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]

Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

Hector Drummond has some views of the rotting state of popular culture…

Dr Who actually died in 1981, although that fact wasn’t apparent until much later. He died when Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davidson. Davidson was clearly an inferior actor, at least in that role, but Doctor Who fans thought that the show would rise again. Of course it didn’t, with more and more unsuitable actors taking on the role, and the writing got more and more left-wing to the point where even the ordinary viewers could see that the show was essentially about politics rather than science-fiction.

Some Dr Who fans are still very upset that the BBC killed it off in 1989, but the show had become an idiotic waste of money, and had to be put out of its misery. It had become obvious that Dr Who was no more. He was an ex-Doctor.

When Russell T. Davies revived the show in 2005, it seemed like the good Doctor was reborn, especially when the unsuitable Christopher Eccleston was quickly replaced by David Tennant’s more traditional interpretation. But the show went gradually downhill, and then politics started to take over again. The best episode of those years was Blink, the first weeping angels episode, but it was noticeable that that hardly featured the doctor.

I started to gradually lose interest, especially after episodes where the moon turned out to be a giant egg, which made me hide behind the sofa, not in fear but in embarrassment. And when they started to overdo the historic episodes where the doctor turns out to be great buddies with famous historical figures. Plus the new episodes had relationships and romance in them, and that just wasn’t Dr Who. And they messed with things you shouldn’t mess with, like the Neil Gaiman episode where the Tardis turned out to be a madwoman. Oh, and the Doctor turned out to be married to the most annoying woman in the Universe, except perhaps for Polly Toynbee. It’s making me pissed off just recalling this stuff as I’d sort of repressed it.

→ Continue reading: Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

The First Man and the unfashionableness of optimism

A week or so ago I went to see The First Man at the cinema. At first it seemed to do a good job of turning historical figures into real people. The domestic lives of the astronauts contrasted with the bravery of their test flights. There were lots of scenes of worried housewives which seemed believable enough. Armstrong is portrayed as a serious engineer with good attention to detail. He makes some mistakes which his bosses put down to being distracted by his daughter’s ill health. After she dies, Armstrong is understandably never truly happy. He does not express his emotions, and tells one friend who tries to talk to him, “if I wanted to talk to someone, do you think I would be standing out here [away from everyone]?” I like that line: I have felt like that at times.

When the Gemini 8 flight has problems, his wife hears about it and she goes to complain that her audio feed has been switched off to protect her from hearing about what is going on. Don’t worry, she is told, we have everything under control. No you don’t, she retorts, “you’re a bunch of boys playing with balsa wood models.” There is a certain truth to that line which I enjoyed: it is hard to have complete understanding of a complex enough system, and there is a certain playfulness to engineering.

There is a montage about protestors complaining about the cost of the Apollo program and listing better ways of spending tax dollars such as by helping poor people. We see Gil Scott-Heron on stage reading his poem Whitey On The Moon. It made sense to portray these things in the movie.

A lot of Armstrong’s colleagues are killed. The Apollo 1 cockpit testing scene is hard to watch if you know what is coming. A lot of the movie is spent with Armstrong taking the deaths hard. There are a lot of funeral scenes. There is a scene where Armstrong’s wife makes him explain to his kids that he might not survive Apollo 13.

They fly to the moon. I have a big criticism of the cinematography: I am sure spacecraft do not vibrate that much. There must be other ways to portray speed and acceleration. They fly home. Once home, Armstrong’s wife visits him in quarantine. He seems sullen. She seems sullen. The End.

And then it hit me: no-one is happy about going to the moon. There is no pride, no sense of achievement, no celebration of the accomplishment whatever. All we learn is that we are doing it to beat the Soviets, it costs a lot of money, there is a huge human cost, people worry and suffer, relationships are strained. This is a joyless movie. It portrays no up-side. The closest we get to any kind of positive commentary on the Apollo project is when Armstrong first applies for the job. The superiors ask why he wants to go to the moon and he answers with a speech about mankind’s need to explore. The superiors seem skeptical, but pleased: the message is that this guy can be trusted to say the right things. Being happy about going to the moon is for the stupid masses.

On my bookshelf I have a couple of anthologies of the Eagle comic from the 50s and 60s.

Phosphates for The World

They feature cutaway drawings explaining wonders of technology, present and future, all of it wonderfully unapologetic. We are doing awesome things and we will do even more awesome things soon, kids are told. Today’s teenagers are bombarded with worry and pessimism. BBC Focus magazine is a science magazine that seems to be aimed at young audience and it features an article about climate change and how having children is bad. The Week Junior seems to be full of articles about endangered animals and banning plastic. If I did not know that most of the terrible problems are not terrible problems and that the world is in general getting better, I might be a bit despondent about all that. If I was an impressionable youth I might rebel against it; I hope they do.

