I seem to be settling down to doing one post here, every week, on a Monday. That feels like something I can do, without threatening the Samizdata writing, so here is this week’s posting. But what about?
It so happens that last Tuesday, Patrick Crozier and I did another of our recorded conversations, about that ridiculous Libertarian Alliance split, which I mentioned briefly towards the end of this Samizdata piece about Chris Tame. Since I was one of the splitters, I did a lot of the talking, but rather than dwell on the idiotic details of the split, I used my talking time to give a plug to several books by a couple of the people on the other side of the split from me, one by Ray Percival, and three by David Ramsay Steele. Steele’s George Orwell book is especially good, I think.
Anyway, Patrick has, with more than his usual speed, done the editing of this piece and stuck it up on the www. Listen to it here.
LATER: Also, this. Ask and you shall receive. Keeping me alive is now a largely medical matter, but a lot of people are doing all they can to enable me to die happy.
Here. In America “top secret” only seems to mean that the details of exactly what it consists of are kept out of sight. If this airplane really was top secret, we’d not even have been told of its existence.
Another metallic/feathered posting. This time the former sort of bird is being likened to the latter sort.
I love cranes. By which I mean tall metal things for lifting stuff. Not so much cranes like this:
It’s not that I object to feathered cranes, more that such birds already have numerous human champions, while many humans still turn their noses up at the metallic sort of crane. Some regard metal cranes as, at best, a necessary evil. And if you hate the whole idea of any new buildings ever getting built, then you won’t even regard metal cranes as necessary. Just evil. And I dissent vehemently from all that sort of talk.
Given the double meaning of the word, both sorts of craniac, metallic and feathered, find their internet searches for news of their preferred cranes heavily diluted.
However, although being only a metallic craniac, I do like the above feathered crane and small feathered crane photo. It’s one of these photos, which I first encountered here.
The landline phone never reached more than 21.4% of the world’s population
By adopting cellular technology, developing countries were able to leapfrog that economic bottleneck.
Could it be that HumanProgress.org mixed this particular metaphor on purpose, to draw attention to the very good news they were trying to publicise, by getting mixed metaphor spotters like me all excited about how they’d said it?
Good news is notoriously hard to spread, because it typically happens so gradually.
I got into a muddle with linking to the original HumanProgress.org tweet, which is why I linked instead to Jacob Tudor’s rehashing of it. The original is number 75 of a set of 78 tweets, and linking to that gets you to the entire set, instead of linking to this particular one, so that link would only get you to this particular one while it remains the latest one.
I only started deciding what to put here today quite late on. What should I say here today? Then, to rescue me, incoming from Patrick Crozier, telling me that our latest recorded conversation is now up, at Croziervision. Once again, we are to be heard worrying about what caused World War 1 to start.
I just received an email from Dominic Frisby, plugging his latest aria video, which is entitled I Love Wetherspoons! State of the art culture warfare, which I highly recommend. The aria, not Wetherspoons. I’m not saying that I don’t recommend Wetherspoons, merely clarifying the point I am and am not making there.
So far so good. But the best moment, for me, came right at the end, when I was offered the chance to sample another Frisby musical delight, in the form of something called …:
… Oh, Bollocks.
This is an English word I resort to regularly, and have also already talked about here quite a lot, one of my favourite examples of this word in action being this one, involving taxis. Very satisfying to see bollocks identified by my favourite Dominic as an important English usage. The word communicates a subtle mixture of regret, defiance and hence, consequently, perhaps even a dash (because you never know your luck) of triumph.
The scene with the Angel of Death, right at the end of this video, spoke to me with particular force, what with that personage having recently sat himself down next to me.
Anton Howes has been asking himself Why Didn’t the Ottomans Print More? In the course of sketching an answer, he says interesting things about how printing did get started in Europe:
When we think of the invention of the Gutenberg press, we often associate it with the spread of the Reformation a few decades later. We imagine presses hidden away in people’s basements, where ordinary citizens might churn out subversive tracts. The printing press, with the benefit of hindsight, seems inextricably linked with the spread of heresy, radicalism, and revolution. Yet in the late fifteenth century, before the Reformation, it was a technology that usually enjoyed, and perhaps even required, extraordinary encouragement from the authorities. Printing presses on their own are huge and heavy, even before accounting for the cases of type, the moulds or matrices required to cast new type when it began to wear out, and the punches used to make the moulds in the first place. It was a costly, capital-intensive business, requiring huge investment before you could print your very first page.
