Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: History

Friday August 29 2014

Spent the whole day fretting about not enough people coming to my Last Friday of the Month meeting this evening.  Richard Carey would, I knew, be fine, but would the number of listeners be insultingly small?  Happily, two people showed up who hadn’t emailed that they were coming, and the room was, if not full, at least not embarrassingly empty.

Better yet, I also fixed my speaker for next month, which I had also been fretting about.  Priya Dutta, who attended this evening, will be speaking about Education, libertarianism and similar things.  The Gove reforms, the various attempts to set up cheap new free enterprise schools of various sorts, that kind of thing.  She is a teacher, so this is bound to be good.  I’ll say more as I learn more.

Too tired to expand on what Richard said (about English Republicanism and its influence in the American colonies and later the USA), other than that in the brackets is what it was about and that it was very interesting.  But since this is Friday, here is news of Cats on Kickstarters, and of Catstarter , which I think is a book, or maybe a blog.  Also cat related: Ceiling Netanyahu is watching you tunnel.

Thursday August 28 2014

This afternoon, The Guru is coming by to reconstruct God, so God (the other one) willing, I will be back in serious computing business by this evening.

When I was recently in Brittany, my hosts supplied me with a state-of-the-art laptop and a state-of-the-art internet connection.  These last few days, without God (my one) and having to make do with Dawkins (my obsolete and clunky little laptop, the thing I am typing into now), I have felt less connected to the world than I did in Brittany.  I am connected, after a fashion.  But Dawkins is so slow and clunky that I have been doing only essentials (like finding out about England being hammered in the ODI yesterday), and checking incoming emails, and shoving anything however bad up here once every day.  It’s like I’ve regressed to about 2000.

I have managed to put up a few pictures here, in God’s absence.  But Dawkins’ screen makes these pictures look terrible.  I am looking forward to seeing God’s version of these pictures and hope they will be greatly improved compared to what I am seeing now.

Thank God (the other one) I haven’t been depending on God (my one) for music.  As I have surely explained here many times, one big reason I prefer CDs (and separate CD players scattered around my home) to all this twenty first century computerised music on a computer is that if God goes wrong, as he just has, I don’t lose music.  I also have music concerts recorded off of the telly, onto DVDs, which I can play on my telly, which is likewise a completely separate set-up to God.

In general, the argument against having everything done by one great big master computer is that when something goes wrong with that master computer, everything else in your life also goes wrong, just when you may need those things not to.  One of the things that willgo wrong, rather regularly, with your all-in-one master computer is when this or that particular one of its excessively numerous functions becomes seriously out of date.  I mean, if it has a vacuum cleaner included, what happens if vacuum cleaners suddenly get hugely better?  In Brian world, all I have to do is get another new and improved vacuum cleaner, and chuck out the old one.  In all-in-one master computer world, you are stuck with your obsolete vacuum cleaner.  Or, if you can, you have to break open your all-in-one master computer and fit a new vacuum cleaner, and probably also lots of other new stuff to make sure the new vacuum cleaner works, which buggers up a couple of your other functions that used to work fine but which no longer work fine.  Or at all.  I prefer to keep things simple, and separate.

Something rather similar applies with how to handle (the other) God.  That is another arrangement you don’t want to have running the whole of your life for you either.  It’s okay if you do God for some of the time and keep Him in his place, but you want scientists telling you about science, doctors about medicine, and your work colleagues about your work, and so on.  If, on the other hand, absolutely everything in your life, and worse, everything in the entire world you live in, is controlled by ((your version of) the other) God, everything is very liable to go to Hell.  (Aka: Separation of Church and State.  Aks: don’t be a religious nutter.)

I have my own particular take on (the other) God, which is that He is made-up nonsense.  But just as wise believers in (the other) God don’t let that dominate their thinking on non-God things, nor do I think that my opinions about (the other) God can explain everything else as well.  These opinions merely explain the particular matter of (the other) God being made-up nonsense.

Do not, as they say, put all your eggs in one basket.

Tuesday August 26 2014

I’ve started reading Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, years after everyone else who has read it.  I haven’t got very far yet, but I am delighted to discover that one of the Enemies that Postrel takes several cracks at is John Gray, that being a link to a crack that I took at Gray at Samizdata a while back.

And I see that Postrel, like me, does not confine herself to analysing and criticising Gray’s arguments, but notes also the cheapness of the tricks that Gray often uses to present his arguments.

What disguises the trickery, at least in the eyes of Gray and his followers, is the air of profundity that is regarded as being attached to the process of foreseeing doom and disaster.  In truth, incoherent pessimism is no more profound than incoherent optimism, which is to say, not profound at all.