Let’s save time and outlaw humour entirely

This video clip (which has English subtitles once you eliminate the advertisement at the bottom) shows the left wing French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon behaving unpleasantly.

I know. The jokes write themselves. But I was a little surprised to see a man often called “The French Jeremy Corbyn” display such un-PC (and to be fair to Mr Corbyn, un-JC) contempt for a journalist, particularly a female journalist, merely for speaking with a less prestigious regional accent. Reuters has an account of the exchange here, and this is a slightly longer version of the video with some French subtitles that shows the build up to Mélenchon losing his temper with Veronique Gaurel, the journalist in question. His claim that he does not understand her question does not convince. It looks a lot more like he understood it all too well and was desperately casting around for any excuse not to answer it.

Did you catch how he imitated her? Mr Mélenchon has shown a haughtiness that pokes a hole in his claim to represent the ordinary people of France against the elite. There has been an outpouring of support for Ms Gaurel, with many saying that his outburst was a reaction to her doing her job well and asking him a pointed question that remains unanswered. He will lose votes. That should be punishment enough.

But it never is enough for some people. France 24 reports,

French MP seeks ban on ‘glottophobia’ after Mélanchon mocks journalist’s accent

A French member of parliament has proposed that mockery of accents be outlawed, after an irate politician derided a journalist’s southwestern pronunciation before asking if anyone had a question in “understandable French”.

Laetitia Avia of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party said she was proposing a bill that would classify such mockery with other forms of prohibited discrimination such as on grounds of sex or race.

At this point we in the Anglosphere might be tempted to laugh in a smug way and say those Frenchies might submit to the abolition of a tradition of laughing at other people’s funny accents that goes back millennia, but we will never say goodbye to our ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Don’t count on it. How often have you laughed about the latest daft PC proposal from an obscure intellectual, a student union, or a minor politician, home-grown or foreign like Laetitia Avia – only to find five years later that it is a law you must obey?

Zaha Hadid Architects thrives

One of the more significant libertarians on Planet Earth just now is Patrik Schumacher, whom I have mentioned here before, several times.

Until recently Schumacher was the Number Two at Zaha Hadid Architects. But following the death of Zaha Hadid, he is now the Zaha Hadid Architects Number One. So, an important question for libertarians is: Can Zaha Hadid Architects keep going successfully, without Zaha Hadid herself, under Schumacher’s leadership? Given the dominant political attitudes within the architecture-and-design world these days, there are surely a lot of people now hoping that the answer will turn out to be: No.

A report, complete with dramatic pretend-photos, that you can read and see here, courtesy of the Daily Mail, of a new concert hall that Zaha Hadid Architects will be building In Yekaterinburg, give cause for optimism.

With concert halls, everything depends on the acoustics. It can look like the Palace of Versailles, but if it sounds wrong it’s a turkey. But acoustic science is now such that I am optimistic that this will be judged a successful concert hall, sounding good as well as looking stylish in a Zaha Hadid sort of way:

The point of this posting is that if Zaha Hadid Architects continues to thrive as it seems to be thriving now, that will be a win for libertarianism, because it will be such a very big personal win for Patrik Schumacher. Comment away all you like, of course – can’t stop you, wouldn’t want to. But whether you personally like the look of this new concert hall is beside my main point here.

As the late Chris Tame used to say: we need our people everywhere, and architecture-and-design is an important somewhere. Schumacher reminds me of the late Peter Bauer. Bauer was in a minority of about one in the world of foreign aid, back when he was alive and arguing. Schumacher is likewise something of a lone voice in his world in an equally significant way.

“The European Commission only has to win once”

Following on from Johnathan Pearce’s recent post about the EU Copyright Directive, I found this comment by a user called Ask_Me_Who in Reddit Europe. It dates from the first turn of the ratchet, back in June, but in the light of what has happened since it is more relevant than ever:

MEP’s can not create, amend, or reject proposals. They can act as a method of slowing them, requesting changes or rethinks of proposed policies, but if the other (unelected) parts of the EU want to force through a proposal they can just keep pushing it until it gets through in the knowledge that elected MEP’s will not have the power to propose future updates, changes, or abolition of legislation.

The European Commission only has to win once and it can never be repealed without the European Commission wishing it so. The people, as represented by elected MEP officials, have to win every time as they do not even have the option to vote in representatives to reverse a decision. This is the ‘democratic deficit’ that even pro-EU supporters widely acknowledge when they call for democratic reforms to the MEP system.

