in the same year. Yundi, winner of the 2000 Chopin competition in Warsaw and an artist of significantly quieter attributes, appears to gone into retreat, moving his residence to offshore Hong Kong.

Amid whispers that Lang Lang’s enmity has cost Yundi Li his foreign management and record contract - Deutsche Grammophon confirmed to me that the pianist has indeed been dropped, but did not comment on the cause - ...

Such behaviour is depressing, yet I regard it as indirect evidence of how very, very enthusiastic China is about Western classical music.  The prize that people like LL and Yundi are fighting over is very real, and very big.

It never ceases to amaze me how crazy China is for Western classical music, yet how deeply un-crazy for it India is.  Compare and contrast: cricket, which obviously, in India, is to do with Britain having conquered India.  Yet not only that, surely.  For how did classical music conquer China?  Was it through Christian missionaries and their hymns, I wonder?  Somewhere on the www there must surely be writings not just telling that story, but explaining it.  But I have yet to encounter any.

Tuesday November 18 2008

imageSorry to have only just noticed, but Mr More Than Mind Games was forty a week ago, i.e. Nov 11th.  And it gets better:

I was born at eleven o’clock, fifty years to the minute after the guns fell silent in France, to find everyone silent, solemn and blackarmbanded. There were over a million alive then who fought: now there are three.

I think he looks like a public official taking a picture of something as part of his job, like an improperly parked car.  The thing is, he is a Billion Monkey, but he doesn’t have the demeanour of one.  It’s the shirt, the tie, the jacket, the hairdo.  Also, to the casual eye, the poppy looks like some kind of badge or insignia.  There’s also a picture of him as a baby, but someone else took that.

Monday November 17 2008

I’m not sure if I like this building, which was one of these, but this picture certainly makes we want to see it in the flesh, if that’s the right word:

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It’s the headquarters of the Basque Health Department, in Bilbao.  On the face of it, this building is pure bizarreness, pure weirdness, for who knows what reason?  Decorative self-advertisement, presumably.  This is an organisation that wants to draw as much attention to itself as it possibly can.  And much the same would appear to apply to the architects.

More and more, I find myself thinking that this particular sort of modernism would be unendurable if all buildings looked like this.  Such oddities as this only work when placed next to the bland respectabilities of the older buildings nearby, or in this case to which it is attached.  Three such wobblinesses next to each other, and there would be, as it were, no normality to anchor things, no sanity to hang on to.

imageAnother fact about this building interests me also, which becomes very clear when you look at a different photo of it, taken at night, with the internal lights still on.  Suddenly, this building is itself revealed to be, from the oddity point of view, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.  Under that crazy skin there lurks a dull old office blog, with nice vertical walls and blandly rectangular windows.

In the days of sixties and seventies modernism, you could look at a building as it was being built and be reasonably confident that this was going to be it.  This was as pretty as it was ever going to be, and if it looked ugly now, it would stay ugly.  The structure “expressed” itself, unashamedly.  Now, things are very different.  Nowadays, you have no idea what the final effect will be, because nowadays, as likely as not, there will be a whole new surface attached to the outside of the structure, during the final few weeks or even days of construction.  This Bilbao office block takes that tendency to new extremes.

Sunday November 16 2008

This.  In an email to me, this blog’s creator especially drew attention to this posting, because of its libertarian/civil liberties angle presumably.  I do like that, especially the pictures of the forms they presented to him as part of stopping and searching.  I also like this posting, precisely because it is about things I don’t feel very compelled to read about at length, but which I keep hearing about it, so was glad to read about not at length.  One of the more subtle benefits of blogs one likes, I think.

However, the thing that interests me most about this guy, whom I talked with a bit at the recent LA/LI conference (lots of vids there) at the National Liberal Club in London, is that he is a student of film.  As in studying other peoples’ films, but as in doing his own too, or so I very much hope.  Think Gramsci.

Saturday November 15 2008

England lost.  England lost.  Spurs lost. Quota photo from a happer day two months ago, taken on South Bank near Wheel.  They’re photoing Big Ben, Parliament, etc.:

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Am ill.  Am going to bed.

Friday November 14 2008

Yes indeed, a most agreeable evening.  They seemed to like my talk, and I certainly enjoyed myself giving it.  And I am now telling you this in the bus back to London.  A first for me.  If this was Michael Jennings, I would be in an internet cafe in an obscure part of China.

It turns out that entering text on a bus does not work well, so I’ll sign off now, and tell you all about it later, or never, as the mood takes me.  I did record it, though, and will try to stick it up here.  But, I promise nothing.

