Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Seaside muralist
- How Centre Point is looking just now
- Another horizontal advert for an only slightly more expensive drone
- First test against NZ – first day
- Blue sky
- Adverts for small and cheap drones
- High hair
- Hungerford Footbridges photographers
- An alien robot playing the cymbals and paps
- A photographer and an advert
- “The temptation to pre-order one of these is almost unbearable …”
- Tourists and locals in London
- Guy’s Hospital tower and Tate Modern tower
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Politics
Photoed by me yesterday. Definitely one for the front page collection. Can’t find a link to the story though. Anyone?
Today, starting in the small hours of the morning, I’ve been rambling away at Samizdata about this election. Which was, I found, intensely dramatic and interesting, not least because all the polls were wrong. I was apathetic about voting, in a soporifically safe Conservative constituency. But I stopped being apathetic as soon as the drama of it all started to play out on the telly.
But, how could I have missed the news of this manifesto for cats, until today? Answer, today was the first time I tried googling “cats general election”.
Presumably “Paris” doesn’t include La Défense, which is out on the edge of Paris. Those Big Things are very big indeed. What they’re talking about here is building Big Things in the centre of Paris.
And the thing is, this Thing not very tall at all:
In London, this sort of thing would hardly be noticed.
But the fact that this new Thing is not that big is deliberate.
“This project is not a high-rise, but embodies a shift in attitude, and this gradual increase marks a willingness to reconsider the potential of height and will change the city landscape little by little,” said the architects.
They know that if they are to get any new truly Big Things anywhere near the centre of Paris, the first step is to make some things that are not Big, but just a tiny bit bigger. First you get the opposition to concede the principle, with something that doesn’t arouse huge opposition. Then you gradually increase the heights, until finally you get your Big Things, and the opposition unites too late. And by then it’s too small, because lots of people actually like the new Big Things. This is how politics is done. And this is politics.
The last, and so far only new and truly Big Thing anywhere near the middle of Paris (other than the Eiffel Tower) is the Montparnasse Tower, which was completed in 1973. Compared to almost everything else in central Paris, before or since, the Montparnasse Tower is very tall indeed. It aroused a lot of opposition by embodying such an abrupt, even contemptuous, change of Paris skyscraper policy, and judging by what happened for the next forty years, that opposition was very successful. This time around, those who want Big Parisian Things are going about it more carefully, as the above quote shows.
Speaking of politics, who is that geezer in the picture, in the picture? A politician, I’ll bet.
I am working on a quite big and unwieldy architecture posting just now, but this probably won’t be ready to go any time today, or even soon, so I’ll instead write a little essay on a related matter. Which is: Why I feel more comfortable writing about architecture, of the contemporary and hence controversial sort, than I do about contemporary interior design. The contrast between how fascinated I am by the architectural stuff (this is the posting that got me going with the architectural posting that I am now working on) at one of my favourite internet sites, Dezeen, and the indifference I feel concerning Dezeenery about interior matters, is becoming ever more extreme. I mean, designer X has designed a chair. And what does it look like? It looks like a chair. Hoo ray.
It’s not that I dislike or oppose interior design. It’s just that I feel that what I feel about it, or for that matter what anybody else feels about it, is of no public significance. We can all just pick whatever interior designs and objects appeal to us, and let others do the same. Interior design is not a political problem. There is therefore nothing vitally important to be said about it. Why argue, when there is no need to argue?
If you are one of those people who likes to tease out why you feel the way you do, about everything in general and interior design in particular, fine. Blog away about wallpaper, tea kettles, tables, chairs, standard lamps, stoves and suchlike, all you like. You’ll surely find plenty of readers, probably a great many more than I have. You certainly will if you specialise, as I do not. I write about such things myself, from time to time, when the mood takes me.
But on the whole, it tends not to. When the answer the question is: each to his own, and when that answer basically takes care of it, I generally don’t feel like adding very much.
You could say that this mood, of insignificant self-scrutiny, is upon me right now. After all, who cares what I put on my blog? If you don’t like it, don’t read it, problem solved. Choosing a blog to read is like choosing a chair. Nobody else need be consulted, or imposed upon.
