Thursday, December 31, 2020


Fighting Project Fear in 2016 -

June 18th 1940: cartoon by David Low in the Evening Standard

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Facebook: dumb and dumber

I tried today to share an interesting item with my brother, via a Facebook post; but a robot censor intervened and their complaint system has somehow failed.

Here is what I tried to say the second time, through the electronic muzzle strapped to my face by FB; this too was blocked:

I was going to preface this with an ironic comment* about recent allegations re these two countries but the moronic and totalitarian system of censorship at FB automatically interfered, saying 'Your post couldn't be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards.'

When I explained, saying 'This is an historical essay showing how Russia prevented the breakup of the USA despite the enmity towards the latter of France and Great Britain. May I say I deeply deplore your system of automatic censorship,' it replied 'Your request couldn't be processed. There was a problem with this request. We're working on getting it fixed as soon as we can.'

*using the phrase 'Russia collusion'; but what's above was also blocked, so it's the link itself. Presumably FB is actually blocking certain websites or subjects. 

It's time high-handed monopolists like Zuckerberg were called to account. They have clearly become publishers rather than mere platforms.

Sex, cruelty and antisemitism; by Sackerson

Two more episodes from the 1946 autobiography of E L Grant Watson, looking back on a late-Victorian childhood.

(a) Grant Watson's mother sent him to a newly-established experimental school, Bedales. The headteacher seems to have hung back from imposing the discipline common in standard public schools but unfortunately this merely allowed a culture of bullying to develop among the boys. Attempting to rectify the situation indirectly, the head began to admit girls, but the conventional sexual restraints of the age dominated; the author (who later went through Freudian analysis) thought, harmfully:

'The headmaster, that highly cultured, idealistic and all too pure repressor of desires, was, of course, the father-substitute. He was the 'Old Man', and he, in the unconscious, possessed the girls who were forbidden to us. We, his sons, lived under the almighty power of Taboo. But we were allowed less outlet than were those suppositional sons of the First-father. His sons were driven out into the wilderness to practise homosexuality. But no such relief for us! Smut of any kind, even a hint of it, was the worst of sins, and our naturally developing sexual urges must find other expression: in cruelty, in an inflated idealism, in fantasies of superiority, and every kind of priggishness and prudishness, and in fact in any kind of high-tension absurdities...' (my emphasis)

Does this go some way to explain the rigidity and cruelty of seventeenth century English Puritans, and the modern Islamist Puritans? Perhaps; though human aggression and cruelty seem common anyway. Still, far less dangerous to see ourselves as sinners than as the Elect.

(b) In 1900, he was sent to Heidelberg for the summer/autumn, to learn science because it was not taught well in his English school (perhaps, in many English schools). A German he met on the sea-voyage 

'talked with great enthusiasm about the glories of Germany and the inferiority of England. Germany was going to rule the world. He was indeed a prophet of the Herrenvolk...'

In southern Germany he found the people punctiliously polite, friendly and hospitable, yet one day:

'I was in a restaurant with Fräulein Müller and Herr Burn [a Scottish student at Heidelberg University]. A group of German officers came in; there was something not to their liking; discussion and raised voices. A group of peoplewho were sitting at a table nearby got up abruptly and retired. What was the fuss about? I enquired. The officers had objected to the presence of some Jews. That the Jews had had to go set me wondering. I had not been Jew-conscious before, except in so far that I knew that Jews usually got bullied at school.' (my emphasis)

This was long before the little Austrian corporal made himself felt. I haven't read much about anti-Semitism in both countries during the nineteenth century, but clearly there was a deep and very nasty vein of it.

Friday, December 25, 2020

A very happy Christmas to all, from Wiggia

At the end of what can only be described as a horrible year on so many fronts, with pestilence and politicians vying for the top spot on most people's hate list there has been little to raise a smile and less to raise a glass to.

Of all those stories that have been swamped by the endless bad news and prediction one stood out for me; I suppose in a year when man buggered up almost everything he got involved with an animal story was the perfect antidote.

These elephants were originally said to have raided a corn wine store in southern China and got drunk. The story went viral and the picture above of them sleeping it off was shown world wide. Subsequent information claimed they were not drunk but just resting; by then no one cared, it was just such a good story true or otherwise, after all we have lived through a year of disinformation and all of it was doom and despair, this story was not.

So sleeping it off or just resting, either way the elephants showed the best way to beat the blues: find a nice spot lay down and forget about it all.

Cheers and a happy New Year!

FRIDAY MUSIC: Seven for Christmas Day, by JD

Nollaig Chridheil - Feliz Navidad - Merry Christmas !

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

No room at the inn, by Sackerson

Some things stick in the mind. 

