We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Shooting vampires with a Fig-Rig

Today I am going to do duty as a background extra in a short vampire movie that a friend of mine is starring in. I am to be one of a number of diners in a restaurant. I won’t be paid but I will be fed, and I already know that it’s a very good restaurant because I’ve already been there before.

Today I got a look at the email sent out by the production to all whom it concerned, about today’s activities. This was, for me, a glimpse into a whole new world of complexity and managerial drive. Here, just as a tiny for-instance (there are three whole pages of stuff like this), is a list of the kit that will be used by the DOP/Grip/Lighting Department:

2 X Sony EX1 (with S XS cards) – 1X Intel Mac Book – 1X S XS card reader & firewire cable – 500GB EXT HD (or equivalent space for backup) – 1X Letus Ultimate Adapter & photographic lenses – 6 X Prime Lenses & PL Adaptor – 1X Manfrotto Tripod – 1X 32in LCD TC & Composite leads – 1X Steadicam Junior – 1X Manfrotto Fig-Rig – 1X 8in Camera Monitor with composite leads – 1X 25m BNC cable drum – 1X Mini-Jib with Tripod & Fluid Head – 2X Paglights and battery packs – 3X Redheads with stands, diffuser/gel kit – 1X Set of 3 dedo lights with stands – 1X 2ft 4-bar Kino-flo with stand – 1X 200W Handheld MSR lamp – Reflectors, gels, diffusers, clips and stands – Blacking for windows

I am looking forward greatly to seeing what this all looks like in practice. I suspect that, in reality, it won’t amount to very much at all.

My favourite is the “Manfrotto Fig-Rig”. Time was, when faced with a splendid name like that, you just read and wondered. What kind of Rig would that be? And why “Fig”? But this is the age of the internet, and I can immediately tell you the answer:

From initial conception to finished product, Manfrotto worked alongside director Mike Figgis, whose films include Leaving Las Vegas and Cold Creek Manor, to develop a hand held DV camera support system that offers the shake-free stability of a tripod with the framing flexibility of handheld shooting. A circular frame with a crossbar to mount most mini DV cameras, the FigRig mn595 becomes part of the body to produce smooth, steady travelling shots. It is this very fact which is the secret to the Fig Rig. As the operator walks, his/her muscles and tendons absorb all the shocks, transferring only fluid movements to the camera. As there are no straps or harnesses attached to the Fig Rig, quick and wide movements can be made within the same shot from ground-level to overhead, in one smooth movement. The camera, accessories and operator become one, allowing you to film scenes quickly and unobtrusively.

So hats off to Manfrotto, and it is called “Fig” after Figgis.


This piece of kit costs around £150 quid. I still don’t quite get how it works, but here’s hoping that I find out.

Discussion Point XXVI

Government has never been more popular or more trusted.


These are all internet problems and [internet users] think someone should do something about it. Although many internet users think the government should keep out of the internet, I suggest to you that most ordinary people who just use the internet like they use the banking system or the trains think that the government should make sure it all works properly for them and that bad things get stopped from happening.

– David Hendon, Director, Business Relations 2, Business Group , Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, speaking to the registrars’ meeting of Nominet. Imagine, if the government regulated it, then the internet would run as well as the banking system and bad things would get stopped from happening. This was a speech made yesterday.

(Hat-tip: The Register)

The US car industry plight, updated

There is a good article by Bloomberg columnist Mark Gilbert on why just transferring billions of taxpayers’ money to America’s embattled automakers is a bad idea, and he has thoughts who might be better equipped to run these firms.

As he says, long before the credit crisis hit, some, if not all of the carmakers were suffering from problems. There is a glut of cars on the world market and the spike in oil prices – admittedly now in reverse – has made a number of such vehicles uneconomic.

Talking of oil, the black stuff is now below $50 a barrel, down by about $100 from its peak. Wow.

Strange buildings

I came across this eye-popping collection of strange building pictures here. Some of them are quite familar to me, such as the Lloyds of London building, but others I have not seen before.

Thanks to Stephen Hicks for the link. His site is definitely worth a visit.

This fellow, meanwhile, also has regular nifty pictures on architecture, with a strong enthusiasm for the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Cause and Effect

The weather has been cold this year, yet we did not take proper precautions for the likely consequences. These events should not have taken us by surprise. After all, it is in the data.


On the brighter side, the clear increase in the number of pirates indicates that global warming is receding as a problem. This is good to see.