If you want to bring up the UK, the European Parliament works similarly to the House of Lords. The difference being that the Lord’s have been deliberately striped of much of their power specifically because they do not represent the people, while the MEP’s have never been given the power needed to actually represent the people.

EDIT- And if you think that’s depressing, since the Treaty of Lisbon (2007) lobbying has been an officially recognised and encouraged part of MEP’s decision process under the re-brand “European interest representation”. 30% of former MEP’s go on to work as lobbyists for major industries. Yeah, the people who only have to slip up once can accept weekly fancy dinners and then go on to make €€€ working for companies who give zero shits about what general public’s well-being.

Another example of the EU ratchet in action. No wonder they adopted the use of the neverendum so readily.

Film Review – Hurricane

Hurricane opened recently, I went to see it with the Sage of Kettering. The film tells the story of the Polish 303 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. The film starts with Polish pilots working their way to England in the chaos of falling France. One pilot, with some Swiss ancestry, pretends to be a Swiss Swiss watch salesman, another steals a biplane from a French airforce aerodrome, a fine Czech pilot is also in the Squadron. They end up at RAF Northolt, sharing the base with a plotting station and hence a large number of WAAF personnel, with predictable consequences.

The Poles appear to be a ramshackle lot, lacking the discipline and bearing that the RAF expects. A Canadian officer is given the apparently thankless task of knocking them into what the RAF would recognise as ‘shape’, the pilots (many very experienced and some aces) are frustrated as they are kept back from action whilst they learn English and how to manage their fine steeds. There is some humour as a truculent Warrant Officer is brilliantly mis-translated by one of the pilots as he barks to his colleagues.

It should be said that whilst the Hurricane, Sir Sydney Camm’s wonderful, chubby little puncher is the nominal star of the film, with it featuring in all the fighting and airfield scenes, it hardly gets any mentions, except a passing comment that a pilot thinks it is wonderful. They start off with training flights and escorting Blenheim bombers (There is still one flying in the UK, for what those guys went through, here is a 1989 documentary). Some of the Polish pilots are sent off to bombers, despite their experience. From what I have read, at the time, RAF training didn’t include simulating combat or even gun firing for some pilots. The Poles harmonise their guns at around 150 yards, because they like to get close before firing.

After a bit of indisciplined flying (breaking mission orders by going to attack German aircraft), the squadron is declared operational and success starts to come, one pilot has the foresight to make a rudimentary chapel in an old hut. News of their success spreads, Air Chief Marshal Dowding and Sir Keith Park discuss the squadron and are pleased with it (there are no politicians in this film). They are not introduced, and the actor playing Dowding looks a bit more like Park than he does Dowding imho, but you eventually find out who they are).

The Poles have a constant awareness of the horrors being visited on their homeland, going to the Polish government-in-exile offices for invariably bad news of relatives executed, which the film shows in grim ‘flashback’, one shot by firing squad, another NKVD-style, another hanged. The contrast with the attitude of the British, who seem to regard the war almost as an unpleasantness is brought out with a trip to the Dorchester where Society ladies treat the pilots to a reception in their honour, which turns out to be an awkward occasion. A press visit to the Squadron ends with one reporter getting punched for ghoulishness. The generally good publicity leads Dowding to hope out loud that it might induce friendly volunteer pilots from overseas to turn up and help. Relations with the Poles and British crews aren’t good at the start, but they improve. May I digress? There is a little bit of a sub-plot with a passing incident of ‘domestic violence’ towards a WAAF, which may explain why there was an advert in the trailers for Women’s Aid, which to me gave the misleading impression that only men commit domestic violence, the man in the trailer hits the woman, but he vapes rather than smokes, you can’t show really bad things you know. In the film, everyone seems to smoke, well, not when refuelling.

The film suffers a bit in the depiction of aerial combat, the CGI has an old video game feel to it at times, and we appear to be seeing the same scenes over and over again. As the film goes on, they start to take casualties, some get horribly burned, some crack up and can’t get themselves to kill Germans. The film does not pretty-fy the war, it does get across the burning hatred that the pilots had for those who had destroyed their homeland. At one point, a British officer says that they will be back in Warsaw soon, and the Sage and I muttered ‘1989’ and ‘1990’.

The film skips forward to the end of the War once the Battle of Britain concludes, the characters not apparently any older 5 years on, and the Poles are excluded from Victory Parade, and they are fully aware of what Stalin is doing to Poland, and they are told that they are to be booted out and sent home, one of the Attlee government’s choicer crimes, but it turned out that many were allowed to stay or emigrate to a third country. Some of the pilots are seen in Civvy Street, one a newspaper vendor (apparently people used to buy newspapers). It cites an opinion poll stating that 56% of the British population wanted the Poles to be sent back to Stalin’s new Poland.

