So here I am in Brittany, alternating between writing this and getting stuck into a New Year’s Eve feast, which explains any typos in what follows, and which is also making me ponder New Year resolutions. One of mine is to write rather more for Samizdata than I have been doing lately, which will not be hard. The idea was that resuming my Last Friday of the Month meetings, which I did in January 2013, would give me more to write about here, but the truth is that there is never any shortage of stuff to write about for Samizdata. The world abounds with good things and bad things, amusing things and annoying things. What sometimes fades is the will to write. But I’ll start as I mean to resume by writing a little about each of the speakers at my Last Friday meetings during this year. I hope these speakers will all agree that me now writing too little, too late, about their various excellent performances is better than nothing.
In January 2014, Alex Singleton spoke about his new book on PR, The PR Masterclass. Not the least of this book’s virtues is that it calls Public Relations Public Relations, rather than something more pompous and evasive. I did at least write here at the time about this book’s launch, which was a definite success, as is the book, packed as it is with what reads to me like lots of common-sense. Alex, however, is still a man worth hiring if you have a PR problem, because it is one thing to read a lot of common-sense in a book, quite another to be able to deploy it in the heat of a PR battle. Talking of the heat of a PR battle, Alex tells me that his next book is to be about Crisis Management. So, if your oil pipeline springs a leak, google Alex Singleton at once and hope that this book is by then available as a download, and that it starts with a short summary of all the wisdom that follows. Seriously, if you run a big organisation, buy this next Alex Singleton book as soon as it appears, and then give it more than a precautionary glance. You won’t be wasting any time, and you could save yourself and your underlings a world of grief.
In February, Dominic Frisby spoke about his then forthcoming book on Bitcoin, which has now forthcome. Our own Rob Fisher, who attended this talk, and who helped Dominic out with some technical details on the software front, later described the book in the first Amazon review of it (see the link above) as “concise, complete, correct, entertaining”. I first wrote, very admiringly, about Frisby and his writing here in this posting. My admiration for Frisby has not dimmed, and I very much hope that more Frisby books will follow.
→ Continue reading: My year in speakers
There is much feasting at Samizdata HQ this evening
Last night I attended the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party.
Here are ASI President Madsen Pirie and the speaker for the evening, Allister Heath, editor of City A.M., kindly taking the time to pose together for me:
So, there didn’t seem to be any problem about me taking photos. But actually, it rather seemed as if there was. Try as I might, I don’t seem to be able to get away from this theme, in my bloggage of this week.
The most famous personage present was a very recognisable Member of Parliament. And in quite a few of my crowd shots, he is to be seen glaring rather angrily, sideways, at my camera, rather than in the direction he ought to be have been looking, so to speak, as if to say: I didn’t come here to be photoed. I came here to get away from all that crap and to be among friends. Fair enough, no pictures of or naming of him.
Besides which, the public point made by such gatherings, insofar as there is one, and aside from the matter of everyone having a fine old time and fine old natter, catch-up, etc., was not so much the quality of those present, qualitative though it definitely was, as the quantity of that quality. These people were not merely rather impressive. There were a lot of them:
That’s Heath holding forth, and that’s the front of his audience. This is the back of his audience:
Spot the join. Unless my eyes are seriously deceiving me, you can’t. I am pretty sure there is no join to spot, and that there were further people present, to the right of those at the front, and to the left of those at the back. My camera has a gratifyingly wide angle of vision, but was not nearly wide enough in its vision for this gathering, given where I was standing.
As to the content of Heath’s remarks, well, anyone who knows their City A.M. will know that he is in a pretty gloomy state of mind about the immediate prospects of the British economy. There was a copy of City A.M. in the lobby, and I took notes (with my camera) of stories with headlines like UK is facing a lost decade for growth and More Yuletide misery for the City as well as Allister’s own editorial of that morning, entitled Politicians need to stop moralising – and reform our taxes. His editorial today is entitled A case of lies, damn lies and our rocketing national debt.
