Tuesday 29 May 2018


We are on holiday at the moment so blogging may be limited. Yesterday we were up on Long Mynd where visibility was very poor so I took a nice photo of this barbed wire fence during our lunch break. Couldn't see much else.

Monday 28 May 2018

The three stages of film

In my own mind, I'm not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing.
Steve McQueen

To my mind this clip from the fifties TV series Adventures of Superman could have something to say about maturity. It may be the clothes worn by the actors, their general appearance and demeanour, their diction and perhaps memories of our parents or grandparents, but the actors seem more mature than modern actors. They come across as mature people required to do something juvenile by acting out a comic strip.

Hey - we know this kind of thing is frivolous and not what real life is all about but it’s just a bit of fun for the kids so why not enjoy it? Let’s get their young imaginations fly too, just like Superman.

I’m not sure how far one should take this, if anywhere, but the same thing is easily seen in many old films dating back to the fifties or earlier. Yet go back a little earlier, say to the days of Laurel and Hardy, and many films seem juvenile again. In which case we have three stages - juvenile, mature, juvenile.

What next? Will mature come round again? I don’t think so.

Saturday 26 May 2018

A certain style

What does Jordan Peterson have that others don’t? There are other powerful speakers but to my mind Peterson’s style is as interesting as what he says and his style is the key to his effectiveness. To begin with he is particularly careful in his use of language. He sticks to the point and does not allow others to distort what he has actually said. In addition to his respect for language - 

He is obviously sincere.

He is obviously honest.

He is not afraid to pause for thought

He is not afraid to leave uncertainties as uncertain.

He focuses on what is known.

He focuses on known consequences.

One could go on, but to my mind the important point is that Peterson uses debates to explore and expound his own personal philosophy and has the honesty to make his explorations clear and unambiguous. Should one wish to emulate him it would be better to emulate his style rather than trying to learn his philosophy.

Knowledge is essential to make the style work but honesty and careful language – these are essential too. Getting this right is easier than it sounds, but in a face to face setting is not at all easy even though Peterson makes it seem simple enough. The trick is to be clear about what we know and what we don’t. The style is to insist on it as Peterson does. Those who would emulate him must first pick up the style.

Thursday 24 May 2018

Ice on the Ob

From the Siberian Times

By this time of year, boats are usually plying the ice-free Ob, but in 2018, while the winter covering the river has begun to move like a giant monster - but it has not cleared.

Far from it.

Here the thick ice is slowly drifting downstream in a northerly direction towards the Arctic yet with temperatures still of an unseasonal -5C, this could go on a while.

As our remarkable videos show, this is an awesome and eerie sight, magnetic to those lucky enough to be in the vicinity.

In Surgut, people come here before work just to glimpse the natural wonder, and listen to the gentle creaking and cracking of the shifting ice.

Then they come back again after work.

The link has more videos and photos

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Buggy Beemers

From the BBC we are reminded of a treat for modern car owners - the software update. First it was the computer, then the phone and now it's the car.

BMW's car computer systems have been found to contain 14 separate flaws, according to a study by a Chinese cyber-security lab.

They could, in theory, let hackers take at least partial control of affected vehicles while in use.

The researchers identified ways to compromise the cars by plugging in infected USB sticks, as well via contactless means including Bluetooth and the vehicles' own 3G/4G data links.

BMW is working on fixes.

Its customers have been advised to keep an eye out for software updates and other counter-measures from the German company over the coming months.

Monday 21 May 2018

That wedding photo


When I saw this photo the first word to flit across my mind was 'Romanov'. Not that there is the slightest connection but the word still flitted across as they do. Flit, flit.

Yet who would wish for a British president to replace the dear old royals? Imagine the dolts and deviants who with grim inevitability would be the only choices on our precious ballot paper. 

It's a strange business this democracy game. A particularly strange business when the Windsors are probably preferable to a democratically elected president. President Blair for example.