The picture has been very respectfully stolen from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I hope they do not mind.

Now they tell us!

Every so often, the MSM offers up a nugget of shining truth:

Houses of Parliament ‘infested with vermin’

Of course, we have been saying that for years.

The Libertarian’s Song

by Liberty Fitz-Claridge

I am the very model of a modern libertarian;
I’m at the Diamond’s farthest corner from ‘Authoritarian’.
I’m of the view, in short, that we should do away with all the laws,
Except the ones that thwart the sort who’d harm or take my things by force.

The socialists demand that we ought really to redistribute
The money made by businessmen to help support the destitute.
But those of us who set less store by looting than by Liberty
Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibility!

Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibility,
Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibility,
Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibili-bili-ty!

Ideas which stem from this include that school is not compulsory.
When older, children may attend free-market university.
In short, it is the opposite of life totalitarian,
With free adults and children in a climate libertarian.

In short, it is the opposite of life totalitarian,
With free adults and children in a climate libertarian.

The hoi polloi have rolled their eyes and left us to obscurity,
Since fans of David Friedman cry, “The state, the state is after me.”
Indeed, there are among us those who dream of a utopia.
For this they are thought madmen, though it’s only hyperopia.

We liberals won’t rest until all state-run works are privatised;
From ports to courts, from wealth to health, we want the state to be downsized.
These things are not done well by even loving, caring government;
It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love is spent?

It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love is spent?
It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love is spent?
It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love-is love-is spent?

And surely no one’s worthy of the job of politician
Who does not see the value of untrammelled competition.
In short, you should repudiate the crude authoritarian
And study to become a far superior libertarian.

In short, I should repudiate the crude authoritarian
And study to become a far superior libertarian.

When I have read von Mises’ massive tomes from end to end firsthand;
When I’ve the nerve to voice in English classes that I like Ayn Rand;
When I have studied economics and gone earnestly to FEE;
When I have learnt what progress has been made in private law theory …

When I’ve read Hayek, Mill and Smith, my expertise evincible;
And when I know exactly what is meant by ‘homestead principle’;
In short, when I know politics and all the right philosophy,
You’ll say a better libertarian there never was than me.

You’ll say a better libertarian there never was than she,
You’ll say a better libertarian there never was than she,
You’ll say a better libertarian there never was-than was-than she!

Though mainstream folk are loath to recognize or even tolerate
These vital, timeless principles that libertarians venerate,
And though the ignorant consensus is authoritarian,
I am the very model of a modern libertarian.

And though the ignorant consensus is authoritarian,
She is the very model of a modern libertarian.

Piracy on the high seas

I have written about this subject before as an urgent issue of security, and surely the topic of piracy must be at the top of countries’ security agendas now that a large oil tanker has been seized. It makes me wonder what insurers such as Lloyds of London must think: surely, if shipping fleets want to keep insurance premia down, an obvious solution must be to arm, or better protect, such vessels. I do not know what the law is about whether ships, operating in international waters, on carrying weapons on board merchant vessels. In centuries past, vessels of the East India Company, for instance, were frequently as well armed as many naval vessels. They had to be.

If this problem gets worse, then it is not just the navies of the western powers, such as those of Britain or the US, that might have to think about protecting shipping routes more aggressively. I think that the rising economic power of India must take on more responsibility to guarding some of the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. India, after all, is a prime beneficiary of globalisation and global trade. For that matter, China probably will have to think about protecting its shipping more effectively, as must jurisdictions which engage in much ship-borne trade such as Singapore and Australia and Brazil.

One of the reasons why a strictly isolationist foreign policy does not work is that in the real world, the web of global trading routes from which we all benefit have to be protected. Free market transactions must be protected against predators. That means things like naval bases or agreements between states to protect certain shipping routes, for example. If states cannot do this, but somehow expect merchant ships to continue conveying the goods which drive the world economy, pressure to let merchant ships carry weapons will be irresistable.

Some time ago, I read the Frederick Forsyth novel, The Afghan. I won’t give away the plot but piracy is a key part of it. Any security policy, including an anti-terrorist one, must take account of seaborne threats. It might seem rather obvious to point this out in an island nation like the UK, but a large proportion of our economic produce is conveyed over the wet stuff. If the anti-terror experts have not addressed themselves fully to this issue, they had better start doing so. Maybe this hijacking might have a galvanising effect.

Here is what the US navy has been doing.

