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Thursday October 31 2013

Sunrise from my roof

Rob Fisher asks, in a comment on the posting immediately below, whether my photography at dawn yesterday went as intended.  Yes it did.  Yes the weather was every bit as good as forecast.  I took many photos, but will confine myself to five.  The delay showig them is because the effort of getting up earlier enough to take them knocked all the stuffing out of me for the rest of the day, and had to confine myself to essential business.

What I had in mind was to photo this …:


… but behind this …:


Or to put it another way, this …:


… behind this ...:


… or even this:


In November, not possible.  The sun rises way to the right of the Shard, let alone Parliament.

But if the door to the roof remains open, I will return on an equally clear morning in late June of next year, and see what happens then.

Nevertheless, where the sun did rise, in late October, was pretty good.  Thanks to the presence of cranes.

I was up there before dawn, which was 6.50 am.  As you can see, it was at least 7.30 am (see Big Ben) before I went back down home again.  So, I took many other snaps besides these few, and (although I promise nothing) I may show more of these at a later date.

Tuesday October 29 2013

When I managed to get out onto my roof, I made several more afternoon visits to it.  But then I got up earlyn to take photos at dawn.  But it was quite cloudy, and since then I’ve been waiting for a morning that the weather forecasters were saying would be clear.  Tomorrow looks like it might be:


So, early night tonight, and early morning tomorrow morning.

They said it would blow a bit last night, and it did.  Now they say it will be bright tomorrow morning.  Should be.  But will the timing be right for me to see an actual sunrise?  That looks close.

I need to check, today, that they haven’t locked the door yet.

Increasingly, I am coming to think of the summer as the photographing season, and the winter as the time when I look back through what I’ve got and tell you good people about some of it, and generally try to catch up with myself.

So, this summer, obviously, there was The Wedding.  But there were also other weddings.  Weddings serendipitously encountered, at places like Westminster Abbey (Aug 19) …:

image image imageimage image image

… or in the Kings Road (Aug 31):

image image imageimage image image

Am I entitled to steel the souls of other people’s weddings like this, by not only photoing them but also by sticking up some of the photos on my blog?  I say yes, and I am the one who decides because if I decide yes, nobody stops me.  Probably someone could stop me, but nobody does.  And how can you stop photoing outside Westminster Abbey? Can’t be done.

The way I see it, if you make a big public show of yourself like this, in a public place, you are fair photographic game.  The guests are all snapping away, so why shouldn’t a stranger join in?  And more to the point, how would anyone Official be able to decide, right then and there, who is a digitalised guest and who is merely a digitalised wedding crasher?  Can’t be done.

So, there the photos are, of the brides, the grooms, and of course of the photographers, Real and digital.

These two sets actually make a nice contrast.  In the first, we see the Real Photographer in action, waving his arms around to telling the bride and groom where to stand and how to stand and what to look like they are feeling, like the whole show is for his benefit, which this bit of the event sort of is.  And the bride and groom pose anxiously, communicating love as best they can, but actually looking more like dutiful than adoring.

And in the second, we see the wedding party emerging from Chelsea Town Hall, to confront a digital scrimmage, with all concerned looking thoroughly relaxed and happy and celebratory.

I recently read a piece, somewhere (sorry about no link – commenters?), about how in the Old Days, i.e. the days when there was Extremely Real Photography (tripod – stand very still) or no photography at all, people made a point of looking severe and grim in front of the camera, on those rare occasions when they encountered one, because if they relaxed they risked looking like a total prat, in what might well be the only photograph that anyone ever took of them or ever remembered them by.  As a result we now get a relentlessly false picture, literally, of what life was like for these people in times gone by.  We, on the other hand, treat any particular snap that someone snaps of us as no big deal, and we grin away to our heart’s content, and trust our mates mostly to pick the picture that makes us look okay.  The whole idea of the Uptight Victorian, said this piece I read, compared to relaxed and happy us, is a consequence of the changing nature not of life itself, but of photography.  Interesting idea, I think.

