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.

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Honestly, I kind of like The Rings of Power. It’s slow, and the evident fact that there must have been an episode of ethnic cleansing in the Shire at some point between the era of TROP and that of The Hobbit is sad to contemplate. But whether the mind-wiped stranger will turn out to be Gandalf, Sauron, or someone new has caught my interest, and oooooh the fabrics. Trust the elves to develop the Jacquard loom early and then not bother with the rest of their industrial revolution.

Oh, and Liz Truss will be the next prime minister.

Konstantin Kisin delivers a master class…

… in calmly ripping an interviewer a new orifice. Behold and enjoy.

Samizdata quote of the day

Responding to his cancellation, Gilliam said it was “very sad that a great cultural institution like the Old Vic allowed itself to be intimidated into cancelling our production”. Likening the younger members of staff who lobbied Old Vic bosses to scrap his show to “Neo-Calvinists”, he added: “They are totally closed-minded. [To them] there is only one truth and one way of looking at the world. Well, ‘fuck you!’ is my answer to them.”

– as quoted by the Free Speech Union – “Three cheers for Terry Gilliam!” – rave reviews for a musical the Old Vic tried to cancel

Ohh, Jeremy Corbyn

Remember this? “Glastonbury 2017: ‘Ohh Jeremy Corbyn’ chant sweeps festival as revellers get political”

Last year, it was the universal disdain for the Brexit vote, myself waking up to megaphones announcing David Cameron had resigned and Boris Johnson may take the PM position.

This year, though, the people of Worthy Farm have a new hero, one to bring everyone together: Jeremy Corbyn.

Barely a moment goes by without someone chanting the Labour leader’s name to the tune of ‘Seven Nation Army’.

I had forgotten the link to “Seven Nation Army”. The Glastonbury set are fine with army-themed song titles – armies that actually fight, not so much: “Jeremy Corbyn urges west to stop arming Ukraine”

Jeremy Corbyn has urged western countries to stop arming Ukraine, and claimed he was criticised over antisemitism because of his stance on Palestine, in a TV interview likely to underscore Keir Starmer’s determination not to readmit him to the Labour party.

“Pouring arms in isn’t going to bring about a solution, it’s only going to prolong and exaggerate this war,” Corbyn said. “We might be in for years and years of a war in Ukraine.”

Corbyn gave the interview on Al Mayadeen, a Beirut-based TV channel that has carried pro-Russia reporting since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“What I find disappointing is that hardly any of the world’s leaders use the word peace; they always use the language of more war, and more bellicose war.”

Samizdata quote of the day

Only good stories matter, ‘representation’ should not be an objective in and of itself or daft things happen. That is why a super diverse cast in The Expanse works superbly but black elves in a Tolkien story are as laughable as Kate Beckinsale playing Martin Luther King.

Perry de Havilland

Boris Johnson’s evitable inevitable downfall

My paper paper and the online version of the Times have different headlines this morning. Royalty fills the paper, but online the focus has returned to the Commons:

Politics live: Boris Johnson faces confidence vote tonight

  • Sir Graham Brady announces confidence vote in PM to be held at 6pm
  • Rebels fear they do not have 180 votes to oust Johnson
  • Memo from backbench MPs brands PM ‘Conservative Corbyn’
  • PM booed outside St Paul’s thanksgiving service for Queen

    Boris Johnson faces a vote of confidence in his leadership today after the threshold of Tory MPs calling for him to go was reached.

    In a statement Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, revealed that 54 MPs — amounting to a 15 per cent of the parliamentary party — had now lost faith in Johnson’s leadership and want to oust him.

    The vote will take place between 6pm and 8pm tonight with an announcement of the result to follow shortly afterwards.

  • Perhaps I should mention for foreign readers that this is an internal Party vote of Conservative MPs, not a vote of the House of Commons as a whole.

    Though the prime minister will – probably – win the vote, to be facing it at the hands of his own party relatively soon after winning a huge Parliamentary majority is an embarrassment. He has lost his magic, and for what? There might have been a sort of glamour about a prime minister throwing it all away to sport with Cytheris, but Boris threw it all away to sport with Secret Santa.

    I am fascinated by the question of whether his troubles were inevitable or not.

    At the start, of course, they were more evitable than Eva Duarte. Boris Johnson, like Agustin Magaldi in the musical, could have evaded all this bother simply by saying “No” to the offer of some illegal fun that probably wasn’t all that much fun anyway. But he said “Yes”. Repeatedly. Involving hundreds of people, all of whom had these new “mobile phone” thingies that have cameras.

