Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Brian Micklethwait on Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
Most recent entries
- I am knackered
- Packaging that is too good
- Tidying up
- To Tottenham (1): A fine day (especially for scaffolding)
- Quota Citroen DS
- Plan as energy
- One mobile phone photoer now
- Somebody needs to invent electronically changeable paint
- Clocking clocks
- What indeed?
- Sunlight on sea
- Some more lighthouses for 6k
- Views from Waterlow Park
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Brians
A notable Brian has just died. Close.
Scyld Berry writes about the bravest man to ever play cricket:
The story was that when a ball hit him on the head at short-leg, he shouted “catch it!” Eric Morecombe joked that the start of the cricket season was the sound of leather on Brian Close.
RIP Tweet by Alan Butcher (which was how I learned about this):
Was once in a Roller with Brian Close. Went over a speed bump too quick. His head went clean through the roof upholstery.
Close was also one of the few men ever to make Boycott get a move on (see para 11).
He was a great England captain, briefly, but was then sacked for … well, for wanting to win too much, basically. Then reinstated briefly, much later. Should have been captain all that time.
Mostly this is an excuse to link to pieces which link to pieces by me, and which are in all other respects most gratifying. And please, I’m not seriously complaining here. Micklethwait is indeed a bit of a mouthful.
I expected to find lots of Brian Micklethwaites, but while searching for those, and while finding far fewer than I expected (e.g. No. 16 here) , I also found someone who actually is called Brian Micklethwaite. I bet he just loves me. Google for him and you mostly get me.
Did you mean: “Brian Micklethwait”
Well, until recently, we Micklethwaits spent half our lives being told by helpful bank clerks who prided themselves on knowing their northern spellings that our name was really spelt Micklethwaite. And then asked if we are any relation of Maurice Micklewhite, aka Michael Caine. Presumably we’re fiftieth cousins or something. (Aren’t we all?) But basically: no.
I am always on the lookout for Fixed Quantity Of theories, ever since I wrote a pamphlet for the Libertarian Alliance called The Fixed Quantity of Wealth Fallacy. And I have long felt that I was observing another of these amongst advertisers and their defenders, in the form of a Fixed Quantity of Advertising Money. I claim no originality for any of this thinking. My Guru on this, Adriana Lukas, has been telling me stuff like this for years. What I have in mind is the notion that there is this great gob of money that is just Out There, to advertise stuff, and It Has To Go Somewhere.
No it doesn’t. What if, as Adriana herself has long been saying, advertising just shrinks, from Capital A Advertising back to plain old old-school advertising, to the emission of product information and specs, accompanied by puff from the makers explaining why they made it and why they hope it will do well and who they think might like it and might like to buy it, just put on some internet notice board somewhere, for people to link to and talk about and agree with and disagree with and generally pass it on if they’re interested. Because you see, all those billboards and telly ads and full page spreads in the newspapers are not just being switched off. They are not being replaced on anything like a sufficient scale to keep everyone in the puffery trade still puffing along in the manner they used to be accustomed to.
In a way it’s the old hippy dream, first publicised by the likes of Vance Packard in the 1950s, that advertising would just stop, and simply be replaced by people just making stuff, and other people just buying it if they wanted it. Capitalism eh? You make impossible demands of it, and then the damn thing does it!
Personally, I am finding that the capital A Advertising that has dominated the last half century still works okay, in those places where it always did work okay. Works okay as in: does not annoy me. (Whether it still sells me stuff on the same old scale is a different story. I guess: not.) I don’t have a problem with movie posters in the London Underground, or big signs next to motorways or on the side of buses. But I find “internet advertising” very irritating.
Interestingly, when I am surfing, I find myself making a distinction between Real Adverts and “internet adverts”. Real Adverts are adverts that I have already seen in the Underground or wherever, simply reproduced on internet sites. Thus, for instance, I have recently been noticing internet adverts for Quantum of Solace, which are graphically identical to the real adverts that you see out in Real Advert World, i.e in the Underground and on billboards in the street. To this QoS advert, I do pay some vaguely respectful attention, in among being annoyed by how it is placing itself in my way and demanding my attention - which I suppose must supply a quantum of solace to old-school advertisers. But any advert that is only on the internet, I find absolutely worthless. Total junk. Nothing but interruption between me and what I am actually trying to pay attention to.
Much seems to hinge in the advertising trade on the notion of “targetted” advertising. I find targetted adverts particularly annoying, and particularly uninformative.
The point is, whenever I now see an internet advert which I have not seen in Real Advert Space, I don’t know if it is a Real Advert (like that QoS one), or merely an advert targetted at me. And if it is targetted at me, then to hell with it. If someone is only saying this to me, then I’m almost certainly not interested. What I want to know about is what someone rich thinks it worth his while to say to everybody. It is exactly the untargetted nature of old-fashioned adverts, Real Adverts in Real Advert Space, that makes them so useful and amusing to me. Untargetted adverts are Real Adverts. Targetted adverts are visual spam.