Thursday November 13 2008

I’ve spent the day not feeling a hundred percent by any means.  Headache, bunged up nose, etc.  And, I’ve spent this evening trying to prepare, still, what I’ll be saying tomorrow to those Oxford Libertarians.  I don’t know if they will be filming me in action, the way they filmed David Friedman.  If not, that would make sense, but if they don’t even do a sound recording, I will.  And the mere possibility that they might do something like that and then stick it up on their blog concentrates the mind wonderfully.  Oxford University may not seem like that much to the people actually in it, but it continues to count for a lot in the world beyond.

My problem has been working out what to tell these people about propaganda, given that I have personally rather lost track of the situation.  Until the Internet erupted, I knew exactly what I was doing.  I was doing pamphlets, at a time when many thought that such pamphlets could not be done.  I combined desktop publishing with photocopying in a way that very few others saw the point of, but which worked wonderfully well, I thought.  I also knew exactly what I was doing when I shovelled pretty much all of these pamphlets onto the Internet, even if only in .pdf files, i.e. in uncopyable and unpasteable text, but it did the job.  But now, as the age of the internet gets truly underway, I am just one animal in among the herd of countless thousands, and a pretty lowly one at that.  And everything since blogging, in the form of facebook etc. is closedbook to me.

I thought of leaning quite heavily on autobiography, but the mood now seems wrong for that.  My fellow libertarians are now depressed about the current contents of the media, and me just rambling, however entertainingly, about the glories of my past will absolutely not answer the questions in their heads now.  But what am I, as a libertarian propagandist, apart from my past?  I daresay I will manage to wing it okay, if only because there does seem to be a law that says that if you prepare hard, you’ll do okay, even if, when you open your mouth to start, you can’t see how that will happen.  I’ve managed to acquire a sufficiency of general principles about how to do propaganda, which I can offer from the past to the future, so to speak.  So, I’ll get by.  But I will be doing yet further preparation on the bus to Oxford tomorrow.

Wednesday November 12 2008

Nothing here today, but a couple of postings by me at Samizdata, here, about the current depressing state of British party politics, and here, about some talks, two by David Friedman on October 24th and 25th, and one my me, to be given this Friday, about doing libertarian propaganda.

Tuesday November 11 2008

Yes. bricks.  I’ve been photographing them, locally, in the sunshine today.

I can focus on bricks, as is proved by this new take on the roof clutter theme:

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But sometimes, I choose not to focus on them, because something better is to be seen, if you are observant:

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One for the Wheel seen unobviously, in among or behind other stuff, collection.  The Wheel as seen in a Vincent Square window.

Yes, a thinly disguised quota posting.

Monday November 10 2008

On the day I took this photo, and these photos, I also bought some classical CDs, and I can report that second hand classical CDs, of the decent but not stellar sort, can now cost as little as 20p.  Yes indeed.  Neil the Classical CD Barrow Man who plies his trade in Lower Marsh sold me these:

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The first of the Brahms song CDs would have been worth the entire price.  It features the lyric soprano Simone Nold, who makes a beautiful noise, not at all like the squally, wobbly, female battleships you often get under the general heading of “soprano”.  Once again, Micklethwait’s Law of Sopranos – the less you’ve heard of them the nicer they will probably sound, because their voices haven’t yet been wrecked – served me well.  The second of the song CDs has the more usual sort of soprano, whose name I already knew.  The third CD I’ve not heard yet, but I’ve never heard of the soprano on that one, so I am optimistic about that one also.

The pianist in the piano concertos, Karin Lechner, is also very good, with the solo piano fillers on her two CDs being more than good, especially the waltzes that follow Piano Concerto 1.  I wouldn’t pay even a quid for yet more recordings of these pieces.  But 20p ...  I mean, I know these particular CDs came in little cardboard envelopes and not even proper cases, but ... 20p!  Usually I carefully remove price stickers, but these price stickers I will keep.

I know I keep on about the price of classical music.  Partly I do this because it is easier writing about the price of something as elusive and profound as classical music than it is writing about its exact nature, and anyway, few of my regulars here seem to care much for classical music.  But the price of this stuff is really interesting, I think, for it is rapidly nosediving towards zero.

Sunday November 09 2008

In a new variant on PID (Permanent Italics Disease) Jackie D’s Blog is now suffering from PBD (Permanent TURQUOISE Disease).

The twist this time is that this does not happen in Internet Explorer, but does happen in Firefox.

