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: Comments

Tuesday June 28 2016

I’m a big fan of the Samizdata Commentariat.  It’s one of the best things about Samizdata.  Part of the reason for its excellence is that when things get heated, a comment like this appears:

image

I’m not a huge fan, on the other hand, of the Guido Commentariat.  Too big, too abusive, too given to tangenting off on only very marginally relevant subjects, just like most other big Commentariats, in other words.  Still other Commentariats, like mine, are too small to be worth reading regularly.  My commenters are very good, but there just aren’t enough of them (it being absolutely not the fault of those who do comment here (it’s the fault of all those who might comment but don’t (and is it really even reasonable to call that a “fault”?))).  Samizdata manages to strike a happy balance.  At Samizdata, you don’t get Comments (0), posting after posting, like you (I) do here, but nor do you get Comments (1538), or some such ridiculous number of mostly unreadable twaddle-comments.  That, for me, is the Guido Commentariat.

But I keep going to the Guido commenters from time to time, because they do have their moments:

image

That was this morning.

I don’t know if I would call the immediate economic outlook for Britain “absolutely fine”, but compared to continental Europe, and especially continental EUrope, it remains quite good, both immediate outlooks having got rather worse because of Brexit.

The British policy for the last few years seems to have been: be the least worst governed country, but only by a bit.  That way, capital and people flow in but don’t absolutely torrent in, even though our bosses are making most of the same mistakes as are being made everywhere else.  Just not quite so much as rivals of comparable stature, like France.

If Brexit had only destabilised Britain, then British markets really would have crashed.  As it is, it’s a toss up whether Brexit has destabilised Britain more than it has destabilised EUrope.  (That guy means the EUrope won’t survive.  Europe obviously will.) My belief is that money is both running away from Britain, and coming into Britain.  (But what do I know?)

Wednesday June 08 2016

I love to write about digital photography, and have been tracking the selfie phenomenon since long before the mere word was invented, way back in the days when I referred to digital photographers as Billion Monkeys (which I don’t anymore (because some people thought I meant Muslims)).  (But also way back in the days when I didn’t worry about showing the faces of strangers, the way I worry now.) And I also enjoy often public sculpture, especially of the more recent and less abstract sort.

So, I love this:

image

There have been complaints, of course, such as from all the commenters there at the Daily Mail.  God forbid that vulgar people should find this vulgar statue so much fun.  Sculpture is Art, and Art isn’t supposed to be amusing.

One of the Daily Mail’s other photos is of bloke photoing himself with his own mobile, in front of the selfie statue.  But I prefer the more subtle response that consists of simply being photoed joining in, thus:

image

For once, the statueness, so to speak, of the statue, the fact that it is made of monochrome metal rather than realistically painted to look like real people, works really well, because it contrasts so nicely with the real people.  It helps that it seems to be exactly life size.

One of the idiot grumpy commenters at the Daily Mail said that Sugar Land is a stupid name and they were obviously desperate for some attention, which they have never had until now.  But wasn’t there a Goldie Hawn movie called The Sugarland Express, or some such thing?  Yes there was.  Early Spielberg.  But, is Sugar Land the same as Sugarland?

According to a later Daily Mail report, it isn’t only their grumpy commentariat that objects to this statue.  Could this be because a lot of people heard about this story partly through the Daily Mail, and those people being the sort that hears about things via the Daily Mail, immediately started objecting, because they object to everything.  Whereas, the ones who liked it hadn’t heard about it so much.

I first found about the statue via Amusing Planet, so of course I was already self-identified as the sort who would be amused.  It was just that the Daily Mail had better pictures.

Tuesday June 07 2016

So, daily-blog-read-for-me David Thompson linked to a posting at ArtBlog, about the rights and wrongs of arts subsidies.  I read that posting, and read through the comments too, just as David Thompson did.  I find myself wanting to comment.  But, can I be bothered?

