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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: History

Thursday April 17 2014

On Monday I was in Trafalgar Square, and photoed this statue:

image

I was in a hurry, and had no time to dwell on what it said on the plinth, but it seemed to be saying “JACOBVS SECVNDVS”, or some such thing.  So, could this really be James II?  I proceeded to my Event and forgot about it.

But just now, seeking a quota photo, I looked it up, and yes, it is James II.

Description of it:

Sculpted by Grinling Gibbons or one of his pupils this is considered a very fine statue. It is a pair with that of Charles II, James’s brother and predecessor, at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in that they were both commissioned by Tobias Rustat.

Even better description of it:

A strong contender for the title “campest statue in London”, this statue has seen more sites than most, starting off in Priory Gardens, the centre of Whitehall, the forecourt of the Admiralty and now here.

I knew that the Romans tended to be held in higher esteem in former times than they are now.  But I didn’t realise that James II in particular was such an admirer of the Romans.

Was it James II’s decision to be dressed like this?  It had to be a decision he approved of, or would have approved of, because Tobias Rustat was an exact contemporary, and a servant of Charles II.  I.e. not a man who would have done anything to offend Charles II’s brother monarch.

Blog and learn.

As for the camp thing, James’s face in this statue does remind me a bit of this bloke.

LATER: I see that James II regarded himself as the king not only of England, Scotland and Ireland, but also of France.  Odd.

Wednesday April 16 2014

The pictures below were taken on April 16th 2004, in (on?) one of my regular snapping zones, Westminster Bridge, from which, then as now, you get great views of both Parliament and the Wheel, depending on which way you look.

Most of the things I was photoing then haven’t changed that much, but … I was just then starting to realise that my fellow digital photographers were an object worthy of my detailed and prolonged attention, which they have been ever since.  That summer of 2004 was the moment when I first got seriously stuck into this category of photo.  There are still lots of pictures of people just wandering around, being people.  But, the photographers were just tarting to figure strongly in the archives.  It took me a while to realise that the cameras mattered at least as much as the people using them, that aspect getting steadily easier as zoom got zoomier.

The privacy concerns associated with just shoving recognisable pictures of strangers up on the internet have only grown since then, but I reckon that pictures this old are not such a problem in that way.  Recognisable pictures taken yesterday, that I tend not to do these days, or not so much.  But pictures of people taken a decade ago, well, I’m more relaxed about that.

The little squares zoom in on the cameras.  Click and get the original pictures as taken that afternoon, which would appear to have been exactly as sunny as today is.

Enjoy:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

Mostly silver rather than black, mostly much bulkier than the equivalent cameras look now.  But of course there is one exception to all that.  Picture 3.1 shows a kind of camera that looked then pretty much exactly as it looks now.  Black.  Shaped like an old school camera.  These are the cameras that are actually just regular quite good digital cameras, but which enable you think of yourself as the beginnings of a Real Photographer.  My kind of camera, in other words.  Cameras in this category look now exactly as they looked then.  Nothing has changed with those.

Except what they can do.

Monday April 14 2014

This evening I visited New Zealand House, for an ASI do.  On the way out, I passed this bust, with “FREYBERG V.C.” on its plinth:

image

Inevitably, when you stick up a photo of such a notable, you do some googling.  Not only was Freyberg awarded the VC.  He also scored four DSOs.  My Uncle Jack got three of these, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone getting four.  It seems that sixteen men have won four DSOs, with just two of these (Freyberg and Frederick Lumsden (who died towards the end of WW1)) getting four DSOs and a VC.

Blog and learn.

I see that another of the DSO four-timers - but no VC, although he was recommended for one - was Group Captain Tait, who succeeded Cheshire (VC) as commander of 617 Squadron (aka the Dam Busters).  Tait lead them when they flew from Lossiemouth to Norway and sank the Tirpitz.  I remember reading about Tait when I was a kid, because the book I read about the Dambusters wasn’t just about the dams raid but recounted their whole war.

