The new Google building in King’s Cross is taking shape

And the shape is the big green thing that someone has stuck in the middle of this photo …:

… which I found here. More about this building-to-be here.

On the right, King’s Cross railway station. On the left, St Pancras railway station, which is where the Eurostar trains go to and come from. It’s a pretty well connected sort of place. And proof that physical connection remains important, in the world of virtual connection that Google does so much to route us all about in.

A while back I was in and around all this with a friend, and just before I photoed these photos, I photoed these photos:

There’s something very appealing to me about the big concrete towers that signal a big new project like this one, towers ministered to by cranes, cranes which on sunny days often leave shadows on the towers. In a few months, all will be completely different. No sooner are these towers built than they are smothered in something else, after which some degree of permanence will return.

And whereas those earlier towers and cranes I linked to were for Brand X unaffordable apartments, the above towers are being built for one of the great economic and political facts of our time.

Three terrible photos of something interesting

Which is better? Three great photos of something rather boring? Or three terrible photos of something rather not boring? There are arguments for both, but here are three photos that fall firmly into the latter category. Well, they do if you agree with me that what is shown in them is interesting:

I photoed the above three photos while on a recent expedition to my local laundrette. I was in a hurry to get my camera operating, having been concentrating on my laundretting and surprised by what I saw through the front window of the laundrette, hence the terribleness of the photos:

It’s a lady, rollerblading along the road. And in the first photo I photoed of her, I didn’t even manage to include her rollerblades. But, in its inept way, that photo makes the point. If you only knew of this lady that she looked and dressed like that, would you expect her to be rollerblading? I guess the headphones are a clue. But otherwise? I wouldn’t.

In the first photo, as I say, no rollerblades to be seen. And in the second and third photos, she’s way off to the right of the picture. In the third, she’s even behind a street pole., which is, I think, some sort of sign. But, the point is made. A lady who looks like that is … rollerblading. And I can further report that she was doing it with practised assurance. For her, this is a routine. It’s how she gets around. To and from work, would be my guess.

There’s a lot of media frenzy about robot cars. Meanwhile, quietly, with no fuss, and with none of the eye-watering investment by big businesses betting their futures on their particular robot car, people are quietly attaching wheels to themselves, thereby making use of all that space in cities that is being cleared for bikers to bike around in cities, and in general to assume the rights and privileges of bikers, on regular roads, like this rollerblading lady. And it makes sense. Why buy a huge metal box with wheels on it, if you can have the wheels on your feet, in the form of a little skateboard with wheels, or a skateboard with wheels and a sticking up steering system, or just wheels, like this lady? What started as a childhood sport is mutating into a regular means of transport.

Well, I think this is really interesting. The only reason I don’t have many more photos here of people doing this kind of thing is that most of what I photo is stationary, or at the worst very slow moving and quite easy to see coming, so not a surprise. These mobile pedestrians are often gone before I see them, not least because I seldom hear them coming.

LATER: Sometimes I see the rollerblader coming and the photo comes out rather well.

Ashes to Ashes

In the Old Trafford Test, now nearing its end, which is a must-not-lose game for England, England have to bat tonight and all day tomorrow for a draw. They’ll need a lot of skill, and a lot of luck. And, they needed a good start.

In their first innings, England’s top scorers were Burns and Root. So, this was not what England wanted from the third and fourth balls of their innings:

At the crease now, Joe Denly and Jason Roy, who do not inspire confidence, despite having swapped positions, Denly now being 2 and Roy 4. A cricinfo commenter observed:

Roy faced his first ball of the innings before Denly. Poetic justice for Denly?

I thought that Jason Roy, what with him being class, would turn himself into a test match batsman. The Jos Buttler theory, you might say. I think Roy would do well, against lesser sides. But he has not done well against these Australian bowlers.

Michael McIntyre speaks for me

And for many others, I’m very sure:

I found this here.

