Saturday 30 June 2018

A taste for Lamborghinis


Taste is rum thing isn’t it? With no prior knowledge I would have assumed a Lamborghini Miura should not cost a huge amount of money because who would want one? A sixties/seventies car with an uninspiring interior trying to look like some kind of Le Mans racer.

It’s a matter of taste though and this site has one for sale at £949,995. So much for my assumption. Are they investments? Could be because horrible paintings can be investments so why not a car which isn’t horrible but isn’t particularly appealing. If I had that kind of money I wouldn’t spend it on a Lamborghini Miura but that’s taste for you.

For example Ed Sheeran, a chap who could afford a Miura, has been in the news recently. Some outfit is suing him for enough money to buy tons of Lamborghinis and here again the issue of taste arises. I loathe Mr Sheeran’s music but millions evidently lap it up. Must be a matter of taste but is it a matter of individual taste? Are we led astray by fads, fashions and fantasies? Is taste manipulated? Of course it is – we all know that.

There is an element of simplicity to many aspects of taste. It is simpler and easier to go along with popular tastes and accept what is widely accepted. The Lamborghini Miura is usually presented as an exotic classic so wanting one is easy to understand. It is understandable even for those in no position to buy one or even contemplate the possibility of buying one. It is a matter of taste, easier to accept than analyse.

Ed Sheeran’s music is popular so acquiring a taste for it was presumably easy for huge numbers of people. Easier than trying to analyse what might be wrong or culturally undesirable about popular music in general, let alone the music of a specific performer. Again it is a matter of taste, easier to accept than analyse. Analysis of popular taste seems futile because what difference does it make? Popularity sidelines analysis every time.

Thursday 28 June 2018

Three stories

From the BBC we have

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged European leaders to work together on finding solutions to irregular migration.

She told Germany's parliament the issue could be a defining moment for the EU.

The call comes as leaders meet for an EU summit focused on how to deal with the many undocumented migrants - mainly Africans - who continue to risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean.

Next we have a story about Cameroon

For a year and a half, the Cameroonian military has been accused of beating and arresting people suspected of being separatists, torching homes and killing unarmed protesters.

For their part, separatists have taken up arms and have also turned to violence. They have been accused of burning markets, launching attacks from civilian bases, beheading soldiers and kidnapping people they suspect as traitors.

Finally we have a graph from the UN which tells a story about Cameroon population statistics and projections.

Obvious question - where is the happy ending?

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Swedish Socialism

Johan Norberg adds some important nuances to a Polly Toynbee claim that "Sweden is the most successful society that the world has ever known."  

Monday 25 June 2018

An Austin 7 and the RSPCA


Yesterday we visited a classic car show, arriving early to nab a coffee and avoid the crowds. Most enjoyable it was too, strolling among cars of the past. Most of them from our past which was mildly disconcerting.

There were a few models we had owned ourselves such as an Austin A40 Farina, a scattering of Ford Escorts and some early Minis. A few our parents had owned such as an Austin Maxi and a VW Beetle. The Maxi was a surprise, being considerably bigger than we remembered. There were quite a few Jaguar E-Types but I don’t recall owning one of those. A Bond Bug too, haven’t seen one of those for years. Decades probably.

We noticed a distinction between cars intended for use on the roads and cars worked up into such a pristine state that one could never imagine them being taken on the road. Almost as if they had rolled straight off the production line. A little too close to museum pieces for my liking but the amount of work and attention to detail is impressive.

Part of the fun was trying to decide which car we’d go for if we had the choice. The owner of an Austin 7 invited me to sit in the driver’s seat so I did. Much smaller and more cramped than I expected so that is not one I’d go for if I had the choice. I wouldn’t bother with an E-Type either if money were no object. Not sure why.

When we returned to our own car we found an RSPCA leaflet tucked under the windscreen wiper. A reminder not to leave dogs in cars on hot days with lots of detail about the dire consequences we must all be familiar with anyway.