    What an idiot! Could he not have foreseen that it was inevitable that someone would blab?

    Well, yes and no. In the end someone did, but it took long enough. The Ur-party took place in May 2020, but the first “Partygate” stories only appeared in the press in late November 2021. Am I the only person who is oddly impressed by this?

    If it is OK to hit someone who insults your wife, is it OK to hit someone who insults your religion?

    The controversy on Will Smith hitting Chris Rock after the latter made a distasteful joke about his wife’s hair loss is interesting because it cuts across party lines. Though most politicians have made statements disapproving of Smith, some traditional conservatives and radical left wingers have both spoken in support of him. To take but two of many examples:

    – Representative Ayanna Pressley (D) said, in a now deleted tweet “#Alopecia nation stand up! Thank you #WillSmith Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults.”

    – Simon Hoare MP (C) said, “I’d just hope if someone thought it in good taste to make a joke at the expense of a medical condition of my wife then I’d get up and lamp him.”

    Me, I support Rock. His joke was cruel. Smith had a right to be angry. But I would rather not set the precedent – or rather go back to the precedent – that words justify violence. For why, see the title of this post.

    The new “Reacher” series on Amazon Prime

    I have been snaffling up the new series, Reacher, based on the hugely popular Jack Reacher novels of UK-born author Lee Child. They have become classics, as classic as the Travis McGee novels of John D Macdonald. (McGee lives in a boat, in Fort Lauderdale, and those novels are set in the 60s. Wonderful stuff.)

    Anyway, a new Amazon Prime series is out. Already, I detect a certain discomfort among some highfalutin types that the main character, played by Alan Ritchson, lacks “depth”. Ah, not enough politics, or angst, or regret at wasting the bad guys. Plus he seems quite a draw for the ladies. In other words, Reacher is solid, heterosexual, no-messing entertainment like a traditional Western, and you can just imagine how well that goes down in certain quarters.

    Anyway, I left this comment on a Facebook thread:

    I like the fact that the main character is not constantly haunted and full of angst (sure, we get a few flashbacks to when he was an Army brat and fought local kids, but that is not overdone). I like the fact that he looks as he was written by Child; I like his touches of wry humour, his obvious sense of honour, his stoicism and willingness to do the right thing, to be protective of vulnerable people. He does not subvert the essential heroism of the character by being snide, or making tongue-in-cheek quips, or drop political points. It is a breath of fresh air in the current environment.
    Comforting? Maybe. Remember that art, done right, is about enhancing life, of showing how life could be, not merely reflect it. Reacher is a sort of rugged hero, and we need them.

    Samizdata quote of the day

    Not only is it impossible to find the climate change satire in Mr. McKay’s movie that he claims is there. Alas, there’s no market for parodying the aspects most in need of parody. Millions of us have grown too comfortable pronouncing ourselves passionate about a problem we don’t bother to understand. Our politicians have stopped asking whether policies advanced in the name of climate change (e.g., electric cars) would actually have an effect on climate change. A certain kind of Harvard left-winger won’t countenance any proposal that doesn’t also fight capitalism, racism and patriarchy. A cadre of scientists make a profession of believing whatever the media needs them to believe. They are easily recognized because they employ the modifier “existential” for a climate problem that doesn’t actually threaten human existence. In this sense, “Don’t Look Up” fails not on its own terms, but on the terms its director foists on it, because no movie would be brave enough to take on the shibboleths that have subsumed the climate debate.

    Holman W Jenkins Jnr, Wall Street Journal ($) He is referring to the Netflix film Don’t Look Up.

    A shockingly misinformed tweet by Tim Worstall

    Someone called sarahknapton tweeted, “I know lateral flow is important etc but all these millions of bits of plastic ending up in landfill every day makes me feel a bit ill.”

    Mr Worstall replied, “Umm, why? Lots of bits of plastic in landfill is where those lots of bits of plastic are safe. Dig up the oil, use the products made from it, stick the used plastic back in the ground – the cycle of non-life perhaps. Maybe we should get a warthog to sing about it for the kiddies?”


    I love that song, despite the fridge horror of all those sentient animals submitting to being eaten. A happy new year to all our readers. May we find that place on the path unwinding that does not involve eating others or being eaten ourselves.

    Adam Smith: Father of the Fringe

    On Monday night I attended a screening of Dominic Frisby’s film Adam Smith: Father of the Fringe at the IEA.