Sunday 20 May 2018

A modest total

I don’t read much non-fiction but the other day I went through my Kindle to see how many non-fiction books I’d read in the previous year. Turned out to be twenty two which is only a modest total but more respectable than I would have guessed.

Where does all the reading time come from though? It is partly a consequence of being retired but much of it comes from not watching TV. That was my initial impression on totting up the non-fiction books – reading is what I do instead of TV.

TV must have wasted a vast amount of time which could have been used more constructively. Not would have been used of course, but could have been used. I’m sure it has done far more harm than we ever acknowledge.

Saturday 19 May 2018

The new monarchists

A few thought prompted by today's events -

A major headache with political systems is giving a name to them. Language wilts under a barrage of evasion, euphemism, misinformation, malice and simple laziness. Communist, Marxist, Nazi, fascist, socialist, liberal, neoliberal, neoconservative, conservative, libertarian, SJW – political language does not clarify. Maybe we should work on the basis that this lack of clarity is no accident and political language is not intended to clarify anything. Yet a huge number of futile political arguments revolve around the issue of names.

The naming issue is so fraught that many names are freely used as wildly inaccurate or virtually meaningless terms of abuse. More neutral terms such as left, right and centre don’t work either - there is only one clear political monster and that is the centre, its elites and their hunger for control. They are akin to a black hole sucking everything in, a hole from which nothing ever escapes, not even light.

As we are stuck with elites and as they tend to congregate around a figurehead why not recycle the term ‘monarchy’ for the political black hole, that force of gravity at the centre of all stable political trends? Why not see where it takes us? There are excellent reasons why one shouldn’t do this, but political systems evolve so there is no reason why an ancient system such as monarchy should not have evolved too. Why would it disappear from the political psyche as the old hereditary version fades away or becomes sidelined as it has in the UK?

Maybe monarchy did not go anywhere; maybe it merely evolved by shaking off some of the pomp and pageantry and by sucking the life out of democracy. The obvious danger in going down this route is that one will be ignored as a maverick or simply misunderstood, but for anyone who questions mainstream trends, these are the least of their worries.

In that case we could use the term ‘monarchy’ as a kind of flag for those centralising political trends which are clearly aimed at a rigorous narrowing of a citizens’ responsibility and freedom to rely on a personal morality. That was always a problem for monarchies – competing moralities. Obviously this is no answer to the endless resources of political evasion, but if we view modern politics through a monarchist filter then maybe a few things will become clearer.

For example, monarchy is ancient and tends to be based on a hierarchy of narrow and more or less compulsory identities such as nation, race, party, religion and social class. These identities offer security and a sense of belonging under the supreme head surrounded by a supreme elite and a bureaucracy to keep the taxes coming in.

All political systems use identity for such cohesive purposes, they always have. The identities vary and the degree of compulsion varies and therein lies another clue to our own times – compulsory political identities.

Virtue-signalling does not only signal virtue, it signals identity. Of the two, identity is the more important. Look at me, I have an approved identity, I am not a threat to the regime, I am safe, I have no personal identity

To take a problematic example - identity-signalling allows people who are white, male, middle class, heterosexual, prosperous or Christian to repudiate what are not favoured political identities. That is to say a political repudiation rather than an actual repudiation. It allows such people to adopt another, more politically secure identity and in this respect is far more flexible than was ever allowed by traditional monarchy. This may be monarchy evolving, shedding the religious constraints and the nationalism but keeping the political core – the authoritarian politics of identity.

One can be conspicuously anti-racist, dress down, be aggressively tolerant and conspicuously non-religious for example. Throw in some recycling and we’re almost there, inherited identity expunged and fake identity secured.

It isn’t traditional monarchy, but modern identity politics could be seen as an evolved adaptation of older monarchist hierarchies. As if monarchy never went away but still lurks in the collective psyche, feeding on our innate need for a secure political identity.

Not to be taken too seriously, any of this, but as political correctness tightens its grip, as the irrational becomes politically rational, then political language needs to evolve if we are to describe what is happening without the destructive curse of ambiguity. The black hole needs a name.

