A gallery of Michael Jennings photos

For the last few weeks, a strange glitch has been afflicting this blog, involving spacing. If I stick up just the one photo, stretching all the way across the width of the blog’s column of text, all is well. But if I stick up a gallery of photos, which is something I very much like doing, there has been a problem. Too much space was suddenly, ever since a recent software update or some such thing, created below the gallery. Any attempt I made to remove this space only resulted in further spatial havoc below, in the form of too much space between subsequent paragraphs of text.

But now, either because the guardians of this software have sorted this out, or because the technical curator of this blog, Michael Jennings, has sorted this out, things are back to how they were. Good. Very good. I attach great importance to how this blog looks. If it looks wrong, I hate that. It demoralises me and makes me want to ignore the damn thing rather than keep on updating it the way I actually do. This was especially so given that galleries look so very good when they are working properly.

Well, as I say, things have now reverted to their previous state of visual just-so-ness. And I will now celebrate, with yet another gallery:

The above gallery, however, is not a gallery of my photos, but rather a gallery of photos photoed by Michael Jennings, all, I believe, with his mobile phone. Not having got out much lately, I have found the photos Michael has photoed while taking exercise, and then stuck up on Facebook, reminding me of how my beloved London has been looking, to be a great source of comfort during the last few months. And I actually like photoing in his part of London more than I do in my own part. This may just be familiarity breeding something like contempt, but is still a definite thing with me.

I started out having in mind to pick just four photos, which makes a convenient gallery. Then I thought, make it nine. I ended up with twenty four. It would have been twenty five (also a convenient number), except that one of the ones I chose was a different shape, which might have complicated things, so I scrubbed that one from the gallery.

But you can still look at that one. Because none of this means that you need be confined only to my particular favourites. Go here and keep on right clicking to see all of them.

I have displayed my picks here in chronological order, the first of the above photos having been photoed in October of last year. The final photo (which is what you get to if you follow the second link in the previous paragraph), of the church, which I learned of today, and which is the only one done outside London, is something of a celebration, of the fact that Michael is now able to travel outside London without breaking any rules, or such is my understanding. (Plus, I like those unnatural trees (see also the photo number 9)).

Patrick Crozier, the man I do recorded conversations with (see the previous post), is a particular fan of Viscount Alanbrooke, Churchill’s long suffering chief military adviser during WW2. So he’ll like that this church is where Alanbrooke is buried.

Patrick and I talk about Enoch Powell

The latest Patrick Crozier/Brian Micklethwait recorded conversation is now up and listenable-to. We talk about Enoch Powell, of whom Patrick writes:

Enoch Powell was a prominent politician in the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his views on immigration although he was also friendly towards libertarian ideas especially on economics. While a large part of our chat is inevitably taken up with immigration we also discuss Margaret Thatcher, Steve Baker and the end of Empire.

I embarked upon this conversation fearing that I had not done enough homework. But during Powell’s career itself I was paying attention, and, stimulated by Patrick, I found myself remembering a lot more, of the sort that I had not, so to speak, remembered remembering beforehand.

Also, I wasn’t expecting to notice the Powell/Steve Baker parallels. Both took/take ideas more seriously than they took the mere achievement of office, and both consequently had/have a big Parliamentary impact. Baker also resembles Powell in being extremely clever and extremely industrious. (Baker also resembles Powell in not being a racist.)

This is the biography of Powell that Patrick had been reading.

Bartok (again) – Mozart – Chopin – Purcell

My journeys to the Marsden are now regularly taking me to South Kensington tube, where this elegant gentleman is to be seen, looking particularly fine during a sunny spell, of which there have recently been many:

But who is he?

This is who:

Yes, it’s Bela Bartok, with that sign looking very good in the sunshine, I think. This statue is, up there with the young Mozart statue which is a walk away in Belgravia, my other favourite London composer statue that I have so far learned of.

I googled for “london composer statues” and discovered this 3D version of Chopin, which looks horrible in that photo. I walk past the Purcell statue in Victoria Street every time I walk to St James’s Park tube, which I think is even worse. Both these statues strike me as the “artist” putting himself in between us and the subjects, and saying look at me, when I want to be looking at Chopin, and at Purcell.

But that’s just me, and in any case, this is London. You don’t expect everything in London to look good. London wouldn’t be London if it contained no aesthetic atrocities. Besides which, maybe you like these Chopin and Purcell statues as much as I now dislike them.

How the 1440 bit of Berlin looks now

Incoming from Michael Jennings:

Someone has helpfully provided a photo of the same section of Berlin …

I.e. (see the top of this posting) this section:

This being how this same section looks today:

Many thanks Michael. Michael knows everything about everywhere. But you have to express prior interest in the subject, as I did, which is a good system. If he told you everything about everywhere, all the time, just because he can, that might be a problem. But if he knows the subject interests you, he’s a mine of information. (Some of my best Last Friday of the Month meetings were addressed by him.)

It took me a while to find this place on the Google map of Berlin, but I did find it eventually:

The breakthrough came when, instead of looking only for water, I started looking for lots of bridges.