But architecture is different. We can’t each step outside into a city like London and each have exactly the London that we want. If I am to have those new Big Things that I like so much, you also have to put up with them, even if you hate them. It therefore feels right to me to be explaining, to the entire world (even if most of the world pays no attention), just what it is about these Big Things that I like so much. It makes sense for me to say (even if I haven’t done much of this lately) why I came to hate most modernistical architecture when I was in my twenties, and why I think that modernistical architecture has improved so very, very much since that time, at any rate in the places I mostly walk about in and see in photos.
For the same reason, it also makes sense, to me, for me to be celebrating roof clutter, cranes, this or that piece of public or semi-public sculpture, these or those public signs. It is because these are public issues. Political issues, even. Definitely political, in the case of those signs I just linked to. Things like these have positive (mostly, in my case) or negative (perhaps in yours) externalities attached to them.
Actually, it is most unlikely that you hate all the publicly obtrusive things that I love, because you wouldn’t want to be reading such opinions, day after day. But, you get my point.
In the early, at first brightly sunlit evening I went walking by the river, over Vauxhall Bridge and then turning right on the other side, towards Battersea.
I noted progress on the new flats. The sky was a beautiful colour. The flats are not a beautiful colour:
The river was adorned by bright reflections off the buildings on the far side.
The evening sun also lit up the bright green wall that keeps the river in its correct place:
There is a new US Embassy taking shape, …:
… although it will not be a very interesting shape:
Battersea Power Station is missing one of its chimneys:
This is probably something to do with the fact that it is having dwellings built in it:
And, when I looked inland, towards the south, over the railway, I saw some world class roof clutter:
So I was in a good mood. Until, on my way back home, I saw this:
Yes, there is an election coming, and we will all vote in such a way as to try to deny office to the political party we most hate, which in my case is the Labour Party. Which means I will probably vote for the bastards advertising themselves with the signs above.
As you can see, by then it had become rather gloomy. As had I.
I am reading In Defence of History by Richard J. Evans. The attackers are the post-modernists. In Chapter 3 ("Historians and their facts"), Evans writes about how evidence considered insignificant in one era can become highly significant in a later era:
The traces left by the past, as Dominick LaCapra has observed, do not provide an even coverage of it. Archives are the product of the chance survival of some documents and the corresponding chance loss or deliberate destruction of others. They are also the products of the professional activities of archivists, which therefore shape the record of the past and with it the interpretations of historians. Archivists have often weeded out records they consider unimportant, while retaining those they consider of lasting value. This might mean for example destroying vast and therefore bulky personnel files on low-ranking state employees such as ordinary soldiers and seamen, manual workers and so on, while keeping room on the crowded shelves for personnel files on high state officials. Yet such a policy would reflect a view that many historians would now find outmoded, a view which considered ‘history’ only as the history of the elites. Documents which seem worthless to one age, and hence ripe for the shredder, can seem extremely valuable to another.
Let me give an example from my personal experience. During research in the Hamburg state archives in the I98os, I became aware that the police had been sending plain-clothes agents into the city’s pubs and bars during the two decades or so before the First World War to gather and later write down secret reports of what was being said in them bysocialist workers. The reports I saw were part of larger files on the various organizations to which these workers belonged. Thinking it might be interesting to look at a wider sample, I went through a typewritten list of the police files with the archivist, and among the headings we came across was one which read: ‘Worthless Reports’. Going down into the muniment room, we found under the relevant call-number a mass of over 20,000 reports which had been judged of insufficient interest by the police authorities of the day to be taken up into the thematic files where I had first encountered this material. It was only by a lucky chance that they had not already been destroyed. They turned out to contain graphic and illuminating accounts of what rank-and-file socialist workers thought about almost every conceivable issue of the day, from the Dreyfus affair in France to the state of the traffic on Hamburg’s busy streets. Nobody had ever looked at them before. Historians of the labour movement had only been interested in organization and ideology. But by the time I came to inspect them, interest had shifted to the history of everyday life, and workers’ views on the family, crime and the law, food, drink and leisure pursuits, had become significant objects of historical research. It seemed worth transcribing and publishing a selection, therefore, which I did after a couple of years’ work on them. The resulting collection showed how rank-and-file Social Democrats and labour activists often had views that cut right across the Marxist ideology in which previous historians thought the party had indoctrinated them, because previous historians had lacked the sources to go down beyond the level of official pronouncements in the way the Hamburg police reports made it possible to do. Thus from ‘worthless reports’ there emerged a useful corrective to earlier historical interpretations. This wonderful material, which had survived by chance, had to wait for discovery and exploitation until the historiographical climate had changed.
