Not humbled

Rob Henderson:

People say they are “humbled” when they win an award but I always thought it was more humbling to not win.

As another Tweeter (Felix Croissant!) says in response, it’s just something people say.

I suppose one reason for such exaggerated humility is to make absolutely sure you don’t say anything like: This proves I’m the best!!! Loo-ser-ers!!!

But just once, I’d love it if someone did say that.

Quotulatiousness quotes Dorothy Sayers quotation criticising quotation

Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night, 1935:

A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.

Quotulated.

I think there is a distinction to be made here between noticing a striking thing that some other person has written and then copying and pasting it into your own website, and on the other hand memorising something that another person is often frequently quoted by others as having said and declaiming that quotation in conversation, because you can think of nothing else pertinent to say. It sounds to me like Sayers was thinking of the latter. If so, I think she had a point. But only a point, because the trick often fails to work and merely irritates, especially if the same quotations are recycled again and again.

Carrie-Anne Brownian: Having to pretend to be a man is not the same as actually being a man

Carrie-Anne Brownian:

For much of recorded human history, even into the twentieth century, women who wanted to serve in combat, travel or live alone, work in most professions, get published, compete in sports, or conduct research felt compelled to disguise themselves as men. That didn’t make them transmen; it made them girls and women with no other options in a patriarchal, androcentric world. No one would have, for example, published George Eliot, or taken her seriously as a writer, had she used her birth name of Mary Ann Evans, just as Kathrine Switzer had to sign up for the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer as recently as 1967 because women weren’t allowed to compete.

This may be hard for liberal Westerners under the age of twenty-five to comprehend, but women have historically been denied access to positions of power, most careers, education, legal protections, politics, combat roles, club memberships, athletic competitions, and so forth, solely on the basis of being female. Women even had to fight for the right to use their own names on legal documents, instead of being forced to sign as Mrs. Husband’s Full Name, or to do anything of importance without a husband or father’s co-signature or permission. By anachronistically pretending all these brave, trailblazing women were truly men, the historical realities of institutionalized sexism and male privilege are written out of existence, and impressionable young people will be led to believe women haven’t played any kind of important role in history.

Quoted by and linked to by favourite-blogger-of-mine Mick Hartley.

My first encounter with Jeppe Hein’s Modified Social Benches outside the Royal Festival Hall

I am happy to note from my site stats system that a posting I did here about Jeppe Hein‘s Modified Social Benches has been receiving a regular trickle of visitors, as has this posting of photos of these red benches done more recently, during Lockdown, with consequent silly plastic tape all over them.

So, here are some more photos of these red benches, photoed by me on the very first occasion that I saw them, or at any rate the first time I properly noticed them, on May 22nd 2017:

As you can see, they were still working on their installation. But already, you could see that they were being well received. I now realise that the biggest one to be seen in these photos, the one in photos 3, 6, 7 and 8, was only there for a short while. It doesn’t appear in my later postings, so it had to have been gone. I would not have missed it otherwise.

In the first posting above, the photos were all done in rather dim weather, which emphasised how colourful these things are. The above photos, done in bright sunlight, are no less colourful, I hope you will agree.

Lots more e-scooters – and an e-scooter near miss

When out-and-about yesterday afternoon, I lost count of the e-scooters I saw. These are about half of them, or so, maybe less. The photo-quality is rubbish, because I was usually busy photoing something else, and because, on London’s currently very empty roads, these things go really quite fast, and are usually past me before I even notice them. My speciality is static stuff, like architecture and sculpture and signs and photoers photoing and taxies-with-adverts stopped at traffic lights. E-scooters are seldom static, and when they are I tend not even to see them:

The best photo of an e-scooter by far that I photoed yesterday showed a very clear face of the person doing the e-scooting. Since there are legal uncertainties about whether and where these things are allowed, I didn’t show that one.

As Lockdown drags on, I become ever more impatient to learn whether these machines have any long term future in a traffic-heavy city like London. Lockdown has created very e-scooter-friendly circumstances on London’s roads, but that cannot last. I am zero-ing in, in my autodidactic way, on a law of transport, which says that all vehicles are really systems. You can invent a superbly clever vehicle. But if the right environment for it does not exist, or is the kind of environment that the powers-that-be are not inclined to create, then it’s no go. Steam locomotives are obviously also railway networks. Cars and lorries are, almost equally obviously, road networks, for which, in the early days of the car, there was huge political backing. Bicycles likewise need bicycle networks, or at the very least laws restraining the cars and lorries from running them over on what is basically their network.

Perhaps my waning enthusiasm for e-scooters is linked with the near miss I was subjected to very recently by a delivery e-scooter, e-scooting on the pavement I was slowly walking along. He was in a big hurry and had he hit me, I’d have suffered serious damage. I can remember when such behaviour was fairly common with juvenile-delinquent propelled bicycles, but someone or something seems to have taught some manners to the scumbag cycler fraternity in recent years. The e-scooting people will have to learn similar lessons if they want any help from the politicians, to create an e-scooter network. The e-scooting people I see, in London SW1, are almost none of them juvenile delinquent in demeanour or dress. They all seem like hard-working young citizens. That delivery guy is the nearest to an e-scooter delinquent I’ve encountered, but he too was working, very hard indeed, which is what caused the problem. Needless to say, I had no time at all to take any photos. He wasn’t stopping to apologise, quite the opposite. If he’d hit me, he’d have done a hit-and-run escape, assuming he was able to.

Once anecdotes like that start circulating, the politics of e-scooting will become more like the politics of knife crime. As in: Why the hell isn’t it being stopped?

London’s starchitecture explained – but the problem isn’t confined to central London

Paul Cheshire:

The Planning for the Future white paper tackles one costly feature of the British planning system: its peculiar reliance on case by case, essentially political, decision making for all significant development (see here). Tall office towers are significant developments, so whether or not to permit them is subject to this political process. In Chicago it is straightforward. There are rules. Developers can build as high as they want so long as the location and design are within the rules. Because in London every proposed new office block requires a political decision, getting permission is transformed into a game: an expensive game. Would-be developers can use all their wiles to persuade local and national politicians that their project is desirable.

My recently published research with Gerard Dericks shows that one of the most effective ways to dazzle the planning committee is to employ an architect with an international reputation. …

Above which introductory paragraphs there appears a photo of the Shard, and there follows a description of how and why that got built in the way that it did. It was “starchitecture” basically. Have someone like Renzo Piano on your team, and the politicians feel intimidated.

As regulars here know, I have a deep affection for central London’s recently acquired and extremely eccentric skyline. But I arrived at this opinion despite my understanding of the plutocratic and arbitrary politics that made this skyline happen as it did rather than because of it, or because I just didn’t know or care about this politics.

Cheshire’s description of how and why London’s recent burst of starchitecture happened is informative, and persuasive. But by writing of “its peculiar reliance on case by case, essentially political, decision making for all significant development”, Cheshire implies that this kind of arbitrariness is confined to the central London office space market, to the “significant” sort of architecture. If only. To be fair to Cheshire, if you follow the first link in his quote above, you will learn, if you did not already know it, that he well knows that getting planning permission for anything, no matter how utterly lacking in any sort of significance, anywhere in Britain, can be a nightmare. The basic rule is: There are no rules! The Planning Committee meets, and gives you planning permission or: Not.

In a perfect world, property owners would build whatever they wanted on their own land, subject only to whatever legally binding contracts they had entered into which might restrict that state of affairs.

In practice, politics is politics, and buildings are political. Politicians will politicise all over them, the only variable being: How will they do this? Will the politicians preside over a rule-bound system? Will they tell you beforehand what they will, and will not, allow? Or will the politicians rule by iron whim, where you have absolutely no fucking idea (unless you have photos of them frolicking with under-age girls and/or boys on file) what, on the night of their damn meeting, they will decide, and where any attempt by you to find out beforehand what they’ll accept and what they’ll not accept is deemed the political equivalent of insider trading?

There clearly are some rule-bound building regimes in Britain. You have only to move a little downstream from London’s Big Thing district and you arrive at the Docklands Towers. And you have only to look at these Towers to see that there is no Starchitect Rule in place there. Suddenly, you are in a mini-Chicago, and it is getting ever more like actual Chicago with each passing year. I don’t know what the rules there are exactly, but it would definitely appear that if you want to build a generic vertical box there, go ahead, so long as you follow those rules.