    It is a documentary about how the government-subsidised Edinburgh Festival was usurped by amateurs who just turned up, organised their own venues and ticketing, and put on their own shows. The fringe festival was, and remains, a triumph of the free market. This is in spite of many of the performers being somewhat left-leaning. In the film, one comedian being interviewed points out that doing comedy for a living is very entrepreneurial, and that during the 80s most comedians were mocking Thatcher whilst doing exactly what she wanted.

    It is a funny, entertaining and informative film. Dominic Frisby tells a good story. During the Q and A afterwards, one young questioner said that he was worried about his generation because they all seemed to think socialism was the right way. He thought that films like this might go some way to convincing them otherwise. There proceeded some discussion about how a good story is often more persuasive than facts and logic. Dominic pointed out that most people saw themselves as wanting to be nice, and the prevailing view was that anyone not on the left was unkind and uncaring. Clearly some better marketing is needed.

    The counterpoint, demonstrated here, is that the state subsidised organisations are slow, curmudgeonly and favour the distinguished and established elites. The free market is for amateurs and small groups who experiment, fail, and provide much desired diversity of choice, interesting niche products and discovery of exciting new innovations. The film gives examples of all this happening at the fringe. During the Q and A, comparisons were made to YouTubers, who similarly provide diverse opinions and information on niche topics, as compared to the mainstream media who offer a narrow selection of often poorly researched information. It seems to me that the distinction between big and small organisations in general is relevant. Big companies who hold apparently unassailable apparent monopolies in some sector are regularly usurped by nimble startups despite the former’s capture of state favour.

    After the event I chatted with the director of the film, Alex Webster. He had pointed out that cheap equipment was one of the things helping those YouTubers. It turned out we both own the same camera: the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro. It is a relatively cheap device that can capture video with cinematic quality good enough for a Hollywood feature film. Blackmagic Design are making film-making cheap not just with cameras but with the editing, compositing and colour-grading software Davinci Resolve which anyone can download for free. This is one of the ways that young people with little money can develop their skills in film-making, and that small, independent, innovative, niche film-makers can afford to make their films.

    Perhaps there is a chance that fringe-like dynamics might come to the aid of those who have the desire and ability to improve the marketing of the idea of freedom by telling some compelling stories about it.

    A review of the new James Bond film that I thoroughly agree with – SPOILER ALERT

    Well, at last the new James Bond film has hit cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic. There may be countries where it is not yet on release, but it’s been out long enough I think for a commentary that contains spoilers to be published. If you don’t want to see this before seeing the film, then don’t linger here. Repeat: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

    I recall back in 2006 when Casino Royale came out, and here was my review back then, all 15 (gulp) years ago. I watched the film along with a few other conspirators, such as Perry de Havilland, if I recall. I generally liked it – I think Daniel Craig did a great job, and elements of the original novel were kept in, while added to for a modern audience. The subsequent films never quite lived up to the first one, in my view, although I read a lot about how great Skyfall was, but I disagree (I think the whole sentiment of the film was gloomier than the glummest John Le Carre story, but without the caustic LC wit.) But even so, Daniel Craig has, so I read, delivered Bond to a “new generation”. And the franchise of Eon-produced Bond films is almost 60 years old. Even if you don’t equate longevity with greatness, that’s pretty damned impressive.

    I have seen a lot of commentary from those who claim No Time to Die is somehow a great film, but a few are very upset, even angry. I have very mixed views on it, but the more I think about it, the more I think this is a bad film, made my people who have fallen prey to shitty ideas, and who make the crucial error of conflating moral seriousness with being miserable. In fact, this error is not remarked about enough. You can be a baddass super-hero, and take what you do very seriously, while having a smile on your face and enjoy life at the same time. Think Zorro, think the Scarlet Pimpernel, etc. Everything now has to be full of angst, of “self-loathing” and be “gritty” (one of the most tediously over-used epithets in culture today).

    Let’s start with one of the biggest initial reasons people got wary about this film. The Nomi character, the “new 007”, as played by Lashana Lynch, is every bit as passive-aggressive at first as the trailers suggested, but in fact the “wokeness” of the film, and of her part in it, isn’t nearly as bad as I feared. She comes across as one-dimensional; there is no real development of her character. You cannot warm to her and want to take her side. In a way, this is what happens when film-makers try to make films more supposedly progressive but in fact let themselves down. A pity.