And I further think that these two sets of photos illustrate this contrast rather well.

At Cricinfo, stat geek Steven Lynch is asking that, i.e. was asked it by someone and he reckoned it an interesting question.  Interesting, because the answer is a bit of a surprise:

I expected the answer here to be Sachin Tendulkar - he was the youngest to 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 - but actually he was shaded by England’s Alastair Cook, who was 27 years 347 days old when he reached 7000, in the course of his 190 against India in Kolkata in December 2012. Tendulkar was about seven months older when he got there, in November 2001.

So, will Cook also be youngest to 8000?  Or will this be an anomaly?

The Ashes resume on November 21st.  There go my sleep patterns for another few months.

Monday October 28 2013

Quite often I start a BrianMicklethwaitDotCom posting, but when I’ve nearly finished it, I realise that it will do as a Samizdata posting.  This happened today, twice.

So instead, here is a link to a story, from April 2011, about Copenhagen’s Sperm Bike.  How did I miss this?  Probably because the site is called Treehugger, and peddles stuff about the need to screw up Western Civilisation because of the weather getting too hot if we don’t.

This is what the Sperm Bike looks like:


If you are wondering about how the steering works, I think this explains it.

Saturday October 26 2013

Incoming from Michael Jennings:


But, you know what they mean.

Michael, where are you?  Or rather, where were you when you took this?  (You will presumably be somewhere entirely different by the time you read this.) Georgia was it?  Moldova?  Az ...something?  Something-istan?  I think he did say.

Anyway, good luck with the hydro power guys.  Dam I love hydro-electricity.  Sorry, I have been out, and there was drink.

Thursday October 24 2013

Last night, in the post immediately below this one, I said that photos get better with time because the things in them change.  The illustration, a shop that is a shop no longer, was pretty feeble.  But after posting that, I went looking for better pictorial proof, and I think I found it:


This picture is of a big London building, in the middle of the big roundabout across the river from Parliament.  This building no longer exists.  I then went looking for one of the numerous photos I have taken since of the swanky new hotel that has replaced this old, brutal, Brutalist monstrosity, but of course I could not find one.  Follow that link to see what the new Thing looks like.

And my picture also features a bendy bus.  These are likewise no longer with us.

The photo was taken on March 10th 2004, with my now antique Canon A70.  I also, while on my travels through the archives, found other particularly choice old digital cameras in action.  Some of them soon, probably, possibly, I promise nothing.

Wednesday October 23 2013

Photos mature with age.  The most commonplace snaps can turn into something a bit more interesting, with the passing of time.

Consider this one, one of the very first that I took with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150:


I know.  It’s a shop.

But the thing is, it’s now boarded up.  That photo was taken in January 2012.  In January 2013, this happened:

The administrators to Jessops face a battle to rescue any of the company’s 192 shops after leading camera makers tightened the terms on which they sell products to the company following a downturn in the market.

Rob Hunt, joint administrator for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Without the support of certain people, we are looking at complete closure.”

Jessops has since made a partial return to life, but so far, that Jessops, which is in Strutton Ground, near where I live, has remained shut.

In the years just before it closed it had an unbearably “helpful” shop assistant, who behaved like he’d been on some mad American training course in how to relate to customers.  He wouldn’t leave you alone, and instead would engulf you in loud, totally fake bonhomie.  I used to browse around in there from time to time, occasionally buying things like batteries and SD cards, and pondering my next camera.  But because of this person, I stopped going there.  Was I the only one, I wonder?

Talking of Strutton Ground, did you know that the Goon Show first saw the light of day in Strutton Ground?  Yes, on the top floor of the pub at the far end of it from me.  I saw this in a TV show about Spike Milligan.

I guess that’s probably more interesting than a Jessops closing.  I’ll see if I can dig out more photos of things that have changed, that are rather better than that one, taken longer ago.