I seldom use words like “fucking” here. (The last time I did this was as a joke, about how another guy was using this word rather a lot.) That I do so in this matter reflects the personal agonies that I and my siblings had to suffer when trying, after our widowed mother had died a few years ago now, to get the best price we could for the ancient-in-a-bad-way house-and-garden in the outer suburbs of London that we all grew up in. Should we try to get planning permission for a clutch of new and smaller dwellings? We tried, we really tried, but, after years of trying: No dice. So I write with feeling about how the Iron Whim of the Politicians rule does not merely apply in central London. In the end, after years of frustration, after quite a bit of squabbling amongst ourselves, and more squabbling with our fucking “neighbours” (who just wanted no more houses next to their fucking houses), we were able to unload the house-plus-garden on some poor fool who did not have our by then hard-earned knowledge of the gambling casino that is Britain’s “planning” system, at a price not far off what we’d have got if we ourselves had got planning permission for some new buildings. So, despite our years of ordeal by planning permission, we were lucky. We got a goodish price, eventually, despite not being a big local property developer. Despite, that is to say, not having the local politicians under our collective thumb.

Boris Johnson makes noises to the effect that he and his government will soon get all this sorted. If by some miracle he could somehow contrive this, this would be a huge win for him, and for the entire country. He’ll have his work cut out, because a large proportion of the offending politicians, and equally crucially of those fucking “neighbours”, are active members of his own party.

Kappa Alpha Theta supplies an unbecoming BMNB QotD

Quoted in this report, the following unbecoming opinion from Candace Owens:

Black Lives Matter is an organization of white men, using the faces of dead Black people to raise millions of dollars toward electing White Democrats into positions of power.

It is the most flagrantly racist organization in America.

Streisand strikes again, assisted by Glenn Reynolds.

Katherine Lauer should find herself a different sorority.

Joe Rogan talks with Daryl Davis about how Davis converted lots of white racists

Just finished watching/listening to this Joe Rogan talk with Daryl Davis, about how Davis has been converting white racists into upstanding American citizens. Davis says he doesn’t himself convert anybody. They convert themselves. In this respect he is like those teachers who say “I’m not a teacher – I just get them to learn for themselves.” Those teachers are teachers, and Davis is a converter. He talks with white racists, and then, hey presto they convert themselves. Some, not all of them course.

Two hours and forty minutes very well spent. Never heard of Daryl Davis until today (thank you Twitter). Used to be a full time musician. Got into the racism conversion business when a KKK guy complimented him on his piano playing, at one of his gigs. “Never heard a black guy pay piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.” But Lewis got his piano style from earlier black pianists, just like I did, said Davis. “No.” Yes. And thanks to Davis being a personable and curious guy, they just kept on talking. “Why do you hate me, when you don’t even know me?” That was his starting question to all these characters.

Daryl Davis wrote a memoir about how he did all this converting of white racists, and while listening to him talk, I of course whistled this book up on Amazon. Apparently, I can buy myself a copy of Klandestine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Klu Klux Klan for the giveaway price of (as I now write (subject to change)), £397.50, in hardback. But the good news is that Davis is now working on a revised edition, with more stories along similar lines that happened since he first wrote this book two decades ago. So if, like me, you now want a copy, but if, not like me, you think you’ll have to pay nearly four hundred quid for a copy or go permanently without, well, be patient and stay tuned.

BMNB SQotD: Robinson on talking to Sowell

Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, towards the end (48m 20s) of talking with the relentlessly illuminating but relentlessly pessimistic Thomas Sowell:

“You know, I love talking to you but I really don’t know why.”

It’s the relentless illumination.

Oscar yawns

My favourite cat, Oscar, is the cat housed and maintained by GodDaughter2’s family, down in the south of France. Search for Oscar on the left there, and you’ll encounter several other postings featuring Oscar, as well as postings that refer to such persons as Oscar Wilde.

Here, from GD2’s Dad, is the latest Oscar photo. This is him, yawning:

I like that. The lighting has gone a bit wrong at the top, but I don’t care about that and nor should you.

As I told GD2D earlier in the week, I meant to post this yesterday, Friday being my day for such postings, but yesterday was a bit fraught, what with life and everything happening, and I forgot.

Rules are important. Without rules, society descends into chaos and civilisation itself collapses. And we’d none of us want that, would we? So I do realise that putting a cat photo up on a Saturday is not good. But it’s Oscar, and if I were to wait until next Friday I might forget again, and I don’t want that. Best to get this done. That way, it’s done.