Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rob Fisher on At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Michael Jennings on Only with a computer
Friday Night Smoke on Godot nearly ready
Simon Gibbs on Bald bloke taking a photo
6000 on Bald bloke taking a photo
Tatyana on The "colorful and curvilinear forms" of Herr Hundertwasser
Brian Micklethwait on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Friday Night Smoke on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Brian Micklethwait on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Friday Night Smoke on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Most recent entries
- MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
- At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
- The death of email?
- Only with a computer
- Godot nearly ready
- Bald bloke taking a photo
- Halloween buckets
- Strange bread
- Battersea flats are about to be sold and therefore are about to be built
- The “colorful and curvilinear forms” of Herr Hundertwasser
- How Bill Bryson on white and black paint helps to explain the Modern Movement in Architecture
- Two guys on Westminster Bridge photoing their icecreams in front of the Houses of Parliament with their iPhones
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: This blog
There I was, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 3. Some music had ended, and I was now being subjected to a programme which I do not usually listen to, called Words and Music. And I heard the actor Jim Broadbent saying these words, by Michel de Montaigne:
I take the first subject that chance offers. They are all equally good to me. And I never plan to develop them completely. For I do not see the whole of anything. (Nor do those who promise to show it to us.) Of a hundred members and faces that each thing has, I take one, sometimes only to lick it, sometimes to brush the surface, sometimes to pinch it to the bone. I give it a stab, not as wide, but as deep as I know how. And most often, I like to take them from some unaccustomed point of view. Scattering a word here, there another, samples separated from their context, dispersed, without a plan and without a promise, I am not bound to make something of them, or to adhere to them myself, without varying when I please, and giving myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and my ruling quality, which is ignorance.
Sounds like a blogger, doesn’t he? A blogger, that is to say, like me. Especially where he says “without a promise”. I keep saying that. Above all there is that “this is what it is and if you don’t like it you know just what you can do about it” vibe that so many bloggers give off. With Montaigne, we are arriving at that first moment in history when writing and publishing new stuff had become easy. Not as easy as it is when you blog, but a whole lot easier than it had been.
I transcribed the above quote from Broadbent’s reading of it. The punctuation is somewhat uncertain, and at one point assertively creative on my part. I added some brackets, around what is clearly a diversion from his main line of thought to which he immediately returns. It’s a sideswipe at others and it is then forgotten.
Such is the wonder that is the internet that I had little difficulty in tracking down the quote. It is near the beginning of Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Democritus and Heraclitus”, in volume three of his essays.
The BBC used a more recent translation, which I much prefer the sound of, it being less antique and long-winded. And if Montaigne himself was also antique and long-winded, then I still prefer intelligibility to stylistic accuracy.
LATER: More about Montaigne, also emphasising the modern social media angle, here.
I sympathise with whoever wrote this:
West Brom can hardly believe their luck. Being denied a win at the death by Manchester United is one thing, but having teased a previously woeful Marouane Fellaini back to life must really does takes the biscuit.
“Must really does takes the biscuit.” I reckon he was choosing between, not two, but three different ways of saying what he was saying, but managed to combine all three.
This is the kind of mistake that can only happen with a computer. If you were merely writing, or typing with an old school typewriter, there is no way you would have put that.
When I perpetrate something like that, and I frequently do, and if I later spot the mistake, I then allow myself to correct it, no matter how long ago I made the mistake. Is this wrong? My blog, my rules.
A subsection of Sod’s Law states that whenever you mention someone else’s mistake in something you say on the www, you will make a similar sort of error yourself. If I do this in this posting, I will not correct my error, but will add something “LATER”, in which I identify my error.
Computers. New ways to screw things up.
I attended a talk this evening at Christian Michel’s about robots. The point was made the robot cars probably will be safer, but every once in a Blue Moon, there will be a truly spectacular disaster, of a sort impossible to perpetrate with old school cars.
Spent this evening (a) continuing to be ill (thanks for the kind comments), (b) reading a book, because (c) Godot was being built, again, in my kitchen.
This is being posted with Dawkins, because Godot is now not working. For the last fortnight Godot has been working, but not properly.
As for Godot working, properly, up to speed, all bells ringing, all whistles whistling, well, you know the answer to that.
I am still waiting.
LATER, The Guru photos progress:
Digital photography has, I believe, made a huge contribution not only to fun, but to the economy. So much of work is keeping track of what work you have done, and digital photography makes this far easier.
From early in the afternoon of Tuesday, yesterday, until early this morning, this blog was out of action. I couldn’t read it myself, let alone post anything:
The non-functioning of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom took out my emailing abilities as well. If anyone tried to email and got told to get stuffed, please try again - especially if it concerned the meeting at my home this coming Friday evening, at which Priya Dutta is going to speak about education.