Monday October 21 2013

Alex Singleton has sent me an advance print-out of a book he has written about how to do PR.  I have reached page 59, and am so far very impressed.

When I read a book of this sort, I like to read about relevant personal experiences, as well as Big Lessons and Grand Principles.  That way, you are more likely to be convinced that the Big Lessons and Grand Principles really are as good and grand as they may merely seem.

So I particularly enjoyed this bit (from page 59):

When I got my first column in 1994, in a newsstand computer magazine, I had no idea what I was doing. But it seemed like I needed to get some stories, so I wrote to all the relevant companies and invited them to send me information about what they were doing. Not all of them replied - those that failed to respond were PR idiots. Some of them wrote to me saying that they would add me to their press release distribution lists - they were amateurs.

Then some guy called Quentin got in touch. His company, Accountz, sold products by mail order and it was miniscule - just him and his wife. But he wrote me a personal two-page letter (this was before email was commonplace) explaining how he had a Big Idea to defeat the major players in his sector.  Unlike some of the other companies, he had no PR agency - but he had a story. And during the 15 issues I wrote that column, I could always rely on him to take my calls and give me a good quote. When I upgraded to bigger-selling PC titles, including the market-leading ComputerActive, I kept on writing about his company. Today, his products are sold in PC World, Currys, AppleStores and Staples, and as I type this he has just made a successful exit from the company, passing it onto an investor.

What worked about that PR-journalist relationship is that Quentin - perhaps unwittingly - had good personal brand. He never tried to force a bad story on me and never wasted my time.

Alex has told me he is in the market for typos, and I think I see another blemish, to add to the two I’ve already told him about.  Shouldn’t “onto” (final line of para 2 there) be “on to”?  Not sure, but I think I’m right about that.

More about this book when I have finished it.

Sunday October 20 2013


I used to defer gratification when I was a teenager.  Now that I am middle-aged I take it when it presents itself.  Not only have the opportunities become rarer and more precious, but the benefits of deferral are always in the future.  And my future is getting shorter every day.

“A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.” This equation advises us to forgo the pleasure of tasty but fattening food.  It may be good advice when you are 20.  But as you age and your hips’ lifetime shortens, the scales begin to tip in the direction of instant labial gratification.  No one counts the calories of his last supper.

Those are the first two paragraphs of the first column in a collection of columns entitled Free Thoughts, by Jamie Whyte.  All available on line.

I found them while looking for this (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), which is by Preston Byrne.  Byrne is my next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), this coming Friday, as I’ve already written about on Samizdata.

Friday October 18 2013

TIL that TIL stands for “Today I learned”.

I was trying to understand this posting, about big cats.  6000 says big cats are lazy, and that he has the photos to prove it.

My understanding is that it’s big male cats that are the lazy ones.  Their bitches, or whatever is the proper expression for female felines, work far harder.

Thursday October 17 2013

This time last year I was speculating that Halloween seems to be supplanting Guy Fawkes Night, here in Britain, as indeed it does seem to be.  Many reasons for this were suggested by me, and by various commenters.  Undoubtedly one of these reasons in that Halloween offers shops more chances to sell stuff, stuff that, thanks to China etc., is now unprecedentedly cheap, compared, e.g., to food.

So it was that the imminence of Halloween announced itself to me a few days ago, in what is basically a food shop, Tescos:


That stuff all looks rather jolly, rather than scary or “spooky” (the claim made on the jars of sweeties), doesn’t it?

Part of the joy of digital photography is that you can photo mad crap like this for free, rather than waste any money, and more to the point space, actually buying it and taking it home.

Later, in the Kings Road, I encountered a much spookier clutch of Halloween stuff, in the window of a shop that specialises in selling “gifts”, unlike Tescos.  The Tesco stuff was for kids.

This is more like it:

image imageimage image

It was the headless woman having her breasts cradled by the hands of a skeleton that got my attention.  But, they surely missed a chance with the blood round her neck.  It ought to be dripping down from the bloody stump.

