Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Sunday May 31 2009

During the last few weeks, the ratio at this blog of things I really want to say to things that I am merely saying because of the self-imposed obligation to say something, however lame or inconsequential, has taken rather a turn in the wrong direction.  So, for the next month or two, starting on June 1st, i.e. tomorrow, I am taking a break from daily blogging, as I sometimes do during the summer.  This does not mean that I will for the next few weeks be forbidding myself from posting anything here, merely that I will not, for the time being, be posting something every day.  Unless, for the consecutive days in question, I just happen to feel like doing that.

imageMeanwhile, as I happen to feel like adding, here is a photo I took earlier today of two other bloggers with whom I dined in a nearby pub, Alan Little and Michael Jennings, who also only blog when it suits them.  I love pork, but I was later reminded that it sometimes gives me a headache.  That, and the fact that Cricinfo (by means of which I was trying to follow Twenty20 county cricket) has been given a redesign and is in a state of total shambolicism, means that today began well, but ended less well.

Change is often unsettling. We trust the old ways because there is evidence that they work, and there is no evidence yet that the new ones will. We are already feeling wistful about the old site, so we know how some of you feel. As Nietzsche said, love is more afraid of change than destruction. But to that, let’s add this one from the Buddha: Everything changes; without change, nothing remains.

Nietzsche?  Buddha? When I read that, I realised that this relaunch was not going well.  Just to clarify, the problem with the “new site” is not that it looks funny, because it looks fine.  It is that it doesn’t, as yet, effing well work properly.  Matches oscillated wildly between three different versions of the score, back and forth and then back again, none of them up to date.  Chaos.

Saturday May 30 2009

I enjoyed Ian Hislop’s recent TV show about the history of the Poet Laureate.  Who they were, how good they were, which poem was the best (this one apparently), and so on.  All kinds of vaguely remembered names were fleshed out, all sorts of dots joined, and pieces added to the semi-complete puzzle that is my knowledge of history.  Given that I don’t much care for poetry, it helped a lot to have the story summed up in a comfortably middle-brow manner.

But at the very end, Hislop made a definite error.  He declaimed a poem of his own, addressed to the latest Poet Laureate, Carol Anne Duffy, and he ended his poem by rhyming “sorry that” with “Laureate”.  But it should, quite obviously, have been “sorry at”.  So obviously so that I had to check my recording to be sure that he had indeed neglected this obviously superior word choice to the choice he actually made.  Sorry at the idea of having a Poet Laureate.  That would have worked just as well as: Sorry that we still have a Poet Laureate, or whatever it was.  Why did nobody tell him?  If they did, why didn’t he listen?

Otherwise, it was a very good show.

Friday May 29 2009

For the last two days I have been journeying across London to feed a cat.  Such are the methods by which one keeps one’s friends and makes more friends.  And me being me, and today being Friday, I thought I’d take a photo of the feline in question, for here, today.

image

She is, as you can see, suffering from severe green eye, on account of the corner of the kitchen where she dines being rather dark, and me thus having to use flash, which is not a thing I normally like to do.  Presumably cats have green blood in their eyes.  Something green back there anyway.  But not all cats, surely.  I seem to recall yellow in other flash photoed felines.

I was struck once again, and more than ever before, by the fact that flash photography doesn’t seem to bother cats one little bit.  If I did not know better, I would probably have guessed that a flash photoed cat would run up a tree and stay there for about a week upon experiencing this (you would think) deeply troubling process, but not a bit of it.  They just gawp at you, vaguely interested, but basically not bothered at all.  Presumably feline eyes can deal, unphased, with a much wider range of incoming light than we can.  I did try to google about this, but learned nothing.

The black smudge bottom right is my camera strap, but I don’t care.  In fact I think it makes a rather nice composition of it.

Thursday May 28 2009

imageA couple of days ago, I spotted the headline, displayed on the right.  Below is a faked up picture of what the real thing will supposedly look like, and here is the report about it.  Frankly it looks pretty ugly.  But, whenever a new building gets erected beside the river in London, then if there wasn’t a riverside walkway before, there will be when the thing is finished. As Rowan Moore says here:

Will Alsop’s shiny bug of a building should improve one of the grimmer stretches of the river. This ought to be a fantastic place already, next to a majestic waterway and close to St Paul’s Cathedral, but it is dominated by cars and gloomy architecture. The Alsop scheme could create a decent pedestrian space at ground level, and presents what is in effect a big glass-fronted balcony to the water.

Its location next to retained Sixties blocks is instructive: the latter are the kind of modern buildings nobody likes, whereas the Alsop project is the kind of modern architecture some people do.

image

And maybe, if and when this one is finished, I will like it too.

The usual assumption is that the bad economic times tend to discourage such projects as this one, and I’m sure they do.  But might there not be a political effect working in the opposite direction?  During bad times, my bet is it’s easier to get planning permission, for just about anything, because the politicians, reflecting the desires of people generally, are desperate for any sort of economic stimulus, no matter what form it takes.  And smart property developers who are in a buyer’s market for construction work might figure that now is just the time to be building, if you can afford to think long term.

Wednesday May 27 2009

imageRecently I purchased, brand new, a complete set of the Haydn symphones on compact discs, for £24.  Haydn symphonies last around twenty minutes each, usually a bit more, and there are over a hundred of them, so that’s about thirty hours or more of music.  Yet I only purchased eight CDs.

The secret was that they were stored not as on regular CDs, but as high quality MP3 files, which result in it being possible to fit about a dozen symphonies on each disc.  Of course, I needed to have a CD player that could also play MP3 files, but when I last bought a CD player, I took the precaution of including exactly that feature, as do more and more CD players now.