Says Postrel (p. 9):

Although they represent a minority position, reactionary ideas have tremendous cultural vitality.  Reactionaries speak directly to the most salient aspects of contemporary life: technological change, commercial fluidity, biological transformation, changing social roles, cultural mixing, international trade, and instant communication.  They see these changes as critically important, and, as the old Natinoal Review motto had it, they are determined to “stand athwart history, yelling, ‘Stop!’” Merely by acknowledging the dynamism of contemporary life, reactionaries win points for insight.  And in the eyes of more conventional thinkers, denouncing change makes them seem wise.

Seem.  Amen.  I’m still proud of this in my piece about Gray, which makes that same point about the seeming wisdom of being a grump rather than a booster:

He trades relentlessly on that shallowest of aesthetic clichés, that misery is more artistic than happiness, that any old rubbish with a sad ending is artistically superior to anything with a happy ending no matter how brilliantly done, that music in a minor key is automatically more significant than anything in C major.

There are plenty more Gray references in Postrel’s book, if the Index is anything to go by and it surely is.  My immediate future is bright.

Sunday August 24 2014

One of these (which was one of these):

image

The economics of car ownership is interesting.  On the face of it, I might be the sort of person who would get a really small car (even if not this exact one).  But the way I (and many others?) see it is: If I go to the bother of getting a car, and finding somewhere to park it, and a way of insuring it, and of protecting it from burglars and vandals, I might as well spend a bit more and get a proper car.  You either buy a car, of the sort that can do all the things proper cars do, like transport another four people, transport bits of furniture, drive to Scotland or Paris or some such place, impress rather than amuse friends and enemies, and so forth.  Or, you don’t.

You don’t buy a bit of car.

The only exception is if your entire country has only just started buying cars, in which case even a bit of car is worth having.  Especially if, for the time being, that’s all you can get

Monday August 18 2014

Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease).  This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again.  Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:

image

This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.

PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here.  That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.

I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all.  Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?

It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude.  It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by.  It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it.  And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.

To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist.  “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.

Wednesday July 30 2014

Nothing from me here today, but something at Samizdata (which makes a change), in the form of a remarkable song lyric from the 1920s by Cole Porter.  Pure libertarianism.  They maybe did not have the word back then (I don’t know), but they certainly had the thing itself:

Live and let live, and remember this line:
Your business is your business,
And my business is mine.

Indeed.

Monday July 28 2014

Here is a picture, taken from Lambeth Bridge in March of this year:

image

This is basically one of those “I just like it” pictures, that I came upon last night when trawling through the archives, although I liked it a lot more after a touch of rotation had been applied.  I particularly like the contribution of those leafless trees. 

The red brick tower that dominates this scene is something to do with St Thomas’ Hospital, but further googling made me none the wiser about its exact purpose or provenance.  It was, it seems built in 1865.  Other than that, I could learn little.

But googling did cause me to learn about this other tower, which used to be a hospital water tower and has now been converted into a home.

This sort of modernistic box-mongering can be very dull, when that’s all there is.  But put it next to some more ornate Victoriana, and both styles often look the better for it.

That is also part of the pleasure I get from the above photo.  Even if ancient and modern buildings are not next to each other for real, they can put them next to each other, with a camera.

Saturday July 19 2014

You don’t see many of these these days:

image

I’m talking about round headlights on cars.  About ten years ago, and I have photos that notice the moment, car headlights, having been round for about three quarters of a century, went absolutely mental, with silver moldings and weird shapes of all kinds.  It’s been like that ever since.  Now, a car with round headlights is an old car.

Like this one, the car with the above headlight:

image

It appears to be one of these, or if not then something very like it.  I photoed this car this afternoon.

A while ago, I started photo-collecting round headlights, and the cars that sport them.  There may accordingly, although I promise nothing, be a huge spread of them here, any month, or year, or decade, now.

Some new cars these days have pretend round headlights, such as the new German Mini.  But they are only pretend round.  Look carefully, and they are not properly round, like the one above.

Round headlights equals an old car
Football comment
Russian tanks in London
Vespa GS in Lower Marsh
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
Tricycles
The Lib Dem cat is out of the box
Tower Bridge before it got covered in stone
Building as ornament
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Lilburne on a T-shirt and Lilburne on a mug
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
Michael Jennings talking about Russia this Friday
James II dressed as a Roman
Ten years ago today
VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
Two badly lit views of “Victoria Tower” and why Big Ben is not St Stephen’s Tower or Elizabeth Tower
South Bank signs
Green screen blue screen
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