Thursday 17 May 2018

If what you remember is mediocre

From 2:09

“You can’t think at all clearly or well without memory and it matters a great deal what you remember. And if what you remember is mediocre stuff you’re not going to be able to think very well.”

From 8:19

“One cannot be happy about the thirty five million copies of Harry Potter... I think that’s not reading, there’s nothing there to be read. They’re just an endless string of clichés. I cannot think that that does anyone any good.”

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Computer v computer

I don't have a Facebook account but within its interesting Community Standards Enforcement Preliminary Report, Facebook tells us

We estimate that fake accounts represented approximately 3% to 4% of monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook during Q1 2018 and Q4 2017. We share this number in the Facebook quarterly financial results. This estimate may vary each quarter based on spikes or dips in automated fake account creation.

These numbers are largely affected by external factors, such as cyberattacks that increase fake accounts on Facebook. Bad actors try to create fake accounts in large volumes automatically using scripts or bots, with the intent of spreading spam or conducting illicit activities such as scams. The numbers can also be affected by internal factors, including the effectiveness of our detection technology.

In Q1 2018, we disabled 583 million fake accounts, down from 694 million in Q4 2017.

583 million fake accounts in Q1 2018 - I make that somewhere near 75 being created every second of every day. Presumably this is mostly Facebook software versus the bots. The bots create fake accounts and Facebook software blocks or zaps them, a constant battle conducted at enormous speed. Computer versus computer. Seems insanely wasteful.

Monday 14 May 2018

On the box – the royal wedding

We’ll be taking the grandkids to their local leisure centre on Saturday. It’s what we usually do because this is when Granddaughter has her swimming lesson and we like to sip coffee and watch her energetic progress. So far so good.

However - in my innocence it had not occurred to me that there may be fewer people than usual at the leisure centre because many will be watching the royal wedding on TV. I assumed it would be a minor attraction at most but Mrs H thinks not and she tends to see into these matters more clearly than I do.

In which case parking will be noticeably easier so I’m in favour of royal weddings. We should have one every Saturday.

Saturday 12 May 2018

Should we be more bigoted?

Bigotry gets a bad press doesn’t it? Yet how are we supposed to know if one culture or one matrix of social norms is superior to another if we don’t compare and contrast and attempt to come up with a few answers? To do so is often condemned as bigotry however rational any analysis may be. Surely we must defend what is felt to be good in our culture while being prepared to compare it with other possibilities.

For example it is fairly obvious that Islamic immigration into the UK ought to be debated in the public arena. If there are social and cultural difficulties then these should be tackled openly. Not only that, but the potential for unsatisfactory integration has been obvious for decades and that too should be on the political table.

However, a well-known problem arises in that many social trends such as this are not open for unfettered mainstream debate and to point this out is the label oneself as a bigot. Many people accused of bigotry are actually opposing bigotry. They may be bigoted in one sense, but opposing bigotry in another sense.

Oh well. Decades ago a popular put-down was to accuse someone of making a value-judgement, a weird accusation which seemed to deny an essential fact of social life. Of course this was merely a fashionable put-down made from another value-judgement, a slightly more refined way of saying ‘shut yer gob’.

It is amazing how double-sided these things so obviously are, even though supposedly intelligent people will stick rigidly and even sanctimoniously to one side only. Even though their fundamental argument stripped to its bones is little more than ‘shut yer gob yer bigot’.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Lily on fascism

From the Guardian we have Lily Allen on fascism.

And in this age, where people feel that they can’t trust the media, they don’t trust politicians… people always trust artists because they connect to them. That’s what art is. So I think that there is a role [for artists], and I think that people should be empowered by that role, and not be so scared. Because if everybody came together to fight these forces, then maybe we could stop this fascist regime we’re living under.

That would be the fascist regime which allows her to abuse it and allows voters to change governments they don't like - that fascist regime. Maybe a dictionary would dispel some of her confusion but I don't think so.

Monday 7 May 2018

Too obtuse?