One of the reasons I bought these discs, aside from me liking Haydn symphonies a lot, is that I possess just a few of the original CDs in this particular set, and so was able to compare the sound of one of these original type CDs with the MP3 versions, of identical symphonies.  And for the life of me I could not tell the difference.  (Nor could this reviewer.) The original CDs sounded fine.  So did the MP3 versions of the exact same recorded performances.

If this Haydn symphony set sells well, as well it might, I expect to see more of such sets.  I can’t be the only one who has some CDs from big and desirable series, which I would gladly trade in for the complete set, in a form that occupies far less space.

For what seems like for ever, the recorded music industry has been trying to sell us the same music in hugely better sound than the already perfectly adequate sound of regular CDs.  But what if the future of the CD is not debatably better sound, but uncontroversially and massively more economical use of the same space, using massively cleverer compression techniques?

Tuesday May 26 2009

Once again, my day has been busily occupied doing ... other things.  So once again, it’s quota photo time.  Quota quotes take longer to read, so I surmise quota photos to be more popular.

The first such snap is of a window detail at Liverpool Street Station, which I took today:

image

Click on that to get it bigger.

I confess to having done some Photoshop(clone)ping with that one.  And the same goes for the next one, which is already as big as it will get because it is a small detail of another snap I did, several weeks ago.  It is a less self-conscious version of the same kind of thing, this time done with bog standard scaffolding:

image

The scaffolding in question was around the big statue of whatever it is, outside Charing Cross railway station.

Are they art?  The first proclaims itself as such.  The second is more art of the as-found variety.  I enjoy both, but suspect the first sort of being very expensive.  Making structure double as the final appearance of architecture costs much more than if you stick up the structure, and then cover it with how it ends up looking.

Monday May 25 2009

Ah the joy of live music-making.  I’m listening, and better yet recording off of BBC Radio 3, what was supposed to be a recital of piano music given by the Argentinian Ingrid Fliter, at the Wigmore Hall, London.  But, I noticed that there seemed to be something wrong in the first piece of Chopin she played, and sure enough, it seems that some of the notes are stuck and not working properly.  Now they are changing the piano, which will take a while.  My guess is she may well play that first piece of Chopin again.  I hope so.

They are now playing some rather jazzy and highly forgettable (but inoffensive) string quartet music, by someone called Green, I think the man said.  Earlier they had a bit of guitar music, played by Segovia.  It’s at times like these that the announcers really earn their money.  No, it was “Welcome to the Jungle”, a pop tune originally by Guns and Roses, played by the Green Quartet.  How very Radio 3.  Now they are playing a bit of Orlando Gibbons, also for string quartet.  It seems that there are quite a few string quartet derangements ("tributes") of various hits by pop groups.  It’s Guns N’ Roses, apparently, although maybe there’s a ‘ missing there.

They are changing the piano.  They’ve got the dud piano off the stage, but have yet to replaced it with an undud one.  Now there’s clarinet and piano music of some kind playing.  They’re checking out the new piano.

The serious point here is what a stressful life it must be to be someone like Ingrid Fliter, and she flits (ha!) from city to city, playing music that the audiences mostly know almost as well as she does, which means that everyone can immediately tell if anything is not right.  And you never know what might happen to derange it all.

She’s back.  The piano hasn’t been tuned, but let’s hope all will be well.  Sounds okay.  She’s doing the last of the three Chopin waltzes she had scheduled, and has skipped the middle one.  Oh well.

Her playing has a tentative, playful quality to it.  I bet she has the audience’s full attention now, after all that. It would seem so, because she is playing rather quietly.  Tuning sounds fine.  Not a cough to be heard. 

Straight into the Schumann Symphonic Etudes, one of my favourite piano pieces.  Again, I sense that every note is being listened to with the keenest possible attention.  Nothing like potential disaster to concentrate the mind of an audience, is there?

Sunday May 24 2009

imageI think the photo at the top left of this posting is great, and there it is, all small looking, just as at the Coffee House blog, on the right here.  I love how it turns the O in Labour into a halo for the Sainted Sightless One.  It’s exactly the shot I would have tried to get, had I been there.

I tried to find a bigger version of it, but failed.  My internet searching skills are not the greatest, so I could not be sure if my failure was just me, or the internet.  Can anyone else do better?

Saturday May 23 2009

Most of the people who read this blog care nothing for cricket, but they do sometimes get excited about photography.  So I wonder what my readers will make of this piece by Giles Coren in today’s Times.  Quote:

… while England were sitting around in glorious sunshine at Headingley on Thursday, playing no cricket at all because, scandal of scandals, the new drainage system wasn’t working properly and it was a bit soft underfoot, I was in London, playing in another, quieter cricket match, and having a bit of an epiphany.

The match was at the Westminster School cricket ground in Vincent Square, SW1, probably the prettiest sports field in London. ...

Which is just a walk away from where I live.

Here is a picture of the dead tree version of this story:

image

And here is another picture ...:

image

... which I took in the summer of 2006, and which early readers of this blog have already seen, here.

The dead tree press may be dying, but it’s still nice when they come calling to buy one of your snaps.  Which they did, by the way.  No stealing.  All very businesslike.  Since you ask, I think it will be fifty quid.

Coren again:

For world cricket, it’s been a depressing year. The Stanford debacle, IPL money luring teams away from Test matches, the sad attitude of the West Indies’ captain, Chris Gayle, and now the tragic finale to poor old Chris Lewis’s career, jailed for smuggling drugs.

