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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

Friday June 30 2017

Last night I sent out the reminder emails concerning my meeting tonight, the first of the ones listed in the previous posting, and I hoped for a few more replies saying: I’ll be there.  So far: nothing.  So now I am worried there won’t be enough people, and I will look like a plonker.  This morning I woke up, but then went back to sleep and had a scary and absurdly over-the-top warning dream about what a disaster tonight is going to be.  The plot line was: I went out shopping for stuff, and didn’t even get back in time myself.  Maybe the message was: relax.  It’ll be bad.  But it won’t be this bad.

So, now I face a day of fretting, and a day of making optimistic preparations for what could be a fiasco that won’t need them.  So, what did I just do?  I dashed off a Samizdata posting about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and what a bad thing this is.

This is not as crazy as it sounds.  If there is one thing that will totally ruin by last-Friday-of-the-month meetings it is the universal (but unstated-to-my-face) understanding that I am now a person of zero significance, the significance of whose meetings is likewise: zero.  But, I like these meetings, so long as people attend them in sufficient numbers, and I would miss them if I stopped doing them.  So, I need to put myself about more, on Samizdata and generally.  Even though what I really like doing is reading books about people like Chopin, listening to music by people like Chopin, wandering around London and posting pretty pictures of it here, waffling about them, and troubling nobody.

When you get old, you have to go on being what you are and doing what you do, even if you’d rather not.

Sunday June 25 2017

I’ve been reading Adam Zamoyski’s book about Chopin.  So far, I love it.  And I love learning so much about a fascinating man, of whom I knew just about nothing besides his music, and the fact that he was Polish and is a very big deal in Poland, but that he lived mostly in France.

I have, in particular, learned just exactly how Polish Chopin was, and was not.  His father, Nicholas Chopin, was French.  But when the Polish aristocrat for whom he worked went back to Poland, Nicholas went with him.  In Poland Nicholas married a Polish woman, and Frederick was thus born in Poland, but with his French-sounding name.  It sounds French because it was French.

So far, I have reached the stage where Chopin has played his first few concerts at which he performed, to great acclaim, his first few compositions, most of them for piano and orchestra.  (I am very fond of these pieces, the two piano concertos and the various other one movement works for piano and orchestra.)

As for how Chopin played, Zamoyski supplies this especially pleasing quote, from an unnamed Warsaw newspaper critic:

He emphasised but little, like one conversing in the company of clever people, not with the rhetorical aplomb which is considered by virtuosos to be indispensable.

But Chopin found it difficult working with orchestras, and I’m guessing that this is partly why that stopped, and he concentrated henceforth on solo works.  But as I think the above quote reveals, that probably suited his manner of playing better.

Thursday June 08 2017

Yes, Jamie Bartlett spoke to Libertarian Home last night, at the Two Chairmen, Dartmouth Street, London SW1, and I was very impressed.  So impressed that this morning, I went to this much bother:

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Click on any of those little squares and get to the bigger picture.  They all look much the same to me, apart from the first two.  If you want to make further use of any of them, further use away.  If you would like a larger original version of any of these photos, get in touch.

The thing is, I took lots of photos of Jamie Bartlett, as he spoke.  Normally, most of such pictures would be a blur, but just like me, my camera really liked this guy, and almost always focussed amazingly well, considering the deeply unhelpful lighting that always seems to prevail at these talks, with the wall behind perfectly lit but the face of the speaker in near darkness.  But all cameras these days see better than humans do, so no worries about that.

Bartlett told a few stories about successful radicals of his acquaintance, which are also told in his book Radicals, which I will definitely be reading in the near future.  I prefer paperbacks to hardbacks because they weigh less and take up less space, but I may not be willing to wait until Jan 2018 for the paperback version of this book.

Going by what he said last night, the radicals he writes about are people who use their media savvy to turn hitherto rather somnolent movements into media circuses, thereby waking up and alerting the wider world to these movements.

I am not surprised that amazon reviewers wrote about what a good read this book is.  Jamie Bartlett is definitely a very engaging and thoughtful speaker.  Hewas late arriving, on account of buzzing around Europe speaking to lots of other people, but he was well worth the wait.  And because of this delay I got to do some enjoyable LH socialising.

My thanks and admiration to LH’s Simon Gibbs, for organising this excellent event.

Saturday April 22 2017

Indeed:

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The history of this particular picture is that GodDaughter 2 and I were in Waterstones, Piccadilly, which is one of our favourite spots.  She loves all the books.  I like the books too, but I love the views that I can photo from the cafe at the top.  This is not very high up, but it is high enough up to see many interesting things, and familiar things from an unfamiliar angle, of which, perhaps or perhaps not, more later.