And then, in comment number 16, courtesy of the Maitre D of ArtBlog, Franklin Einspruch, I discover that I have commented, thus:

The greatest art seems to happen when high art and low art combine, in the form of something that is superficially entertaining and stirring and popular, and also as profound as profundity seekers might want it to be. Arts subsidies harm art by dividing it into less good entertainment art, paid for by punters, and less good high art, paid for with subsidies. Arts subsidies in Britain are now being cut somewhat. The result will be somewhat better art.

Which Franklin found in this Samizdata posting and copied into his comment thread.  How about that?!

The two arts that best illustrate this opinion of mine are probably Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan theatre (i.e. Shakespeare and all that), and classical music in the days of its glory, from about the late 17oos until around 1900 (i.e. Mozart, Beethoven and all that).

Shakespeare’s plays are now considered just about as profound as Art with a capital A can ever get, but at the time, his stuff was considered rather middle-brow.  Too commercial, too appealing to the rabble.  About half of Shakespeare’s mere plays - the very word suggests something not to be taken truly seriously, doesn’t it? - were nearly lost to us:

Of the 36 plays in the First Folio, 17 were printed in Shakespeare’s lifetime in various good and bad quarto editions, one was printed after his death and 18 had not yet been printed at all. It is this fact that makes the First Folio so important; without it, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Tempest, might never have survived.

What will posterity, in its various and many successive iterations, consider to be the Great Art of our time?  And how much of it will be lost, on account of it not now being considered artistic enough?

Friday April 08 2016

I’ve already done one posting about the walk that GodDaughter One and I did along the New River (further reaches of) last Saturday, and as I result I learned (thank you Natalie) about Pollarding.  Here is another posting, about a duck which GD1 and I observed that day on the New River, and this time what I hope to learn is what make of duck this is.

Here is the duck:

image

Here are a couple of shots of the duck with his Mrs.

imageimage

Here’s one of those shots where the principle of a good photo photoed badly is taken to its outer limits.  You can see what I was going for and how great it might have been, but you can also see that it didn’t work:

image

Don’t bother clicking on that one.  No point in that being any bigger, is there?

To compensate for the above failure, here is a final head shot of Mr Duck:

image

I don’t usually post pictures of wildlife on this blog, basically because I feel that I don’t have anything to contribute.  Other people – a lot of other people – do this several dozen times better than I ever will.  But this duck genuinely interested me.  Until I saw it, I had no idea that such a bird was to be seen in the vicinity of London, looking like it had just flown in from Africa or Brazil or some such luridly colourful place.

And whereas, when you have a question about the modern world, you can usually now just type that question into a computer and up comes the answer in just a few seconds, that doesn’t work when you have photoed a fancy-looking bird.  I’m sure that this will come, but unless I entirely missed it, the time when this works is not with us quite yet.  I cannot now just stuff this photo into my computer and say: What brand of bird is this?

Perhaps this can already be done.  In which case a commenter can tell me this, and tell me the result that he or she got when he or she carried out this procedure.  He or she can tell me both about photo-searching, and about the duck.  Win win.

Blog and learn.  That’s the plan, anyway.

After writing the above, I tried typing “fancy duck london” into the www and asked for pictures, and a picture appeared in among all the irrelevant nonsense that looked like what I saw.  So now, I know the answer:

Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century a large feral population was established in Great Britain; ...

Mandarin duck.  Blog and learn.

Monday March 28 2016

Indeed.  The old Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo is finally coming back to life again, for boring rush hour services, but life.

Until late in 2007, Eurostar trains used to come and go from the new station they built at Waterloo for that exact purpose.  But then they shut the place, and the Eurostars operated from St Pancras instead.  Since 2007, the Waterloo Eurostar terminal has been a corpse.

After much searching, I managed to dig up a photo I took in 2007 of some Eurostar snouts poking out of the Waterloo terminal, just before it died:

image

Once again, we see Century House in the background of a photo here that is basically of something else.  The previous posting in which this happened is here, at which there is a brief explanatory comment about Century House’s history.  Spooks, basically.  Now just flats.