I am Old, but I have made enough friends among the Young for me to be able to twist Young arms and mostly get them to do all this for me. The other day a Young Person agreed to get a copy of this CD for me. (I only buy CD’s on line from Amazon, and this CD is not on Amazon.) If I had tried to buy this CD, I would probably have spent longer failing to accomplish this than I will take listening successfully to the CD.

One of the things I like about living in London is that if I want to do buy tickets for something, I can go there beforehand, and buy them, the twentieth century way.

Increasingly, I find that trying to visit any “visitor attraction” is starting to resemble trying to get on an airplane. And as McIntyre explains, booking beforehand on your computer is just as bad.

A good bit, concerning those never-read “terms and conditions”:

I’m slightly worried that in five years time iTunes are going to show up at my door and say: “We own this house now.”

And don’t get me started on passwords. Just watch him speaking (for me) about passwords.

I don’t know why there are big black bits above and below Michael McIntyre. If anyone can suggest a way to get rid of these that I am capable of doing, I would be most grateful.

Stephen Davies on Ruling Classes and Industrious Classes

Stephen Davies is my sort of libertarian historian in many ways, and in particular in not denying the historic importance of the predator class in times gone by. It is one thing to regret the enormous power held by predators, and the comparative powerlessness of producers – the power of the taxers and the impotence of the taxed – but it is quite another to assert that the powerful predators were not in fact the people who made the historically significant decisions and that the impotent producers were actually very powerful. Libertarianism is the claim that the predators should lose their power, not that they have already lost it, or worse, never, historically, had it.

At the heart of Davies’s book The Wealth Explosion is the claim that the wealth explosion only happened because of a rather anomalous glitch in the typical behaviour of the predator class, which took the form of a non-united Europe. Normal predator behaviour throughout the rest of Eurasia meant that the wealth explosion was only able to happen in Europe.

Here (pp. 11-12) is some of what Davies says about this distinction:

There was a basic social division found in all societies after the advent of agriculture. This was between those who produced wealth by production or exchange on the one hand and those who acquired it through the use of force or fraud on the other. The first category included peasant farmers (the great majority) as well as artisans, merchants, and traders of all kinds. The second category were those who controlled not the means of production but what we may call the means of predation – organised force or systematic mystification in other words. These were the ruling classes of society such as aristocrats and clergy. The second group often did come to control and own great wealth and much productive resources, such as land for example, but this was a consequence of their privileged position rather than the cause of it. That position derived in the first instance from their greater access to the means of violence. They were not however simply parasitical because, partly for their own advantage, they came to provide what economists call ‘public goods’ such as defence against other human predators (bandits, criminals, or members of other tribes and political communities), or a means of settling disputes peacefully (so a legal system).

These ruling groups were the primary subjects of historical accounts until very recently. There is a good reason for this, quite apart from the practical point that most of the surviving sources are concerned with them, which is that they were the primary active force in human history. It was rulers and elites who had the power to actually make things happen. They were the ones with agency in other words. In addition, as Peter Laslett famously argued, they were the only social class in society with true class-consciousness, a self-conscious awareness of their own group interest. (Laslett, 2015) This and their nature meant that their relation to innovation and activities that actually changed the world in a positive way was ambivalent. On the one hand, to the extent that innovation led to actual growth in productivity, that meant more resources for them to extract from the productive part of society. On the other hand if it went on for a long enough time it would tend to weaken their position and increase the capacity of other social groups for effective action. Another aspect of the ruling classes historical role was the way that successful groups tended to expand the area of the planet that they controlled and so create an empire. Empires produced internal peace and so although they were created using (often) savage violence, once established they brought social peace to a large part of the planet’s surface. However this also meant an even stronger incentive for the successful group to keep things the same.

And mostly, except in Europe, this is what happened.

Find your way to more bits from this book by going here.

Getting serious about a gun control joke


I considered selling my weapons “back” to the government, but after a background check and thorough investigation into the buyer, I determined the buyer has a history of violence and is mentally unstable. Big risk to everyone around it.