Time for me to ask, yet again: Why are decapitated women in shop windows not creepy?

Tuesday October 15 2013

This is a memo from me to me, and also an email to a friend, about another great photo op that I don’t want to forget about until I’ve done it.

The friend wants us to meet up at this, which has excellent views of both the Gherkin and the Shard, from approximately as high up as they are.  This is me saying yes I very much want to do this.  I am always on the lookout for such lookouts, and further suggestions are always very welcome.

Located on the 38th & 39th floors of the Heron Tower, SUSHISAMBA delivers a unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, culture, music and striking design to the City of London.

Yeah yeah, foreigners cooking and overcharging for it.  I get it.  But what can I see?  What can I photograph?

Europe’s two highest dining outdoor terraces flank the restaurant, offering unparalleled views of the City to the west and the Olympic Park to the east. Award-winning architects Cetra Ruddy designed the restaurant’s 13,423-square-foot (1,247-square-meter) space, which has direct access via two scenic lifts from a dedicated entrance on Bishopsgate. The venue is open daily for lunch and dinner, offering outdoor dining, a bar and lounge, and premier event space.

Scenic lifts.  Sounds terrific.  Even better if you get stuck in the scenic lift for ten minutes (not for ten hours), two thirds of the way up.

SUSHISAMBA’s menus offer an inventive culmination of three cuisines.  Guests will be treated to Brazilian Churrasco and Moqueca, Peruvian Anticuchos and Seviches; and Japanese tempura and sushi.

With any luck, the lack of proper meet+2veg food, which does not taste like it was assembled in an explosives factory, will put enough people off going to this place to give me a reasonably free run of it, and plenty of photo ops.  But that might be hoping for too much, and anyway, you only ever really find out what’s what with a deal like this when you actually go there, which I most definitely intend to do.

A link to this posting will go to the friend.  I find that this personal blog is good for writing emails to people.  What I have found myself doing recently is writing the email as a blog posting, and then emailing them the mere link, introduced with a brief summary of it.  That way you achieve email brevity and say what you really want to say about whatever it is, and you get more readers for what you have written, in this case a not quite so tiny trickle.  (I’ve sent the link to this posting, about how I want a new sofa/bench, to all sorts of people.)

The merging of the public and the private, which is a big story of the century so far, and which I will definitely be writing about some more, in other blog postings but not this one.

Monday October 14 2013

Good news sometimes comes in a disguise.

Yesterday afternoon, I paid a visit to my toilet, but was disturbed from my evacuative task by a steady dripping sound.  The dripping sound was drips.  Coming from the flat above.  I placed a bowl under the drips.  Then, I ran upstairs and banged on their door.  No answer.  There were water-related noises coming from above the flat upstairs, so I did the same to the door of the flat above the flat above.  Again, no answer.  And still the watery-related noise seemed be even higher up.  So I went up more stairs, only to discover that the flats had run out.  All that remained was the door out onto the roof.

Which is now always locked, or so I thought.  A few years ago, I went out on the roof to take photos.  But slightly fewer years ago, I tried to do it again, and the door to the roof was locked.  And again a few months later, and I gave up on trying ever to get out there ever again.

But, yesterday, this door was ajar.  I went out onto the roof.  Was amazed at what I saw.  Ran downstairs again, noted that the dripping had now stopped, grabbed my camera and ran upstairs again, in case an invisible Worker might soon shut it.  This afternoon, the door was still open.  More photos. I’ve been on some really good photo-expeditions recently (concerning which I hope to write more but promise nothing), but these two excursions were right up there with the best.

Some favourites:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

The number of Big Things you can see from this anonymous London place is amazing.