What is it with these people? We don’t have a dog and if we did we would never leave one in a parked car whatever the weather. To my mind it was akin to an accusation. Outfits such as the RSPCA seem to feel it is okay to push such sanctimonious, unsolicited and widely understood advice to complete strangers. The outcome in my case is that I would never give a single penny to the RSPCA. Not that I ever have.

Saturday 23 June 2018

A big fat frappé

Sometimes when we have a large shopping list we begin with a coffee in the Tesco cafe. For us this is a recent development, but it certainly makes shopping easier. Probably the caffeine.

Anyhow, the other day two large youngish ladies sat nearby with two large frappés so being nosey I checked the calories. The Tesco cafe is helpful like that – it shows the calories against each meal and drink. Those frappés were 390 calories each so the obvious question arises. Do we have at least a partial explanation for the size of those youngish ladies? They were big.

Maybe this is merely something we notice because we don’t see people like that walking on Ecton Hill, climbing up Hall Dale or striding along Stanage Edge. Different environments, different people. It’s very noticeable.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Until next time

Last week found us walking in and around the Chatsworth estate. On the way back we passed the clearing up operation after the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. Huge trucks lumbering around on temporary metal roadways, gangs of men dismantling everything from vast marquees to temporary toilets or packing trays of plants into huge wagons.

Not something we’ve ever go near because of the crowds and the traffic but it was interesting to stand there and watch the whole thing being dismantled with the crowds all gone. We can't remember the names of flowers anyway. Bound to be a disadvantage.

I can’t imagine organising something so big and so temporary. Seems a waste somehow but I suppose in one sense it is only a much bigger version of the circus coming to town.

Monday 18 June 2018

Shopping for an illusion

The other day we visited a White Stuff clothes shop. I don’t know if all their shops are the same but the men’s section of this store was designed to look like the interior of an old workshop complete with an ancient, heavily scarred wooden workbench in the middle of the floor. It even had an old vice.

The walls were boarded with what appeared to be old planks and sections of antiquated wooden doors. Even many of the clothes seemed to be designed to evade any suggestion of pristine newness. The whole ambience was artfully designed to avoid a sense of shopping for new clothes.

The clothes tended towards subdued colours and some had a contrived appearance of having been worn before. Some would not have looked out of place on a Victorian labourer and no doubt that was contrived too.

The overall look of the place hinted at some kind of imaginary recycling as if to say I’m not really shopping, not really buying new clothes and not really a consumer even though the clothes were of course brand new. I didn’t buy anything.

Sunday 17 June 2018


Blogger no longer supports OpenID for comments. Unfortunately old comments entered under OpenID have all been changed to an ID of "Anonymous" so I cannot be sure who might be affected.

To get round this I've changed the settings to accept any comment but in doing that the blog will also be open to much more spam if past experience is any guide. I'll try it and see how thing go.

Saturday 16 June 2018

Chopey plays a blinder

Experienced referee Chris Chope had to endure a storm of vituperation after sending off every player of both teams during a recent Parliamentary friendly. I’m not surprised quite frankly. Blimey - something has to be done about blatant time-wasting and constant waving to the fans in the stands. Not that there are many of those these days.

The basic problem is that the two leading teams are stuffed with overpaid prima donnas who don’t train hard enough and waste too much time off the pitch. What with interviews, publicity stunts and social media there is no time left to play real matches. As one commentator said – “I don’t know why we bother with the gits, they rarely turn up and most of the lazy sods are too flabby to last the full ninety minutes anyway.”

It’s the same old story when teams are on the slide. Not enough training, a general lack of fitness, not enough strategic nous and far too many outside interests. Not to mention waving to the fans all the time. What have this lot got to wave about anyway? Blimey - Chopey deserves a medal for drawing attention to it all.

