In which Patrick Crozier tells me that the Americans could and should have won the Vietnam War

This was in the course of our latest recorded conversation, which we had over the phone (by which I mean my phone and his computer) last Wednesday, and which has just been posted at Croziervision, with further verbals from Patrick.

Which I recommend, even if you don’t listen to the thing itself. Patrick’s posting is even more informative and full of pertinent links than usual. In particular, I draw your attention to the link concerning the Case-Church Amendment, which Patrick identifies as the moment (it happened in June 1973) when an American victory, having been pretty much won on the battlefield, was then thrown away by the US Congress.

Adam Nathaniel Furman – Colourful Modernist

Here we go. Colourful Modernism is on the up-and-up:

Design education “brainwashes” students into rejecting colour, pattern and ornament, according to Adam Nathaniel Furman, who said a group of London designers is finally overcoming bias against their use.

Furman named the movement “New London Fabulous” and described it as “design and architecture as a visual and cultural pursuit, which is highly aesthetic, sensual and celebratory of mixed cultures”.

The thing you have to understand about “architecture” (as opposed to just shoving up machines for living and/or working in) is that famous architects do most of it, and you have to work long and hard to become one of these people. What designers and architects aged around 35-40 are fantasising is not what gets done, except on a very small scale.

Architecture is not like Art. Art, you can actually do, now, whoever you are. You don’t need a room full of old people to all agree to spend a huge amount of money on it. (It helps that in addition to costing nothing, Art doesn’t have to “work”, as in: not collapse and not leak, and so forth.) But “architecture” needs just this sort of tedious functionality. So, you need to have spent a life-time impressing the clusters of old people who matter, persuading them that you are a safe enough pair of hands as well as a genius, blah blah. Your contemporaries with proper jobs, basically. So, you spend your life doing architectural propaganda and publicity. You do manifestos, books, essays, and little design jobs that attract disproportionate attention, given their often humiliating size (i.e. lack of it). Like Adam Nathaniel Furman is doing. Then, when you’re about sixty, the old men may pick you from the ranks of all the propagandists and visionaries, and let you build a bank headquarters building or an apartment tower or a museum, and that’s your chance. If that stays up, doesn’t leak, and attracts tourists and sells in miniature form in tourist shops and on postcards – if it is declared to be “iconic”, you then have the rest of your life to go on doing “architecture”. You become, as we now say, a Starchitect. Main rule to follow then: stay alive as long as you can.

Notice how Furman is both turning his back on “Modernism” and yet not doing this. His stuff, if and when he ever builds much of it, will still look “modern”. It is merely that he is utterly rejecting one of the founding principles of Modernism. He embraces colour, and also “pattern and ornament”. As he points out, “Modernism” as originally proclaimed, was often quite colourful. But the colours were just painted on. Colour was not stuck on, in an obviously colourful way. “Applied ornament” was an object of hatred and contempt for the original Modernists, and in practise, as we know, they and their followers mostly shunned bright colours also. Furman intends to apply ornament with colourful abandon.

But, not the old sort of ornament that the Victorians liked to do, and against whom the original Modernists reacted with such disgust. Furman is proposing enough of a change to enable architecture fans like me to see something big happening. What he is not saying, merely because Ancientists also like “pattern and ornament”, is that he actually wants to be an Ancientist himself. Perish the thought. He wants to “celebrate all cultures”, rather than just ours as it used to be.

Personally, I find Furman’s “fabulous” designs more than somewhat garish and over-the-top. But then, I almost always dislike strikingly new architecture, until I see it and get used to it. And whether I personally end up liking whatever Furman builds or not, in London it will fit right in. Why shouldn’t it? Everything else does.

That WW2 bombing offensive podcast – It’s up!

I’ve said it before, at the end of the last posting here, and I’ll say it again, at the beginning of this posting: It’s up. It being Patrick and me talking about the World War 2 bombing offensive. Patrick got it posted and listenable to less than a day after we recorded it. My salutations to him.

As you can see if you follow Patrick’s link, just by the notes Patrick offers, we meander a bit, as we do, but I hope not too intolerably.

I’ll add here a few things that Patrick doesn’t mention. Here are three blog postings by me, two here and one at Samizdata: The amazing Merlin; Dowding’s amazing lack of tact: The strange birth of the Avro Lancaster. Also, here’s a book that Patrick doesn’t mention in his notes but which I do mention in the podcast: A biography of Bomber Harris.