Sometimes politicians can be quite baffling. From the BBC we have the story of that cartoon Lord Adonis once thought was so - so what? Funny enough for a fairly prominent politician to share?

Labour peer Lord Adonis has apologised for tweeting a cartoon which appears to mock the new home secretary.

In the tweet, which has since been deleted, a figure purporting to be Sajid Javid is seen at his desk, with the caption: "I just want to settle in, get organised, then deport my parents!"

He responded directly to the former education minister, Lord Adonis, saying "you're better than this".

Lord Adonis then apologised to Mr Javid for the "poor taste" cartoon.

"Sajid, on reflection I think the cartoon is too personal and in poor taste. I have deleted it. I am sorry," Lord Adonis wrote.

Fair enough, Lord Adonis did the right thing once the flak came his way, but why did he not foresee the flak to begin with? "On reflection" he saw the hole he managed to dig for himself, but in these politically correct times how did he fail to see it immediately? Why did he need to reflect on it later?

A cynic might suggest he slipped a little drop of poison into the public arena, fully intending to apologise afterwards, knowing that once in the public arena it stays there. I don't think that's it at all, but there is something odd about obtuseness taken to this level. At least I hope there is.

Saturday 5 May 2018

A Volvo money pit

We couldn’t help overhearing a recent cafe conversation about an old chap who had decided to sell his car. We couldn’t help it because the main speaker was so loud. At least that’s our story.

Anyhow, two chaps were drinking coffee at a nearby table and they began chatting about a mutual friend who was getting on in years. Apparently this aged friend of theirs was about to sell his three year old Volvo. He’d only covered about 1000 miles in those three years yet the car originally cost him somewhere between £40k and £50k. The teller of this story was rather vague about the price and didn’t know much about cars either.

However, the subject of their conversation had approached the Volvo dealer where originally bought the thing and had been offered about £20k for it. This of course was the point of the story – why had their old friend bothered with an expensive car in the first place if he hardly used it? He could have done without a car and used taxis instead.

Hardly an uncommon type of story but people do make strange decisions when it comes to buying cars. We’ve switched back to buying used cars but we don’t fancy a used Volvo even if it only has 1000 miles on the clock.

Thursday 3 May 2018

Yet another pothole story

Sky news has a story about Simon Moss, an extremely unfortunate cyclist who was badly hurt when he hit a pothole nine inches deep in Stony Stratford. I’ve seen some big potholes in Derbyshire roads but nine inches deep is extravagant. It is also claimed that the pothole was inspected by Milton Keynes Council three days before the crash. Council pothole inspectors are not pothole fillers presumably. At least they are likely to be up to speed on diversity issues - there is that compensation.

We spend a fair amount of time on Derbyshire roads and potholes are a real menace, worse than cyclists. While driving along a country lane, eyes glued to the road watching out for the next pothole, I am only able to take fleeting glances at the glories of spring.

In my limited experience some counties are worse than others too. For example Nottinghamshire seems even worse than Derbyshire although a compensating factor here is that Nottinghamshire scenery isn’t usually worth looking at.

After a spell of rain, the worst potholes are those deep ones at the side of the road which look like harmless puddles because they are full of rainwater. I hit one of those with an almighty clunk only a few weeks ago. It has been patched now but that’s another thing – the quality of the patching varies enormously. Sometimes neat and smooth and sometimes it looks as if someone dumped a bucket of asphalt in the hole and jumped on it to flatten it down. Better than just inspecting it I suppose.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Curlews over Silly Dale

Peter's Stone

Today we took advantage of the sunshine for a short walk starting from Eyam, the plague village. A very quiet walk it was too. While eating lunch on a grassy spot overlooking Silly Dale all we heard were the curlews overhead. Yes there really is a Derbyshire dale called Silly Dale but sadly there isn’t one nearby called Sensible Dale.

As we turned back towards Eyam we could see Peter’s Stone in the distance. Local legend has it that this is where the last gibbeting in Derbyshire took place, although this link suggests there were one or two more. Old habits I suppose.