Abusive internet comments are usually very tedious. But, having never heard this gag before, I liked this one.
Following the alleged threat by US politician John McCain to kick the s*** out of another US politician, Harry Reid, a commenter commented (April 16 12:43am):
(Harry Reid) – s*** = 0
In an earlier posting I mentioned that I had ordered Marc Morris’s book about The Norman Conquest, and I have now started reading this. (Although for some reason the version of it that I have seems to be the American one.)
The events depicted in the Tapestry are of course highly dramatic, but as Morris relates, so too was the subsequent history of the Tapestry:
By any law of averages, the Tapestry ought not to exist. We know that such elaborate wall-hangings, while hardly commonplace in the eleventh century, were popular enough with the elite that could afford them, because we have descriptions in contemporary documents. What we don’t have are other surviving examples: all that comes down to us in other cases are a few sorry-looking scraps. That the Tapestry is still with us almost I ,000 years after it was sewn is astonishing, especially when one considers its later history. It first appears in the written record four centuries after its creation, in 1476, when it is described in an inventory of the treasury at Bayeux Cathedral, from which we learn that the clergy were in the habit of hanging it around the nave every year during the first week of July (an annual airing that would have aided its conservation). Its survival through those four medieval centuries, escaping the major hazards of war, fire and flood, as well as the more mundane menaces of rodents, insects and damp, is wondrous enough; that it successfully avoided destruction during the modern era is nothing short of miraculous. When the cathedral’s treasury was looted during the French Revolution, the Tapestry came within a hair’s breadth of being cut up and used to cover military wagons. Carted to Paris for exhibition by Napoleon, it was eventually returned to Bayeux, where for several years during the early nineteenth century it was indifferently stored in the town hall on a giant spindle, so that curious visitors could unroll it (and occasionally cut bits off). During the Second World War it had yet more adventures: taken again to Paris by the Nazis, it narrowly escaped being sent to Berlin, and somehow managed to emerge unscathed from the flames and the bombs. The Tapestry’s post-medieval history is a book in itself - one which, happily, has already been written.
What next for it, I wonder?
Police in India have a new weapon for controlling unruly protesters in the world’s largest democracy: pepper-spraying drones.
Yashasvi Yadav, police chief of the northern city of Lucknow, said on Tuesday that his officers have successfully test-flown the newly purchased drones with a view to better crowd control.
So, when will BrianMicklethwaitDotCom be linking to a story about how the protesters have their own drones, to attack the police drones with? Drones are not just the automation of aerial warfare. They are the potential degovernmentalisation of aerial warfare. I mean, how the hell will they stop this? Drones are ridiculously cheap compared to regular airplanes. It’s only a matter of time before no major political demonstratiion will be complete without a struggle for command of the air.
I wonder if people like Police Chief Yadav realise what they may be starting.
More White Vans
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
BMdotcom What if? of the day
“Real Democracy Now” in Parliament Square this afternoon
Smartphones and tablets at the Charlie Hebdo demo
A feline Friday at Guido
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
BMdotcom comment of the day
At the ASI Christmas Party
How the internet is cheering up Art
Pictures of Guy Herbert
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Two guys on Westminster Bridge photoing ice creams in front of the Houses of Parliament
Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown
Boris bus malfunction
Helter Skelter scrapped
Rob took photos
On meeting an American lady friend who likes to read my stuff about cricket
On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
Postrel goes for Gray
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom musical quote of the day
Something at Samizdata
ASI Boat Trip 8: Bridges
New London bridge competition
ASI Boat Trip 4: Groups of posing people
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
The Lib Dem cat is out of the box
Lilburne on a T-shirt and Lilburne on a mug
Pictures of soon-to-be-built London Big Things
Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
Two badly lit views of “Victoria Tower” and why Big Ben is not St Stephen’s Tower or Elizabeth Tower
The Mayor and the towers
Green screen blue screen
Amusing cats versus important people
Sam Bowman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Other things last Wednesday
Faberge - Brutalism
Ice sculptures in Docklands – Big Things from Docklands
Slightly wider tube trains
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
Algernon Sidney sends for Micklethwait because Micklethwait is wise, learned, diligent, and faithful
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
I’ve just been quotulated
Is this the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Roof Clutter?