Our next phone conversation, we now think, will be about the Vietnam War. I made most of the running in this last one, but on the subject of Vietnam Patrick will be laying out the story, and I’ll be clarifying, or at least I hope I will. His basic thesis: The Americans won it, and then threw it away. My question, as of now, is: Did the rapprochement with China, and subsequent (consequent?) US victory in the Cold War, have something to do with the “throwing it away” bit?

You can listen to any, some or all of our recent podcasts by going here.

Alex Singleton’s website

Yes, incoming from Alex Singleton:

Hi Brian,

Hope you are keeping well.

I thought you might find this amusing – a full and frank confession of my time as a teenager:

https://www.alexsingleton.com/diversions/fast-times-at-dulwich-college/

Best wishes,
Alex

The link above took me to a website entry adorned with this photo of the architectural splendidness that is Dulwich College:

Alex Singleton is a PR person. Not just any PR person, the PR person who wrote The PR Masterclass, which I possess and recommend, and about which, google reminds me, I wrote about the launch of in this rather ancient blog post.

Blog post summary:

If you hold a book launch for a book called “PR Masterclass”, that launch had better be packed out, or you look like a prune.

It was. He didn’t.

I get emails similar to the email Alex just sent me on a daily basis. However, they are usually much longer and duller and they usually refer to my Old Blog, which hardly inspires confidence. They just got my email from some random list. It tells you something about Alex Singleton’s skills as a PR person that I have reproduced his email in full. I assume Alex wants his website, which I’ve not seen before (certainly not this Dulwich piece), to be noticed. Hence this posting.

Alex is the kind of person who has lots of friends. But speaking as one of them, I never feel he is exploiting me when I get an email like the one above. There’s no pressure, not least because it reads like it took him only about fifteen seconds to write, and like he was sending out lots of other personalised emails to other friends at the same time. Maybe this was a mass mailing, with identical wording to all of us, but it doesn’t feel like that to me.

I had a rootle around in the website. Politically, Alex is a Free Marketeer. He doesn’t bang on about this at excessive length, but nor does he hide this fact, which I like. But mostly, it’s about how he does PR and about how he learned this.

He is upfront also in saying that the point of the website is to develop his personal brand. So many people in advertising and marketing forget to do this. They advertise everything, and do marketing for everyone, except for themselves. But if you can’t even drum up business for yourself, why would anyone else trust you to do the same for them? Being a PR person and being a bit pushy about it makes perfect sense.

Love the NHS or die!

And speaking of photos by other people, as I just was, what of Michael Jennings? I linked to a photo of his not long ago, and do so quite often.

Well, on the first day of this month, Mchael was, he said on Facebook, in the Old Kent Road, and he photoed this:

The worship of the NHS is now so over the top that soon mainstream columnists are going to start trashing it, just to be different. Perhaps they already have and I just didn’t notice.

That’s a Soviet T-34, by the way.

“It is now well known that …”

I continue to read The Square and the Tower, and very good it is too, just like it says inside the front cover and on the back cover.

In the chapter about the Russian Revolution, appropriately entitled “The Plague”, we read (by which I mean that I read (on pages 214-5)) this:

It is now well known that fewer people were killed in the October Revolution than were killed in the shooting of Sergei Eisenstein’s tenth-anniversary film about it.

Well, this may now be “well-known”, but I did not know it.

Not that this makes the event insignificant. After it, the “plague” spread with astonishing speed.

Only amongst the vast peasantry and the Cossacks did the Bolsheviks lack leaders – which helps explain therapid descent of Russia into an urban-rural civil war in the course of 1918. Essentially, the Bolshevik virus travelled by train and telegraph; and literate soldiers; sailors and workers were the most susceptible to it.

That literacy was at the heart of the Bolshevik story is something that I did know.

Churchill War Rooms gallery

One of the nice things about people coming to stay is that you often find yourself visiting touristy but interesting things that you’d never quite get around to seeing on your own. Later, maybe, but not today. It’ll always be there won’t it?

Touristy things like: the Churchill War Rooms. In February of last year, nearly two years ago now, GodDaughter2’s Dad was in town, and that’s one of the places we went.

And I took the odd photo or two. Well, more like 350, of which here are 84:

A big spread of photos like that would have been an impossibly tedious operation to stick up at Brian Micklethwait’s Previous Blog, and an equally tedious business for you to be scrutinising. But now, here they all are, and you can do the usual, clicking through as quickly or as slowly as you like. Enjoy. Especially if you rarely or never visit London, and have no plans to see this place for real.

There’s a million things I could say about it. One of the more striking of the photos above is photo 33, which shows how thick the concrete was protecting everything, from all but the most direct of direct hits, that passage that you see having been drilled through afterwards, when they were turning these working spaces into a place people could visit and circulate around.

