Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Thursday September 30 2010

In this posting I lazily link to a science article without saying any more than: I like it.  At least my blog now has one feeble posting today rather than zero postings of any kind.  And I do at least link to and thank the blogger who told me about the article.

Wednesday September 29 2010

It turns out it was a cookbook.

This is the kind of topic where I do trust Wikipedia (see the Soros posting below, comments on).

The Gospel of Matthew: A Book for Today? Just putting this link here because I don’t want to forget about this fascinating article.

Roughly, as I recall (it being a while since I read this), Edmund Standing (a favourite writer of mine - see one of the links here), says that St Matthew’s Gospel tells of a Jew (Jesus) with a message for other Jews, about exactly how to fight the Jewish corner against all comers.  The rest of us are not intended to be part of the discussion.

All part of the big claim that Christianity means pretty much whatever you want it to mean, massive reinterpretation being built into its very DNA, in extreme contrast to Islam.  Which, flying off at a huge tangent from a posting about James I’s son dying in 1612, we argue about in the comments, here.

And in connection with that comment thread, I also don’t want to forget about this, by one of the key protagonists in that.

I love this, gleefully siezed upon here, at the website of something called J Street:

“J Street has said it doesn’t receive money from George Soros, but now news reports indicate that he has in fact contributed.”

The left hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth.

Early comments on the piece this is quoted in say that Soros is a former Nazi, an accusation which I’d never heard before.  Is that right?  I presume that Godwin’s law doesn’t apply if it is being claimed that you really were (or even really are) an actual Nazi.

I am finding American politics more interesting that British politics at the moment.

By the way, my attitude towards the State of Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.

Monday September 27 2010

imageI recently spent quite a bit of time researching possible new cameras on the internet, and ever since I did that, all the adverts I seem to see on the internet are adverts for Jessops, featuring exactly the cameras I had been looking at.  At first, I just thought that Jessops seemed to be doing a lot of advertising on the internet, as in “the” internet.  But pretty soon the penny dropped.  It was merely my internet they were advertising on.

I have rather mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, yes, these are products that do interest me.  But on the other, they have wormed their way into my computer to contrive this effect.  Not sure I like that.  I associate such worming with the fact that my computer now suffers regular bouts of extreme cludginess, only cured by flicking the off switch and restarting it.

Also, part of the impact of regular billboards-in-the-street posters-in-the-tube type adverts is that they are obviously spending lots of money trying to impress me.  Therefore, they must be quite confident about their products.  They are putting their money where their mouth is.  But how much are they paying just to put these adverts in front of little old me?  Maybe not much at all.  Instead of being truly impressed with these products, Jessops could just be trying it on.  By the time I get their, they could be completely out of business.

The windows at the front of the Jessops nearest to me look pathetic.  Full of junk like tripods, and big printouts of pictures of the Wheel, advertising their ability to sell you big printouts of your pictures.  Actual cameras have become much more rare in the window, and their stock of cameras anywhere in shop is dwindling.  You suspect that the ones they do still have on sale may still be owned by the companies that made them.  None of which inspires confidence.

Saturday September 25 2010

Quota photo time.  (That didn’t take long, did it?)

image

The reason I chose that particular snap was it made me laugh, and it made me laugh because it looks like a toy train layout, rather than proper trains.  The trains are implausibly short.  The tracks are a mad jumble, with every inch filled, to no obvious purpose.  There is the track that goes up onto a bridge, far too steeply and quickly.  There is the ridiculously tight turn, to fit everything onto the table.  Above all, and the phrase is peculiarly apt, there is the fact that we are looking down on it all, as we do with toy trains.  (A simple trick to make toy trains look real is to put the camera right down there on the toy ground, thereby photoing the toy trains from below like you mostly photo real trains.)

The reason for all this being that this is not a real railway, as God made railways.  It is the Docklands Light Railway.  Whose trains, let it be noted, like toy trains, contain no living drivers.  They are guided, like toys, by remote control.  Although, I think the tracks at the back may be real train type tracks.  Don’t know.

Taken in Docklands, from one of the towers, in July 2006.

Thursday September 23 2010

Bugger:

There will be no highlights of this winter’s Ashes on terrestrial TV according to a report in the Daily Mail.

The newspaper claims no terrestrial broadcaster responded to the tender document offering free-to-air rights because of strict limitations on the time they would be allowed to air any highlights package. It was expected the tender, sent out by IMG earlier this year, would attract interest from the BBC or Channel 5.

However, both broadcasters said scheduling restrictions put them off making any bid. The terms are believed to have stated no highlights could be shown before 10pm, a delay of almost a day, and they could not overlap with any of Sky’s live transmissions, which usually start at around 11.30pm, giving a very small window for them to be shown.

image

Tuesday September 21 2010

A basic criticism of internet “radio” and “television” performers on the internet (i.e. people who record sound files and video files and shove them up on the www) is that they (we) go on too long compared to how significant they (we) are.

Do you really want to listen to these guys talking for over an hour? Well, you almost certainly don’t.  (That it went on so long is why it took me so long to make myself put it up.) But if about one dozen people, worldwide, do listen, then something is accomplished.  Maybe one of them will get a point he otherwise might not have, and then write about it or talk about it, not at offputting length, or in a longer thing that people actually want to listen to or read in decent numbers.

Don’t compare it only with Newsnight.  Compare it with a conversation in a pub.  Slightly more people get to hear it than that.  It’s slightly more coherent than that.  It’s recorded slightly better than that, what with it being recorded.  The internet is improved pub conversation, not just “worse BBC” so to speak.  And in many ways, of course, if the BBC is biased, the internet is “improved BBC”, even if it does go on rather.

All of which was provoked by this bit of YouTubery (which I found a link to here).  It’s Hitchens telling (some of) a television audience that they are unthinking morons.  My point being not so much the splendour of Hitchens’s little put-down of his putdownees; it is that clicking and watching and listening will only take you somewhat more than one minute.  Here is a man many would want to watch and listen to at length, yet this is but a tasty little snippet of him.

Going back to how the internet is improved pub conversation, rather than just bad broadcasting:  Public smoking is already illegal.  Any decade now, public drinking will probably follow.  So therefore pubs are now in the process of being made illegal.  Lucky the internet came along, just in time, wasn’t it?

Or, was it merely lucky?  Maybe, now there’s the internet, the people who might have fought the illegalisation of pubs to the death now don’t feel the need.  The internet caused smoking and drinking bans, by diverting the opposition to them.  Discuss.  But not in a pub.

Sunday September 19 2010

When I was rootling around at the website of the Cobden Centre, prior to writing this, I came across the words “Brian” and “Micklethwait”, clicked, and found my way to Cobden Centre Radio.  It turns out that they have used the first interview I did with Toby Baxendale for their second show, and then the second interview I did with Toby Baxendale for their third show.  They had of course asked me about doing this, and I, equally of course, said an immediate yes.  But with things like this you never know for sure until it happens.  How about that?  I’m not sure it’s literally correct to categorise Cobden Centre Radio as “radio”, but I have done this anyway.

Maybe I can get Cobden Centre supremo Andy Duncan to tell me how to use my recording gadgets without getting totally confused.  At present the only one I am any good at using is the hateful Sony confusaphone, hateful because it obliges you to go half way around the techno-world turning Sony files into a human (.mp3) files.  I bought another machine which doesn’t have this problem, but it has another problem.  It’s totally effing incomprehensible.

Friday September 17 2010

Here’s a birthday card you don’t send very often:

image

Which is why I photoed it before sending it.

It’s for a semi-relative, a sibling’s mother-in-law to be a bit less vague about it, and I posted it by something called Guaranteed Delivery (£5.05), which means they really, really will deliver it.  The reason I am so keen to be sure that this gets to its destination on time is that I am sending this more on behalf of my brother, who is, it so happens, closer to the centenarian in question than I am.  But elder brother is in hospital, having bust his hip joint.  So he said could I organise it?  Glad to.

Elder brother suffered his mishap on his sixty fifth birthday.  Yes, rotten luck, and very painful, apparently.  But the good news is that replacing bust hip joints is now routine, and he is recovering nicely.  Which is all part of why people now quite often live to be a hundred.  Imagine a bust hip you just had to put up with from then on.  You’d be very lucky to make it to a hundred after a few mishaps like that.

Meanwhile at Samizdata today, a link to this.

I was recently reading a book about the Industrial Revolution, which said that longevity is connected to prosperity, but in a way that (although surely extremely obvious to many others) I personally hadn’t thought of until now.  Obviously prosperity feeds people better and cares for people better, and people accordingly live longer.  But also, people who live longer are more determined and patient savers.  Ergo more capital to invest, in such things as industrialisation.  It’s a positive feedback loop.

Which suggests that if life expectancy continues to grow, economic development will get a lot more developed, so to speak.  Imagine what serious life extension, to something like a time when you get “200” on birthday cards as often as you get 100 now, would do for saving.

There may be a flaw there, because obviously people who live longer also consume more.  I may be jumping from one obvious effect to assuming that there are no other effects of consequence, commonly done when you think about economics.  Even so, longevity clearly changes the shape of the economy, in ways that are not all obvious.

Then there’s all that theorising that concerns how economic cycles are linked to the human lifespan.  Bad times recur every seventy odd years, because every seventy odd years everyone has forgotten the previous bad times, and all the idiocy that precipitated them.  Longer life spans change all that too.

Thursday September 16 2010

Woody Allen muses on the lies made up by the mainstream media:

For some reason, the press wanted to say bad things about her. I don’t know if they had something against the Sarkozys, or it was a better way to sell papers. But the fabrications were so wild and so completely fake, and I wondered to myself, Is this what happens with Afghanistan and the economy and matters of real significance? This is a trivial matter. That’s a longwinded answer to your question: I was not prepared for the amount of press that was attached to the picture because of Madame Sarkozy.

Madame Sarkozy has a small part in Allen’s latest movie.

As with so many Allen pronouncements, you suspect him of being more like those newspapers he denounces than like the innocent he presents himself as.  Why on earth did he cast Madame Sarkozy if not to stoke up a little media heat?  Did he expect only sweetness and light?  Surely not.

Plus, he makes it sound like this is the first time this thought has occurred to him.  But this cannot possibly be the first time the media have told lies, or what Allen considered to be lies, given all that furore when he married his adopted daughter.

Earlier in the interview, Allen says he never looks at his earlier movies.  He also says that as you get older you don’t learn anything.  Might those two sentiments perhaps be connected?  My opinion of Allen is that he makes mostly rather patchily average movies, or worse, but that quite a few of the scenes in his movies are outstanding.  Perhaps if he had forced himself to watch his earlier work a bit more, he might have worked out how to make first-rate movies, or at least have given himself a better chance of accomplishing that.

Still, a few great scenes is better than most movie-makers ever manage.  And in the age of DVDs and YouTube, rather than mere cinemas or nationwide unrecordable telly, we can all wallow in our favourite scenes to our heart’s content if we want to, and skip the rest.

Much the same applies to blogging, does it not?  Few of us can be great bloggers.  Most of us can at least reasonably hope to manage quite a few great postings.

Wednesday September 15 2010

On the fifteenth of last month, I took a break from every-other-daily postings, and for the last few weeks only posted stuff here when I entirely felt like it.  This being the fifteenth of this month, I thought today would be a good day to get regular again.  So, within the next two days, maximum, there will be something else to read here, and so it will continue until the next such break, and then the next, and the next, and so on indefinitely, until my death and all the inevitable complications that will precede it release us all.  Isn’t that exciting?

Friday September 10 2010

imageFurther to point below about the E(nglish)C(ricket)B(oard) not having covered itself in glory lately, here is Cricinfo comedian-blogger Andy Zaltzman on ECB boss Giles Clarke:

It was slightly odd to see ECB chairman Giles Clarke being so affronted by Mohammad Amir that he simply could not bring himself to look at the bowler when presenting him with the Man Of The Series Award after the Lord’s Test-match-cum-debacle. Whilst all cricket fans are, without doubt, disgusted by the alleged spot-fixing, and saddened that it should have involved the most exciting young player in the game, it should be remembered that Clarke himself has not proved immune to the allure of taking easy money from dubious sources.

Indeed.

I love how the girl in the red dress is still smiling like nothing bad ever happened.  Well, actually, I don’t love it, because I don’t love sponsorship girls hired by the day to smile at things they don’t give a damn about.  But this one is rather funny, because her fakeness and ignorance is so obvious.  I don’t blame her, she’s just earning a crust.