Untargetted adverts are adverts which I know to be very expensive. What they tell me is that this product, and this Real Advert, are things that lots of other people besides me are interested in, or things that someone with a lot of money to burn thinks that lots of people besides me will be interested in or might be interested in. But if I see an advert at the top of a blog or website that I have only seen on blogs or websites, how do I know how it got there? Is this on this blog for everyone? Or: just for me, and for all the other people on some rather small list that merely happens to include me? Don’t know. So, even if it actually is a Real Advert, being bombed at everyone who reads this bit of the internet, I screen it out. Basically, what I am saying is: I hate internet advertising, because I learn nothing from it. It is not just interruption. Interruption is all it is.
Advertising still works, in Real Advert Space, in such places as the Underground or Trafalgar Square or an airport or beside the motorway - in the sense, as I say, that it does not induce active hostility. But the internet is not a “public space”. It is my personal space, or something, or I don’t quite know what. Whatever it is exactly, the internet is certainly not a giant collection of Undergrounds and Trafalgar Squares. What works on the internet is someone talking to me, or writing talkatively for me, in a manner that I can easily switch off and can choose to go on listening to. Perhaps a bloke is talking about some new product about which he is genuinely enthusiastic or intrigued by or admiring of, because he just is, not because he has been paid to say all this, any more than I am being paid by Adriana Lukas to puff her stuff. What absolutely does not work is some hired twat dripping with insincerity, whom I know nothing about except this, standing right next to me and the person who is now talking with me so amusingly, and shouting into my ear - because the hired twat has “targetted” me.
From time to time I get emails from people wanting, or saying that they are wanting (who knows the real story? - what if they are just compiling a list of suckers to bombard with penis enlargement emails) to advertise on my blog. The answer to all of these people is: no.
If I want more money, I’ll try to do more paid work or try to spend less of what I have on classical CDs. I will not clamber aboard the sinking ship that is the capital A Advertising Industry.
Any adverts you seen here, Real Adverts or internet adverts, will have been put here by me because I consider them to be in some way interesting. No money will have changed hands.
So, for instance, if I include this piece of foolishness (which I came across at the top of this ...
... it is because it was easy to copy and reduce, and because it gives me the chance to mock the bit of it that says “Where the conversation begins”. (These twats still seem to imagine that conversations can’t begin without them.) Nobody paid me.
And here is another advert, which I actually quite like, which I snapped in the Underground:
I like it because, based on the snippets I’ve seen of it so far, I am going to rather like Michael Sheen’s turn as football management legend Brian Clough, and am looking forward to recording it when it comes out on telly and adding it to my home-made DVD collection.
On the other hand, the examples of internet advertising I have supplied in this are woefully insufficient to make my point. Which sort of is my point, because in the normal course of things I literally don’t see them, as anything but something to be scrolled past or swatted aside. While searching rather pointlessly for actual examples of such interruptions, I discovered something which rather proves the point some more. In my bit of the internet, there really isn’t much advertising to be seen. Which would rather suggest that it isn’t worth anyone’s while to be doing it.
I’ve read lots of times about how salesmen sell you stuff by first establishing a relationship, and with small stuff that’s obviously true. You buy your occasional newspapers from the shop you like rather than the shop you don’t like, etc. But today, I bought a TV, and the clinching thing was that I liked the guy I bought it from. He does things like remember that I have a really old wallet that I haven’t thrown away. I bet he does this with hundreds of other people as well, and I bet he tells his wife that this is how he does it, but I don’t care! I still like him! So, when I went to his shop in Tottenham Court Rd (which I originally went into simply because it is called Brian’s Hi Fi), still swithering about exactly which sort of telly to get and from whom, I finally caved in and said, okay, I’ll have this one. Oh, there were technical considerations, like size, and what plugs you can attach, and whether I can attach it to one of those hinge thingies to keep it off my desk and move it and get at the space behind it (like it’s a door), and so on and so forth. But I absolutely do not believe that it was coincidence that my ruminations finally ceased and the decision was made in this man’s shop.
I have a category called Brians, but have done very few actual Brians postings, and not any for quite a while.
Well, this, from Danny Finkelstein, livens things up, don’t you reckon?
Paddy Hitler. Adolf Hitler did not have a son, but he did have a nephew, Paddy. Paddy, the son of Hitler’s brother Alois, lived in Liverpool as a young boy. In 1933 he moved to Germany, trying to be a car salesman and cash in on his family name. Things didn’t work out and he moved to the US, denouncing his Uncle and serving in the US Navy in the war. Finally he settled in Long Island where he had three sons, including Brian Hitler. I am not making this up.