Thursday 14 June 2018

The shadow of cholera

For many nights he lies in bed, without getting up by day. He is tired and sleepy. A harsh-voiced man comes to the bed, and says that he must not lay his hands outside the coverlet. They give him evil-tasting stuff with a spoon; he eats nothing. There is whispering in the room, and his mother weeps. Then he sits again at the window in the bedroom. Bells are tolling the whole day long.

Green biers are carried over the churchyard. Sometimes a dark mass of people stand round a black chest. Gravediggers with their spades keep coming and going. He has to wear a copper plate suspended by a blue silk ribbon on his breast, and chew all day at a root. That is the cholera epidemic of 1854.

August Strindberg – The Son of a Servant (1886 - 1909)

A quote taken from Strindberg's autobiographical novel. In 1854 he would have been five years old. It opens up a chink of light on a world without modern medical science and what a grim world it must have been. Dickens’ world, Jane Austen’s world and yet this is just one of the shadows under which they lived. Also in 1854 there was the Broad Street cholera outbreak in London.

This outbreak, which killed 616 people, is best known for the physician John Snow's study of its causes and his hypothesis that contaminated water, not air, was the source of cholera.

To my mind the most difficult aspect is trying to imagine what it must have felt like to be familiar with the dangers of cholera yet ignorant of its root cause. We often seem to take knowledge for granted yet hard-won knowledge is the gulf between now and then.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Ageing is merely a belief system says Bill

According to the Mirror Coronation Street actor Bill Roache sees ageing as a belief system.

Fit and healthy Coronation Street star Bill Roache, 86, is often asked the secret to his seemingly eternal youth. In the final extract from his new book Life and Soul, Corrie’s Ken explains how he could live to 120.

Before we look at the practical steps to wellbeing, we need to look at beliefs.

Take ageing, for example. Ageing is a belief system within the collective consciousness of humanity. It’s what we’ve collectively decided about age and what it means for our body and our lifestyle.

We don’t have to age and die at a certain time. We can extend our lifespan by pushing the parameters of the belief that we’ll only live to 70, 80 or 90 years.

I can't say it feels like that to me but perhaps I'm not a natural believer.

Monday 11 June 2018

Stalin himself couldn’t believe it


While following up this story about our shiny new F-35 fighter jets, a meandering browse ended up with this story from the dim and distant.

The Korean conflict was less than six months old on the morning of November 30, 1950, when a U.S. Air Force B-29 Superfortress, attacking an air base in North Korea, was lightly damaged by a fighter that overtook the bomber too fast for the attacker to be identified, much less for the Superfort’s gunner to fix it in the sights of his gun’s tracking system. Straight-wing Lockheed F-80 jets escorting the bomber made a token pursuit, but the accelerating fighter rapidly shrank to a dot, then disappeared...

The first jet to fly from the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) Design Bureau in Moscow was a straight-wing fighter, the MiG-9. The -9’s rudimentary engines—twin BMW jet engines captured in Germany—fell short of the design bureau’s specs for the MiG-15, yet Moscow hardly possessed the expertise to build better ones. The first operational MiG-15s would instead be powered by Rolls-Royce Nene engines—marvelously innovated and cluelessly supplied by the British.

Keen to thaw Anglo-Soviet relations, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee invited Soviet scientists and engineers to the Rolls-Royce jet facility to learn how the superior British engines were made. Attlee further offered to license production to the USSR—after exacting a solemn promise that the engines would be utilized only for non-military purposes. The offer stunned the Americans, who protested loudly. And the Soviets? Russian aviation historian and Ukrainian native Ilya Grinberg says, “Stalin himself couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘Who in their right mind would sell anything like this to us?’ ”

If you are not familiar with it, the whole piece is worth reading.

Perhaps it is a reminder of how important it is to identify enemies and how reluctant our political classes are when it comes to this particular crunch point. As if they find it gauche and contrary to their cosmopolitan credentials. Defence of the realm indeed - it even sounds old fashioned. 