I don’t suppose many people suffered much, but I did, because I didn’t know if and when BMDC was ever going to come back to life.
The problem was something to do with the internet provider (which has recently changed hands) for my Hoster. But spare a thought for Hoster. I wasn’t his only client ringing up in a state. He had lots of others doing the exact same thing. He told me that he will be changing his internet provider asap, but that he couldn’t do that until his internet provider came back on line and he was able to make the necessary arrangements.
Meanwhile, I really need to change how I do email.
More times like these. I have had a great deal too many and too much of these sorts of times lately.
Inevitably, in some of these cross-examinations, this blog came up, with me saying that I write here about whatever I feel like writing about, with very little thought for the interests of my readers. Cats on Fridays, general trivia, etc. I do Big Issues at Samizdata and trivia here. Blah blah.
However, an American lady friend, whom I had not met in quite a while and whom I was very pleased to meet again, told me that she quite liked my trivia stuff, and that she even read my postings about cricket (this being the most recent one). I thought that only I and Michael Jennings and Darren the Surrey Member were at all interested in those. It seems not.
I’m guessing that this interest on her part is partly actual interest, but also partly that a principle is at stake here. Which is: that the trivia that other people are interested in, but not you, is not actually an entirely trivial matter. Life is not only Big Issues. It is the small pleasures that give colour and texture and individuality to life. Watever matters, to someone, matters. Your opinion about what the Big Issues are should not be allowed to drive a tank or a government bureaucracy over my trivial pleasures.
So, her reading about the trivial pleasures of others is her asserting this Big Issue to herself, as well as maybe learning something about other little parts of the world, like the world of cricket (actually quite big of course, as I daresay are the worlds of embroidery and gardening and croquet and rap music and all the other little things in life that I don’t personally care about, other than to believe that tanks or government bureaucracies should not be driven over them).
Me being me, my way of asserting the importance of trivia, in general, to people, in general, is me writing about the trivia that interests me.
Her way of asserting the importance of trivia to people generally is her reading about the trivia that others write about. But we are both making the same point.
I don’t want to say that I have entirely described why my American lady friend likes to read what I write about cricket. I merely speculate that the above speculations might be a quite small part of why she does this.
(She, like me, probably also thinks that thinking about trivia can often lead to interesting angles on Big Issues, of the sort that merely looking straight at the Big Issues might cause you to miss. Pointless fun and truly original insight are often delightfully close neighbours, I think. But that’s a tangent for another time, hence this paragraph being in brackets.)
Blogging here will temporarily cease after this posting, and will resume at or about the middle of next week. I will be back. Have a good week.
Meanwhile, as a visual au revoir, here is another of the many photos I took last night, from that tiny little artificial urban mountain that is Stave Hill:
Through the gasometer in the foreground, we see the Dome of St Paul’s (attended by many cranes), the BT Tower, and on the left, with the spikey bobble on its top, the top of the Monument.
I tried to time my arrival at Stave Hill with the arrival of sunset, but got there far, far too early. So, I waited, and read a book. I hope you agree with me that it was worth the wait.
The are two photos which I took last Monday. The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street. The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.
They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory. But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:
The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world. It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.
Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject. The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hut us down and burn us at the stake. But, we refuse to talk about them. We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look. We will not see them.
Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:
Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about.
Really, really weird.
I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.
What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane. The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on. All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.
But those aerials are profane. They don’t register. They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer. That sales pitch is profane. Forget about it. Don’t even think about it.
Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane. And hence invisible. Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves. But they are not designed to be looked at. They are a pure case of form following function. Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers. But they don’t because what is there for architects to add? Nothing. The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.
Well, I don’t know. I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway. Which is all part of why I have this blog. At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong. This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins. This is, you might say, a profane blog.
I just came across this video, here, again, which has had many hits on Youtube. Like millions of others, I like it a lot. It’s Louis C.K., complaining about people who complain about modern life and all its wondrous new gadgetry. I was going to stick the video here, but it wouldn’t fit. (Anyone know how to make it 500 wide instead of 560? Maybe I should redesign my blog wider.) But follow that link and scroll down a bit to where it says: “- it’s very funny”; and then, in white on black at the top of the video: “+Everthing’s+Amazing+ +Nobody’s+Happy”. And then click and enjoy.
Part of why improved gadgets don’t automatically make us happy is that everyone gets to have a go on them, but what really makes a lot of us happy is improved relative status. New gadgets create a different world, in which we may as likely as not be demoted in status, below others who understand the new gadgets better.
There is also the particular genius of the gadgeteers to be considered, compared to our own ungenii. New gadgets can make many of us feel like savages, out of our depth in a world of wonders, less capable (because utterly incapable of producing such a wondrous gadget), rather than more capable (through possessing the gadget).