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Quotes of the day
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
American election talk
Pollsters can’t say where things are but they can say which way they’re going
“No one has to know!”
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
Don’t vote Democrat!
Reasons to think Romney is going to win big
Michael Jennings on how the taxis at Skopje airport are an evil racket and what he did about it
How llamas told us so – in November 2008
The strange state of the enviro-argument
Dream and reality in Mumbai
Literally the light switch of leadership
There’s a Communist in the White House
Steve Baker MP
The England rugby aftermath
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Go Gary Johnson!
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
Friday link dump
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
A potential challenger for Gary Not-Obama
Gordon Brown curses the United Kingdom
The Armstrong Gun
After the wedding
Go Not Obama!
Excellent new word
Everything competes with everything
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom quote of the year so far
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
The Green alliance
A down and up weekend
BrianMicklethwait Dot Com QotD
Malcolm Hutty on protecting the internet
“I was banished to a separate room …”
MP’s kitten custody battle
James Waterton on a very smart very dumb Russian
Another link enema
Beyond the Dome with Goddaughter One
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
Links to this and that
Perfectly clear politics
Ums and ahs
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
Frank J random thought for the day
A demonstration I could join
Paul Marks on why the ex Prime Minister of Japan is not like Obama
Steve Davies lecture - photoing and videoing the lecture - post-lecture chat
One child poster
Brightly lit buildings against a dark sky
Darling and Darling cat
Gordon Brown proves Guido was right about him from the start and Ed Balls not nice either shock
Three cheers for Molly Norris but also a few small grumbles
I flipping told him
Tim Evans talks about David Cameron
Voice and exit
Man photographed by women!
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Nasa and Gordon Brown both have their uses
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
The right to photograph
Those angry Americans
How some cats are dividing Cyprus
A great Johnathan Pearce Britain-can-dump-the-EU blog posting - and the value of informative titles
Antoine Clarke on the recent US elections: still a conservative nation
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Gordon Brown dithers about rugby - cricket’s on the up
Prodicus (and me) on the shitness of the LibDems
Bercow versus the party which picked him
Was it Sweeney? And what else were they trying to suppress?
Why I vote against AGW
Johanna Kaschke versus the Deluded Leftwinger
The Labour Party finally agrees on a new Prime Minister to replace Gordon Brown
Making the IOC feel important with a personal lubricant
Old Holborn lets rip at Labour in a Guido comment
Why I object to Madam Scotland and why I don’t
At least libertarianism is understood over there
In which this blog indulges in an I Told You So moment concerning Speaker John Bercow
Alex Ross on Sibelius
The curse of Gordon Brown is now ruining the England cricket team
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
What Bercow does next
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
Hislop fluffs the rhyme
Another London lump?
Great photo of David Blunkett
Why I also don’t much like John Bercow
Minimum Wage flatvert at Guido’s and Iain Dale’s
Labour down – silly parties up
Photographers in bother
What The State looks like
Indy Flatverts and a Guido Q&A
Bloke in posh suit holding Real Photographer camera like it’s a Billion Monkey camera!
Thoughts on the Go Gordon petition
Anti-politics versus (or just and) the heroic delusion
Croziervision of default
My opinion of yesterday’s budget
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
“What did you just say?”
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
Signs of the times in Belfast
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Someone called Rick wants me to puke on President Obama
It all depends on whether there is anything worth Twittering
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
Quota quotes from Wodehouse
Colonial Governor’s Mansion dwarfed by modernity
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
Ruminating about politics and ideology
Media bias as asset stripping
Another pendulum theory
Metaphor muddle alert
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Gordon Brown to guarantee everything
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Wonderwoman picked by Unsuperman
Might Gordon Brown pull an EU referendum rabbit out of the hat?