Even older Waterloo Eurostar photos can be viewed here, posted here in 2013, but taken in 2003.  I also just re-listened to a conversation involving Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and me, about the new St Pancras, which we all liked a lot, and presumably still like a lot.

Wednesday March 23 2016

I did an earlier posting about some birds I had spied on a walk with GD1, and 6k identified them:

I can help with bird identification!

Your ducks are red-crested pochards (a female and a male), ...

Pochards?  You made that up mate.  Well, no.  But, first I’d heard of it.

… while your ibises are African Sacred Ibis, which are regular visitors to our local dumps and beaches, scavenging what they can, where they can.

Sacred Ibis?  More like profane.

I actually came across some on my walk this this weekend.  While they may be ugly on the ground, they can be beautiful in flight.

I can confirm that these Ibis, Ibises, Ibes, Ibix, whatever, look good in the air, because on that same trip, moments after taking the shot I showed in that earlier posting, of two Ibi squatting on a horizontal tube, I got a shot of one of them flying.  Inside their cage, yes, but still flying.  And suddenly, a squat little pre-war propeller driven failure of an aircraft turned into a post-war jet bomber:

image

Let’s have a closer look at that:

image

Profane on the ground, but sacred in the air.

Sunday March 06 2016

I recently said here that I was finding it to be a pleasure to be contemplating the rise and rise of Donald Trump, but I also said that it was a guilty pleasure, and I really meant that.  Mostly, the phrase “guilty pleasure” is used to describe a pleasure that is merely rather uncool, like liking Abba even before the gays did, which is exactly what I did because I liked them as soon as I first heard them win the Eurovision Song Contest, and this despite their absurd trousers.  But that’s not a “guilty pleasure”.  A guilty pleasure is when you enjoy something immoral, like Donald Trump and Donald Trump doing well.  There was never anything morally wrong about Abba, and I never felt in the slightest bit guilty about liking them.

The immorality of Donald Trump is that he is the living embodiment of crony capitalism, and crony capitalism is the problem, not the solution.  He might become a good President, but only if he turns over an entirely new leaf and starts believing in non-crony capitalism.  This is not impossible.  Having been one of these creatures himself, Trump may at least be able to spot other creatures of this genus, and he may decide that whereas being a crony-capitalist was good for him, a super-abundance of crony-capitalists is bad for America.

But why take the chance?  Just as likely is that Trump will carry right on being a crony-capitalist, this time by obliging all the other crony-capitalists with little slices of his Presidential power, and charging them each a fee.

Based on what little I know of him, Cruz seems like the least worst Presidential candidate with a serious chance of winning, and now it is starting to look as if he just might win.  I said in that earlier piece that Trump was going to walk it, but now it seems he might not even stagger it.  Cruz might win.  I have liked Cruz ever since I heard an interview someone did with him, during which Cruz revealed that he was enthusiastically pro the Constitution of the United States.  Wow, that’s subversive talk, of the kind that I personally like a lot.

Here is how a commenter ("Prince of Whitebread"), on the piece linked to above, puts it:

I would ask the Trump supporters why Trump continues to get press and airtime far in excess of the others.  Answer: Trump is the Candidate the MSM wants to face Hillary. The PajamaBoy Press soils their onesies every time they contemplate Ted Cruz debating Abuela Hillary. They know he’d destroy her with logic, facts, the Constitution, and her own gymnast principles.

“Abuela” is, I believe, the Spanish for Granny.

So, are the hoards of Trump enthusiasts now starting to agree with such anti-Trumpery, and to switch to the man that the establishment truly hates and truly fears?  Would Cruz winning the Republican nomination, and in due course the Presidency, be a non-guilty pleasure?  Or is he just another version of the establishment?  Is he terrible too?

LATER: Roger L. Simon:

Which leads me to the real topic: Trumpophrenia. I suffer from it and it’s only getting worse. I change my opinion about Donald almost every five minutes - and I can’t be the only one. There may be millions of us.