Saturday 9 June 2018

Arise Dame Emma

It is weird how the honours system always manages to rope in people who discredit the whole business. Perhaps it has become so profoundly discredited that nobody notices. To my mind the latest unworthy recipient is Emma Thompson, possibly the most vacuous voice in public affairs...

...hmm - on second thoughts vacuous voices make up a viciously contested field. One of the most vacuous voices in public affairs will have to do - the field is too crowded for further refinement.

A few years ago Jim Broadbent had this to say about honours.

“I’m not that comfortable with actors receiving honours, partly because I think they ought to go to those who really help others,” he says. “Besides, I like the idea of actors not being part of the Establishment. We’re vagabonds and rogues, and we’re not a part of the authorities and Establishment, really. If you mix the two together, things get blurry.”

But of course Emma Thompson is neither vagabond nor rogue. She is a part of the authorities and Establishment, really. That's the point of the honour.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Goldie on men

Sky News has an interview with Goldie Hawn in which she relates this experience - 

Hollywood actress Goldie Hawn has said she felt "very objectified" during her early career working as a go-go dancer, but will always "love and adore men".

Speaking to Sky News' Kay Burley, the Private Benjamin star, 72, reflected on the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment in the entertainment business.

If we must use terms such as objectify or objectified then Goldie Hawn should know that men may objectify women but women also objectify themselves and always have. It is a chicken and egg dynamic where there is no point singling out men or women as the primary cause. From curls and a lace collar to high heels and skin-tight jeans, many young women objectify themselves. They know how and they know why.

It is a huge irony that the entertainment business frequently employs attractive young actresses because they are prepared to objectify themselves in pursuit of their chosen career. This is obvious to anyone who has ever watched Hollywood films. 

Who started it? Nobody started it - this is how things are. Who perpetuates it? Take a walk around the town centre on a Friday night.

Monday 4 June 2018

Crumbling families

Mercatornet has an interesting piece on the demise of the nuclear family.

People used to lament the advent of the nuclear family because it heralded the death of the extended family. Now, according to Britain’s top family court judge, we should applaud the death of the married mum, dad and kids family norm as it dies of neglect before our eyes.

Sir James Munby, president of the High Court’s family division, is very familiar with what he calls the “complexity” of family life these days. To simplify things, he told a university audience last week, we should forget about things like marital status or who exactly a child’s parents are, and welcome the new “reality” of people living together, married or unmarried, of opposite sexes or the same, monogamous or not.

It is easy enough to see social hazards in this trend and the whole piece is well worth reading, but this comment highlights an important problem too.

Steven Meyer

Whenever I see one of these "Ain't if awful" pieces the question that comes to my mind is "What do you suggest we do about it?"

For good or ill, norms of behviour are changing. So what should be done?

I do not see how there is any choice but to accommodate to the changes.

Indeed - what can one do other than adapt? To my mind the trend is deplorable for a number of reasons and there are sinister political aspects too, but apart from saying how deplorable it is, what is the most pragmatic response? What else can we do apart from what Mr Meyer suggests - accommodate to the changes.

Social change is a powerful beast but is anyone riding the beast? I don't think so. As intelligent beings we should be in the saddle but we are not. Nobody is. 

Sunday 3 June 2018

Laptop news, iPad news

While on holiday I tend to scan the news on our iPad rather than fire up the laptop. The iPad gives a somewhat different perspective because unlike the laptop browser, Safari on our iPad has no ad blocker.

This leads me to avoid certain news sources because they are so choked with ads that the iPad has trouble loading pages. It hammers home a message that mainstream news is mostly clickbait and for many news outlets that is all it ever is. Obvious enough but a struggling iPad certainly rubs it in.

It can be a rum business coming back home after a holiday too. Home habits reassert themselves, one of which is keeping tabs on the news after all that clickbait avoidance. Yet interest in the news is slipping away as the internet steadily widens the gap between the clamour of mainstream pap and worthwhile comment.

We seem to be in an intermediate place where powerful forces try to control our attention. It’s really rather heartening because I don’t think they know how.