Wednesday April 09 2014

As already noted here, I did a piece last week for Samizdata entitled The Institute of Economic Affairs and its support for Liberty League Freedom Forum 2014.  “Hayek1337” has just added this interesting and informative comment, which I want to remember before it disappears off the bottom of Samizdata:

It’s worth noting that Liberty League is ultimately run by Anton Howes, James Lawson, and Will Hamilton – who I’ve considered great friends since their first conference (and the 80s dance floor in some dingy Birmingham club).

Their contribution in the silent background is huge, even if largely ignored. They had the entrepreneurial drive, and they’re the ones who make sure the conference actually has worthwhile speakers,and young people filling the rooms. They do it on the side, Anton’s a full time PHD student for example, but often has a bigger impact than a lot of these full time think tankers. They don’t make a penny from their efforts, it all goes to the conference and supporting student societies. There’s also whole Liberty League team around them, promoting Liberty across all corners of the UK at student societies.

Obviously the IEA is a big backer, and it’s got a hell of a lot of financial muscle, but Liberty League is very close to others in the Free Market movement, and isn’t an IEA project. I’ve seen those three at every Adam Smith Institute Next Generation since time began, and I met two of them at Freedom Week, back when it was set up by JP Floru of the ASI. So, you’ve got to look at return on investment, and those in the background. People like Madsen Pirie of the ASI, and Donal Blaney in the more Conservative movement have played a key role here – identifying and developing entrepreneurs in the battle of ideas, or as Atlas calls them, “multipliers for liberty”.

I guess it’s a case of the more multipliers for liberty the merrier …

Indeed. Quality is good, but quantity of quality has a extra quality about it.  It’s not just more of the same.  Things become possible, even inevitable, that were impossible before quantity kicked in.

I’ve admired Anton Howes for quite a while, and I hope to get to meet and learn more about James Lawson and Will Hamilton at LLFF2014, which is happening next weekend.  Here are some pictures of these three, at the top of this clutch.

What I’ve heard about James Lawson (him in particular) says he might be an excellent Brian’s Fridays speaker.

Saturday April 05 2014

Big Ben is the most famous Big Thing from among all the London Parliament buildings.  But the other Big Thing, almost as famous, is “Victoria Tower”, by which I mean the one that’s a bit thicker than Big Ben, as tall, and with about five big spikes on top rather than just the one.  Until now I had supposed that Victoria Tower was St Stephen’s Tower, but St Stephen’s Tower is another name for Big Ben.  Certain wankers are fond of saying that Big Ben is really only the clock in the tower.  But the rest of us long ago decided that Big Ben is Big Ben, all of it, tower, clock, the lot.

Or then again, maybe “St Stephen’s Tower” is really ”Elizabeth Tower”, because just recently they decided to call it that, instead of whatever the hell they used to be call it.

I say, screw the damn name changes imposed by the damn politicians.  If everyone out here in Human World thinks that Big Ben is actually Big Ben, the clock and the tower, then I say the clock and the tower are Big Ben.  Usage trumps political mucking about.  What something is called is discovered, not decided from on high.  Elizabeth Tower my arse.  Nobody I know calls it that.  Nobody I know even knows that anyone else thinks it’s that.

Here’s a bloke who says: ”It’s called St Stephen’s Tower”, and a commenter then says: “Don’t call it Big Ben”.  But the test is, do you want, when talking, to be a wanker, or do you want to be understood?  If you want to be understood, you’ll say Big Ben.

That Big Ben is Big Ben is a fact reinforced by all the stupid name changes flung about by the politicians.  The “Big Ben is not Big Ben” tendency can now no longer agree about what Big Ben is supposed to be called instead of what it is called, so: they lose.

So anyway, forget about Big Ben.  Here are two recent snaps I took of “Victoria Tower”, both of them containing other things besides the Tower in question, which is how I like to photo London’s Big Things:

image image

In each case, the other stuff has come out very clearly, and the tower is present only as a backdrop, in one case rather too strongly lit and in the other case not strongly enough lit.  But that’s the thing about these Big Things.  They are totally recognisable even if they don’t come out that well.  That’s almost a definition of a Big Thing.