I am not alone.

Thursday February 25 2016

I am greatly enjoying the progress of Soon-To-Be President Trump.  File under: guilty pleasures.  My libertarian friends mostly express horror at Trump’s irresistible rise, and his terrible opinions, and his terrible hair, but surely you never really know what you’ll get with a new President.  During the Thatcher years some of the people who most agreed with me did very little that I liked, while others, impeccably governmental sorts, who were just doing what seemed sensible to them, did quite a lot of good things.  See: privatisation.  Maybe Trump will turn out like that.  Maybe he will even decide to have dignified hair.

Trump seems to me like he’s going to be the USA’s first Television President, by which I mean someone who got to be President via television.  Didn’t they have one of them in Brazil not so long ago?  Some guy who had got well known by being some kind of TV talent show host, or some such thing, and then, to the horror of the Horrified Classes parlayed that into being President.  It was probably a disaster, but Brazil usually is.  And now, Brazil has one of the strongest libertarian movements in the world, does it not?  Maybe that’s how libertarianism wins.  First you have a crazy TV guy, and then libertarianism.  I can hope.

Anyway, Trump.  This piece about Trump by Scott Adams is a good laugh, as are comments on it like this:

I liked the one in Arkansas when the manager of the facility announced that Trump broke the all time attendance record set by ZZ Top in 1978. lol

He is certainly a canny operator, as Adams explains very cannily, cataloguing Trump’s many previous successes, such as a best selling book on how to negotiate.

Part of the skill of getting the Republican nomination is to behave like a guy the Mainstream Media are confident they can easily destroy, in due course.  Which means that instead of destroying you straight away, they destroy all the other fellows, who they thought were stronger than you, which by definition they can’t have been, can they?  You have to be like Russia, and look either much weaker than you are, so the media don’t bother with you, and then much stronger than you are, so the media then grovel, as they do when they face a force of nature, in other words a force bigger than them.

I could of course be quite wrong, but I reckon Trump is going to walk it, when he gets around to dealing with whichever car crash of a candidate the Dems stick in front of him.  And it will either be Clinton or that old socialist guy, the ones already in the race.  Nobody else will want to join, because the prize for winning the Dem nomination will be getting Trumped all over, and who needs that?  Those two old crocks both joined the race while Trump was still in his ridiculous phase.

No wonder the Chinese are nervous.  They surely know a true son of Sun Tzu when they see one. 

Trump
Blokes photoing
London Biggin Hill “Jet Centre”?
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
BMdotcom comment of the day
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
Ubernomics
Chinos?
How much does it cost to power up a mobile phone?
Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
Mysteriously losing my internet connection and then mysteriously getting it back
Sam Bowman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
RNSQotD
Rob Fisher on the 3D printing future
Perry Metzger on taking seriously the declared objectives of opponents
Spot the Samsung connection
Talking architecture at the Libertarian Home social
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
Patrick Crozier has just arranged for accessing ancient comments here to be much easier
How llamas told us so – in November 2008
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
Bitcoin etc.?
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
Wisconsin question
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom spam comment spelling mistake of the day
James Waterton on a very smart very dumb Russian
Defeating Islam
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom least obnoxious spam comment so far
Is Timberland guilty of spam commenting me?
Molly Norris was just kidding!
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
“Is this a case of us operant-conditioning them or them operant-conditioning us?”
Voice and exit
Reds against Blues in Munich
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
Twitterings
Prize idiots
God is killing cinemas!
Quotes dump
Old Holborn lets rip at Labour in a Guido comment
The curse of Gordon Brown is now ruining the England cricket team
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
A photo of the Samsung NC10 and the original Asus Eee-PC next to each other
There’s no need to comment on this posting because it’s already perfect
Paul Marks on the financial crisis
On hating and not hating commenters
Lib Dems edge towards school choice
Comment is free and WiFi should be too