There is Big Ben, and the other Parliament Tower with the four spikes and The Wheel (1.2), Westminster Cathedral tower (1.3), Methodist Central Hall (2.1), St George Wharf (the ones with the winged roofs – 2.25), Millbank Tower (3.1), Big Ben again (3.2), that big tower in Vauxhall just past St George Wharf that the helocopter crashed into the crane of (4.1)), Millbank Tower again (4.3), the Vauxhall tower again (5.1), the Shard (5.2), Battersea Power Station (6.1), Millbank Tower again (6.2), and again (6.3).  And that’s only the Big Things that made in into my picture selection.

Plus, there are cranes beyond counting to be seen.

But even better, this place is Roof Clutter heaven, as you can see, both because of the Roof Clutter right there, and because of all the Roof Clutter you can see from it.

I have also shown the open door (2.3), because that’s how it all happened.  This afternoon, I kept checking to make sure nobody had shut it, because if they did, I’d have been stuck up there.

They’ve painted the floor white, since I last visited.

Saturday October 12 2013

Yet again I trawl through the photo-archives for diverting stuff to do here, quickly.  These two date from August of this year.

First, in Great Peter Street, SW1, a particularly choice piece of Roof Clutter:


Well, I like it.  This is my blog, and if I decide I want Roof Clutter, Roof Clutter there will be.

But this next one is truly bloggable, because truly weird. It was taken just minutes before the one above, and is a particularly choice example of the Other Person’s Screen genre that I have always been fond of, and now like even more because some photo-screens have suddenly become so very big:


That’s that pub in Victoria Street, with the new radar-invisible 62 Buckingham Gate behind it.

Thursday October 10 2013

I am at the moment struggling to complete a long piece for Samizdata, about America 3.0 and Emmanuel Todd, and so forth and so on, so as of now, all other bloggings are off.  I hope that saying this here will get me finishing this, but fear it may delay things even longer, because that is what often happens when I make promises of this sort.  I generally prefer to promise nothing.

Meanwhile, here is a photo of a butterfly, taken by me in Burgess Park, in May of this year:


I took that photo on the same day that I took this photo.  Alas, the Butterfly also had to twisted anti-clockwise.

Read more about the strange history of this butterfly here.  Apparently that building is now a boxing club.  Muhammed Ali - Mr “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” - would surely approve.

Tuesday October 08 2013

Yes more cranes, which I spotted yesterday afternoon, at the top end of Victoria Street.  So again, very near to Victoria Station.


I’m afraid that, yet again, I had to do some twisting to get that vertical and horizontal.  I am cursed with the desire to photograph verticals and horizontals, but not to be able to get them looking right straight out of the camera.

Cardinal Place has a pointy end, which is basically just two huge windows, so you can see right through that.  Below this paragraph, on the right, a photo from the exact same spot in the exact same direction, but with the zoom not operating, so you can see better what this is of.

imagePerhaps there are some readers wondering what the hell is so fascinating about cranes.  Well for one thing, they’re cranes, with all that this entails, in terms of structural magnificence, aesthetic beauty, functional just-so-ness.  Also, cranes mean new Things, coming soon.  Not necessarily good Things, but … Things.  Cranes are a vote of confidence in whatever place they are operating in.  Cranes in London say: hurrah for London.

Also, cranes are, unless something has gone badly wrong, temporary.  It will be great fun to stand, in two years time, in the exact same spot, and see how different things then look.

Monday October 07 2013

This time taken just before I arrived at Victoria Station:


Roof clutter (ancient and modern), a brightly coloured crane, another crane, a bright blue sky, scaffolding, one of those foundation-making machines that looks like it’s a cross between a horse, a giraffe and the Pink Panther, howling out a mating call … Lovely.  And it didn’t even need to be twisted.

There is a lot of rebuilding going on around there.

Sunday October 06 2013

imageSometimes mistakes caused by not holding the camera still can be interesting.

Today I took several photos (at Victoria Station, like the previous photo featured here) of the station electronic notice board saying where my train was about to go.  Basically, I was taking notes to remind myself later of where I had been.  But one of these photos went wrong.  On the twiddly little screen on my camera it looked, on account of me having moved my camera vertically at the critical moment, approximately like as you see it, top right.