Why the brightly lit Union Jack umbrella?  Well, I just like it.

As for why I have become so fascinated by chimneys, I think I can answer that.  For me, chimneys represent a, yes, fascinating staging post between the kind of purely decorative and impressive roof clutter that the Victoria Tower makes such resplendent use of, and on the other hand the entirely utilitarian roof clutter, to do with the sending and receiving of electronic information, the accommodation of lift shafts, equipment to clean windows, as such like, that prevails now.  Chimneys of the sort to be seen above are both there to do a job, and yet are also shaped to look somewhat elegant.  For me, chimneys of this sort are an interesting moment in architectural history.

The umbrella photo was taken from Westminster Bridge, far side of the river from Parliament, just behind the tourist crap kiosk as you cross the river going south, on the right hand side, on July 6th of last year.  The chimneys photo was taken from within the Millbank Triangle, i.e. in a spot in the middle of the triangle with, as its edges: Victoria Street, Vauxhall Bridge Road and the river, on December 12th of last year.

By the way, “Victoria Tower”, as I have been calling it, has sneer quotes attached because that used to be called “The King’s Tower”, but They (sneer capital T) renamed that in honour of Queen fucking Victoria.  No wonder nobody has any idea what to call the fucking thing.

I seem to have turned into The Devil’s Kitchen.

Tuesday April 01 2014

Two photos of signs, taken on the south side of the river between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge, about a fortnight ago.

On the left, some of the verbiage on this statue.  My reason for showing it here is simply that I think this writing photographs so very well:

image image

And on the right, snapped moments later, another sign, on the side of a coffee stall.  It must be a very old joke indeed, but I was encountering it for the first time.

In general, signs make very good photos, I think.

Wednesday March 26 2014

On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:

image image

Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout.  In “reality” I mean.  If you were there, which I was.

But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour.  One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate.  For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange.  Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour.  What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped.  But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot.  And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green.  It was blue.

As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey.  In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:

image

That’s an article reproduced at her website.  So, is that her handwriting?  Could well be.

I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.

The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit.  The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her.  And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback.  She also has a slight but definite stutter.

The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all.  I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it.  In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.

See also: Hawking.

Sunday March 23 2014

1955: Here.

2014:

image

I think that’s my most recent selfie, taken at the beginning of this month.  I took it in Croydon Road, Beckenham, while on my way to visit friends.  Shop windows often include you in the pictures you take through them, even if you are not trying for that.

I of course have more recent pictures of others taking selfies of the more usual sort, where their own faces dominate the pictures, but with famous Big Things in the background.  So yes, let me try to dig out the latest of those.

Here we go:

image

Although, note that there are two different smartphones being used there.  That was taken from the southern end of Westminster Bridge, looking down to the riverside walkway.  They are presumably trying to include the Houses of Parliament in their backgrounds.