So, anyway, there we were in Waterstones, and we were making our way up the stairs to the top, rather than going up in the lift, because I needed the Gents and GD2 needed the Ladies.  All of which caused me to be waiting on the book floor nearest to the Ladies, and that was where I saw this book.  I had heard about it, via a TV show that Hockney did a few years back, and I did a little read of the bit that really interested me, which was about how very early photography intermingled with “Art”.  I wouldn’t have encountered the book itself had it not been for GD2 and I both liking Waterstones, and had it not been for nature demanding GD2’s attention.  So, this is another picture I owe to her, to add to this one.

The way Hockney and his art critic pal tell the story of how early photography and the Art of that time intermingled is: that all the other Art critics say that the Artists were zeroing in on a “photographic” looking style, through their own purely Artistic efforts.  Nonsense, say Hockney and pal.  The Artists were already using the early stages of photography, and if my recollection of that television show is right, that this had been going on for quite a while.  They were using photographic methods to project a scene onto a surface, and then painting it in by hand.  These paintings look photographic because, in a partial but crucial sense, they are photographic.  Later, the photo-techies worked out how to frieze that image permanently onto that surface, by chemical means rather than by hand copying.  Those Art critics want to say that the Artists lead the world towards photography, but the influence was more the other way around.  Photograhy was leading the Artists.

This fascinating historical episode, assuming (as I do) that Hockney and pal are not making this up, shows how complicated and additive a technology like photography is.  It didn’t erupt all at once.  It crept up on the world, step by step.  And of course it is still creeping forwards, a step at a time, in our own time.  Early photographers couldn’t shove their pictures up by telephone onto your television screen, the way I just did, if only because television screens didn’t happen for another century.

Meanwhile, the book trade is creeping forwards.  In the age of Amazon, am I the only one who sees an interesting book in a bookshop, looks at the price, says to himself: I can do much better than that on Amazon, and contents himself with taking a photo of the book’s cover?  Are we bad people?

For this book, the difference is thirty quid in the shop, but twenty quid or even less on Amazon.

In that talk I did about the impact of digital photography, one of the uses I found myself emphasising was using digital cameras for note-taking.  How much easier and more exact to make a picture of this book’s cover with one camera click, than to record its mere title with the laborious taking of a written note.

Monday February 20 2017

Last night I sent out the email concerning the Brian’s Last Friday meeting this coming Friday, at the end of which email I found myself blurting out this:

Whenever I concoct these promotional emails I end up feeling very excited about the forthcoming talk.  This time, this effect was especially pronounced.

This was what got me “very excited”:

Marc Sidwell will give a talk entitled: Promoting Freedom in a Post-Expert World.

He will be speaking about “the ongoing erosion of power and technocratic authority (most recently visible in the Brexit vote and the rise of Trump) and proposing some ways libertarians can respond to this shift.”

Other talk titles that were considered: “Twilight of the Wonks” and “The Revenge of Common Sense”.

Marc Sidwell is an journalist, editor, publisher, and writer, most recently of a How To Win Like Trump, now riding high in the Kindle best-seller List.  More about Marc, his career and his publications, here.

For further information about the kinds of ideas Marc will be presenting, I strongly recommend a visit to: marcsidwell.com/.

It was there that I gleaned this quote, from Brexit campaigner Dominic Cummings:

“All those amazed at why so little attention was paid to ‘the experts’ did not, and still do not, appreciate that these ‘experts’ are seen by most people of all political views as having botched financial regulation, made a load of rubbish predictions, then forced everybody else outside London to pay for the mess while they got richer and dodged responsibility. They are right. This is exactly what happened.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if that quote gets a mention at some stage during Marc’s talk.

I would add that there are some kinds of expertise that continue to be held in very high esteem.  Nobody doubts the expertise of the people who make all the machines and devices, mechanical and electrical, that keep our world ticking over efficiently and entertainingly.  Not all expertise is now held in low regard, only the kinds of expertise that Cummings itemises.

The room is already starting to fill up.

Email me (see top left of this blog) if you want to know more about these monthly speaker meetings at my home.

Friday February 03 2017

Last night I was at the Institute of Economic Affairs for the launch of James Tooley’s remarkable book, Imprisoned in India: Corruption and Extortion in the World’s Largest Democracy.