Nor am I. Heil Dizzy, for featuring this on his blog. And yes, I did check the date. Not April 1st. March 31st. So, presumably, true.
Earlier this week my friend Sean the Soldier (no relation of Sean Gabb) dropped by. He has been in Sierra Leone, and has had a camera with him. I helped him buy this, and he has returned the favour by letting me pick out some of his best Sierra Leone photos to show to you people. Although, not all of them are by him.
In Sierra Leone, so Sean tells me, they like having their photos taken. None of this don’t steal my soul stuff! Here, by way of proof, are some pictures of Sierra Leonean headgear, otherwise known as the freight transport system:
I seem to recall doing a posting some while ago about how, with luck, digital photography will present to the world a more balanced picture of Africa than hitherto. (Yes: this one.) News photos inevitably home in on Africa’s admittedly numerous catastrophes, but in lots of African places, life is quite good, and lots of people are going about their lives contentedly. Of course, the happiness in these photos could merely be because these people, as I said, like being photoed, but I think it looks like they’re reasonably happy off camera.
Next a mobile phone powering-up and money-ing up booth:
Sean says mobile phones are one of the things in Sierra Leone that works really well. This place makes its money doing 20p top-ups and recharging, rather than actually selling phones. Sean doesn’t know how they get the phones in the first place. Guess: Celtel gets them cheap from rich country charity shops and sells them cheap to their customers, and then they make their money with the servicing.
This is the Sierra Leone end of a story that I have already picked up on, through regularly contributing to this blog.
Further information about Sierra Leone: the Krio (that’s “creole” spelt Freetown style - Freetown being the capital of Sierra Leone) for teenage girl is: “little titty”, which is perfectly polite. You could say, e.g., to a teenage girl’s mum, “Could little titty here get us some tea?” without causing any offence.
“BMT” means Black Man Time. Black Africans, at any rate in Sierra Leone, really do have a more lackdaisical attitude to the non-immediate future. Which could be why mobile phones suit Africans so well. They enable things to be done cooperatively, but on the spur of the moment.
There is also something called “Black Magic”, truly. Sierra Leoneans, including quite sharp guys who work with Sean doing army stuff, genuinely believe that a man can, with the right words, turn himself into a tiger at night, or some such. But, this doesn’t work in front of white men, who are different.
White men – most particularly the Brits – are held in high esteem in Sierra Leone. If you stood for election on a platform of the British re-colonising the country you’d sweep to power. Only the existing pols would oppose you. It would be massively popular. This is because of Sierra Leone’s recent history. Around 2000 they had a massive civil war, which was eventually ended when the Brits wiped out the fearsomely destructive criminal gang of drugged out teenage boys who looked like emerging victorious from the mayhem. At which point peace erupted, and things started getting slowly better. Which is the state of play now, touch wood.
But the Brits will not take over Sierra Leone, because they don’t want to. Probably just as well. So instead, everything in Sierra Leone that now works is run by Lebanese people, who are like the local Jews. Lebanese, as in people from the Lebanon. They got there in circa 1896 and have been there ever since.
Some more pix.
The plaque is because of a minor colonial cock-up. You don’t normally see plaques that immortalise minor colonial cock-ups, do you? Apparently some Brits had an accidental fight with some Frenchies.
The CocaCola sign is all that remains of what used to be a railway station. The railways were all ripped up and sold for scrap by the third (I think it was) President of Sierra Leone after independence, independence having been in nineteen sixty something. From independence to the civil war of 2000 and before was a tale of gradual descent into hell. So, Brits rule: good. Brits leave: things go from good to bad to worse to the worst things you can imagine to stuff so bad you can’t even imagine it. Eventually Brits rescue. You can see why they like us. But they are a long way from ever again having railways that work. (And before anyone comments to this effect, I know that it was a lot more complicated than that, involving two entire lots of mercenaries, diamond mines, you name it.)
The thing is, said Sean, railways are worth nicking, so they got nicked. Unlike mobile phone infrastructure which is only good for being mobile phone infrastructure, so that stays, and is in any case quite easy to guard and/or mend. (The civil war was about who got to nick all the diamonds, it being diamonds which paid for the weapons. The curse of natural resources strikes again.)
Finally a couple of non-human life forms. The bug I include because its colouring is so spectacular, like something painted for a tourist rather than a real bug.
The dog is, according to Sean’s picture capture, “the most useless guard dog in the world” and is included because his name is Brian.
New category here: Brians.
My deadly sin of choice is, however, sloth. But it is the sloth of the hare, who can do things, but who tends instead just to lounge around doing nothing in particular.