London, c. 1890: having lost her two-year-old second son, the wife of a successful barrister has been sent on a long sea-voyage with her toddler first son to Australia to recuperate. While there she learns of the death of her husband from typhoid fever, leaving her with no savings and only a modest life insurance payout. She returns to England and the house lease and furniture have to be sold. What to do next?

Almost before my mother had become aware that she might be regarded as a poor, and consequently unwelcome relative, she had called on one of her elder brothers for advice and help. She was told that he was out; her sister-in-law did not ask her to come in, but sent her a verbal message to the door reminding her that her brother was a busy man. This was the only snub that my mother laid herself open to. From that time, she fought her battles alone.

From the autobiography of E. L. Grant Watson, 'But To What Purpose'

Sunday, December 20, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Photo Journalism (part 2), by Wiggia

It is very easy to tip over from photojournalists to photographers, and I have tried not to do that. Especially where the press is concerned, photographers can often be photojournalists by accident but not by a general desire to follow a particular subject and record it.

The press photographer has been hit a lot harder than the photojournalist in this digital age. 'Citizen journalists' as the press now likes to call them (horrible term, conjures up images of Robespierre), who record on their mobile phones do have a role to play as mentioned earlier - the immediacy of someone on the spot is impossible to replicate; but two problems emerge: one is quality, a snatched shot which the majority are, with a poor quality mobile phone, may well have the immediacy but will lack all that a professional photographer can extract from the same scene; also many of these citizen journalists are attached to and travel with causes which means the view of whatever is recorded will be biased towards that cause.

The endless video recordings taken of protests etc, from the top of buildings and out of windows are not exactly front line journalism. Even if it is all that is available, we are losing something with this rush to save money and have the public supply all the images.

Back to photojournalists: some specialise in a subject all their working life, they become immersed in it as a daily task and build up significant and important portfolios over time. One such was Walker Evans who was not alone covering the great Depression in the USA but was probably the most prominent.

He is best known for his work with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the great Depression and much of his work is in museums' permanent collections as well as being in retrospectives.

This image of Allie May Burroughs taken in 1936 became a symbol of the depression and was widely distributed.

Several other also became symbols of this period including this family group:

Bud Fields and his family Hale County, Alabama ‘36-37.

When people today talk today about deprivation and ‘food poverty’ they should be made to take a good look at this image.

Evans spent some time in Havana before the depression and during this time met Ernest Hemingway. He gave Hemingway some 40 prints to smuggle out because he thought that the Customs would not allow what could be construed to be ‘negative’ images out of the country, but he had no difficulty taking his own prints out of the country. The prints he gave to Hemingway were found in Havana in 2002 and later exhibited; Hemingway had never taken them with him when he left.

From what is here you could be forgiven for thinking that Evans was very much a ‘human interest’ photographer, but that is not totally accurate. He took some stunning shots of buildings in the deep South and more than one series of retail shop fronts, cafes and the like, plus a fascinating series using a concealed camera on the NY subway, but the Depression and those faces are his abiding legacy. This last one is not from the Depression but was taken in New York's 42nd Street in 1929.

Larry Burrows was an English photojournalist who started in the art department of the Daily Express in 1942. After learning photography there, they were probably the premier newspaper for their photographic output at the time, he moved to an agency, Keystone, and Life magazine.

His break came with Associated Press when he flew in a De Havilland Rapide at an illegal low level, to witness the destruction of the Heligoland U-boat pens in ‘47. It earned him a spread in Life magazine and launched his career.

After spells including covering Suez he then covered the war in Vietnam from ‘62 until his death in a helicopter there in ‘71 when he along with other photojournalists were shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Burrows was known as 'the equipment man' as he travelled with a copious amount of camera gear.

Burrows could never be accused of not getting up close and personal to the horrors of war at great personal risk, a risk that finally took his life.  

The work of Diane Arbus could easily be and often was categorised as the photographing of the freaks, the sub-normal of this world. On the face of it that is exactly what she did, but many of those in the marginalised groups she photographed were selected by her for different reasons.

She was the daughter of immigrant Russian Jews who owned a Fifth Avenue department store so she never went without as a child but that did not stop her recording those less fortunate during her photographic years. The Wiki entry for Arbus is long and interesting and needs reading to appreciate what was behind her photographs, some of which even today gave one an uneasy feeling when viewing, but that was the point of them. Her career started in fashion photography and celebrity portraits before her first foray into a different kind of street photography.

Suffering from depression and hepatitis she had huge mood swings and eventually took her own life at the age of 48; she left a note in her diary: ‘Last Supper.’

Woman in a mask

Another English photojournalist that covered the Vietnam war, as so many did, also had a portfolio of work from the streets and a large number of stars of the day and other illuminators. I shall stick with the others here as there is only so much of war chronicles we can take in one sitting, however good, .