The film is a great tribute to those fine men and their ground crews and it’s well worth seeing if you get the chance. It’s better than Dunkirk, with its wet Bank Holiday at the seaside feel, if not as tense as Darkest Hour.

And we saw the film in Corby, after a fine carvery in Rockingham. Corby is perhaps a strong contender for the most soulless town in Britain, a riot of 1960s and newer architecture, complete with its own ‘mass hero’, the Steelworker. We go there, so you don’t have to. It does however, name a square for James Ashworth VC.

Do not read this!

The BBC reports:

European Parliament backs copyright changes

Controversial new copyright laws have been approved by members of the European Parliament.

The laws had been changed since July when the first version of the copyright directive was voted down. Critics say they remain problematic.

Many musicians and creators claim the reforms are necessary to fairly compensate artists.

But opponents fear that the plans could destroy user-generated content, memes and parodies.

Leaders of the EU’s member states still need to sign off on the rule changes before the individual countries have to draft local laws to put them into effect.

The vote in Strasbourg was 438 in favour of the measures, 226 against and 39 abstentions.

MEPs voted on a series of changes to the original directive, the most controversial parts are known as Article 13 and Article 11.

Article 13 puts the onus on web giants to take measures to ensure that agreements with rights-holders for the use of their work are working.

Critics say that would require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users, which many believe would be an excessive restriction on free speech.

Article 11 is also controversial because it forces online platforms to pay news organisations before linking to their stories, something critics refer to a “link tax”.

Julia Reda MEP, who has fought hard against this, says,

Catastrophic Article 11 vote: The European Parliament just endorsed a #linktax that would make using the title of a news article in a link to it require a license. #SaveYourInternet #SaveTheLink

and

Article 13 vote: The European Parliament endorses #uploadfilters for all but the smallest sites and apps. Anything you want to publish will need to first be approved by these filters, perfectly legal content like parodies & memes will be caught in the crosshairs #SaveYourInternet

A small silver lining to the cloud is that this move by the EU is particularly unpopular with just that crowd who usually love the EU most.

Listening to Patrik Schumacher

Podcasts don’t suit everyone. Simply, for many, they tend to take too long to make their points. They have an additional drawback for me, which is that I love to listen to classical music, i.e. the sort of music which can also demand a lot of time to make its various musical points.

This morning, for instance, I was happily listening to one of the very longest symphonies of all, Mahler 3.

But, I paused it. I paused it because my Twitter feed had told me about a podcast. I am listening to this podcast now. The guy asking the questions is someone American whose name I didn’t catch from the Centre for Innovative Governance Research, and the Podcastee, so to speak, the man answering the American guy’s questions, is Patrik Schumacher. Patrik Schumacher is the boss of one of the world’s most formidable architectural practices, the one founded and bossed, until she recently died, by the formidable Zaha Hadid.

Like classical music, the design of architecture, and especially of urban environments on a larger scale, seems to encourage dirigiste habits of mind and of action, politically as well as aesthetically. City planners tend to assume that cities have, so to speak, to be conducted (the German word for conductor being dirigent). Conducted, that is, by them. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Schumacher challenges these kinds of assumptions.

The American guy asking the questions has been very badly recorded. But it’s mostly Schumacher, and Schumacher, thank goodness, mostly sounds somewhat better. I am learning a lot about how Schumacher thinks and about what he does. You might too. The podcast lasts a bit over an hour.

Mahler 3 will have to wait.

What Neema Parvini thinks and what Neema Parvini does

Instapundit’s Charles Glasser calls this Quillette article “nail on the head stuff”, which it is. It’s very good. But, you know: very good in a way I am now fairly used to. If, like me, you are one of the many and extremely varied persons whom the left calls “extreme right”, and if you have been reading both inside and beyond your various internet bubbles for quite a few years now, this article will probably tell you little that you don’t already know.

Sample quote:

One side effect of dealing with political opponents in this manner is that the left has become increasingly accepting of straw man fallacies created out of their own righteous bigotry and refusal to respectfully address counterpoints. They have no concept of Jonah Goldberg’s philosophical world of Burkeans, Straussians, Hayekians and so on, because many of these people are so ignorant that they genuinely believe that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sit closely on a political continuum with Adolf Hitler. Hence, here in the UK, Labour activists burned effigies of Thatcher when she died and also draped a sign saying “HANG THE TORIES” over a bridge in Manchester, without any of their moralistic cheerleaders batting an eyelid. The left generally revels in its own distasteful behaviour not only without critique but also as still further confirmation of their righteousness. When you see your enemies as pure evil as opposed to trying to understand the merit of their ideas, bigotry becomes inevitable.