The trigger for this condition is, sadly (since JD herself works for it, Qik.  If she puts a Qik video in her blog, the video only kicks (sorry) in below the sidebar info, rather than where it should, so there’s a big gap between the text introducing the vid and the vid.  And then below the vid, instead of text being dark grey on white, it becomes white on the turquoise stripey background.

The condition is triggered by the latest posting as of now, but I noticed that this was already happening in an earlier posting that had a Qik vid in it.

I blog with feeling because one of the postings below that suffers is something I said.  If it was just Jackie Jackie-ing away about her life, friends, work, etc., this wouldn’t matter.  But when it’s my opinions being mucked about with, it’s serious.

imageimage

Not good photos, but I hope they make the point just about okay.  First the regular blog posting, then the big white gap until you get to the bottom of the sidebar stuff, then the Qok vid, then the white on turquoise blog postings.

Now, you may wonder, would not the polite thing have been to have put a comment on Jackie D’s blog, or better yet, sent her a polite email?  Well, maybe so.  But, as I keep saying on this matter, this is not me correcting an error made by a friend (or by any other blogger).  This is me campaigning about a hideous glitch in various manifestations of blogging software, this is something that is happening to a friend.  This ought not to happen.  Any more than this blog (in IE but not Firefox this time) should have all its regular text centred for no reason other than that the title and subtitle at the top of the blog happen to be centred.

Saturday November 08 2008

Well I’ve spent half my day watching rugger the telly, which was the usual parade of deluded Celts thinking that THIS TIME they might not be crushed by the Southern Hemisphere because THIS TIME their lads looked like they really had something about them blah blah blah but being duly crushed anyway, plus England winning against the All Blacks Fourth Team aka the Pacific Islands.  The All Blacks Seconds were meanwhile crushing Scotland.  And I’ve spent the rest of the day trying to unload ONE EFFING PROGRAMME, ANY EFFING PROGRAMME, to Jesus my micro laptop, which will resize photos.  I went to websites, and on those rare occasions when it wasn’t a total Geek show of gibberish, I pressed buttons with Install on them.  After which nothing of the slightest use or detectability on Jesus followed.  Files were copied, and when I clicked on them on Jesus, Jesus let me read the damn things, all in Geek.  But no programmes loaded or ran.  EFF EFF EFF.  I hate the universe.  If this is Linux then I now understand completely why Bill Gates is a gazilliionaire and he has earned every cent.  Linux is brilliant in every way except the bit where humans are expected to try making it work.  Comment at your peril.

Friday November 07 2008

imageI’m getting on top of this blogging on the move thing, and this afternoon I did some more of it from the Waterloo area.  Not long after taking that picture, I was snapping away at an amazing Waterloo sunset, one of those skies where there’s a big big hole in it to the West for the sun to smash through, under the clouds overhead, lighting up their underside like an undulating landscape.  Put roof clutter and cranes in front of it, and, well, life for this Billion Monkey doesn’t get any better.

Isn’t it odd how sunsets are identified by where you saw them from, even though that is obviously not where they are?  Yes it is.  There are probably other things misidentified in this rather odd way, but I cannot as of now think of them.  But that’s the joy of blogging.  You can add stuff at the bottom later.  Or put further thoughts in the comments, which also has the advantage of making it look to those who don’t read all the comments on blogs (i.e. to almost everyone) as if other people are more interested in this posting than they really are.

imageimage

Two variations on the sunset in the city theme there, on the left with a van to bounce it off, and on the right at an angle to get lots of sky and silhouette but no big slabs of blackness.

Thursday November 06 2008

imageYes, nothing here today, but this by me has just gone up at Samizdata, about this.

Wednesday November 05 2008

Some of this morning’s papers were still guessing.  Others had the answer:

image

Posted entirely with Jesus my Micro Laptop, and using my out-and-about dongle.  Picture taken in Tescos, and loaded up in Cafe Nero, with no help from God my Regular Computer.  But I had to use a different online photo editor.  Something called “Web Resizer”.

Success, I think!:

image

I resized this on Jesus my Micro Laptop, with no divine intervention from God my Regular Computer.  Hallalujah, assuming all is well.

I used something called Picnik.  It hesitated to load my picture at first, suggesting I use the “basic picture loader” or some such, which I did.  The resulting upload seemed smaller in pixels than the original, but since that’s the whole idea, fine.  I then made it smaller still.  No point in clicking on this pink bunny, because that’s as big as it now gets.