Opposition matters and it just got better

I feel a sense of personal relief about David Cameron’s latest announcement, to the effect that all talk of the next Conservative government matching Labour spending plans will now be abandoned. Thank goodness. I am an earn-little-spend-little old geezer, and until today I was staring at some kind of Weimar Germany/Nazi Germany future in which my savings were all gone, along with any surviving shred of ability to earn any money to replace them. That still may be my future, and the future of many others. But things are now looking up, a bit.

Opposition matters. Oppositions matter. What a government knows will be attacked from across the Commons and in the TV studios is one kind of policy, which they still might do but which has political risks attached to it, as well as the less worrying problem, to a politician, of the policy failing and blowing up in all our faces in a year or two’s time. But what a government knows an opposition will keep quiet about is something else again. The opposition won’t oppose now, and can share the blame later. I still blame Mr Cameron and his party for the mess my country has got itself into, because for a few crucial years they failed to oppose Mr Brown’s spend-spend-spend regime where it mattered, in the form of promises to refrain from such profligacy when themselves elected. But at least they have now done their switch, and Labour wastefulness will now be scrutinised, moderated, and even perhaps significantly curtailed.

I have been reading The Spectator’s CoffeeHouse blog recently, and the cry recently arose there in the comments on such postings as this that the Conservatives have been getting an unfair shake from The Media. Well, yes. That’s what The Media does. But a clear and convincing message, as I recall an earlier Conservative opposition leader by the name of Thatcher proving quite eloquently in the late 1970s, can cut through such bias. The basic reason for Conservative media feebleness in recent weeks, and the consequent bizarre rise in the opinion polls of Mr Brown, who caused the crisis but at least seemed to know better than his opponents how to climb out of it, has been that the Conservatives have had nothing coherent to say. “We wouldn’t start from here – this is all their fault”, as I heard Conservative spokesman for something-or-other Alan Duncan saying only last night on Newsnight, is not a policy; it is a mere accident report. The question now is not: Who the hell did this? It is: What the hell do we do now? Until today, the Conservatives were offering no answer.

It may be wishful thinking on my part, something I often indulge in, but I still hope for a semi-intelligent Conservative government quite soon now, and a Labour electoral melt-down which they will recover from very slowly if at all. And I may yet get to die in my bed, rather than under Charing Cross Bridge.

Timothy Sandefur on so-called intellectuals

Timothy has an absolute blinder of an article here. The next time you read of some liberal – in the American usage of the word liberal – attack one of their opponents as a “hick”, or “redneck”, or whatnot, consider his words.

Read the whole thing.


Last night I was lucky enough to get invited to a smart awards ceremony in London marking achievements in the world of luxury goods and services. There were folk from various brands and companies such as Chanel, Aston Martin, and the like. Lots of nice expensive champagne, dishy women and impeccably dressed chaps. At the end of the event, an award was given to a certain Vivienne Westwood, one of Britain’s most famous fashion designers. She started her career back in the 1970s in the world of punk, associating with Malcolm McClaren, who went on to manage the Sex Pistols, before moving on to other fields. To describe Ms Westwood as a gloriously bohemian figure is an understatement: she wore this amazing red dress, had bright orange hair and her face was painted a sort of white to create the impression of an eccentric 18th Century party-goer in the court of Versailles.

I was struck by two things. On the one hand, Ms Westwood is a great entrepreneur. She has a fashion business empire that stretches around the world, employing loads of people, creating jobs and income, not to mention fashions, for thousands of people. My wife adores some of her stuff. She has been heaped with honours and is the toast of Milan, Paris, London and New York.

And yet as soon as she opened her mouth in the ceremony last night, we were treated to meandering monologue about how how “Britain has far less culture than France”; how cheap labour is the evil that causes wars, how mankind is threatened with extinction in a few year’s time; how the French were great because they had central planning back in the 17th Century to create a fashion industry, how she was soooooo glad that Obama was in the White House…..on and on it went, bringing together in one speech an amazingly concentrated collection of fatuity.

It keeps amazing me how people in business, even tremendously successful businesspeople, can hold views that would make any sixth-form pupil cringe with embarrassment. But part of me loves the free market precisely because even an eccentric like Ms Westwood, while decrying global capitalism, can make a mint out of it by selling people stuff that they want. Just don’t ever take her views on world affairs seriously.

Oh well, at least she is more fun to watch that Polly Toynbee and like I said, she has created a great business.