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

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Category archive: Books

Sunday March 30 2014

Incoming from Simon Rose, entitled “End of the World not happening tomorrow”.

What this means is that the End of the World CLUB MEETING is not happening tomorrow, because of a double booking mix-up of some sort.  But for a moment there, I was wondering what mad prophecy Simon was taking it upon himself to contradict.

The End of the World Club is an up-market version of my Last Friday meetings.  Despite its rather grumpy old man title, these meetings are very good, with excellent speakers.  For instance there was that fascinating talk by someone who had lived through the Zimbabwe inflation.

And, I first came across Dominic Frisby when he addressed the EotW Club, about this book.  Ever since Frisby spoke at my home, about his next book I have been hearing his voice on television, what with me being fond of TV documentaries.  Here (click on that only if you want to hear noise at once) is what he sounds like.  More Frisby audio info here.

Email me if you want to know more about these EotW meetings, and I’ll put you in touch with Simon Rose.

If the world ever does end, I want Frisby doing the voice overing for it.

Friday March 28 2014

I will, I am now sure (although I actually promise nothing), be writing more in connection with the talk that Christian Michel has just given at my home, but as of right now, I am too tired to do it anything like justice.  All I will say about it now is that it was superb. (Read his sales pitch for the talk in this earlier posting here.)

But two bits of trivia about the evening occur to me to mention, both so trivial that I don’t have to have all my wits about me to mention them.

First, I made a particular resolution not just to provide satisfactory snacks to my guests but to actually open the packets of the snacks and putting the snacks in plates.  In the past, I have found myself burdened, once my guests have departed, with unopened packets of party food.  My surmise is that this is not because nobody wanted to eat any of these snacks.  No, the problem is that people don’t like to open food packets, because that feels, and worse, may appear greedy.  It’s like they want to eat all of them.  Or maybe, that they are reluctant to open a new packet when they only want one of them.  But, faced with a plate of biscuits or a big bowl of crisps, they will not hesitate to partake, if so inclined.  It’s a little thing, but this worked well, I think.

And second, as usual, the exactly right number of people showed up.  How do they know to do this?  Last time around I was afraid that there would be too many.  This time, for various reasons involving several semi-regulars happening to have other things on such as wedding anniversaries, I feared there might be too few.  In the event, the number of attenders, both last time and this time was pretty much identical and just right.  It always is.  A Samizdata commenter, commenting on something I wrote there about this odd phenomenon, said that there is an explanation of it in this book, which I’m pretty sure I already possess.  I must track it down.  With luck, this posting will remind me to do this instead of forgetting about it.

Wednesday January 22 2014

I have plenty more to say about Alex’s PR Masterclass, and may even get around to saying it, Real Soon Now.  Meanwhile, here is my favourite snap that I snapped at the launch of the book last night, at the office of Adam Smith Institute:

image

If you hold a book launch for a book called “PR Masterclass”, that launch had better be packed out, or you look like a prune.

It was.  He didn’t.

Sunday January 19 2014

As my talk deadline (tomorrow evening) approaches, further insights keep rearranging themselves in my brain.

Not long ago, I read Alex Singleton’s new book (he will be speaking at my home on Friday 31st of this month) about how to do P(ublic) R(elations).  (Not so long before reading that book, I read another book in which PR meant, throughout, P(hoto) R(econnaissance).  How the world keeps changing (see below).)

I don’t recall any of the facts in this book of Alex’s about how to do PR being any sort of shattering revelation.  Rather was the book a relentless drip-drip-drip of what is called “commonsense”, that is, of facts which might well be true, which would make sense if true, and which are, in the opinion of one who knows, actually true, as opposed to some other equally commonsensical notions about these or those circumstances, which, in the opinion of the same expert, are not true.  Yet Alex telling me all the things he knows about how to do PR hardly begins to turn me into a PR expert, even though I am now at least passingly acquainted with every important principle, or even fact, that he has gathered up during his PR-ing over the last few years, and furthermore now know (or think I know) where to look to reacquaint myself with all these facts.

What distinguishes Alex from me as a PR-er is that he not only has his facts right, but that he also has them, as the saying goes, “at his fingertips”.  That is, he knows how to deploy the pertinent fact at the pertinent time, again and again.  He makes connections between his facts, and knows, from experience, which fact matters at which particular moment.  He has his facts properly arranged and cross-referenced, inside his head.  He knows his way around his facts.  All I have is an ill-remembered list of facts.

Trying to “make sense” (as I now am) of digital photography is like that.  I already know everything about digital photography that I need to know, pretty much, as (I’m guessing) do you.  The problem is making sense of what I know, of putting it all together and relating this fact to that fact, in a way that is slightly interesting and surprising, yet also true.

I now find myself thinking about digital photography as part of that wider historical change known by labels like: the Information Revolution.  The Information Revolution kicked off, I would say, on May 11th 1844, when the first message between two different cities (Washington and Baltimore) was sent by electric telegraph.  It is intrinsic to digital photography that it is photography that can be communicated.

The effect of the Information Revolution has been to unleash a succession of changes in the texture of everyday life, with each successive decade being defined by whatever stage the Information Revolution happened to have arrived at at that particular passing moment.  Photography is both an example of such a change, and the means of recording and remembering and celebrating such changes.  Photography remembers things like tablets and iPhones, just as in earlier times it remembered and still remembers big mobile phones, antique microphones, dance crazes, the social structure of successive pop combos, fashions in costume and make-up, and so forth and so on.  (Photography also remembers successive iterations of the Industrial Revolution, like trains, cars, airplanes and wars.)

Photography remembers, among many other things, itself.  Digital photography remembers, among even more other things, itself.