Thursday September 09 2010

imageI had to search hard in among the sports pages of London’s now given away Evening Standard, when I was out on my travels around town earlier this evening, for any cricket news.  Eventually I found it, at the bottom of a page mostly filled mostly with news of the daring do deeds of tennis ace Roger Federer.  The www version is here.

This news, in my opinion, is good, although England coach Andy Flower thinks it’s bad.

The turn-out for the latest England Pakistan game the other night was dismal, the worst it’s been for an England game in England. Empty seats dominated the crowd pictures in the TV coverage of the highlights I watched.  What I did not realise is that the Cardiff stadium only seats fifteen thousand.  Yet still it was mostly empty.

And this, as I say, is good.  If England’s various cricket administrators, county and national, suffer a serious financial hit following this Pakistan corruption revelation, they will learn, deep in their guts, to associate cricket corruption with them being out of a job.  They need to stare into the abyss, and they are now doing this.

It is essential that the punishment for corruption be exemplary, enough of a deterrent to ensure that it will be much less attractive in the future.  And that has to include the administrators throughout the game of cricket in general.  These people have to get it branded into their flesh that this stuff has to stop.  It is not enough merely to ban the offending players for life.  The game as a whole has got to suffer.  This is especially the case given that the English legal system may not ever oblige with much in the way of punishment, for reasons which I referred to in this earlier Samizdata posting.

If England’s fans were to turn out for these last few England Pakistan games in strength, to “support” England, then this fiasco would soon be forgotten.  All too soon, it would be back to business as usual.  As it is, it looks as if England’s fans are, for now, against Pakistan, just not buying.

England Australia will be fine.  The Barmy Army will be over there in strength, same as ever, and the Aussie fans will likewise have no worries.  But England Pakistan?  Now?  Still?  Forget it.  Nobody is buying.  Those who have already bought are angry, and many of them will stay away.  And now, judging by all this begging and squealing, it now looks like very few new purchasers will turn up.  And that’s good.

I agree that this is all terribly bad luck for the blameless England players.  They don’t deserve to play their next five games in front of near empty stands.  But the future of cricket says that they must.  It is already bad luck for the England players, in particular for Trott and Broad who had that huge stand, that their test match win at Lord’s now looks to us fans like it was a fix, same as that Australia Pakistan test in Sydney was.  But if corruption is to stop, there has to be a serious will on the part of all concerned that it shall.  Fans filling the stands for these next few games will weaken that will.  Empty stands will strengthen it.  Especially with this going on at the same time.

All this is happening at a very difficult time for England cricket, which is now replete with excess capacity and has, for the last few years, been badly lead.  (Why aren’t England involved in this?) So the financial hit they are now taking will be all the more traumatic.  But, the more short term grief these people now have to endure, the better.

Note that it was the free market, in the form of Britain’s much loathed tabloid press, which has now bust this thing so wide open.  And note that the free market, in the form of absent fans, is now imposing immediate and severe punishment.  (The free market, is there anything it can’t do?  Well, that’s for a different posting.)

Indeed.  “Bookshelf porn.” imageHere.

Thankyou to him.  “I saw this and thought of you.”

Time was when I might have put that picture up at Transport Blog.  Which is still there, I see, but no longer motoring.  Shame.  Maybe we should stoke up its boiler and get it flying again.
 
 
 

Monday September 06 2010

Indeed:

image

Hungerford bridge is not a bridge in the small Wiltshire market town of Hungerford.  Rather is it the railway bridge that takes the trains across the river Thames out of Charing Cross railway station in the heart of London.  Some of which you probably guessed, what with the Wheel being so clearly visible.  On either side of Hungerford Bridge there are those two new footbridges, held up by cables hanging from spikes, with the spikes looking like they now also hold up Hungerford Bridge, but not actually doing that.

I’ve walked under that bridge, along the south bank past the Royal Festival Hall towards the Wheel, many dozens of times, but have never noticed that particular shot before.

I like the colours, all blacks and greys, of the bridge, and that dreary grey sky.  Taken yesterday afternoon.

My problem (one of my problems) is that I accumulate open windows, to things I don’t want to forget about, and which I am hence reluctant to shut.  But these open windows, and all the advertising shite they come with, clog up my computer, or so it feels to me.

Now I am sure there is a better answer to this problem than the one that follows, but for now, my answer, today, is to stick a few such links here, where they won’t vanish in half a day and where anyway I know my way around.