    The action scenes in general are very well done. Say whatever one likes about these films, but the production quality remains outstandingly good. Some of the fight scenes are great. The locations are generally good and we get a bit more time in this film to sample the atmosphere (Jamaica, Cuba, etc) than in earlier Craig efforts. The early Connery films were so good is that you felt you were really travelling with him to places such as the Caribbean or Turkey, or in the case of the George Lazenby film (which is arguably one of the best ever), Switzerland.

    There is a little bit more humour here, even though Craig remains the Grumpy Bond. The rapport he has with Jeffrey Wright, playing Felix Leiter, is nice. Supporting cast members such as Ralph Fiennes as M are good as well. The chap playing Q has quite a lot to do; he has a nice, sharp sense of humour as well.

    But the central features of this film in terms of plot and how the film ends, mean that NTTD represents something very bad, and I fear that Barbara Broccoli and the others may have taken the series off a cliff, and I am queasy about what comes next. I have tagged this post under “culture wars”, because I cannot help but see NTTD as yet another instance of what might be called the Cancel Culture. Bond, as baddass Alpha male, suave and in control, dispenser of smart-alec quips as he crushes the evil guys, is dead.

    Anyway, here is an example of how cheesed off people are. I saw this on Facebook. The article is written by a chap called “Charles”. I have taken out a few paragraphs, but here goes:

    Bond films got popular being FUN movies celebrating triumph — not being deep serious heavy tragedies evoking misery. For decades, JB film fans went for thrilling entertainment which leaves them feeling good — not for painful adult psychological realism which leaves them feeling bad. [Yes, I know about OHMSS: one movie, 52 years ago.] After decades of this continuity, the fans naturally expect a Bond film to be exciting optimistic escapism.

    It seems to me that the whole team responsible for the NTTD story doesn’t understand the core reasons why Bond films have been so popular for 59 years (or perhaps they presume to push the fans to change their preferences).

    Wanting Bond movies to be just enjoyable entertainment — showing the thrill of surviving danger, loving the joy of living in the moment, celebrating courageous victory over evil — is a perfectly respectable adult mentality. Not every adult movie has to induce the emotions of tragic misery. Let other movies (not Bond) do that.

    Disliking the infliction of prolonged misery into a Bond movie doesn’t mean the unhappy fan is immature, or wants to see Bond be some offensive example of pathologies (contrary to sneering assumptions by some fans). If some fans object to seeing JB movies delivering a doom & gloom fest, that doesn’t mean they want JB movies to be an Austin Powers clown cartoon. Between these two extremes, there is a good middle zone of exciting adult stories which celebrate brave triumph.

    Barbara Broccoli and M.G. Wilson are stewards of a global legacy of good will and inspiring imagination, enduring 59 years. As stewards of the Bond film legacy, they seem to be either indifferent or incompetent. It seems they let Daniel Craig make his last JB movie become whatever he wanted it to be, for his own personal gratification as an actor, disregarding how it violates reasonable expectations of the fans. DC’s agenda to make JB realistic, complex, deep, etc. was incompatible with the history of Bond movie popularity. [He says he’s “too serious” and “moody”.] They let him impose his sensibility (and serious artistic ambitions) onto NTTD so much that the story violates the abiding concept of the franchise.

    In a recurring adventure series, killing off the hero shows that the storytellers have run out of good ideas or that they have lost their confidence that they can write an effective story in which the hero is victorious. Killing Bond in NTTD reminds me of the first Mission Impossible movie, in which the leader of the good guys (Jim Phelps) is a traitor who kills most of the team. That kind of plotting choice is a cheap stunt — hoping to stun the betrayed viewer into thinking that the plotting was impressively daring or inventive. Nope, it’s just a violation of the covenant between the storytelling team and the fans of those characters.

    Bond’s death in NTTD was so contrived. The story could’ve been easily rewritten for him to survive and triumph again. For those who say ‘But he had to die, because of X’ — That ‘X’ part could’ve been easily rewritten otherwise.
    Bond didn’t just die; he seemed to quit trying to survive; choosing a kind of passive suicide. That’s one reason why his death felt so demoralizing to some viewers.

    Now I see that the warning for how this movie would go wrong was in the selection of the most recent two theme songs (for SPECTRE & NTTD). The previous song portrayed Bond as a fragile needy crybaby, and the new song conveys total emotional defeat and surrender — both songs utterly wrong for Bond films, which celebrate victory, joy, survival, pleasure, etc.