In the article linked to, there is speculation that old people are more easily pleased, by things. I certainly enjoy digital photography, as all regulars here will know, and you obviously enjoy that or you’d not be a regular. I also enjoy typing verbiage into my magic machine and this magic blog. Perhaps a reason why these things please me so much is that I am old, and had been waiting for such things to be possible for such a very, very long time. For decades, I fretted about my inability to make pictures without fuss and write stuff without fuss, and show both to other people whenever I felt like it, again without fuss. Now I can do these things. Any envy I feel towards the people who contrived these wonder is dwarfed by the pleasure I get in doing these things, finally. I know, I’ve been showing off my pictures and babbling away at various blogs for well over a decade. But like I say, I’m old, and more than a decade is nothing to how long I spent waiting for these things to be possible, all the while not even knowing if they ever would be. I had become used to knowing that these things might never happen, which means that I still can’t quite believe that they have happened, which means that they still make me happy.
My blogging software is behaving badly
Sorry for the outage last night
Mysteriously losing my internet connection and then mysteriously getting it back
My 110 percent problem
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
Long Title (with italics)
A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
The Heron Tower restaurant
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
And another posting from my smartphone
Posted from my new smartphone
More March 5th photographers (and more spaces between pictures)
Looking along Victoria Street to The Wheel (and on how to be liked (or disliked) by Google)
All change at Samizdata and another outage here
More photographers photographed
Outage here last night - and the possible Wordpress future of this blog
Patrick Crozier has just arranged for accessing ancient comments here to be much easier
PID at Samizdata
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
Back there and now back here
Internet connection problems
Back to at least one a day?
A happy British Summer Time to all my readers
Steve Baker MP
Happy New Year
A Happy Christmas to all those still reading this
My personal Fixed Quantity of Blogging unfallacy
Summer blogging break
Possible light blogging for the next week
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom not threatened by the end of the Big Thing Boom
Problems here (now sorted)
I can do squares!!!
A laptop but not in my lap
Is this blog somewhat broken?
Back to the future
If you can’t read this don’t worry
Is Timberland guilty of spam commenting me?
Yesterday and today
On cricket and death
Choosing the best pictures by waiting a few days
This is not Mohammed
Three cheers for Molly Norris but also a few small grumbles
Getting well soon
Climategate and a blurry and artificially lit roundabout
Four recent bits by me at Samizdata
Possible holiday interruption
Happy New Year and how to save seventy thousand quid
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
In which this blog indulges in an I Told You So moment concerning Speaker John Bercow
It’s now something at least once every two days
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Busy day and busy night
Thinking thin at the top
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
British Summer Time is better for this blog
God is dead but Jesus saves
God moves in mysterious ways
Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog is now on indefinite hold
Advice to daily bloggers
Another Samizdata piece
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
At Liberty 2008 all day
Blogroll dilemma - question I already know the answer to - irrelevant photo
Connection problems - now sorted
Profundity and silliness
Not in the top twenty
Mainstream media bloggers and the problem of my blogroll
Posting here may be sporadic for the next few days
An impulse posting about procrastination
The return of Friday cat-blogging
On hating and not hating commenters
Blogging – the end of the beginning
I don’t understand it either but don’t worry
What kind of blogger are you?
Italics in Expression Engine titles?
RSS feed news
Alisher Usmanov is now better known for being nasty
Links and guns
Back from the dead and soon to be duplicated
Christopher Hitchens on the Rushdie knighthood
A mention of your book guaranteed!
Today I ate something that disagreed with me
Internet problems solved
More internet connection problems
John Holloway plays unaccompanied Bach on the baroque violin
At least I got today’s obligatory posting done before midnight
Airship photos loading tri-incidence
Testing picture loading
[new addition to my blogroll]
Blogging pause continues
29th and 14th
Not much here today
Something to bore everyone
Lords pictures pending
Attacks of the mad robots and the little red crosses
Sound files take up a lot more space than photos
Hello and goodbye
Unplugged and writing about sport because sport Doesn’t Matter
For the next two weeks or so service here will be abnormal to nonexistent
The new comments arrangement – why and how
Flickr blog in and Flickrzen out
Another view of the BT Tower
Expression Engine text input weirdness
A Happy Christmas to all my readers
Why the problems?
I kept going after all!
This and that at 9.07am
So that’s this done
Total Combined Page Hits?
Picture problems (again)
On short postings
Today I am going to break the record here for the number of postings in one day
From now on I’m going to try to put something up here every day
To hell with experts
The joy of blogrolling
An east London photo on the right
Look what I saw from the airplane
I’m still at the housekeeping stage which is why I haven’t deliberately told anyone about this blog
I now have a blogroll
Testing how the linking works