This sounds logical enough, but this “government” (the government of the USA) of which this tweeter tweets already possesses an abundance of weaponry. If the US government collected more guns, that would affect those disarmed, but not the US government. The US government would just become a tiny bit more armed.

Gun control laws would likewise make criminals only a bit less armed. But they would utterly disarm the law-abiding. Which would make the law-abiding far less able to defend themselves against crimes of all kinds. These are, and always have been, the real arguments against gun control.

When a joke is felt to be expressing a truth – and if the comments on this tweet that I have read are anything to go by, then this joke definitely is so felt by many – then it becomes important to get serious about the joke.

One Kemble Street from the ME Hotel

As regulars here know, I am very fond of Richard Seifert‘s One Kemble Street (that link will now get you to this posting again but keep scrolling down). I am fond of One Kemble Street because of its repetitively yet I think elegantly sculpted outside walls but chaotic roof clutter topping. One of Seifert’s best. (His worst was concrete monstrosity at its most monstrous.)

Here’s another good photo of One Kemble Street that I found in the archives, photoed in September of 2016, from the top of the ME Hotel.

Three distinct bits of roof clutter there, on top of One Kemble Street, at a lower level between One Kemble Street and the ME Hotel, and in the foreground on top of the ME Hotel itself.

As you can also see from this photo of One Kemble Street and the ME Hotel taken from the upstairs balcony of the Royal Festival Hall, there’s a very good view of One Kemble Street from the ME Hotel, round the back.

Had Seifert designed the British Library, it would have looked very different.

Rock and roll is here to stay

But a lot of rock and rollers are about to leave the stage for ever.

Ed Driscoll:

Behold the killing fields that lie before us: Bob Dylan (78 years old); Paul McCartney (77); Paul Simon (77) and Art Garfunkel (77); Carole King (77); Brian Wilson (77); Mick Jagger (76) and Keith Richards (75); Joni Mitchell (75); Jimmy Page (75) and Robert Plant (71); Ray Davies (75); Roger Daltrey (75) and Pete Townshend (74); Roger Waters (75) and David Gilmour (73); Rod Stewart (74); Eric Clapton (74); Debbie Harry (74); Neil Young (73); Van Morrison (73); Bryan Ferry (73); Elton John (72); Don Henley (72); James Taylor (71); Jackson Browne (70); Billy Joel (70); and Bruce Springsteen (69, but turning 70 next month).

For me, the mere physical death of all these oldies will mean little. David Bowie died a bit ago, but I only noticed because there was a sign on the BT Tower saying this. I like photoing the BT Tower, so I photoed this sign. Then I photoed him on some stamps. But the Bowie that matters to me is the Bowie that was recorded. And that will live on more than long enough to suit me. On the rare occasions when I have attended live events at which a big name rocker and roller performed, I have been very disappointed. If I die and wake up at a pop festival, I will know that there is a God, and that He has consigned me to Hell.

Even the sight of Paul McCartney, all died hair and skin moistener, who ought to be on but is not on this list, can’t put me off his wonderful vocal contributions to the Beatles tracks he sang on.

But, one thing I was glad to learn from this list was that “The Molly-Ringwald-serenading lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs” (he sang “Pretty in Pink”) was someone called Richard Butler. He now looks like this lady.

Finally saying something about The Wealth Explosion

For far longer than I care to go back and calculate, I have been struggling to write a review of Stephen Davies’s new book, The Wealth Explosion. (Shortish excerpts from this book can be read here, here, and here.)

Well, some time over the weekend, I realised that the way to get this review written was to give up trying to write it all at once. Today, I posted the first of several postings about The Wealth Explosion that I hope will in due course be appearing at Samizdata. I have abandoned the attempt to say everything, and have instead made a start by saying something.

And yes, I now feel much better, thank you. (I also now have a rather nasty headache and consequently actually feel rather worse, but I still feel better.)