My main doubt about this piece is that its author, Neema Parvini, maybe attributes to “the left” rather too much of the same ignorant unanimity of thought that he accuses “the left” of attributing to “the right”. I agree that “the left” is more unanimous than “the right”, but there are still distinctions to be made within “the left” which are worth acknowledging.

But, Parvini makes many good points, especially in the small spreadsheet he offers, where he describes leftist definition hopping with words and phrases like “outmoded”, “here to stay”, and (a particular unfavourite of mine) “progress”.

But now for the really interesting bit, the bit where I was both very surprised and where I learned something seriously new to me. It comes right at the bottom of the article:

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Shakespeare and New Historicism Theory (2017) and Shakespeare’s Moral Compass (forthcoming 2018). He also presents a popular podcast series called Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory.

And there was me thinking that the literature departments of all the Anglosphere’s universities are now just swamps of leftist unanimity and sub-Marxist, post-modernist obfuscation, with all seriously dissenting voices silenced. Not quite so, it would seem.

Neema Parvini is clearly a man worth attending to. Especially by me, because I have long been a Shakespeare fan.

This evening Dominic Frisby is doing another try-out of his Edinburgh Festival Financial Game Show

Yes. Dominic Frisby tweets:

North Londoners. The next try-out of my Financial Game Show is Tuesday May 22 at @downstairskhead. Entertaining, informative, exciting. What more could you want on a Tuesday evening?

Get tickets here. More about the show here.

I can confirm that this is a fun show, having already seen two earlier try-outs of it. One of these was in my own home, at my last Friday of the month meeting on April 27th. And earlier that week, I attended the very first try-out of this show (to check out what my Friday was likely to consist of), and greatly enjoyed it.

That first outing was in the same venue, downstairs at the King’s Head, that tonight’s show will be at Despite the extreme contrast in the space he had available, Frisby then made his second try-out performance at my place work very well, because he is a good humoured, thinks-on-his-feet performer. Nevertheless, a bigger venue is certainly needed for the show to have its full effect. I’m thinking in particular of how successful competitors in the quiz, such as the lady I went with to the first show, get asked to sit themselves in different and more visible seats as they progress, none of which could happen in my postage stamp of a living room

Nevertheless, Frisby seems to find early run-throughs at my place helpful, because he did a similar early run-through of his previous Edinburgh Festival show at my home, a couple of years ago, and now here he was inviting himself back to do this year’s show. Glad to be of assistance.

Without giving away too much in the way of answers, I can tell you that Frisby’s questions all point to the subtleties and surprises and oddities of economic life, of the sort that are familiar to devotees of Austrian Economics, with its emphasis on the subjectivity of value and the way that economic decisions so often involve making sometimes rather strange bets about the future. The contrast in the price of this small but expensive house and that bigger but cheaper house; Fading Footballer A getting paid, counter-intuitively, more than Superstar Footballer B; that kind of thing. Frisby thus communicates an inquisitive and amused attitude to economic life that will likely draw at least some of the people who see this show in Edinburgh towards his more opinionated intellectual products.

Who knows, some of these people may even end up reading this book? I wrote admiringly about it here.

LATER: More dates here.

Don’t get cocky, kid

You know you are a nerd when you are avidly googling the name of the author of a series of erotic novels all of which feature the word “cocky” in their titles because of the interesting legal issues the “Cockygate scandal” has brought up.

Dale L Roberts vlogs about self-publishing. In this video published on May 7th he explains that Faleena Hopkins, the author in question, wrote a slew of “Cease and Desist” letters to other indie romance authors on Amazon using the word “cocky” in their titles. Amazon, with typical cowardice, removed these other authors’ books as soon as Hopkins asked them to. Worse yet, Faleena Hopkins’ letter to the other authors included the phrase “My attorney at Morris Yorn Entertainment Law has advised me that if I sue you I will win all the moneys you have earned on this title plus lawyer fees will be paid by you as well.” I suspect that Morris Yorn Entertainment Law are not entirely happy with this summary of their advice.

I came across this story via the fantasy/SF author Chris Fox. His nine minute video dated May 11th explains well why this incident should and did arouse the anger of the community of authors who self-publish on Kindle and similar platforms – but he also spares a thought for Hopkins herself. In the four days since the earlier video, the situation had changed dramatically – and the trouble with internet shaming is that even when some punishment is deserved, there is no off switch.

It’s a joke, you fucking cunts