Many of the very first printers were either directly funded by rulers, or else obtained special privileges from them. The Gutenberg press didn’t immediately spread from Mainz to the major nearby cities of Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Würzburg, or Koblenz, as we might expect, but leapfrogged them all to Bamberg, where one was set up by the secretary to the city’s prince-bishop. Many of the much closer and larger cities don’t seem to have got their first presses until decades later. Even Venice gained printing earlier, in 1469, when its senate granted a five-year patent monopoly to a German to introduce the art. And when the printing market became over-crowded, Venice also granted temporary monopolies over the printing of particular texts — an extraordinary level of interference in an industry, which was only justifiable in light of the major up-front costs of deciding to print a book.
Such policies were soon replicated abroad. The first press in France was set up by the university of Paris, and the king granted citizenship to the foreign workmen who installed it. The first Italian press, too, was introduced with the support of a cardinal to the monastery of Subiaco, after which it moved to Rome. When it ran into financial difficulties after printing too much, it was bailed out by the Pope. And as the press spread even further afield, the greater the encouragement it required. Far-off Scotland in 1507 granted a monopoly to two printers not just over the use of a printing press, but over all imports of printed works too.
Are you thinking: internet. I am. That also kicked off as an official, government-sponsored project, did it not? Only later did it spread outwards, to mere people, to do more disruptive stuff, which now looks like it may include reversing many of the original nationalistic impacts of printing.
Governments start by seeing only the advantages to themselves of whatever it is, only later to discover that others become empowered also.
The Howes thesis is that, at first, the Islamic world didn’t so much suppress printing as merely fail to encourage it, at the time when it needed encouraging. And I guess that once printing then got into its disruptive stride, then it became clear what a threat it might be to established beliefs and established government, and the Islamic discouragement, so to speak, kicked in.
I have just signed up to give Howes £100 a year. This may not got on for long, but it’s something. This item of person-to-person internet support is a first for me. I wonder how many such supporters he has?
Castelnou is a small and impossibly picturesque hill town in the lower reaches of the Pyrenees, in the far south of France. GodDaughter2’s parents and I went by car, just over five years ago now, in May 2016, to check it out. And yes, the weather was as marvellous in Castelnou as it has recently been unmarvellous in London.
Nowadays, I find that my expeditions have as their officially designated destination a spot where I have arranged to meet up with a friend and exchange chat, rather than just a particular physical place I especially want to check out. But as my death approaches, not as fast as I feared it would last Christmas but still faster than I had previously supposed that it would, I find that mere Things, in London or anywhere else, aren’t enough to make me get out of the house at the time previously determined. Partly this is because if I fail to arrive at the Thing at the planned time, the Thing won’t ring me up and ask me where I got to, whereas people are inclined to do just that. And partly because the Internet tells you lots about Things, whereas actually meeting people bestows knowledge and pleasures more profound and subtle than you could obtain by any other communicational means.
The point of this Castelnou expedition was that it was with GodDaughter2’s parents, not that it was to Castelnou. Castelnou was just an excuse for us all to spend time with each other, plus it gave us things to talk about.
But of course, once in Castelnou, I photoed photos galore, of which these are just a few:
A few more things to say.
First, there are cats and dogs involved (as well as a bird statue), hence this posting appearing here on a Friday. The cats were very friendly and sociable. The dogs were more cautiously proprietorial, but none were aggressive. Which I think reflects well on us tourists. We all behave well towards these creatures, and they behaved towards us accordingly.
Second, what’s wrong with being a tourist? I am sure that “tourists” have been featured on the popular TV show Room 101. But if I was ever on Room 101 I would want to banish from the world “tourists who complain about all the other tourists”. Tourism is a fine thing, enjoyable for those of us who do it or we wouldn’t keep doing it, and profitable for those who cater to our needs. Many good things happen because of us tourists. Besides all the deserving people who get to earn a living from it, there are the conversations that tourists have with the locals whom they encounter, and with each other, which can sometimes have have wonderfully creative consequences. Many an economic success story has started with a conversation involving tourists. Tourists bring the world, as it were, to particular places, and places into contact with other places, and thereby are able to provoke creative thoughts that would otherwise not have occurred to anyone.