My thanks to Charles Pooter, who, commenting on my earlier posting about this connundrum, suggested something called pixlr.  Which didn’t work but which got me googling for “online picture editor”, a thing I hadn’t properly realised existed.  I suppose if you had asked me if there were online picture editors I’d have said yes, because there is everything of that sort on line.  But that’s not the same as really knowing.

And look, I just put up a link, again: only with Jesus.

The only caveat is that this is all being done at my desk.  God has had no direct input, but has overseen everything, and was there if needed.  But the whole idea was to do it all without God’s direct help, and I did.

This should really freak out the googling Christians.

PS: I added this PS and the Picnik link using God.

I’ll be going to bed soon, confident that the McCain miracle that the McCain camp was praying for right to the end will not be materialising.  It’s going to be an Obama win and very probably an Obama landslide.

I hadn’t realised until now just what a difference has been made in this campaign by money.  But again, I ponder the causal direction of the arrow.  The Republicans are saying Obama is winning because he had more money.  But I say that Obama got more money because he was winning.  Everyone with money to spend on politics wants a slice of the pie.  And you buy pie from the winner.

Tuesday November 04 2008

Tomorrow is the Presidential Election of course, and the Samizdata commentariat is in its usually unsunny mood (see this posting today in particular).  They want libertarianism, or something approximating to it, to do well, but believe that it is doomed, doomed.

I think that such libertarian-inclined pessimists overestimate the importance of party politics as a driver of underlying ideological change.  The times we are now living through, I think, are the times ruled by the people who came of age during the leftist ideological excitements of the time around 1960, which was – think about it - the last time when it was sincerely believed by a substantial number of educated and intelligent people that socialist economics worked better than free-market economics.  Since then, the underlying ideological story has been far more mixed, with a surge of self-confidence among pro-capitalists, and a slump among the anti-capitalists caused by the unfolding story of the communist and ex-communist economies.  Simply, the more these places have succeeded in extricating themselves from socialist economics, the better they have done.  This has already had huge intellectual consequences, and that will have huge consequences in the future in terms of party politics and political decisions.

The pessimistic view says that we are entering a new dark age of statist economic derangement.  Maybe.  But maybe we are now living through the last throw of hard-core collectivist economics, while those still stupid enough seriously to believe in such nonsense are still powerful enough to make their stupidity stick.

If you think that politics drives ideology, then you will now be fearing another Great Depression.  But if ideology drives politics, then politics will do its worst, but then ideology may well clean up the mess, and far more quickly than last time around, because ideology now is in a far healthier state.  Ideology then ... well it hardly bears thinking about.

UPDATE Monday morning: See also Perry de Havilland.

Monday November 03 2008

Indeed.  The idea is, I take a photo with my Billion Monkey snapping machine and stuff the card straight in Jesus’s SD card slot, and then I see if I can append it to this posting, here, with a sensible name rather than something like IMG_1709, and in a sensible size.  It’s a rubbish picture, but for the purposes of this exercise that doesn’t matter:

The uploaded file exceeds the maximum allowed size in your PHP configuration file.

<<

Actually, after those two ”<"s it then said BACK, but putting ”<"s in text screws around with whatever follows.

So anyway, I guess I'll have to find some way of making the picture smaller before attempting to upload it.  See you in a while.  If Jesus knows how to make pictures smaller, he ain't telling me about it. 

Later: Okay now I've cheated and made the picture smaller using my big regular computer (hereinafter termed: "God"), and this time Jesus loaded it satisfactorily, with no PHP nonsense.

image

So now what I need is some way of making pictures smaller, using only Jesus.  Any suggestions?  Remember that Jesus is a very small and rather primitive computer, which runs Linux rather than Windows.  While I’m about it, I’d like to be able to crop pictures, but that’s optional.  What I don’t need is a graphics programme capable of personally painting the entire Forth Bridge.

So, now I’m going to try loading up another picture, bigger than the rubbish picture I’ve just loaded, big enough so it can fill the screen after being clicked to, but smaller than the original version of the rubbish picture above that I first tried to load.

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It worked!  All loaded up and ready to go.  Click on that if you doubt me.  Plus, that’s one of my favourite recent Billion Monkey snaps.  Not rubbish at all.  I took it outside the Royal Festival Hall, where there is (or was when I took this in September) a fountain that squirts upwards unpredictably, while people jump over the nozzles hoping to avoid wetness in their trousers.