Like I say, when water does complicated and convoluted things, expect human habitation to be concentrated in that area.

That’s three times I’ve shown that Berlin in 1440 map here. What can I tell you? I like it.

Backstage architecture

A big part of my life now is my visits to the Royal Marsden Hospital on the Fulham Road. I’m talking about this building:

I show the above photo of the Marsden here. again, because I want now to draw your attention to the big square gap in the middle of this building, behind the main entrance at the front. This used to be an open square, not unlike other London Squares, although admittedly not nearly as spacious. But now it’s all been filled in, with a biggledy-piggledy huddle of small and mostly just rather functional buildings, which they put in the square because these buildings had to go somewhere and this was the only place they could fit them in. Like this:

I’m not going for artistic effect there, just trying to show you the sort of place I’m talking about.

The reason I was in the square was that I was visiting this place …:

… to have my heart scanned. (At the end of the scan, the guy said it seemed to be working fine, which was nice.) And this Markus Centre would appear to be one of the early square-violating buildings, erected as you can see in 1904. It is trying to look architecturally nice, in what now looks rather ancientist but which no doubt looked modern when first built. Nevertheless, this air of architectural show is undermined by the much more functional look of lots of other buildings which have since been inserted into the square, with lots of pipes and ducts showing, because why not? These buildings are here to do important jobs, not to look pretty. See also, the entire design of more recent hospitals.

The front of the Marsden is the usual piece of grandiose Victoriana, and I love it. But these photos I photoed today were of what you might call backstage architecture. Not basically there for show. There to get stuff done.

As with so much recent and especially “modern” architecture, it is very easy to get lost trying to find your way to the bit you want. Luckily the staff at the Marsden are unfailingly helpful when you ask the way. If they weren’t, and if there were not signs everywhere, the entire building would be a Kafkaesque nightmare. And especially this random clutch of buildings stuck down in the middle.

LATER: Actually, I think I may have been in the smaller square, off to the right. Which just shows you how easy it is to lose your bearings in this place.

On how the English revolutionary ideology of improvement took its time

During a recent conversation that Patrick Crozier and I recorded (although as always Patrick did all the button-pushing and editing), about how the Industrial Revolution came about, Patrick asked a question that I didn’t answer at the time but which I think I can now answer, at least in broad brush strokes.

My thesis was and is that the Industrial Revolution was and is the English Revolution. It was an ideological event, sparked by mass literacy, just as the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions were. (See all my Emmanuel Todd postings.) Patrick pointed out that, unlike those three very political revolutions, the English Revolution, if that’s what it was, sure took its time to mutate into the Industrial Revolution. The political bit of the English Revolution happened in the seventeenth century, but the big impact of the industrial bit of the English Revolution didn’t achieve lift-off until late in the eighteenth century.

At the time, I just said yes, hm, I’ll have to think about that. But now I have, and I think the answer is not that difficult to supply.

The three very political revolutions were successful, not in the sense they accomplished much that was good, but in the lesser sense that they did at least achieve political dominance, after which they did their best to improve things but ended up doing mostly their worst. They were all very destructive in their impact. And this all happened very quickly. Destruction and catastrophe doesn’t take very long to happen.

But the English Revolution stalled politically. The political bit of it ended in a draw, with the old monarchical and aristocratic institutions changing quite radically, but not being destroyed. And so, having failed to make the big breakthrough in the manner of the French, Russian and Chinese ideological breakthroughs, the English Revolution turned its attention to peaceful progress. To “improvement”, to use the word the English ideologists themselves used.

And, improvement takes time. As the English eighteenth century unfolded, presided over by a rather contentious and corrupt mixture of aristocrats and well-connected capitalists, the ideologists of improvement started to achieve actual improvements, step by inventive step. They were creative rather than destructive, and creativity takes time. I say “started”, but in truth they merely somewhat accelerated a process of step-by-step invention and innovation that had already got under way.

And that’s my answer, for the time being. Destruction happens quickly, and the quicker it happens the more it “succeeds”. Creativity, aka actual improvement, takes far longer.

This ideology of improvement spread, way beyond England, first to America, and subsequently to the whole then Germany, and now everyone. And the world outside Britain and America realised they couldn’t beat the damn Anglos with only their own atavistic and destructive methods, adorned by mere political rhetoric. To hold their own against the Anglosphere, they realised that they would have to copy it. So, they did. And the English ideology of constant improvement now rules the world. We now all live, with ever greater ease and comfort and contentment, in that world.