Does tourism “spoil” places like Castelnou? Hardly. I’ll bet you Castelnou is a much happier, prettier and more interesting place than it was before it started attracting tourists.
And finally, Castelnou is a fine example of an aesthetic process that fascinates me more and more, which is the way that when an architectural style first erupts, it is hated, but then when it settles back into being only a few surviving ruins, people find that same style, to quote my own words in the first sentence of this posting, impossibly picturesque. Castelnou began as a castle, which then gathered dwellings around it. And you can bet that the people in the vicinity of this castle hated it and feared it, that being the whole idea. But once the castles stopped being built in such numbers and when the castles that survived began turning into ruins, they then also turned into objects of affection, first for locals, and then, even more, for visitors from many miles away.
Tangenting somewhat, I was yesterday predicting that the next wave of architectural fashion is going to be a lot more colourful. And it is. But, lots of people will, for as long as this new fashion lasts and seems to be on the march (the military metaphor is deliberate), hate that fashion, and regret the passing of the drearily monochromatic tedium that they now only grumble about (because that is now still on the march).
Is Castelnou perchance the French, or maybe the Catalan, for Newcastle? Sounds like it to me.
… which is a photo I found in a piece linked to in today’s google email.
Or, perhaps more commonly, e-scooter means this …:
.. that being a lady I photoed e-scooting along Vauxhall Bridge Road last week.
Another piece linked to in today’s e-scooter email was to this report which says that hired e-scooters are to be tested in various parts of London from early next month.
This piece claims that:
In the U.K., the electric kick scooter is classified as a PLEV, or Personal Light Electric Vehicle, and these are illegal on British roads or pavements.
That sentence includes two verbiages I’ve not encountered before, “electric kick scooter” and “personal light electric vehicle”, in an only moderately successful attempt to clarify that they are talking about e-scooters like the one in my Vauxhall Bridge Road photo, rather than about something heavier like the Honda photo above. The giveaway being that they still felt the need to include a photo of an e-scooting person standing on an e-scooter like the one I photoed, to make it entirely clear which they meant.
As for the notion that these contraptions are “illegal”, well, in London, they fall into that category of “illegal but actually allowed”, along with such things as possessing marijuana, or big left-wing demos during total Lockdown. As all Londoners know, e-scooting of the second sort above is regularly to be observed on London’s roads and bicycle lanes and footpaths. And as my photo also illustrates, this is not only being done by dodgy looking male teenagers in hoods but by respectable looking people like the lady in my photo. I could of course be quite wrong, but something about how she has arranged everything in her backpack, and her all-round appearance of sartorial organised-ness, to say nothing of her womanly as opposed to girlish figure, says, to me anyway: “steady job”. Which I believe she was engaged in getting home from when I photoed her.
I remain very curious to see how this story plays out, post-lockdown. My understanding is that the rulers of the world won’t be happy until they have entirely banished all private cars from all places like London, and that if any e-scooters get mown down by old school internal combustion type traffic, the traffic will be blamed rather than the maimed or killed e-scooting persons.
In my opinion, e-scooters like the above Honda are basically okay in the current traffic regime, but that to accommodate “personal light electric vehicle” type e-scooters will require a major rewrite of the traffic rules, and a massive amount of physical re-arranging. This is because, in my further opinion, e-scooters like the above big scooter are more or less safe, so long as you are careful, whereas e-scooters like the above smaller scooter are deaths and maimings just waiting to happen. I have talked with several random members of the “illegal” e-scooting fraternity (“Excuse me, I write on the internet about transport matters, I wonder if you could tell me about these machines …”), and they seem to feel that, appealing though these things are as an idea, they are not, as of now, nearly as safe as they’d like them to be. My guess, as I say, is that they will eventually be made to work safely, but only after what amounts to an urban transport revolution.