But I’m happy, and it was cricket that did it.

Friday May 22 2009

Always on a Friday, I have half an eye open for cats, what with my penchant for occasional cat blogging of a Friday.  So what arrives in the post today?  A copy of Laissez Faire! the magazine of the International Society for Individual Liberty, with this picture on the front:

image

And under it, “Vincent Miller 1938-2008”.  So I went image-googling for Vincent Miller, and immediately found the very picture I was looking for, here.  I sort of knew that Vince had died, but this was the first time I really took it in.

I remember Vince Miller from the big ISIL gatherings I attended during the eighties, in London, in Cracow, in Talinn, somewhere in Norway that was very nice, somewhere in a Low Country (I forget which one), and no doubt in other places besides.  ISIL did a great job of spreading libertarian ideas, before spreading ideas of any kind got easy with this internet thing.  ISIL and the Libertarian Alliance had - probably still have now - one of those joined-at-the-hip relationships, to the point where it was never quite clear whether the big libertarian jamborees in we organised in London were ISIL or LA.  Not that it mattered.

Here’s another obit posting, from a characteristically far-flung spot that Vince had a big and benign influence on.  And here is a .pdf of the magazine I received today.

Thursday May 21 2009

John Bercow is now being talked up as a possible next Speaker of the House of Commons.  Time for me to dish some dirt, because I actually know this person a little, from way back.  From time to time, during the nineteen eighties, John Bercow would appear at the libertarian Alternative Bookshop, where I used to help out.

The main impression he made on me was that he was one of those people who would tell me whatever he thought I wanted to hear.  Not only did I not like this, I also didn’t admire it, because it was so damned obvious that this was what he was trying to do.  All politicians tend to make me feel this way, but Bercow really made me feel this way.

Also, he was one of those people (another prime example of the breed is Harry Phibbs) who adopts the demeanour of politicians thirty years older than he is, which, by the time he is himself fifty, makes him an archaeological relic.  I forgive Harry Phibbs for this, because Phibbs is a good writer, and I can forgive a good writer almost anything not definitely immoral.  But Bercow, unlike Phibbs, seemed to be all demeanour, and underneath it ... well, nothing that I could discern, other than the desire, even then, far more than all the other Conservative Young Men that I met at that time, to be a politician.  What he did with it was not the point.  The point was to be one.  He was just a perfectly fitting suit of armour made of self-made charm. 

Now I have to get suppositional.  Now I am just going on things I’ve read over the years.

During the Blair years, Bercow sensed, in Tony Blair, a fellow spirit.  A pure politician.  And Bercow made no secret of it.  Did he, I wonder, communicate his disdain for all those unreconstructed Conservatives who still persisted in trying to do something with politics?  That is my understanding.  So, now all the other Conservative MPs hate him.  And because of all that, the Labourites like him, as Iain Dale explains.

Not so long ago, in the days of Betty Boothroyd, I was one of a number of people who believed that the Speaker of the House of Commons might be rejigged into a non-hereditary Head of State, no less.  No doubt this is a constitutional absurdity, but constitutionalists are always saying that about whatever crazy thing the constitution takes it into its head to do next.  Politically, that idea then meant something.  And because of all that, Bercow now yearns to be the Speaker.  The purest politician of them all, who does nothing but preside over politics.  And I suspect that the real politicians, so to speak, just like me, find that aspiration rather ridiculous.

Guido Fawkes has his own sleaze-related reasons for not liking Bercow much either.  Come to think of it, maybe Bercow’s calculatedly generous way with his expenses is another reason why the Parliamentary Labour Party now likes him so much.

On the other hand, Bercow is, or so I believe, a pal of Julian Lewis MP.  They used to collaborate doing speech-making classes for would-be speechifiers, and maybe they still do.  Julian Lewis is the only Member of Parliament with whom I am in any way even approximately still acquainted, having got to know him a little because I agree with him in hating the USSR.  During the eighties he got USSR-hating down to a fine art.  I was not at all surprised that Lewis defended himself robustly on the subject of his expenses.  Lewis thinks MP’s addresses should not be public knowledge, on security grounds, and especially not his own.  This is reasonable, and at a time like this it takes real guts to say such a thing.  I know, I know.  Total transparency.  Repeat that when an MP’s house is firebombed.

Wednesday May 20 2009

imageDine with a blogger who is also a pathological snapper, as a friend did with me the other night, and you would be wise to take steps to preserve your privacy.  Although actually this was a movie influenced pose rather than a stab at anonymity.

Shame about the hair.  But excellent shepherd’s pie, as you can probably deduce, a very good evening.

(With apologies to all you RSS feeders.)

Tuesday May 19 2009

Following on from this similarity between a politician and a comedic actor, another one:

image  image

On the left, ex-Speaker Martin.  On the right, the late and much loved actor Roy Kinnear.

Monday May 18 2009

Wow:

image

There’s a tightly cropped image here.  I’ve cropped it even more.

Taken by the same guy, Thierry Lagault, this:

image

Again cropped some more by me.

Sunday May 17 2009

There may not be anything here today, apart from this.  My mainframe computer is up to its eyeballs doing some reformatting of a back-up system or some such incomprehensible thing, so this is being typed into Jesus, whom I find ever more annoying, now that I have decided that our relationship won’t be permanent,

That happens with machines, doesn’t it?  It’s not gradual.  The attachment either works, or it doesn’t.  If it works, then whatever difficulties must be overcome must be overcome.  But if the difficulties become just too difficult, then suddenly, all remaining difficulties become more deal-breakers to add to all the others, and you resent any of the time you spend trying to sort them.