The English Revolution is, on the whole, not understood by modern educated people. Insofar as the typical Educated Modern has a theory of how all this happened, it is that the English achieved their industrial revolution pretty much by accident. In other words it wasn’t a “revolution” at all, because there were no revolutionaries in the usual sense. Selfish go-getters achieved a mass economic breakthrough that was neither anticipated nor even wanted in each of their individual, selfish little plans. Adam Smith, basically. But the English Revolution, which was and is the global industrial revolution, was an ideological event as well as a merely economic event. Modern educated people cannot see this, because that would involve realising that here was a gang of starry-eyed ideologists and idealists and altruists, with a radical and ludicrously optimistic plan for transforming the lives of all humans everywhere for the better, making omelettes and breaking eggs with relentless single-mindedness. And their plan ended up being triumphantly, fabulously, world transformingly successful. Educated Moderns just don’t have a mental box in which to place events like this. Ideologists always fail, always cause havoc. Even most ideologists nowadays proclaim that their alleged creative miracles, in the radiant future that they proclaim, must be preceded by a phase of destructiveness, during which they destroy all the human barriers to their vision, and of course the rest of us assume that this is all that they will ever accomplish.

But the English Revolution was not like that. It was a Revolution, but a Revolution which only began by being destructive. That part of it failed, in that the political regime that it tried to overthrow was merely modified somewhat. So instead, the English Revolution turned its collective mind towards creativity, and in that it succeeded, beyond its wildest dreams.

To any commenters who want to say it, let me say it first. I know that I haven’t proved, or even really argued, the above proclamation. I have simply proclaimed it. But although I haven’t proved it, I am nevertheless right about all this.

Patrick and I talk about the current state of libertarianism

I’ve had a busy day doing other things, but last Tuesday, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the current state of the libertarian movement, and I can at least today report that Patrick has now done the editing and introductory blogging and linkage, and you can listen to it by going here. It lasts, after Patrick had sliced out the pauses (which we discuss at the end), almost exactly an hour.

As the title of Patrick’s posting alludes to, we speak in particular about how libertarians happen to have been divided about recent Big Issues of the Day, like Brexit, Trump and Lockdown. In each of these arguments, libertarians have been on both sides. However, we both express guarded optimism that libertarians will be more united in the argument that will soon be raging about how best to recover from Lockdown. Our voice may not win, but it will at least be more like one voice.

For further clues about the kinds of things we discussed, see the categories list below. Notice that “Education” is not in this list. For some reason we failed to even mention this.

A favourite photo of Battersea Power Station from the archives

Now is not a good time for wandering about in London photoing photos. And anyway, if you do go a-wandering, is putting the photo-results on your blog the smart thing to do? You need a good story to explain why your wanderings were actually essential. Who needs all that nonsense?

So, instead, I’ve been wandering in my photo-archives, which get steadily better as the years go by and as they record circumstances ever more distant in time.

Circumstances like how Battersea Power Station, one of my favourite London Big Things, was look in the summer of 2004:

Battersea Power Station is now surrounded by flats. No cranes will be seen anywhere near it, once the flats are all finished. And I’ve not seen many boats like that since then, with red sales.

Photoed with my old Canon A70.


I only watch a few of the videos that the Quotulator likes to put up at his excellent blog, but I just watched this one and enjoyed it greatly:

What I find so entertaining about this chunk of history is how this new way of selling and consuming books oscillated wildly between Very Low Art (“Penny Dreadfuls”) and Very High Art (classic (hence out of copyright) novels, Shakespeare, etc.). Low Art created the format. High Art discovered that it could use the format.

My Dad collected Penguins before and after WW2, and probably also during. I still have some of those. None of them were Penny Dreadfuls.

Also interesting was the claim that paperbacks are now thriving, better than ebooks are. My suspicion about that one: give it time.

Patrick Crozier and I talk about death – and lots of other things

The latest Patrick Crozier Brian Micklethwait “podcast” is up, although I prefer “recorded conversation”.

Our subject was … well, basically some thoughts that were provoked by my recent lung cancer diagnosis, and by Patrick’s recent experiences as a carer (see first comment from Patrick) of a dying mother.

But, we did a lot of tangenting, me especially. I think this was because the treatment I’ve been having has been so successful, for the time being anyway, that I was, when we recorded this, and still am, feeling rather cheerful, considering. Thank you Osimertinib, not least for giving me back my voice. We couldn’t have done it without the magic pills I’m taking.

Patrick’s notes, with lots of links to stuff we mentioned, give you some clues about all that tangenting.

I was interested in what Patrick said about grieving. It doesn’t come in stages, said he. It comes all at once.

I honestly don’t know why you should devote an hour and a half of your life to listening to this conversation, what with there being so much else to be attending to in the world these days. If this sounds like it will appeal to you, great, go ahead. But Patrick and I keep doing these recorded conversations because we seem to enjoy them. I certainly do, and I like that I can listen again and be sure what was said. Patrick and I are good friends. We enjoy having long and thoughtful conversations, and these tend to be more thoughtful if we know that others might be listening in. For me, this is the big and immediate benefit of sharing them with potential listeners, quite aside from the matter of how many people actually do listen.

For some reason, the one we did about the Falklands War seems to have attracted the most listeners, by our modest standards. Not sure why. Maybe it was Americans, with their own opinions about what happened, but wanting to experience it from a domestic Brit point of view. Or maybe just younger people, eager to learn about an interesting drama that, understandably, gets rather less attention than bigger wars, like Vietnam and WWs 1 and 2. Or maybe older people wanting to compare our recollections with theirs.