Terry Fincher won an unbeaten number of Press Photographer of the Year awards. His career took off after accompanying British forces during the Suez crisis and later when with the Daily Express he did five tours of Vietnam and after that several Middle East and African trouble spots.

This image below of John Surtees on the MV Augusta stands out as a motor racing photo, as the face of concentration of Surtees is so well etched. Of course this was before full face helmets hid the face entirely, but none the less it is an outstanding image by someone not known for his capturing of sports.

The one below of James Stewart has a personal angle: we lived a mile from this airfield and I took gliding lessons there, something I always wanted to do but never got round to, and then never completed! The airfield is owned by the Norfolk Gliding Club who rescued it from development and put out an appeal for funds at the time.

Stewart served with the Army Air Force and flew B-26 bombers from the base and when he heard about the appeal gave generously to save the airfield for posterity and the crews who lost their lives flying from it. The photo is from 1975 when he revisited the site; the renovated control buildings contain a bar with a large picture of Stewart above it from his days serving there.

The next one prompts the question, did ’The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali ever take a bad photo? Probably not yet this one has a different angle and is still instantly Ali.

The image above was taken in 1966, it shows children playing outside the former home of John Christie the murderer, at No 10 Rillington Place. If ever a place lived up to its placement in history this one does, not exactly inviting; yet the children are obviously oblivious to its past.

It would have been easy to put up hundreds of images from those featured above never mind those left out, but I have tried as said earlier to keep it to photojournalists and not photographers, there is a difference in the way they operate.

Friday, December 18, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Eight for Christmas, by JD

A first selection - next on the day itself!

(Since this is a lead-in to Christmas, should we call it SatNavidad?)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Our future is not freedom but as live-in help, by Sackerson

German would-be world-reshaper Klaus Schwab has been making waves via his World Economic Forum, on the subject of 'The Great Reset', allegedly an appropriate response to a panoply of global systemic problems though to me it looks more like another example of centralising power-seekers 'not wasting a crisis.' Sky News Australia's Rowan Dean gives Schwab and the WEF's motley crew a once-over here:
Back in 2017, Danish MP Ida Auken sketched a millenarian future of passive, possessionless citizenry:

In 2030:

'I don't own anything. I don't own a car. I don't own a house. I don't own any appliances or any clothes...

'When AI and robots took over so much of our work, we suddenly had time to eat well, sleep well and spend time with other people. The concept of rush hour makes no sense anymore, since the work that we do can be done at any time. I don't really know if I would call it work anymore. It is more like thinking-time, creation-time and development-time.'

Question: what exactly will you think about? Or create? Or develop? This velvet-lined dystopia is designed so that you will change nothing of any importance; the first priority of a successful revolution is to ensure that there will not be another one. Auken's tamed human says:

'Once in a while I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. No where I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded. I just hope that nobody will use it against me.'

So, no dreams; they could get you into trouble.

With a certain brutal clarity, US-Mex billionaire Hugo Salinas Price has envisaged a different but parallel scenario: turning the clock back a century or more, to a time when even lowly suburban bank clerks like Charles Pooter had domestic servants. 

Here is a selection from Price's 2013 essay (

'If it were not for US government subsidies to unemployment, in the numerous ways in which they are offered, those in more comfortable circumstances in the US might be relieving poverty by taking on numbers of quasi-slaves into their households – to do the cooking, the washing, the cleaning, the gardening, the driving, the taking care of the children...

'If there weren’t so many rules that make hiring quasi-slaves for domestic work so expensive, no doubt a large number of unemployed Americans, amenable to accepting the facts of life, would find working in homes more agreeable than eating in food-kitchens...

'As the century wears on, realities will undoubtedly bring back slavery, at first in the very mild version of the present, but as life becomes harsher, out-and-out slavery will make its reappearance in the world. The imperatives of life will have their way: food, clothing and lodging in return for total obedience and work. This is an aspect of “Peak Prosperity” that has not been examined so far...

'The Democracy of Athens at the time of its greatness, when it became the impossible model for our times, consisted of all of 21,000 Athenians who were free citizens. It did not include 400,000 slaves of said democratic Athenians.

The French Revolution was a welter of blood, a suicidal revolt by middle-class lawyers against an elite that pushed its foreign war-making and demands for money too far; but the Industrial Revolution that made it possible to defeat Napoleon made history look as though it had a direction without swords and guillotines, a path towards increasing prosperity and individual freedom for the lower classes. 

This accelerated with the century of super-cheap energy in the form of oil; and in the aftermath of two world wars, the massive transfers of wealth from the British Empire to the United States plus the yet-to-be-developed markets in the East made it possible to believe the Fred Flintstone model of civic life: a working-class (Americans would say 'middle class') man able to support his family on his industrial wage, own a car and a detached house in the suburbs, have evenings and weekends off, join a Rotarian-type club, go bowling and so on.