That one won’t last a second when I go through all these at home, I thought.  If I was in the habit of deleting snaps on the fly, which I am not, I would have deleted that one straight away.

But now look at how it looked on my big screen, back home on my desk, this evening:


That’s the middle of the picture, to get how big it is when spread out sideways all over my big screen.  Click on that bigger picture to get an even bigger version of the original.

I don’t think it’s just me.  The smaller picture is much more legible.  But the bigger picture is a lot more fun, on account of being less legible.  It stops being annoyingly blurry writing, and instead becomes Art.



Taken by me this morning.

File under “I just like it”, although I don’t have a category for that.  Maybe I should.

Saturday October 05 2013

In May of this year, I visited something called Burgess Park, which is in South London.  It’s a terrific place and it was a terrific day.  I was on my way to Michael Jennings’s home, to watch a cricket match on his big telly, if I remember it right.

And while in Burgess Park, I of course took photos.  It is a fine place from which to observe the Big Things of the City.

Trouble is, on that day, I suffered from a regular photographic disease of mine, which is a tendency for all my pictures to be twisted at bit, clockwise.  Whenever I photo a Big Thing, I try to make it entirely vertical, using the grid on the picture feature for instance.  But when I get home and see the pictures on my big screen, the Big Things, as likely as not, will be leaning over to the right. Alex Singleton pointed out that my photos, as chosen and shown here, also have a tendency to do this.

This is caused by some combination of my eyesight, the glasses I wear to correct my eyesight, and the little twiddly screen on my camera, which I think causes me to miscalculate such things as verticals and horizontals.

Answer: Photoshop, or whatever I use instead of Photoshop.  Rotate.  Crop.  Easy.

Well, yes, when only one photo is involved.  The rotate thing is easy, and cropping is not a problem either, because it doesn’t matter what the ratio is of width to height for the resulting picture.  But, if I am doing a whole clutch of photos, the only way I can make all the small photos I show here, using my Photoshop clone, is to make square exerpts from the big pictures.  Which is fine.  But I would also like to be able to make small versions of the originals.  And if the originals are no long exactly 4x3 in proportion, that means the small version won’t be either, and hence won’t be the exact same size as the other small photos.

What I needed was not just the ability to crop exact squares of whatever size makes sense, but also to crop with a rectangle that retains its exact proportions.  This, my Photoshop clone does not have, or if it does, I have not been able to find it.

I wanted, some time in late May or early June, to put up a clutch of those Burgess Park photos, but since so many of the otherwise most suitable snaps were suffering from clockwise twist, I gave up and then forgot about it.

However, recently, in order to do video (I hope to tell you about this later but promise nothing) but also in order to be using the programme that the rest of the world also uses for photo-manipulation, I purchased Adobe-Premier-and-Adobe-Elements, Adobe Elements being the down-market (plenty good enough for me) version of Adobe Photoshop of the sort now used by pro designers and photographers.  And my version of Photoshop Elements does have a proportional cropping (if you get my drift) facility.

Which means that I can now rescue pictures like this, good, but twisted, ...:


… buy doing this to them with Photoshop Elements ...:


… resulting in this picture looking like this, good, and not twisted, or at least not nearly as twisted as it was:


Hurrah.  I can now show you a great clutch of pictures of and from Burgess Park.  Which I will not do now as this posting is already a posting and postings should, as a general rule, say just the one thing.

The Big Thing on the left that looks like a kitchen refuse tub is the notorious Walkie Talkie, notorious because it recently got itself into all the papers by frying nearby shops.

I am now making use of three distinct photo-manipulation programmes, which is ridiculous but there it is.  That’s what is happening.  I use my Photoshop clone because I do, and it works.  I use Paint.NET because I can’t make my Photoshop clone do screen captures, like for the middle picture above.  So I use Paint.NET only for that, and save the captured mega-image as a .jpg and then sort it out with my Photoshop clone, because I am used to that.  And now I use Photoshop itself, for the reasons explained above.