Sunday November 02 2008

So anyway, yes, here are some snaps of that computerised restaurant that I mentioned earlier, which is called Inamo, that I and three mates went to last Monday night:

imageimageimageimageimageimage

That’s Patrick looking happy there.  Indoor snaps by me usually don’t work, because there’s usually not enough light, but here there is light, shone on the tables from the ceiling.  Even so, things were still a bit blurry.  A picture on a table is harder for my camera’s auto-focus to auto-focus on, but you get the pictures.  And yes I did ask about photo-iong before doing it.  No problem.

My immediate reaction was positive.  What a laugh!  More to the point, I soon worked it out, and if I can do that with a piece of tech then there is no problem with it on the user-friendliness front.  But, while Michael J (who had arrived late from sorting out the World Economy) was in the middle of placing his order, the entire system stopped working and said That’s It, No More Ordering.  It was if our waiter had suddenly just fainted, taking our order with him.  Or maybe not.  If we ordered it all again, would it then appear twice?  Not good.  As it was Michael found himself with two beers.  He didn’t seem to mind.

My opinion is that for an ever so slightly up-market place like this, where they take some actual pride in the quality of the food they serve and charge accordingly, all this computerisation is a bit of a gimmick.  It’s fun at first, if you like that sort of thing, but after a bit ... so what?

It would really come into its own in one of those great soup-kitchen places where the prices are rock bottom, the waiting is done by exhausted androidesque wage sub-minimum-wage-slaves and people come night after night.  That way, people would benefit from knowing how to place their order quite substantial fractions of a minute quicker.  In Inamo, frankly, it didn’t seem to make that much difference.  Those of us who ordered small bits of asparagus rolled up in small slices of meat still had to wait until the cook who does the small bits of asparagus rolled up in small slices of meat got around to making another batch of small bits of asparagus rolled up in small slices of meat.

If, in a large soup-kitchen type place, they also had a computerised model railway along the middle of the tables sending the food to you, a bit like the railways they have in some sushi bars, where you just grab whatever you fancy that comes along, that might work. Although the railway would have to have some way of shoving the stuff at you, rather than you just grabbing it.  Small cattle trucks which stop at your table and open their doors automatically when they have something for you, and explain themselves.  Something along those lines.  Ho ho.

Saturday November 01 2008

The Stanford cricket is, for England, turning into a total fiasco.  England have just lost their sixth wicket in the thirteenth over, with only 54 runs on the board.  England have only hit about three fours.  Luke Wright is now in.  But frankly, what it looks like to me is they have practised and practised how to play this particular game, and what they practised is just not working.  At this rate, the Stanford Superstars will win with half a dozen overs to spare.

As I have just said to Michael, I despise myself for caring.

Ah well, when your team goes bad, find another of your teams that is doing better.  It so happens that Tottenham Hotspur of London are now storming up the English Premiership table.  Ten days ago, the joke went thus: What’s the difference between Spurs and a triangle?  Answer: Spurs have got only two points.  And they were then four points below the second to bottom team.

England 59-7 after 13.5.

So anyway, now, what’s the difference between Spurs and three triangles?  Answer: No difference!  They’ve both got nine points.  Last weekend, Spurs beat one of those teams like Stoke or Wigan or Hull or Grimsby or Rotherham or some such, 2-0, which was a start.  On Wednesday, they were 4-2 down against London Arsenal with only minutes to go, but still drew 4-4.  And today, they came from 1-0 down to beat Liverpool 2-1.  There are now no less that two entire clubs between Spurs and the bottom of the Premiership table.

England 64-8 off 14.4.

The big change at Spurs is that they now have a proper English manager, who says things like “To be fair” and “The boy done well”.  The word is that his predecessor, a Spaniard, name of “Ramos”, had imposed a diet on the players that basically meant that they went into games in a state of semi-starvation.  All Redknapp (for that is his name) had to do was bring a trolley of Chicken Tikka Masala and chips or some such thing into the dressing room, and the hearts and minds of the Spurs players were immediately his for ever.

England 72-8 off 16.  79-8 off 17.

Something tells me I will be catching that last train, if only to get away from this horror show.

England all out 99.

Go Spurs.

So here I am at Michael’s, using a “dongle” he has fixed me up with which in English means a very cheap internet connection for Jesus the Micro Laptop.

I watched the first two wickets of the Indian second innings on Sky, and then learned that the big Standford All Stars Stanford Superstars v England cricket game will be this evening, so I will be back here again for that and, you never know, I may even be “live blogging” it, although I rather doubt it.

I have also taken some photos of the telly, things like Brett Lee celebrating getting Sehwag out, but one thing at a time, eh?

Test.  What can I tell you?

Well, I have finally persuaded IE to behave itself.  All very odd.