And as if to match that mood, most of us were dressed in “office attire”, meaning dark and funerial. Even I broke the habits of a decade and dressed funerially. It neither looked nor felt like a Christmas Party. The only thing Allister Heath could think of to cheer us up was to say that for all the governmental mismanagement of our country’s finances, at least technology continues to advance, although no thanks to us. He mentioned, in particular, Google’s robot cars, which is a story that I have been attending to myself for quite some time, and which I intend to blog about here Real Soon Now.
The end of Heath’s talk was hijacked by this guy:
Yes it’s Andrew Ian Dodge, presenting some Andrew Ian Dodge for Senator propaganda to Eamonn Butler, so that Eamonn Butler can exhibit it, somewhere. Now there‘s a man who has no problem about being photographed.
Councillor Harry Phibbs, top right, is not impressed by this pushy American.
This guy, on the other hand, preferred to hide his face behind his iPad:
Well, no not really. He was taking a photo, of me.
Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings and Brian Micklethwait are currently sat around my television discussing the election. We plan to stay here eating pizza and drinking beer for as long as we can stand. I will be posting some sort of running commentary in a hastily prepared chat room. If you want to join in, give yourself a username and leave the password blank.
Yesterday some Samizdatistas met up on the roof of a multi-story car park in Peckham, where there just happens to be a semi open air restaurant (i.e. open air but under a canvass roof), which operates over the weekends of the summer. I first blogged about it here, but never since, I now realise, even though this is not the first time we’ve all met there. It is a splendid place, which looks like this:
That shot was taken during a favourite photography time: during sunshine, after rain. The rain cleans the air, and the sun then shines through it, to delightful effect.
Believe it or not, that cement muddle thing in the foreground is Art. But it was Art that was really suffering from the rain. Art in the outdoors shouldn’t do that, should it? Well, maybe it would be better if quite a lot of outdoor Art did just get rained out of existence, like a sandcastle being washed away by the tide (and many a sandcastle has deserved better than that).
And boy did the rain rain. Rain is not easy to photo, in my experience, but this rain was so violent that, what with the marginal cost of digital photography being zero, I just snapped and snapped, hoping I’d get lucky.
And I did:
I wasn’t the only one of us taking photos:
That’s Rob Fisher, whose wife and young son were also present, which made it all a lot more fun. → Continue reading: Sunny intervals and scattered showers – as seen on a roof in Peckham
In a few days’ time, I am seeing friends and the theme of the evening meal is that all the food is going to follow Roman recipes. No, I don’t mean the kind of thing you order in a restaurant now, I mean the sort of food that Marcus Aurelius might have eaten. Or as described in this book about the Romans by Ferdinand Mount.
Togas, I am told, are required.
Okay, time for all those Animal House comments.
Even if the GDP numbers are not entirely unexpected, they are still a failure, a failure to grow the economy. The deficit can only be paid down if the economy grows, we can’t borrow our way out of a debt crisis. It is time for a supply-side revolution, why is the government implementing a policy of selected regional enterprise zones, why not make the whole economy an enterprise zone? It was a mistake to hike VAT and it is a strategic error to burden industry with crushingly high green taxes, penal marginal income tax rates of over 50% discourage entrepreneurs and investors from coming to Britain.
If the government is going to miss the deficit target, and it is, miss it because the government slashed taxes to grow the economy. The international bond markets will forgive a finance minister with a growing economy who misses his deficit target, they won’t forgive a finance minister with a contracting economy in any circumstances. Chancellor Zero knows that with no growth there is no hope for the deficit.
Whether Guido is right that there is any hope for the deficit, under any circumstances, is a proposition I leave to others to ponder. I quote the above posting because it illustrates something important about Guido himself.
In among all the knockabout gossip about who is sleeping with whom and who is cheating on their expenses, Guido regularly slips in more thoughtful stuff. He regularly, that is to say, drops in explicit libertarian messages, in among all the merely implicit libertarianism about how they are all conspiring with each other to rob us blind. This is why they all hate him so much. He is absolutely not one of them. They want to believe that he is only a gossip monger, and a mere partisan Tory, with no principles other than that he wants his particular team to be in charge of all the robbing and conspiring. But those of his pro-state (I often think more fun than is might be had with that hyphen) enemies and victims with any antenna or honesty know that he is something far more dangerous to them than that. He is a principled libertarian with readership numbers and influence most of them can only dream of. He, more than anyone else in Britain, is responsible for the widespread perception in British politics that the arrival of the internet was a breakthrough for libertarian ideas. Before Guido, we were talking amongst ourselves, which was good. Now Guido regularly shoves it in front of them, which is even better.