I think I’ve noted the trend before, but whereas six months ago, Linux was on the up and up, flooding the new market that is tiny laptops, now all the latests such laptops sport XP, just as my next one will.  The feeling of a bloody great huge transatlantic liner having been missed by Linux is palpable.  Serves it right, in my opinion.

The two killer defects of Jesus are the screen size and the SD card reading system, for which I blame Linux.  The tiny keyboard I could learn to use, but I will never like the tiny screen.  And the way inserting an SD card triggers a vast list of all the previous SD cards ever contemplated by the machine in its entire life, making it damn near impossible to get it to concentrate quickly on the one you’ve just inserted now, is contemptible.  No other word for it.  Well, lots of other words actually, but all bad.

The busy night is because a friend from foreign parts is in town and we are, we have just decided, meeting up for a drink.  And I hold drink with all the effortless facility of a kitten holding a packed suitcase on its back.

Saturday May 16 2009

Is this for real?

image

I want a better laptop.  This looks to be worth a try.  But am I deluded?  Guidance please.

Plus, are they good laptops?

I’m guessing Sony E make laptops that are expensive and being hit by the current economic climate.  They have too many of these things, and rather than drop the price, they are giving a lot of them away as part of the advertising for the remainder.

UPDATE: Oh dear.  Thank you Michael J,.

Friday May 15 2009

Perish the thought.  It’s about art and suchlike.

image

But this here is cat blogging.  And this would also be the same cat, I presume.

I can’t tell how good the blog of Madame FI (aka Bunny Smedley - see a recent comment here) is, because she’s a friend from way back, and when I read her, I hear her cute accent, East Coast American, one of my favourites. So I enjoy it all even when I might not otherwise read such a thing.

I note, however, that she disapproves of Anthony Gormley.  See here.  I, on the other hand, share the widespread fondness for Gormley’s various objects, although some are definitely more successful than others.  I greatly admire the Angel of the North.  I also particularly like all those Men, who stood around the Royal Festival Hall and nearby spots not so long ago, begging to be photographed by the likes of me, which of course I did copiously.  But I left it rather late to post any of those Gormley Men snaps.  This could be my excuse.

I do concede that Gormleys can be very hit-or-miss.  When you commission one, you are just as likely to get a dud as a hit.  There is a sort of cloud of knitting needles, for instance, which used to be next to the Dome in east London, and may still be for all I know, which is supposed to have another Man inside it.  But it just looks like a pointless cloud of knitting needles to me.  And a while back there was a ridiculous TV show about what appeared to be a completely fatuous cloud of steam, inside one of the South Bank art galleries (I think), signifying nothing.  On the other hand, basing it on the photos I’ve seem of them, I do like those other Men, standing on beaches this time, a bunch in Norway, and another bunch somewhere on the Lancashire coast.

I notice that Madam FI bases her disapproval of Gormley, partly anyway, on the things he says.  She calls him very cynical, which he may well be, for all I know or care.  The things Gormley says about his creations are indeed almost entirely fatuous, but who the hell cares what clouds of hot aired art-bollocks he chooses to surround his creations with?  Behind all the hot air, they are clearly visible and they speak for themselves loudly and clearly, to me anyway.  Or not as the case may be.

Seen yesterday at Guido’s and at Iain Dale’s.  (The ultimate accolade for a blogger, surely, is not to be linked to because there is no need.) It’s a big advert that was at the top of these two blogs, for this campaign.

image

I managed to freeze the above .gif image in aspic, and then shrink it down to my blog posting size.  Its other variations read:

LOBBY YOUR MP

SIGN THE PETITION

COME TO PARLIAMENT

Come to parliament earlier today, presumably.

Pass.  I’m a libertarian.  I oppose the whole idea of a minimum wage.  It’s a law against hiring really hard-to-employ people at a wage that would make it worthwhile, so ... they don’t get hired.  Not good.  A few badly paid people, just that bit less desirable than the minimum rate, are hired for the slightly higher minimum, and accordingly benefit.  Better paid workers benefit because cheap competition has been forbidden.  But those at the bottom of the wage heap get it in the neck.  (Minimum wage laws are disguised anti-immigration laws.  Discuss.)

From one month to the next, I see no comment on any of the blogs I read about the oddity of such displays, at such politically unsympatico places, especially at a libertarian blog like Guido’s.  I only noticed this particular display because I am making a point of noticing flatverts just now.  Otherwise, my eyes also would have skimmed right past it.

My thanks to Bishop Hill for news of a blog called Daily Police Photo:

The Labour government has decided that it would be a sensible idea to criminalise taking photographs of the police. As with the SOCPA Parliament Protest ban, the only response is to do it more often!

SOCPA being this.

I recall thinking that I might indulge in something like this myself, every so often.  This blog gets it organised, daily.

Here is a horizontal slice of photo number 59:

image

Taken a medium-sized walk from my home in Parliament Square, but not by me.

This site uses the expression “filth” a lot.  I don’t like that expression.  For me, this stuff is not personal, against the police themselves. I think they’re as much the victims of this crap as the rest of us.

Thursday May 14 2009

I really like this posting, from Mr Eugenides, about shortening attention spans, etc..  He has a long quote in it, and I did what I often do with long quotes.  I skimmed to the end.  Whereupon I read this:

(Did you read all of that, or skim to the end of the blockquoted text? If the latter, I think the point is proved.)

Yes, he got me.

Later:

So, if you’re still reading (and I really want to write a much longer post, but I’m fearful that no-one will read the bloody thing), my question to you is posed in a spirit of genuine curiosity and enquiry: if you, like me, are the sort of person who enjoys a good book, do you notice that your mind wanders when you sit down to read one, where in the not-too-distant past you had no such problems? Do you think the web is making us “stupid”, or shortening our attention spans? Or is it changing the way we collate and store information?

Not sure, but good question.  In my case I think I always had a rather defective attention span, and took to the blogosphere for that reason.  I was already brain damaged in a blog way, so to speak.  My mind, when I’m reading a book, has always tended to go walk about.  And I only finish books I really really like.  My infinite capacity to listen to classical music is based on the fact that (a) I love it, and (b) if my mind wanders during it, but then wanders back again, that’s okay.  That still works.  Unlike with a book.

Don’t want to go on about this too much in case you lose interest.

Wednesday May 13 2009

I have just had a rather frustrating blogging evening.  I began by trying to dash off a short posting for here.  But it got long and quite profound, and I decided to divert it towards Samizdata.  But what with all the profundity I have yet to finish it, so here, it’s quota photo time:

image

That’s Westminster Cathedral reflected in the offices-on-top-of-shops building next to Westminster Cathedral, the day before yesterday.  Red brick, blue sky, gray concrete.  And a mundane thing gets to be unmundane, on account of what it reflects.

Reflection.  How modern architecture links.

That profound posting, the one that is yet to be finished, is about quotas and the distorting effects they can unleash.

But quotas can work.  Rob recently said he’s going to attempt a one-a-day policy, in a posting I had the honour of being mentioned in.  Rob’s attempt, measured mindlessly, has failed the one-a-day test.  But if better blogging means, among other things, more postings that are just as good as the previous but more occasional postings, then Rob’s one-a-day thing is now working very well, I would say.

Tuesday May 12 2009

Michael J yesterday emailed in with a link to a picture of a man with a CCTV camera instead of a head, and of course I like that picture.

imageBut, having liked it, I also went rootling around for other pictures of London by the same bloke, and came across the one on the right.  Often, when full size, pictures look, you know, okay.  They look like what they are, but when very small they look like something else that is maybe even better.  In this case the picture, when small, looks like a big mouth with a tongue hanging out.  Maybe it’s some kind of sea monster.  Full size, you can see that the cloud of smoke is just a cloud of smoke and not a tongue at all, but small, you can’t see that, and your brain goes to work making a face, as the brain so often does when given the slightest provocation.

I think this graph, which I found here is rather revealing:

image

The story it tells is of Labour going down, rather fast, and of the Conservatives and LibDems inching upwards, more slowly, but not especially well placed now, despite all the Labour government’s travails.

To the far right of the graphs, i.e. just recently, it is to be noted that Labour are as low as they have ever been, and the “other” parties are as high as they have ever been.  This was before all the recent dirt came out, and the dirt thing hasn’t yet played out, not nearly.  Today, the Conservatives are in the frame, but by the end of it, I think that Labour will end up suffering the most.  (There is also the fact that Cameron may turn all this to his advantage by have an upper class thief cull.)

Norman Tebbit is only saying what is already obvious, commanding voters to do what lots would have done anyway.  UKIP, the BNP, the Greens, and so on, are now poised to do anything from rather to very well.  And maybe the lone UKLP candidate may also do quite well.

This Sensible Party/Silly Party notion is not actually that silly.  More like prophetic.  British party politics is now moving inexorably from a Spectrum System to a Solar System.  In the old days, two distinct but big parties slugged it out.  Now, the big parties still slug it out, but more and more by trying to be the same party, the Sun in the Solar System.  “We are The Sensible Party” (in New Labour parlance “grown up"), all the big parties now say.  So you get these huge lurches every fifteen years or so between this sensible party and that one.  All the Conservatives have to do to be the next Sensible Party is watch Labour implode. 

Way beyond that battle of the sensibles, the silly parties grow and grow, starting as mere clouds of dusty complaint, but coalescing into planets of political activity.  The silly thing about the silly parties is that they believe in, well, things.  They believe things which they want to persuade voters to vote for.  The winning sensible party still wins, for the time being, but it does it by getting fewer votes than it got in the old days of the Spectrum System even when it lost, and while believing in very little except winning.  Which depresses me a lot, but then I always was a bit silly.

The BNP is now silly, but could make a grab for sensibleness rather soon.

The LibDems, true to the only slogan they can all agree about ("vote for us"), have long been both sensible and silly.

Labour could soon break into several quite big fragments of silliness.

Monday May 11 2009

Iain Dale, Conservative uberblogger, writes about the insensitivity of James Gray MP, who took some snaps of something the Army didn’t want snapped.

Dale shows a picture of the errant politico, and I thought: I know that bloke.  See if you agree:

image  image

On the left: Gray.  On the right: the bloke who played upper class twits on the Benny Hill Show, Henry McGee, who died in 2006.

And now for another story about a photographer in bother, this time a guy who did some photoing of a police station, and who got into quite a bit of bother.  The Police really are starting to get seriously above themselves, as this story illustrates to a scary degree:

The evidence in front of the officers’ nose did nothing to soften their intransigence; neither did those I had only just spoken to inside the building come to explain and defuse the situation. Only when word arrived that my name was not on their list of terror suspects was I free to leave, albeit with a copy of a Form 5090(X) complete with my details. The encounter had lasted nearly another forty-five minutes.

As it ended, the officers’ mood moved from the suspicious to the chummy. “Obviously, we would hope that common sense would prevail”, said one. A bit late in the day for that, I thought, but it was his last comment - an apology for having been “in his police-officer mode” - that most shocked me. For if the belligerent and unyielding stance previously displayed is now the police norm - along with its absence of everyday understanding, intuitive sense of the situation, ability to respond to available evidence, and everyday respect - what kind of treatment of the public becomes “normalised” in more stressful situations, such as the G20 protests where police actions are now being investigated in three separate cases?

Have we just had a golden age of amateur photography, and is it now drawing to a close, as all kinds of people decide the don’t like it?

INCOMING Tuesday from Mike, to whom thanks: “If you haven’t seen it already, I suspect that you will be keenly interested in this."

Sunday May 10 2009

As regulars here will know, I like to take snaps of London’s big new landmarks, but from unobvious places, with unobvious stuff in the foreground.

So today, I was standing on platform 5 at Vauxhall station, and took a snap of the faraway Docklands Towers, straight in line with the track my train was due on.  On the left, the snap I was going for:

imageimage

And on the right, taken seconds earlier, a version of the snap that went wrong, for some (at the time) inexplicable reason.  On my silly little Billion Monkey screen, it made no sense.  Had I allowed something bizarre to fall in front of the lens?  But what?

Only when I got home did I see what had happened.

Like I always say, Real Photographers decide what they want and get it.  We Billion Monkeys just snap away, and then pick from what we get.

Saturday May 09 2009

It’s very fat, very loud, very self-important, and it’s built with sand, on sand:

image

That’s the last of these, linked to yesterday by David Thompson.

UPDATE: By the way, I’ve just done a clutch of additions to The List.  All comments re that there please.

I love the internet.  The phrase “What’s that about?” dates from a now vanished era when there was typically no way to find out.  Now, you can find out at once.

imageSo, for instance, not long ago, I spotted and snapped this in the window of that rather good bookshop just opposite Victoria Station, filled with cheep DVDs and books about old pop culture stuff, such as fifties movie stars and World War 2.  Sensing an obvious blog posting about bloggs, I wondered: what’s that about?  Here‘s what:

Why Bloggs 19? The title comes from a top secret prison unit that is used to house ‘supergrasses’ and other top criminals who have decided to turn on their former colleagues and help the police.

All the occupants of the unit have contracts out on their lives so, in order to keep their identities secret from one another and the prison staff, they are all known as Joe Bloggs, followed by a number.

Bloggs 19 was the name given to Darren Nicholls, the supergrass in the case of three drug dealers who were found blasted to death in the back of a Range Rover down a quiet country lane in Essex a couple of years ago.

The book details why the murder happened, how it was planned and what happens when you become a supergrass. Goodfellas, Essex style, is how one reviewer describes it.

So now I know.

Friday May 08 2009

Cricinfo today:

“Reading Cricinfo commentary secretively on my phone in detention,” says Joey, who doesn’t reveal which school he is at. Excellent work by that man. Detentions were never fun, were they?

They are now, provided you’re well kitted up.

West Indies following on and sliding fast at 75-4 – Swann has just done Chanderpaul for the second time in the match.  Whoops . . . 79-5.  Embarrassing.  4W4W.  That is not how you bat when you are serious about trying to save a game.  Swann and Onions are doing the damage, just as in the first innings.

Swann and Onions.  Sounds like something Henry VIII might have feasted upon.

Thursday May 07 2009

Indeed:

image

I have been working away (i.e. faffing about for about an hour) on my UK libertarian bloggers thing, but am not quite sure what to do next.  So I stuck up a quota photo instead, taken in September 2007.  The Art was round the back of the Royal Festival Hall.  There’s been lots of Art in the vicinity of the RFH lately.  I photo it.  The Art is temporary, partly because you can photo it, and then take it down, but still be able to remember what it was like.

Wednesday May 06 2009

Quota photo time.  Stolen from the top of this blog:

image

It looks like a rather good blog, being full of facts and gossip about Edinburgh politics.  As I said in the comments on the posting below, it does the kind of thing that anti-blogging bores say only newspapers are capable of, even though most newspapers have actually given up doing this kind of thing.

Very flat picture, but Edinburgh is not at all a flat city, which is all part of why it photos so well.

Tuesday May 05 2009

As repeatedly promised during the last fortnight or so, here is the revised and expanded list of libertarian bloggers.  Basically it consists of four things: (1) The original list; (2) all the blogs suggested in the comments on that original list; (3) almost all the bloggers listed here (i.e. except for a few that didn’t work any more and one whose inclusion totally baffled me) by Total Politics, that (1) and (2) didn’t already catch; (4) a few others I stumbled upon myself in among checking out other blogs.  Oh, and I recall excluding a few Americans.  This is UK libertarian blogs only.  Even Americans will probably thank me for that.

There are surely a lot more, as a simple trawl through only the blogrolls of all these blogs would surely demonstrate.  But, as with the previous version, the procedure here is to shove up a rough-and-ready version of the thing, to prove that I am still interested and to keep the ball rolling, rather than to wait until perfection is (impossibly) achieved.  Besides which, I hope it never is perfect, because I would hate it if I personally knew about all the libertarian blogs in the UK.  The fact that, already, nobody (certainly nobody of my idle disposition) can easily keep up is cause not for regret but for celebration.

In other words, don’t attach any significance to the fact, if fact it be, that your libertarian blog is “excluded”.  This just means I haven’t heard about it yet, a sad state of affairs which one short comment will change.  At present, I am including all blogs that want to be included, which is creating a few boundary issues, but I will leave those until later.  Probably just by having subdivsions of various kinds.  Later.

So anyway, here it is:

A Brief Encounter
A Libertarian’s Perspective
a neo-jacobin
a Very British dude
ambush predator
An Englishman’s Castle
AngloAustria
Anna Raccoon
Anomaly UK
bag’s rants
bella gerens
Big Brother Britain
Bishop Hill
Blognor Regis
Boatang & Demetriou
Brian Micklethwait
Burning Our Money
Caligula’s Palace
Capitalists@Work
Captain: Ranty
CharlesCrawford.biz
Charlotte Gore
Constantly Furious
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
craggy island
Craig Murray
CrozierVision
Curious Snippets from a Cynical Optimist
Cynical Chatter From The Underworld
Daniel Hannan
Devil’s Kitchen
Dick Puddlecote
Disobeying The Whip
Douglas Carswell Blog
EdinburghSucks! dot com
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say Is Right
Ferraris for all
Free Market Fairy Tales
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
Freedom2Choose
From The Barrel of a Gun
Guido Fawkes’ blog
Henry North London
Heresy Corner
IEA blog
ill and ancient
Is There More To Life Than Shoes?
Jerub-Baal’s Spleen Vent
John Trenchard
Katabasis
Liberal Bob
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Libertarian Party South East
Life, Liberty and Proper Tea
Longrider
Little Man, What Now?
looking for a voice
Mara’s una musings
Mark Wadsworth
Mark’s any musings
Marmelade Sandwich
Medworth.org.uk
Michael Jennings
mr eugenides
Musings On Liberty
Nanny Knows Best
Natalie Solent
Neuearbeit Macht Frei
No Borders South Wales
North East Libertarians
North West Libertarians
nought.point.zero
Obnoxio The Clown
Obsidian’s World
Old Holborn
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Panem et Circenses
Paul Lockett
Picking Losers
PJC Journal
Public Interest.co.uk
Rab C. Nesbitt
RenegadeParent.net
Resistance is Useless!
Rob’s Blog
Samizdata
Scottish Libertarians
Shades of Grey
Sinclair’s Musings
Sleepwalking Britain
Stumbling and Mumbling
South West Libertarians
Taking Liberties
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
The Appalling Strangeness
The Digger
The Huntsman
The Idle Pen Pusher
The Landed Underclass
The Last Ditch
The Liberty Column
The Marsh Harrier
The North Briton
The One That Really Is Most Unhappy About This
The Progressive Show
The Pub Curmudgeon
The Welfare State We’re In
Their Contempt For You Is Total
Think This
This Observer
Tim Worstall
Towards Mutual Benefit
Transport Blog
UK Bubble
UK Libertarian Party
UK Liberty
underdogs bite upwards
Voyage of Discovery
Woking Libertarians
Womble on Tour

Dead or resting blogs which are nevertheless still there to be read:

Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke’s Election Watch
Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Garnerblog
Richard Garner’s Thoroughly Enthralling Weblog

And now I am starting to be told about (or to learn about) libertarian Twitterers:

anomalyuk
antoineclarke
David Farrer
guidofawkes
HarryAldridge
igeldard

My thanks again for all the comments on version 1.  And thanks in anticipation for any more suggestions.  I couldn’t be bothered to check, one by laborious one, that all the links work.  Please comment also if you find any blunders of that kind.

UPDATE Saturday 9th: I have just done another clutch of additions, and have now dipped my toe into the complicated process of separating us (for I am two) into categories.  So I suppose this posting ought really now to be called “UK libertarian bloggers 2.12” or some such foolishness.  But that might cause linking muddles.  Thanks once again to all the commenters whose suggestions have just been added.

Will there be further versions of this list?  Well, I promise nothing, but I very much hope so.  I can’t have smoked out all of them yet.  An exhaustive search through the blogrolls of the above would surely reveal more, just for starters.  So, the quest continues.  Which means that still further suggestions would continue to be extremely welcome.

Monday May 04 2009

More flatverts:

image

I found it at the Indy, where Guido does some Q&Aing, my favourite Q&As being this:

Are you as disturbed as I am at the extent of your influence on the news agenda? LUKE GREEN, Cardiff

No, I am satisfied that the shift towards a more sceptical stance towards politicians has come about. They have been getting away with taking home a package worth £120,000 a year with no scrutiny whatsoever. When people realise what they have been getting up to when they eventually see the expense receipts it will really hit home. MPs have become millionaires on the quiet. That isn’t public service, that is personal enrichment at the public expense.

And this:

When you compare this government to the Tories before they lost in 1997, which do you think is sleazier? HENRY MURPHY, Luton

I think we are obviously talking about relative sleaze. However we now have industrial sleaze production on a scale which is truly astounding. It is all party and extends into the highest reaches of the cabinet. The contemporary brazen shameless “well everyone is at it” attitude beats the past.

Which makes this next flatvert, from the same spot, seem rather relevant, don’t you think?

image

No mention of Guido going global (see below).

Sunday May 03 2009

When Gordon Brown is finally removed from Number Ten, either by his despairing underlings or by us despairing voters, attempts will then be made by the regular journos to downplay the role played in this saga by the great Guido Fawkes.  In fact, I already sense a process of bigging Guido up, so that he can later be knocked down.  But as Guido himself pointed out, last Friday:

Examine the front page media agenda last month: Smeargate, Snouts in the Trough, MPs’ expenses and of course the developing “Gordon is bonkers” meme, all topped off nicely with a round of mea culpas on the inside comment pages from the shamed copy takers in the Lobby.

Exactly so.  And let’s add Guido’s taxodus obsession to that list.  That’s going to get very big in the weeks and months to come, especially if Brown manages to stay walking while ever more dead.  The dead tree dog pack is now in full cry and closing in on its helpless prey, but Guido was always the Master of the Hounds.