The twenty-first century is complicated.

Now that I look again at the photo above, having done everything above this paragraph several hours ago, I suspect this picture needs to get ever more untwisted before it’s exactly right.  I now suspect another cause of me getting this kind of thing wrong, which is my tendency, due to the local vicissitudes of my desk, to not look at my big computer screen from exactly in front of it, but instead a bit from the side.

The twenty-first century just got even more complicated.

LATER: The above rotation was just the one degree.

Here is the result of rotating two degrees:


Better, I think.  Though this time, I just used The Clone, because I know my way around it, so the proportions got shot to hell.  But at least I think The Big Things may finally be pointing exactly upwards.

Friday October 04 2013

It’s been a while since I featured a vertically thin picture. So, photoed by me at King’s Cross early last night:


Click on it to get the bigger picture.

I enjoyed reading this review of McBride’s book, by Guido, not least because it is a reminder of how capably Guido can do posh.  His blog is deliberately tabloid, and he greatly admires the tabloid style.  But, as I learned when he was still at the stage of occasionally contributing stuff to the Libertarian Alliance, way back when, this is not the only style he can do.

I just did a bit of searching for LA stuff he had written, and found my way to this (scroll down to page 8), from the turn of the century.  It’s about how he wants to switch to a kinder, gentler libertarianism.

Thursday October 03 2013

Anton Howes spoke earlier this evening to Libertarian Home, about what made the Industrial Revolution get started.  I took this photo of Howes, as he relaxed afterwards:


Howes really is a class act, as I already knew from when he addressed my Brian’s Last Friday, in July.  What he has to say about the Industrial Revolution is already fascinating, and full of fascinating detail.  When he has done all his research, then this talk will turn into something very formidable.

Meanwhile, a way to understand where Howes is coming from, and what kind of thesis he is exploring the further biographical and other detail of, is to read a book called Bourgeois Dignity, by Deirdre McCloskey.  Howes recommended this book at the talk he gave in July.  I bought a copy and am reading it now.

McCloskey’s basic thesis is that the thing that made the difference was ideas.  The Industrial Revolution was not merely a bunch of people responding to economic incentives.  It was people doing something they had come to believe in, surrounded by other people who also got the point, enough to let them get on with it.  The Industrial Revolution was an ideology, brought to life by a core community of industrial inventors and creators, and sufficiently bought into by the wider society for those creators not to be suppressed.

The Industrial Revolution had plenty of chances to happen far earlier, in such places as China and Imperial Rome.  That it did not happen earlier in such places is because, although the material conditions seemed to be all present and correct, they just weren’t thinking the right way to make the breakthrough.  So McCloskey says, anyway.

As to what Howes said, well, the good news is that, unlike the talk he gave at my place, tonight’s talk was recorded on video by Simon Gibbs, and will accordingly materialise at Libertarian Home, by and by.

Tuesday October 01 2013

Incoming ("A quote you may like") from Richard Carey, who gave a great talk at my home last Friday, at my latest Last Friday, about The English Radicals at the time of the Civil War:

Here’s a quote from Algernon Sidney’s ‘Discourses on Government’, which lost him his head but gained him the admiration of Jefferson and others. Somewhere into the second paragraph, you will know why I have sent this!

The book is a riposte to one by a fellow named Filmer who wrote in support of the Divine Right of Kings, a notion Sidney found odious and false.