Okay, a simplification. Others were doing this before Guido. But none so entertainingly, or to such a wide readership. One of Samizdata’s prouder boasts, I think, is that before Guido found his own blog persona and his own voice as a blogger, he was briefly part of ours.
Here is a photo I took of the great man, at a recent gathering at Samizdata HQ:
A fine if rather blurry addition to this collection. (This is my favourite one of these.)
By the way, do you remember the posting I did here a while back about how so much of what happens in the world is down to two-man teams? Well, these days, anyone who cares knows that there are now two Guidos. I asked original Guido about this at the party where I took the above snap, and the partnership between him and Harry Cole is definitely the real two-man team deal.
A low key get together at Samizdata HQ this year…
The finest pig, heavily smoked, glazed with honey and infused with cloves…
…your hostess, with assorted Central European Fire Water…
… and your host, about to gorge on splendiferous smoked pig and other delightful haram joys
Wishing all friends of liberty a prosperous New Year. Buy gold and drink the very finest grog.
A belated and photographic thankyou for the Christmas hospitality the night before last at Chateau Samizdata, which was predictably perfect. Madam Hostess having originated from a part of the world where they do their feasting on Christmas Eve rather than the day after, this meant that the food was no mere warm-up for the real excesses to come. This was it.
Here is some of the food we enjoyed. Guy Herbert is a cheese-spotter, a fact from which we all benefited:
Although, I marginally preferred the Christmas pud. Good as the cheese was, that was even better.
Here are our hosts:
The Dear Leader is side lit by another camera, an effect I have always liked. Head-on flash is abomination, I think. But flash from the side, done either with an attachment at the end of a wire, or by some other photographer joining in, is another thing entirely. My next camera will definitely let me do this.
Because all this was on Christmas Eve, I had no trouble getting back to my home, without any expense, for the quiet and contemplative Christmas that I now so much enjoy.
Christmas, they say, is a time for families. Mine exchanged convivial phone-calls. A beloved grandmother who reached a hundred just over a year ago, has just died, peacefully, well looked after, and not before learning that she had recently acquired a new great grand-daughter. (Which means I am also a great uncle for the first time.)
Christmas, it is also decreed, is a time to accumulate unwanted things. But mine, this time around, has been a time for ejecting such stuff. My great clear-out continues. Today, Boxing Day, more boxes will be removed. (Although I did buy a few things for friends, in the form of a couple of battery-less wind-up torches.)
Has this been, I wonder, the Second Great Kindle Christmas, when, on Christmas Day itself, people discovered that they possessed new Kindle e-books that they themselves had not asked for? The point being that the First Great Kindle Christmas was the Christmas when people were first given actual Kindles on a large scale. Which happened last year, did it not? Downloading for others brings a whole new meaning to last minute Christmas shopping, doesn’t it? So when is the absolute final deadline? 11.59 pm on Christmas Day? Or is that just too late?
Christmas now, for me, in the age of instant global communication, also means the start of the Melbourne test match, which begins in England even before Christmas Day itself has even ended. This time around Australia are playing India. As an England cricket fan I can now feel very smug and indulgent about this event. This year, England began by thrashing Australia, and then proceeded to thrash India. Whoever wins this series now won’t be better than England. Long may it last. Australia are 277-6 after day one (which is a lot better than they did after day one at Melbourne this time last year). And guess what, when I first typed that, Sri Lanka, playing South Africa were … 277-6, just before the end of the first day of that game.
So, a Happy Christmas. Next, a prosperous new year? No chance. Hence the wind-up torches.
Yuletide Cheer to the sound of jigs and reels well played.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
It is often said that Guy Fawkes was the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions…