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]

Merry Christmas from Belfast

Belfast Session
Yuletide Cheer to the sound of jigs and reels well played.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

It is often said that Guy Fawkes was the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions

samizdata_over_parliament_noborder.jpg

No, Tony Stark does not live here

You could live decades in Manhattan and still be surprised by what its vibrant capitalism throws up at you. Last weekend I got an invite to go along to a party that was raising money for some charity cause, although I was not one of the ones there to be a high roller. Let us just say I got in via the journalists back door since one of the celebrity guests was a Fox News personality who was also a friend of my usual Manhattan drinking buddy. It should come as no surprise to long time readers that when in New York I chill with journalists, spacers and the odd Irish musician.

I knew it was going to be interesting before I met up with Taylor Dinerman at the usual media waterhole, but on the some thirty block walk we were lost in discussions about typical fighter pilot behavior with the fair sex, space policy and which foot Paul Krugman is currently inserting. I was expecting something exceptional but when I finally walked over to the railing of the rooftop party I was not quite prepared for a night time view of New York like this. It is really different when you can see the city laid out in front of you in every direction and yet you are close enough to be struck by the full three dimensions. I can hardly imagine what waking up to this every day must be like, but I am glad to know there are people out there who do.

Chrysler Building and New York Cityscape
A Northerly view of the Chrysler building and surrounds.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

The party had the standard accoutrements. If you simply looked at the bar man serving drinks from a table by the core wall, or at the disk jockey in the corner, it would look like the standard parties we have all attended. The DJ laid down a modern sound track to insure all would eat, drink, be merry and network till they dropped. I was of course doing just that. I handed out Immortal Data Corporation business cards to all and sundry while keeping up my energy from the passing trays of hors d’oeuvres. I do not think I had a repeat taste all evening.

Penthouse Disk Jockey
The disk jockey kept the place rocking, or whatever you call it with dance music.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Being the spacer that I am, my actual first photograph of the night was the stunning image of a fall moon rising over the East River from a southeasterly direction. A mere photograph cannot come close to what the eye took in. Believe me, this poor small subset of photons does not come close to doing it justice.

Moon and East River
The view of the moon was even more amazing in person.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Later on, after several drinks and much mixing I decided to temporarily break from the crowd, and that was when I discovered the flat was even more spectacular than I had thought. This is where Tony Stark would live if he owned a flat in Manhattan. No doubt about it.

Penthouse
This is not one of Tony Stark’s residences. But it should be.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Taylor and I mostly talked with media folk, although there were lots of financial types there as well, with some of which we also spoke. I knew Taylor was fluent in French and Hebrew. Tonight I found him talking at length in German to a businessman and doing the occasional phrase in Mandarin. We were also joined by James Taranto of the Wall Street journal after he returned from a quiet far corner where he did a radio show call in to express his opinion of the latest Krugman piece at the New York Times.

One of the more fun people I spoke to was a woman who started her career as an NPR reporter assigned to Belfast. She was there in the seventies, well before my time, but we still had much common knowledge to share as she was a lover of Irish Traditional music and I think it fair to say that a few of my close friends in Ireland can play or sing a note or two of that genre.

Taylor Dinerman
I was there with journalist and occasional Samidatista contributor Taylor Dinerman.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

It was a very international crowd, although it is sometimes hard to tell in New York. Someone who you think looks foreign may come out with a strong New York accent when they say hello… or they may speak with a strong accent from some odd corner of the world. You simply cannot tell.

Late in the evening Taylor and I were sipping our drinks and talking Chinese politics with a VP of Tang Dynasty TV, Mike Chen. He is very much the all American himself but is able to travel and mix in China and the three of us were off in a Samizdata like discussion of China’s economy, ethnic strife problems, what happens when the North Korean penny drops, why China is building forces, what sort of aircraft India is buying and why…

I think it rather suitable that drinks in hand, we were looking down upon the United Nations Building from our high capitalist perch.

UN and crowd
I have always looked down on the UN as an institution. But from here I really did look down on it.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Oh, and we had a chance to talk with Rita Cosby, an old friend of Taylor’s from Fox News, before he and I and James went off for our rather late dinner at McFadden’s Bar.

Despite the Corona’s, the wine, the rum and cokes, and the Johnny Walker I had already downed, or perhaps because of them, I decided after my dinner pint of Guinness that I could not let that poor pint feel lonely. So when they headed home, I headed further down Second Avenue to an old hangout of mine. The rest of the night (and pints) is another story and I was off duty as your Samizdata On The Scene reporter.

Slante!

Doing my bit for ‘Earth Day’…

It is 8:30 pm in London and ‘Earth Day’ has begun. Every single light in our house and garden have now been turned on.

New Year argument at Antoine’s

Sometimes it is essential to stop an argument and clarify what a particular word means, if it is being used to mean different things without both parties realising. And sometimes it is essential not to allow an argument about what a word means to derail an argument. Because both of these things are true, many deduce from each truth that the other truth is false. But both are true.

I have tended (following Popper, and probably misunderstanding him) to think that arguments about meaning are pointless, even when they are not. Others err in favour of arguing about meaning, even when they ought not to be arguing about meaning.

Suppose both parties are using the same word in an argument (to describe an important part of what they are arguing about), but are, unknowingly, using this word to mean two different things. (An onlooker may help by pointing this out.) They need to pinpoint this disagreement, and see if, while agreeing to differ about what this word means (or ought to mean) they can agree about the substance of what they are saying. Or not agree. The point is: arguments about meaning can come disguised as something else, and seem more significant than they are. They can seem like arguments of substance. Then, the true nature of the disagreement needs to be identified. If there is no other disagreement, it helps to realise this. Even if there is, ditto.

But if two parties are having an argument, and one party introduces a new word into the argument, clearly meaning by it something that the other person thinks that this word doesn’t mean or shouldn’t mean. They disagree about the meaning of this new word, and they both know it. In those circumstances, getting sidetracked into a different and duller argument about what that word means or ought to mean can divert them from their original, more interesting and significant argument about something of substance.

Or to put it another way, my thanks to Antoine Clarke for his most diverting party yesterday afternoon and evening, where I found myself working all that out.

And a happy new year to all.

Down on the farm

For the last few days I have been far out in the Virginia hinterlands at the farm of a fellow libertarian with Belfast ties. In fact, his daughter was born there and it made for rather interesting evenings, chatting about firearms, how to live independently… and talking about Belfast pubs, pub owners and musicians we knew in common.

It goes almost without saying that I, being a Samizdatista of the Inner Circle and this, being a good size farm, one thing led to another and I let off a few rounds at innocent metal cans with a classic rifle.

DMA with Winchester .22
The can never stood a chance.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

In case you are wondering; this early 1932-34 era example of the Winchester .22 some of you remember from Boys Life, was lovely and in good shape except that the sight had serious issues. My first two shots at the can, about 25-30 yards out in the woods, missed. I thought I had lost the touch or perhaps my eyes needed work. I watched my friend try and saw the puff as his round impacted well above and behind the target. That told me what I needed to know. I aimed about six inches below the can and sent it spinning. A small thing, but I have not fired a rifle in a little over twenty years, so there was a bit of satisfaction in watching the can go flying.

I also had my opinion of chickens completely changed. Most chickens I have run across peck at the ground and pretty much do their dumb bird thing. But one of his hens was different. It was hand reared and as soon as we got to the coop it jumped up to ‘talk’ to us and be hand fed and get its feathers ruffled. This one had a real personality.

A hen with charisma
This personable young hen introduced herself to me while being fed by her personal nutritionist.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Festive greetings from Samizdata HQ

Greetings from Samizdata HQ and best wishes to friends of liberty everywhere.

Tonight we feast on a roasted beast upon which Adriana has worked her sorcery, celebrating all the wonders that our modern technological society has wrought.

Wishing a year of champagne for our real friends, and real pain for our sham friends. Have a splendid Christmas, be it Godly or godless, as is your wont.





Perry de Havilland, Alec Muffet, Adriana Lukas, Michael Jennings & Brian Micklethwait behind the camera

And now for something pleasantly different

Right, nuts to the G20. Here is a fine appreciation of the late Dusty Springfield, one of the world’s greatest singers, who would have been 70 today.

Quick Friday quiz: name your favourite singers (male and female, both contemporary and classical).

Heading for the Pearl delta

I am going to be in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau and thereabouts from Friday evening until October 26. If we have any readers there who feel like meeting up for a meal/drink, please let me know. I have been to these places on multiple occasions before and so do know my way round, but if anyone can think of anything particularly idiosyncratic (or even particularly new) that I may want to do or see, also please let me know.

Samizdata pub of the day

It won’t last, but while it does

An Australian pub offering free drinks to women who remove their underwear and display it to patrons and staff will be investigated by alcohol licencing regulators, authorities said on Thursday.

The Saint Hotel in Melbourne has promised a “No Undie Sundie” event over the coming weekend, where woman who remove their underwear and hang it above the bar will receive A$50 ($39) worth of free drinks.

I wouldn’t like this. It’s not the female anatomy qua female anatomy. It’s more the other men who’d be there, yelling and drinking, and slapping me on my frail back. But me not liking something is not the same as me thinking something should be illegal. Sadly, it seems that “Liquor Licensing Victoria director Sue Maclellan” is not in the habit of making such subtle distinctions.

Good that Guido, to whom thanks, and who currently has this report in his Seen Elsewhere section, doesn’t just babble on about party politics, but from time to time at least notices more fundamental issues.

What near death experiences have you had?

Last night I attended a flat warming party, given by fellow Samizdatista and newly certified Brit, Michael Jennings, and very enjoyable it was. Just the right mixture of nice people I know well (such as Johnathan Pearce and his Missis, and I rather think I may have met the legend that is Thaddeus Tremayne), nice people I know a bit, and nice people I didn’t know at all. And while there I found myself trying to think of good party questions, to replace the often excruciating “And what do you do?” that can cause such tedium and such embarrassment. And rather to my surprise, I overheard myself asking a rather good party question, namely: Have you ever been near to death? The good thing about this question is that brushes with the Angel of Death are fairly random, and that quiet little bod in the corner is almost as likely as the grand and confident ones stage centre to have a good yarn to tell. Granted, if you have a very grand job which involves clearing up minefields in war zones, you’ll probably trump anyone who is merely talking about being missed by speeding bus by half an inch, but despite that tendency, this question, together with the answers it elicits, does take us all out of our everyday preoccupations and make us see the world, and the people in it (e.g. the strangers you meet at parties), a bit differently, just as nearly being dead itself does. Which is what parties are partly for, aren’t they?

Someone asked, by way of clarification, whether I meant that thing where you feel you are moving towards a very bright light. No, not necessarily. That’s a great story, of course, if you have one like that. But any terrifying or dramatic circumstance that could have killed you, and preferably which you knew at the time could have killed you, is a good answer. Having to tightrope-walk across a burning beam a hundred feet above the ground, being violently attacked or robbed, missing a plane flight when the plane you missed subsequently crashed, getting your toe stuck at the bottom of a swimming pool and thinking that this was about to be your last swim and your last anything, that kind of thing. Bright lights are strictly optional.

The best answer I heard last night was from a guy (one of the ones I’d never met before) who was doing some sketching or painting or whatever in Jordan, and was accused by some knife-wielding locals of being a spy. They held the knife to his throat. Luckily a third party convinced them that he was harmless, but for a few moments there … you get the picture.

My best near death experience was when I was a very small boy and I fell out of a second story window at my grandmother’s house. I landed on a small strip of lawn, right next to some very spikey railings. All I remember was waking up afterwards, so it missed that element of pure terror (“I really thought this was It” etc. etc.) that the best near death stories have, but like I say, that’s my best shot. An A&E doctor recently started choking me, while looking down by throat with a small, flat little wooden poker like you used to get with icecream, and I briefly experienced what death by asphyxiation must feel like. But I howled at her to stop which she did, and I never really thought I would die, so that hardly counts at all. My point being that this is not an excuse to tell my own personal right-out-of-the-stadium story along these lines, because I have no such story.

But maybe you do have such a story. This evening it occurred to me that this question would also be a good way of starting a Samizdata comment thread, and in a way that might take us away from our usual stamping grounds, of politics (appallingness of), space rockets and flashy airplanes and cars (splendidness of), and such like.

So, what near death experiences have you had?

The sun is out so let us set fire to lots of dead animals

I have eased up a bit on “serious” blogging the last few days – I almost felt I had reached the point of mid-summer blog burnout – and have been too busy with other stuff, not least work. But I cannot resist linking to these fine folk who have set up a blog dedicated to the ferociously competitive world of barbecue food. God, I feel hungry already. No doubt those citizens of Jefferson’s Republic are gearing up for 4th of July. In a moment of transatlantic solidarity, may I ask commenters what sort of BBQ’s they will be doing on that day to give me some ideas?

I’ll be back to bashing Gordon Brown and the rest of them later, I promise.