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.  Note, incidentally, the disastrous headline punctuation. Punctuation in headlines says you can’t have a full stop at the end of a headline, but that you can have whatever punctuation you like in the middle of the headline, fullstops included.  Bizarre.  (Not that that’s why the piece interests me.)

That Codevilla piece about the American ruling class.  Actually I think a major part of this story is that it isn’t only the American ruling class.  It’s a global, or at least beyond national, class.  The entire West that was is starting to be ruled by a united gang of interconnected people.  Rulers of The World Unite.  You have nothing to lose but the love of your dreary little voters.  (To “love”, should I add “consent”?)

On the Validity and Necessity of Atheist Criticism of Islam.  I like Edmund Standing a lot.  Mostly I agree with this.  But, I think he makes too little of the differences between Christianity and Islam.  Christianity is bonkers but Islam is downright evil.  (Although, I do admit that Christian anti-semitism is deeply embedded in it.) The problem I have with Islam is not only that it is so false.  It is that it so nasty.  Allah does not exist, but if Allah does exist he should be opposed.  This is somewhat less true of the various Christian versions of God, especially nowadays.

The Vanity Fair Sarah Palin piece.  I want to read this to see if it actually says anything more than: she’s a politician!  Is she going to run for President?  If she gets to be President will she be a quite good one, as Reagan (won the Cold War - only talked about stopping the US state spending rise) was.  Will President Palin, that is to say, actually stop the US state spending rise?

The Chinese state media global offensive.  Were a time traveller from a hundred years hence to invite me to guess what sparked the Big War of 2037, I’d guess China versus someone, rather than Islam versus anyone.  Islam has the will to Big War, but looks unlikely at all soon to command the means to wage it.  (I include Iran in that judgement.  There is more to having a Bomb than just having a Bomb.  You must also have the means to attack the other guy’s Bomb, and to defend your remaining Bombs, which you must also have.) And I have long believed that being able to fight wars is more important in their causation than merely wanting to.  I mean, few great powers unambiguously want to fight major wars, because they have too much to lose.  But, from time to time, they still did, and might one day again.  Hopefully The Bomb will continue to work its terrifying magic, and Great Wars Between Great Powers will continue to not happen, but how long will that last?

I want to do a Big Piece on Samizdata about all that, Real Soon Now.  Globalisation as we now know it, i.e. the version where we don’t fight global wars against one another, is more caused by The Bomb (which first happened in 1945) than by Modern Electronic Communications (which first happened in 1842).  See Global Ruling Class, uniting of, above.

That should clear out my computer’s tubes a little.

Friday September 03 2010

This is my favourite recent photo, despite its technical imperfections.  It would never make it to the short list in any photography competition, I realise that.  But here it is anyway:

image

Click to get it bigger, but frankly, not a lot better.

So yes, that was taken from Englefield Green, which is about twenty miles away from the centre of London, and up on a bit of a hill.  The family house, which is still in the process of being sold, is a few dozen yards further up the hill from there.  But despite having lived there all of my early life and having gone back to visit numerous times since, I only discovered this view last Sunday.  I was back to say hello to the younger of my two elder brothers, who is caretaking for us.  We were walking back down to Egham station, me to get to the station and him to keep me company.  The weather, having been very fitful earlier in the day, was perfect, not a cloud in the sky.  And there it was, between a couple of the little suburban bungalows set back from the road.  At first I wasn’t entirely sure, my eyesight being only what it is.  But there is no mistaking that shape, is there?  Taking the shot involved a spot of mild trespassing in someone’s forecourt, to get past nearer obstacles, but through the big front windows it looked like no one was in, so, what the eye didn’t see ...  And yes, the focussing is not all it might be.  Maybe I’ll go back and try again, although I doubt I’ll ever get better weather for it.

I have several times photoed this view, although never even this clearly, from the also quite nearby Air Forces Memorial which you can climb to the top of and look out from, over nearby Runnymede (of Magna Carta fame) and beyond that all along the Thames valley from Windsor Castle on the left to Heathrow centre right and beyond it to London on the right to far right, very far right just before the view stops being where the Gherkin is just about visible.  But I never knew until now that you can see any of London from even nearer to home, which is how I still think of it and will continue to think of it until the developers smash it up.

Thursday September 02 2010

One here, and nine more here.

LATER: Make that eleven.