Tuesday January 07 2014

I’m reading Boris Johnson’s book about London.  It’s good fun.  I don’t know how much Boris is to be trusted about things like historical facts, but I doubt it is that bad, even though he is a politician.

The thing is, for years I’ve been looking for a brief history of London, but all the others seem to be too long, and too solemn, or worse, they exude literary pretension.  I think I own this book, but have never been inclined to read it.

I’ve just finished the Chaucer chapter.  I hadn’t realised quite what a swell Chaucer was.  Him writing in English was a rather generous - or maybe rather patronising - gesture from a man whose first language was Norman French.  It was during his lifetime that English supplanted French as England’s language.  Johnson mentions the Black Death, of course, but not one of my pet theories about the Black Death, which is that the Black Death actually helped to cause English to take over, by killing half the royal administrators, who then had all to be replaced, because clearly the bureaucracy couldn’t get any smaller.  That would be against the laws of everything.  So, what remained of the teaching profession was sucked into the bureaucracy.  At which point the English turned to home education.  Guess in which language.  But I digress.

I am greatly looking forward to reading about the time of the English Civil War, and then the stuff about John Wilkes, who is someone I keep hearing about but have never really got to grips with.  I anticipate a good, quick, potted biography.  I am expecting the arguments swirling around Wilkes to be a bit like those that now rage around the figure of Edward Snowden.

The book passes my basic test, which is that having started it, I find that I want to finish it.  I am reading the book, despite merely needing to read other books.

In the shop (a remainder shop), I read the beginnings of the chapter on Shakespeare, and bought it on the strength of that.  You can buy it for £2.82.

Saturday December 28 2013

For about one second this posting appeared here.  But then I realised it could just as well go there.  So, there it went.

Thursday December 26 2013

Now on display in the window of a local Oxfam shop, the one in Strutton Ground:

image

Here it is on Amazon.

(Further Amazon thoughts from me here.  The weird thing about Amazon is that it seems, still, to be a hangover from the dot com boom bust era.  It doesn’t make a profit, but still people want to own its shares.  Explanations anyone?)

But back to the latest England Ashes tour, which has become another very tough one.  Day One at Melbourne was hard going for England, not at all like their previous Day One at Melbourne.  And you can bet Clarke remembered that day when he put England in this time around.  This time over, he wanted to knock England over for something like 98, and end the day with Australia on something like 157-0.  At least England escaped that.  They didn’t do terribly badly, just not terribly well.  All the England top five got starts.  Only Pietersen got past 50.  It won’t be enough.  Australia will surely score quicker, get a lead, and win well, again.

Trott broken.  Swann gone.  They’re “playing for pride” now.  The pride, that is to say, of not being beaten 5-0, which they probably will be.

Australia aren’t especially good, and England aren’t especially bad.  But Australia are now definitely better in all departments, and with no interruptions or fluctuations caused by the weather like in England, they just keep on winning and England keep on losing, not just every match but pretty much every session.  Oh well.  Only a game.

England’s problem now is that the formerly great oldies (Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Anderson), are not yet bad enough to drop, and the newbies are not yet good enough.  But, if they don’t drop the oldies, the newbies will never get good.

Thursday December 19 2013

I am, as noted in the previous posting, reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity.  At the join between page 350 and page 351, I learn this:

The second sons of British aristocrats, such as Richard Howe, had long joined even the technically demanding and bourgeois navy.  They stood on the quarterdecks facing enemy fire, as aristocrats should, but their fellow offers were the sons of lawyers or of clergymen (such as Sir Frances William Austen, Admiral of the Fleet in 1863 and Jane Austen’s brother; and Sir Charles Austen, another brother and another admiral).

I did not know this, that is to say, I did not know (in particular) the bit in the brackets.  That explains a great deal about the novel Persuasion, in which the best men are navy men, and the biggest arse is an aristocrat.

Jane Austen’s books are popular because, despite the way they look on television, they are precisely not unthinking celebrations of aristocratic privilege and excellence.  Upwardly mobile traders are accorded dignity, and aristocrats who despise tradesmen for trading are in their turn despised by Jane Austen.  Yes, Mr Darcy owns half a county, and Elizabeth Bennet falls for him when she first sets eyes on his gigantic stately home.  But his aunt, Lady Catherine de Burgh, who despises Elizabeth for being related to tradespeople, is another pompous aristocratic arse (of the female sort), bested at the end by bourgeois Elizabeth Bennet.

By the way, McCloskey is a cricket fan.

Jane Austen’s naval brothers
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
Cli-fi
Huge semi-submersible ships
Emmanuel Todd links
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Typing on the new smartphone
The mystery of the one good photo
Better a year late than never
The Qur’an is not science – science cannot be ignored
Classical CDs from Gramex
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
James Hamilton on self help and class
America 3.0
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
After the wedding
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
The bike behind the theatre
Let us now trash infamous men
Julian Assange drove Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s cat Herr Schmitt crazy
I can now copy and paste from .pdf files
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Lancaster
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
English will not last for ever shock
Happy hundredth
Mmmmm … bookshelves!
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Sleeping rough and reading an SF classic
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
God is not One
Molly Norris was just kidding!
You know where you are with a book - usually
Cat tales
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
In Alicante
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
Trying to become an adequate interviewer of promising libertarians
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Under a hundred copies
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
What a difference a g makes
France falls in love with Hugh Laurie
“Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore …”
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Reading Kasparov
The Rand revival - and some thoughts about Rand’s failure to understand architectural tradition
What-iffing
And here is a real quotation
Quota quotes from Wodehouse
On autobiographical ruthlessness
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Redirect
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Official bias
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
A poetic Hornby
Me elsewhere
An impulse posting about procrastination
You must enjoy reading!
Professor Wenger
Theodore Dalrymple on the menace of honest public officials and much else besides
Bookcase staircase many books electric book manybooks.net