A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
Another photographer photo from the archives
Amusing cats versus important people
Remembering another Christian name (and flagging up another talk)
Quota quote
Feline ephemera
Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
Colour photography
Omaha dead
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Making sense of digital photography
Digital photography as telepathy
How hydrogen bombs work
Boris Johnson’s London
Whitewash
Old London photos
On having written about the 1958/9 Ashes series before the 2013/4 Ashes series had started
Tough going in Australia
I’m not the only one who suffers from rightward lean
Jane Austen’s naval brothers
Donald McCloskey?
Michael Jennings photoes Cape Bojador
Comrade Blimp
Digital photographers holding maps
Victor!
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
The Kelpies of Falkirk
They did not die to make us free
Heroes?
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
Eurostar before St Pancras
Wedding photography - old and new
A vanished building and a bendy bus
A Strutton Ground shop and a Strutton Ground pub
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown
Algernon Sidney sends for Micklethwait because Micklethwait is wise, learned, diligent, and faithful
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
The Times of May 24th 1940
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
Billy Fury Way
The Alex Singleton blog
Views from Kings College
An old Mini and a new Mini
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
Steve Davies talk last night
Emmanuel Todd links
Cassette iPhone photographer
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Crossrail grubbings
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
Classical CDs from Gramex
Bad times for the NHS
Crusader latrines
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
A camera in each hand
Changing views from the Monument
America 3.0
Remembrance Sunday photos
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
Kevin Dowd last night
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
Bizarre History - Johannes Brahms did not murder cats
Do not climb on the Thing!
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
Shostakovich with cat
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Everything competes with everything
Photographing change from the Monument
Soviet health and safety posters
Let us now trash infamous men
A Spanish geography lesson
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Lancaster
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
October 2007 conversation about modern architecture with Patrick Crozier
St Valentine’s Day talk by me on architecture
Mozart might have become a criminal
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
Professor C. Northcote Parkinson on the Edifice Complex
Leytonstonia
More redirection
Obamanomics dod not work
English will not last for ever shock
James Waterton on a very smart very dumb Russian
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Defeating Islam (2): Conversion to Christianity will trump higher birth rates in Islamic countries
More bridge magic
What if the British Empire had stayed together?
St Matthew reinterpreted
Soros and his money
Happy hundredth
Links to this and that
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
Anti-aircraft guns may not have killed many enemy airplanes but they did point them out
Perfectly clear politics
Obama raises the price of tanning
Everyone?
Farnborough redirect
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
I do love a steam train on a viaduct
Castro slams Israel
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
Soviet space leftovers
I love television
Photos of things past
Steve Davies lecture - photoing and videoing the lecture - post-lecture chat
One child poster
Everybody draw Mohammed every day!
God is not One
Why my libertarianism has the look and feel of socialism
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
The cats from out of town that cleared out the rats during the siege of Leningrad
You had a hard disc?  Luxury!
Cricket talk tonight
Three more headlines and how the internet remembers it all
Photographic coup
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
In Gorbachev we trust?
Luxembourg church in hill and Luxembourg footbridge
How building St Peter’s Rome split the Catholic Church and how marzipan was invented in Luebeck
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Going global
Polish anti-semitism - a history lesson at last night’s dinner
Death to all who try to tiptoe past our guards while wearing giant baby costumes!
At least libertarianism is understood over there
Alex Ross on Sibelius
The concrete monstrosities of the South Bank may be about to get colourful
Changing faces of Europe
A little archaeology
What Bercow does next
Model T parts flatvert
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
Hislop fluffs the rhyme
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
There weren’t a billion of them then
Patri Friedman versus Chris Tame
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
Signs of the times in Belfast
My confusion about free banking
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
“Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore …”
Bike made entirely of wood
Long platform ticket
Clay Shirky on newspaper doom
Reading Kasparov
Ancient Sheffield dwarfed by modernity
Professor Dowd and I contemplate a stately home from a distance
Monsal Viaduct
Who is Arnold Leah?
Philippa Micklethwait - the Eulogy
Jennings did it
Flat train picture and regular train picture
Another strange Staines statue
Meme for the New Depression
Roll out the Lino
Milk containers ancient and modern
Commenting about the Dowd lecture at Samizdata
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
Making the new look and feel like the old