To switch metaphors from fox-hunting to king- or Caesar-murdering, all the deadliest daggers in this drama have been being sharpened, week after week, month after month, by Guido.  It wasn’t just McBride, Draper, Balls and co.  It was everything, including the reason why Guido himself was for months the main story-teller telling all the other stories.  Guido is undoubtedly the First Murderer in this drama, no matter what all the other murderers who are now piling in will try to say.

One basic reason for this is that First Murderer was always the ultimate role to which Guido aspired, at any rate in this particular drama.  First Murderers never become kings themselves, but Guido has never - unlike all the still-vacillating politicians who are now, Brutus-like, working themselves up into the necessary mood of murderousness, or not as the case may be - wanted any political office beyond the office he has already contrived for himself.  For him, Guido Fawkes is title enough.

But, when he gets bored with British politics, what will Guido Fawkes do then, I wonder?  Do you think he might cross the Atlantic and take a crack at Obama?

Better yet, how about going global, and taking aim at the UN and related scams?  The very Global Elite itself, amongst whom mere heads of state are, well, mere heads of state?  That would be a worthy next foe for the great man.

As I mentioned in this earlier posting, Guido used to run something called the Global Development Institute, or some such forgettable thing.  It’s now fizzled out, or is dormant.  No matter.  What this shows is that Guido already has the inclination to think globally.  So how’s this for a slogan?: Guido (or whatever else he chooses to call himself for these different and bigger purposes) for part time ruler (see top left of this blog) of The World.

But before having a go at that, he should take a well-earned break.

And after writing all of the above, what do I find at Guido’s?  American news.

UPDATE: Welcome to Iain Dale readers, with deep thanks to your Lord and Master.

Further relevant thing noticed: Guido is getting a lot of international media coverage all of a sudden.  How do we all know that?  Because Guido himself is linking to it.

Even Paul Staines is the wrath of his opinion, through and through corrupt political class driven Britain. But it was probably primarily the fun at the provocation that inspired him, his political blog - slightly - to name Guido Fawkes. Finally, write him friends and opponents of an exuberant lust for mischief and practical joke too.

Indeed.

Plus: The global option might be preferable to the American option, because going global wouldn’t oblige Guido to move from London.  Going American would pretty much have to mean a base in America (from which to go out drinking).

Something interesting just happened at Cricinfo.  No, not to do with cricket.  Relax.  I refer to this bit of graphics, which has more verbiage, about the particular match being played, white on dark blue, to its left:

image

It just got thinner.  You can now read the top line of the text, the bit that tells you what happened with the latest ball.

I wonder if someone told O2 that with the pointlessly fatter version of this thing they were making enemies.  Because, they were.  Of me and many others, I’m sure.  Now, I like them, and would again consider an O2 product.  Some kind of mobile phone thing, right?  It would seem so:

image

I think I found that at Guido’s.  Not sure.  Anyway, good because again: thin.  Ah, and I just saw it again at Cricinfo.

Some of my otherwise favourite blogs just now have a lot of fat crap at the top, which means that the first thing you have to do when you go there is scroll down.  I really don’t like that. I like it when there’s a very decent chance you’ll be able to read the entire first post without any further mousing.  At the very least you should be able to read the first heading.

I am pondering a new top here.  One thing I already know.  It will be thinner.  Something like this:

B R I A N – picture of me, just as thin – M I C K L E T H W A I T

There might even be room for an advert under that.  Not a real advert, properly organised and everything.  The money from that would be an old man’s piddle, plus I wouldn’t be allowed to jeer at it, or even say nice things if I understand the rules of this kind of thing right.  So maybe I’ll just do what I do now and steal one that I like the look of, and keep on changing it. It’s great what we kitten bloggers can get away with.

Yesterday afternoon I also took this photo:

image

You can say that again.  So they did.  Here‘s the Evening Standard story that this billboard flags up.  This snap will serve as a memo-to-self in years to come concerning just what a hopeless mess the Gordon Brown regime has now got itself into.  More from me about all this last Friday at Samizdata.

There are apparently to be elections at the beginning of next month, and oddly enough, these may now be prolonging Brown’s time in office.  Labourites hesitate to put the knife in now, because they suspect that after those elections might be the ideal moment to do the deed.  So Brown may now last for another month, and if the results are interpretable as Not That Bad, he could stagger on into next year.

Meanwhile, here is an example of what I earlier said here about the impact of the Go Gordon petition, in the form of one little paragraph, which has the feel of something stuck in later in the least inconvenient spot, in a Mail on Sunday piece:

To add to Brown’s embarrassment, a petition on the Downing Street website calling for the Prime Minister to resign has been swamped with signatories. By last night, more than 44,700 people had put their names to it.

I don’t call 45,000, the milestone that the Go Gordon petition has now just passed, “swamped”.  Half a million, yes.  But 45,000, or for that matter anything short of 100,000 strikes me as very feeble.  But that was, and is again, my point.  Whereas all other petitions have been insignificant, this one, which is numerically not that much more significant, is being seized upon by commentators, because they are now in seizing mode.  As the Tesco adverts say: every little helps.  When mud is being flung, the flingers will grab every little scrap of mud they can find.

UPDATE: Still more mud reportage from me at Samizdata.  Can’t leave it alone.

Saturday May 02 2009

Indeed:

image

Snapped outside the Channel 4 headquarters near where I live, earlier today.  Obviously you can’t too careful, but I don’t think they have any plans to blow it up.  No need to panic.

Friday May 01 2009