Here are a few of the photos I took of him, talking about this book:

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James Tooley is the guy who roams the earth, seeking out freelance educational enterprises, and also setting up several of his own.  But then, he fell foul of India’s criminal justice bureaucracy, and got imprisoned for a while.  Scary.  And then he wrote a book about it.  I have only read the bit at the end, because I wanted to know that James Tooley was okay.  I of course intend to read the rest, and then do my bit to plug it.

Judging by last night’s performance, James is fine.  But he is also haunted by the knowledge that many other victims of the same corrupt system are not as lucky, if that’s the word, as he was.

Also present at the launch were James Bartholomew and Martin Durkin:

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Both were effusive about the book, more than they had to be, if you get my drift.

The Q and A focussed, inevitably, on what is to be done, about the vast scale of the corruption in India.  The mood of the room, although packed, was grim.  My feeling is: you start by telling the story.  You start by writing books like this one.

And the rest of us start by reading them.

Friday January 27 2017

Friday is my day for cats and other creatures, but it is also David Thompson’s day for more substsantial collections of all this weird and wonderful on the internet, and one ephemeron (ephemeros? ephemerum?) in his collection today is this:

Brutalist colouring book.  Because concrete needs colour.

I followed that link.

Quote:

Brutalism lovers, sharpen your cold grey and warm grey pencils and add some colour to some great concrete constructions. First edition of 500 hundred copies. Each copy is numbered.

Ooh.  First edition.  Numbered copies.  Very arty.  Sign of the times?  I want it to be.

I have long thought that the brutalities of brutalism could use a bit of softening, and actually, a lot of softening.  With colour.  Bring it on.

Someone who agreed with me, from way back was, actually, would you believe?: Le Corbusier.  He was into bright colours to soften the brutalities of his brutalism, from the getgo.

(See also: these colourful kittens.  No softening needed there, but it was done anyway.)

Sunday December 25 2016

The idea was that, all alone in my snuggery, I would do lots of tidying up.  I have done some, but mostly I have been reading Anthony Beevor’s book, misleadingly entitled ”D-Day”, and unmisleadingly subtitled “The Battle for Normandy”.  For Beevor’s story goes from the early agonising about whether (because of the weather), and if so exactly when, the landings would be launched, right up until the German catastrophe that was the Falaise Pocket.  Then as now, despite much behind the scenes agonising, the short-term weather forecaster got it spot on, despite having far less to go on than his equivalents have now.

There’s nothing like the misfortunes of others to cheer you up.  Which is a terrible thing to say and I wouldn’t say it if there was any chance that my bad attitude was able to reach back into the past and make the sufferings of those soldiers, and all those French people caught up in the fighting, even worse.  But it won’t do that.  And anyway, what I mean is, I am really just acknowledging how much worse things were for that generation than they have been for mine.

And then, come Christmas time, there was the Battle of the Bulge for all the participants in this book to put up with, if they’d not already been killed, or injured and stretchered off.

I haven’t been reading this book solidly, in its correct order.  I have been dipping into it, reading about this or that episode, pretty much at random.  Today I was reading about how Brittany was liberated, which until now I knew very little about.  It helps a lot having been to all the towns and cities that get a mention.

Earlier, I read about what those Hawker Typhoons did, known to me until now only as an oil painting.  What the Typhoons did was destroy a hell of a lot fewer counter-attacking German tanks than they claimed at the time and ever since, but they scared the hell out of the German tank guys, which was almost as effective.  The counter-attack was duly snuffed out.

And when that book has finished entertaining me, I have another book, full of more evidence concerning how nice my life has been, this time about something that happened a year earlier.  Kursk.

Some more Christmas cheer
Fantastic Beasts has an alcove in W.H. Smith all to itself
The painted word
The internet is for telling me what’s on the telly
The cuddly killer
Illness and coolness
Recent taxis with adverts photos
Trump
Wainwright on facadism
Simon Gibbs on computer programming - me on how Alex Singleton has not written himself out of a job
Anton Howes on the idea of (and the unstoppability of) technological innovation
Londres
How David Irving put himself on trial
Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
Shard - Guys - Tate Modern - Blackfriars Bridge - photoed during Magic Hour
Made-up London detectives in real London places
Amazon review of Inflation Matters
How bet hedging explains the perpetual terribleness of everything
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
BMdotcom What if? of the day
A feline Friday at Guido
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
A cat book and a feline front page
The death of email?
Happy Friday (eventually)
Postrel goes for Gray
Confirming my String prejudices
Will England get lucky?
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
Building as ornament
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Well that’s a relief
Two bits of hospitality trivia
Alex Singleton at the ASI last night
Making sense of digital photography
Boris Johnson’s London
Scott Wiener on pizza boxes
Tough going in Australia
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