Obama still won’t do nasty
Chivalry and the mad feminists
“She put the governor’s jet up on e-Bay …”
Ken Livingstone was beaten by the billboards!
North Carolina Billion Monkeys mad for Obama!
The writing on the wall
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Armed is less dangerous
The British Public continues to dislike too-high-and-rising taxes
Today I have been blogging elsewhere and also doing other things
Bird’s Nest in smog
A new British citizen
Brown leapfrogs Cameron with 36 point jump
Freedom of information
Guido Fawkes gets Douglas Jardine wrong
What I have seen so far while abroad
Guido on Gordon
Those were the days and these are no longer the days
The absurdly derided excellence of British weather forecasts
“Let’s get cracking tomorrow. Let’s have a drink tonight.”
Politics again …
Voting for Boris?
The Messina Suspension Bridge is on again
The personal and the political
“Better value on goods and services across a wide range of categories …”
Paying a visit to Mum
Slow day here
Paul Marks told us so
Dominic Lawson on Herbert von Karajan
Talking with Antoine about the US election and about libertarian politics in the US and in the UK
Not a hot day in January for the Billion Monkeys!
The Puerto Rican candidate
Theodore Dalrymple on the menace of honest public officials and much else besides
The Shard is a Middle Eastern skyscraper but in London that still counts
Obama a loser?
Antoine Clarke on the US Primaries – either Obama will beat McCain or McCain will beat Clinton
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Antoine Clarke talking about the US Primaries
The new South Bank
Blu-Ray - HD DVD – IBM – Microsoft - Google
Great but not great
No number two in Venezuela
Probably not right - but definitely written
“Don’t burn your bridges before they’re hatched …”
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
The UK is not crowded
“How much better …?”
From 100 to 1 in movie quotes and Gordon is a moron
Socialising with the Social Media
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
Nothing untoward happening!
Bush on Cuba
Will China fail?
The Emperor Jones
Lib Dems edge towards school choice
End the medical monopoly!
Antoine Clarke on the French National Assembly elections
Don’t be a physics teacher
Is Jeremy Paxman a closet libertarian?
A surprising outburst of truth
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Antoine on Sarko’s win
Serious tax cutting
If they don’t get who they would have preferred then silly them
“What do YOU think?” - “More -isationisation!”
Billion Monkeys photo their own demo!
The Conservatives prepare for power
Darrin M. McMahon and me and George Orwell on the pursuit of happiness
Some plain English
Not cool and cool
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
Church dwarfed by modernity
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Whatever it is and no matter how illegal it already is … there ought to be a law against it!
One man one blog
So what’s this about then?
Screw you Dove – good on you Ruth Kelly – the right to avoid gay adoption
Emmanuel Todd (1): Anthropology explains ideology
More on the Lib Dems
Antoine says why he got the midterms wrong
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Do the Lib Dems just tell everyone what they each of them want to hear?
Hands off the Net
Oscar Wilde defends society
How blogging is making Conservatives more polite to each other
Antoine Clarke talks with me about votes for women (and teenagers) – and about Sweden
29th and 14th
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 - Middle East, Mexico, USA
Jeffrey Archer - blogger
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 on democracy etc. - UK, Latin America, China
One for Global Guido to celebrate
Antoine gets Mexican election right
The latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Brian and Antoine democracy mp3 number twelve
Latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
This is Iain Dale’s seventh favourite non-aligned blog
Brian and Antoine mp3s now into double figures
Billion Monkey snaps shadow chancellor!
Brian and Antoine number 9
The latest Brian and Antoine mp3
At last - the latest mp3 from me and Antoine
Young People models for Old People
On style and politics
The latest Electionwatch mp3
The latest Brian and Antoine Election Watch podcast and some thoughts on democratic nastiness
More election podcasting
Election Watch podcast number three
American partisans and American voters
More from Antoine Clarke about elections around the world
A second podcast (and it was rather too long)
On stand-up comedy and politics
Changing the names of cities
Charles Rosen on Richard Taruskin and on the socially unbound nature of some of the greatest music
The many faces of the LibDems
Help the struggle against DRM!
“The Internet has also brought a new class of people into politics”
He loved my book
Talking about my generation
“The basis is economic development”