Other talking points? Well, lots of signs and souvenirs, often signs made into souvenirs, for sale in the inevitable gift shop. And also: signs that are not Original but Modern. Signs with lots of words. Which is appropriate, given how important Churchill knew words (see photo 80) to be.

Most of the human figures that you see are not real; they’re sculpted. And “Other creatures” is in the category list because, inevitably, there are bulldogs.

I did all the bard work for this posting before I got ill, and I’m still not fully recovered. So, please continue to wish me well.

Another podcast I just listened to that was good

Here.

It’s Bryan Caplan (the guy who gave this lecture that I recently attended), talking to Darren Grimes of the IEA. Caplan disagrees with most voters, but in an ingratiating way. As he himself says towards the end of the conversation, if you have disagreeable things to say, say them agreeably and people will be more likely to listen.

LATER: Now, I’m listening to another interview. Scott Adams autobiographising. Terrific.

Is Communist China now losing its future?

If even slightly true, this, by David Archibald, is remarkable:

Lawyer Dan Harris writes that Chinese companies are now acting very short-term in their dealings with foreign companies. The situation reminds him of Russia in the 1990s. The Russians then, straight out of communism, would sign a deal but then immediately renege and run off with the cash, foregoing a large future benefit for a much smaller immediate gain. They did so because they did not expect there to be a future.

Harris’s words: “I am writing about this now because China today is feeling a lot like Russia in the 1990s. I am getting the sense that many Chinese companies are pessimistic about their futures and they are acting accordingly.”

And: “On top of the economic issues, many Chinese companies have become both wary of and angry at the West, particularly the United States. This too makes things riskier for foreign companies. We are seeing the results of all this in many ways.

Practically every week, one of our China lawyers will get an email or a phone call from someone who bought product from China and received nothing in return or nothing even approaching what they actually ordered. This sending of ‘junk’ instead of real product has spread to pretty much every industry in China.”

Further from Harris: “Sinosure is China’s state-owned export insurance company that pays Chinese manufacturers that were stiffed by their foreign buyers and then seeks to collect from the foreign buyers that allegedly failed to pay. … We are now seeing Sinosure cases where the Chinese manufacturer has made what we think are fraudulent policy claims to Sinosure because they are desperate for cash and they don’t care about maintaining their relationship with their foreign buyer.”

Yet more: “Lastly, our China lawyers are dealing with an increasing number of situations where the Chinese side of a China joint venture has essentially taken over the joint venture and stops communicating with its foreign joint venture partner.”

So Chinese companies are burning their bridges and attempting to monetize the last scraps of goodwill left in the system. They are effectively eating their seed corn. …

In the 1980s I and some mates based around the then Alternative Bookshop – in Covent Garden, a short walk from the Opera House – ran a little thing called the Anti-Soviet Society. We said that Russia should stop being communist and should become a liberal democracy. One-and-a-bit out of two (Russia is now a democracy of sorts but hardly a liberal democracy) ain’t bad. You can never know about such things, but this little enterprise may have shortened the Cold War by as much as a few fractions of a second. I think I still have some pamphlets that it dished out around then.

Time for something similar to be done to the Chinese Communists, who look like they may now be losing the mandate of heaven. Or to put it another way, time for me to find out about such enterprises that already exist, if they do.

To those who say that the Chinese economy now is far more impressive than the Soviet economy ever was, I say: True, but what matters is the direction in which things are heading, or feel like they’re heading, rather than the absolute level of affluence (or lack of it). These Chinese Communists feel to me like they’re losing the future, just as the old USSR did.

A tyranny collapsing always seems impossible. Until it collapses.

LATER: On the other hand … How China Sees the Hong Kong Crisis. He reckons they’re pretty relaxed about it.

A tax infographic about and a meeting at my home about Hong Kong

Dominic Frisby:

Frisby says that Dan Neidle will like this. I don’t know anything about Dan Neidle, other than this. But I like it. As much for the colours and its hand-done nature as for its content.

Concerning Hong Kong, last night I semi- (as in: still to be solidified and date still to be settled) signed up a Hong Kong lady to speak at one of my Last-Friday-of-the-Month meetings, about how Hong Honk is demonstrating back, so to speak, against the Chinese Government’s plans to subjugate it.

I warned her that my meetings are not large, and not as a rule attended by The World’s Movers and Shakers (although such personages do sometimes show up). But that didn’t bother her, or didn’t seem to. She seems to understand instinctively that big things can come out of small gatherings, if only in the form of one suggested contact or one item of information.

Alas, Hong Kong’s era of low and simple taxes is now under severe threat, along with many other more important things.