So, Richard having already supplied me with this excellent SQotD, penned by John Lilburne, we now have this:

Implicit Faith belongs to Fools, and Truth is comprehended by examining Principles

Whilst Filmer’s business is to overthrow liberty and truth, he, in his passage, modestly professeth not to meddle with mysteries of state, or arcana imperii. He renounces those inquiries through an implicit faith, which never enter’d into the head of any but fools, and such, as through a carelessness of the point in question, acted as if they were so. This is the foundation of the papal power, and it can stand no longer than those that compose the Roman church can be persuaded to submit their consciences to the word of the priests, and esteem themselves discharged from the necessity of searching the Scriptures in order to know whether the things that are told them are true or false. This may shew whether our author or those of Geneva do best agree with the Roman doctrine: But his instance is yet more sottish than his profession. An implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer. I wonder by whom! Who will wear a shoe that hurts him, because the shoe-maker tells him ’tis well made? or who will live in a house that yields no defence against the extremities of weather, because the mason or carpenter assures him ’tis a very good house? Such as have reason, understanding, or common sense, will, and ought to make use of it in those things that concern themselves and their posterity, and suspect the words of such as are interested in deceiving or persuading them not to see with their own eyes, that they may be more easily deceived. This rule obliges us so far to search into matters of state, as to examine the original principles of government in general, and of our own in particular. We cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or know what obedience we owe to the magistrate, or what we may justly expect from him, unless we know what he is, why he is, and by whom he is made to be what he is. These perhaps may be called mysteries of state, and some would persuade us they are to be esteemed arcana; but whosoever confesses himself to be ignorant of them, must acknowledge that he is incapable of giving any judgment upon things relating to the superstructure, and in so doing evidently shews to others, that they ought not at all to hearken to what he says.

His argument to prove this is more admirable. If an implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer in his craft, much more to a prince in the profound secrets of government. But where is the consequence? If I trust to the judgment of an artificer, or one of a more ingenuous profession, ’tis not because he is of it, but because I am persuaded he does well understand it, and that he will be faithful to me in things relating to his art. I do not send for Lower or Micklethwait when I am sick, nor ask the advice of Mainard or Jones in a suit of law, because the first are physicians, and the other lawyers; but because I think them wise, learned, diligent, and faithful, there being a multitude of others who go under the same name, whose opinion I would never ask. Therefore if any conclusion can be drawn from thence in favour of princes, it must be of such as have all the qualities of ability and integrity, that should create this confidence in me; or it must be proved that all princes, in as much as they are princes, have such qualities. No general conclusion can be drawn from the first case, because it must depend upon the circumstances, which ought to be particularly proved: And if the other be asserted, I desire to know whether Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vitellius, Domitian, Commodus, Heliogabalus, and others not unlike to them, had those admirable endowments, upon which an implicit faith ought to have been grounded; how they came by them; and whether we have any promise from God, that all princes should forever excel in those virtues, or whether we by experience find that they do so. If they are or have been wanting in any, the whole falls to the ground; for no man enjoys as a prince that which is not common to all princes: And if every prince have not wisdom to understand these profound secrets, integrity to direct him, according to what he knows to be good, and a sufficient measure of industry and valour to protect me, he is not the artificer, to whom the implicit faith is due. His eyes are as subject to dazzle as my own. But ’tis a shame to insist on such a point as this. We see princes of all sorts; they are born as other men: The vilest flatterer dares not deny that they are wise or foolish, good or bad, valiant or cowardly like other men: and the crown doth neither bestow extraordinary qualities, ripen such as are found in princes sooner than in the meanest, nor preserve them from the decays of age, sickness, or other accidents, to which all men are subject: And if the greatest king in the world fall into them, he is as incapable of that mysterious knowledge, and his judgment is as little to be relied on, as that of the poorest peasant.

My googling abilities are wayward, to put it politely, but based on a fleeting mention of a Micklethwait who was the grandson of “the physician”, the physician Micklethwait does appear to have been quite distinguished.  And since he’s a Micklethwait, spelt Micklethwait (without, that is to say, any terminal e), that makes him a relative of mine, or so I have always assumed.

In the course of this googling for ancient Micklethwaits, I also came across this picture, which the National Portrait Gallery has in its collection, of my paternal grandfather, who was a lawyer.  Hopefully the sort of lawyer whom Algernon Sidney would have been content to consult.  Grandpa Micklethwait died when I was four and I think I must have met him, or at least been shown to him, but I have no recollection of this.