My parents and my uncle and two aunts
Another antique
Four Minutes
Old postage stamps
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
What-iffing
And here is a real quotation
Quota quotes from Wodehouse
More Englefield Green strangeness
Further thoughts on Karajan’s conducting
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
The Official Story and the Most Confident Alternative
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
Billion Monkey hits 40
“I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the scriptures than thou dost.”
Redirect
Another pendulum theory
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Wingtipping a V1
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
Brought?
Chinese Friday?
Rock and roll will die very soon!
Monster buildings and monster people
Mahler’s 9th in Vienna in 1938
Another great viaduct
Cricket chat
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
Official bias
Billion Monkey lady! – Gherkin! – Monument!
Strange weather
Modernity dwarfed by church
Photo of some foodski
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Cricket misery
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
Non-bio oil
A poetic Hornby
Armed is less dangerous
Star and stripe
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Guido Fawkes gets Douglas Jardine wrong
Photos are better
Were any of them really that nice?
Pictures with words
An impulse posting about procrastination
The absurdly derided excellence of British weather forecasts
Voting for Boris?
Eusociality
Perkins photos
Slow day here
Billion Monkey Alan Little?
Dominic Lawson on Herbert von Karajan
Nothing there
Celebrating a victory
Brian Hitler!
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Cuba before Communism
Theodore Dalrymple on the menace of honest public officials and much else besides
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
“At that moment I suddenly started to view Nagi as an enemy …”
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Holiday
Fifty million Bible bombs
Books on the go and on a machine
Probably not right - but definitely written
The romance of new technology – or the drudgery of it
Operation Cat Drop and some Hello Kitty Bags
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
Remembrance photos
Fourteen British viaducts
She’s alive I tell you! Alive!
Socialising with the Social Media
Understanding is the booby prize exclamation mark
Architecture talk
Will China fail?
The Emperor Jones
Yes this is cat blogging
Smelling the smoke in the Microsoft machine
A train called Professor George Gray
Che Guevara was a murderer and your T-Shirt is not cool
New word alert
Did Hitler have a plan to conquer the USA?
A conversation - and another outage
A dreadful age
Juan Bautista Alberdi
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Three … thirty six … sixty one … a hundred a forty eight …
Blogs are not cacophonous
At the dogs
Lots of links
Test match special
Four Billion Monkey snaps!
Cold War winner
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
Lost Bach
Mean bombers
Emmanuel Todd (5): A CrozierVision podcast
Emmanuel Todd (4): From ideology to economic progress
Zong
Lebrecht daily?
Alan Turing – dead earth and cold wires
Thomas Edison - from cheat to creator
Alessandro Volta feels electricity on his tongue
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
Random London snaps from last year
Church dwarfed by modernity
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
Susan Hill on not having to be up-to-the-minute about book blogging
Svensmark – for and against
Gandhi on equality for all … except …
Harold C. Shonberg on how to perform Bach
Emmanuel Todd (2): The eight family systems
Micklethwait’s Four Star Theory of the Internet
Emmanuel Todd (1): Anthropology explains ideology
Another link to a friend and that’s your lot today
DMZ
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
Islam is evil - and that’s me carrying on normally
Geoffrey Blainey on Ivan Bloch - the man who predicted World War One
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Happy day after Christmas Day
History of the Middle East as a moving map
Sullivan and Grove find some Schubert diamonds
Rubble
Pictures of and from Albert Bridge
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
I really hope that the Samsung SPH-P9000 catches on
Admiral Coward
Alex talks (clearly) with me (not so clear) about classical music
The West disunited versus the Pesky Muslims
Sssssssss!!!! White man!  Take my photo!!
The extreme memes spread by moderate Muslims
“Liberty might be defended, after all” - Tom Holland’s account of the Battle of Marathon
A little transport history
A digital SLR that a Billion Monkey could lift!
Alex and Brian’s latest classical music mp3 – Saint-Saëns etc.
Shaftesbury Avenue over half a century ago
Patrick and Brian mp3 about libertarianism and spreading libertarianism
Quota quote – Victor Davis Hanson on the Western way of war
Adriana’s Thing mp3
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Roll playing
Theodore Dalrymple is an Islamic Fundamentalist and so am I
On trust and obviousness
Brian and Antoine number 9
Giving up rouge for Lisbon
Four stars at Amazon
Skill and Post-Skill
Quoted but not linked to
The dilemmas of defence
Some economics
Charles Rosen on Richard Taruskin and on the socially unbound nature of some of the greatest music
The problem of long blog postings
Talking about my generation
The Great Gulf War?
Last night’s talk
Still ill
Thoughts after watching Abbado’s Lucerne Resurrection Symphony
What we eat but not what we say
Rylance’s Richard again
“They needed one another”
Two faces of Horatio Nelson and the excellence of Findlay Dunachie
Civilisation turns its attention to Chinese despotism
iPods From Space
Mitchum - MacLaine – Fonda – and Cota
The old USSR: good for thirty more years . . . then it collapsed