But then the rich and powerful sucked up the increases in wealth by giving away the economy to foreigners; and despite attempts to reverse the flow, much of the 're-onshored' production as occurs will be performed by robots and Artificial Intelligence - white-collar middle class, look out. And the Internet - Amazon etc - is breaking the retail-outlet ladder to self-employment and personal independence.

History is turning back from linear to cyclic: work, feed, breed. Chances are, your descendants will 'own nothing and be happy'; as a servant in a rich man's house, or a wage-slave in a multinational company. Money has allowed the emergence of emperors without lands to defend.

And yet, what happened to the rich Mayans? Where are they?

Spare us your old man's dreams, Herr Schwab.
JD comments:

Three videos to see:

Chairman of the FMF Rule of Law Board of Advisors and a former judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Rex van Schalkwyk, delivers opening remarks at an FMF roundtable. (The sound is not very clear but it has subtitles)

The Dystopian "Fourth Industrial Revolution" Will Be Very Different from the First One

The United Nations and the Origins of "The Great Reset"

The Mises Forum videos mention the influence of Bill and Melinda Gates in this urge to reshape everything but as I think I have pointed out on previous occasions those leading(?) the 4th industrial revolution and the great reset are not exactly great thinkers, they lack common sense.*

Here is an example of that from Melinda Gates -

"Melinda together with her husband Bill have been the major funding source for pro-lockdown efforts around the world, giving $500M since the pandemic began, but also funding a huge range of academic departments, labs, and media venues for many years, during which time they have both sounded the alarm in every possible interview about the coming pathogen. Their favored policy has been lockdown, as if to confuse a biological virus with a computer virus that merely needs to be blocked from hitting the hard drive."

That last sentence is a perfect example of 'pious stupidity' ( a phrase I found in the writings of Frithjof Schuon)

* * *

Common sense by the way is not as Einstein described it - 'Common sense is actually nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind prior to the age of eighteen.'

It is in fact a real philosophy espoused by Thomas Reid -

Monday, December 14, 2020

Coming your way soon - the gold rush? by Sackerson

 I was intrigued by Wiggia's inclusion yesterday of the photograph below (Cartier-Bresson, Shanghai, 1948) and had to find out what was going on. It turns out this was a scramble to buy gold before the Kuomintang's currency vapourised.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Photo Journalism (part 1), by Wiggia

The great days of magazines like Picture Post are sadly long gone, and with them most of the great photo journalists and war photographers that filed so many magazines with their craft. The combination of the photo mags and those first photojournalists gave us what many consider the ‘Golden Age’ of photojournalism.

Today the instant fix of the mobile phone has managed to capture so much that professional photographers never could, the sheer numbers that are are in the right place at the right time has transformed much of what we see today.

Although the immediacy of this type of image making makes compelling viewing as images are flashed across the world by the internet, we have lost that craft and that placement those photographers gave us in the past. There are a few still in war zones plying their trade and also in the field of social photography, but it is not the lucrative trade it once was, and numbers are much reduced.

Newspapers have largely reduced their photographic sections down to the minimum, only sports photography appears to remain on a level similar to that of old and even there television and video have taken away a large chunk of the output. There do not seem even in sports to be the same images we had emblazoned in our memories today as we did in the past: I remember the Guardian, back when it was a newspaper worth reading, had numerous awards for its sports photography.

One of the last remaining war photographers alive, Don McCullin who in 1958 submitted a photograph of a London street gang to the Observer and as they say the rest is history. He worked for the Sunday Times magazine between ‘66 and ‘84 covering war and man made disasters, famines, building up a reputation for the highest quality of work.

In later life he has been involved in recording social life rather than wars, though not entirely and also became a prolific author. A film based on his life in his autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour is planned for the coming year.

Coming from an early career based on using film his comment on digital photography is apt: "Digital photography can be a totally lying experience – you can move what you want, the whole thing can’t be trusted really," though film was also manipulated. in different ways, and there are many examples of fakes going back to the beginnings of photography, some of which I showed in an earlier piece I did.

Homeless man


Shell-shocked soldier, Vietnam

The first time I saw this next image was on the wall of my brother's house in London. His first wife then worked for the Marlborough Gallery and knew Bill Brandt who gave her a copy of this image and another as gifts; it is taken on Primrose Hill near Regent's Park and has become iconic.

The artist Francis Bacon, Primrose Hill, London

Brandt was a social and landscape photographer in the main, though of the modernist school his work eschews the use of unusual angles, the impact is from the use of light to create mood.

'When I have found a landscape which I want to photograph, I wait for the right season, the right weather, and the right time of day or night, to get the picture which I know to be there.'
- Bill Brandt

Brandt was also known for ‘staging’ photos to get what he wanted: he used family members in shots, using his brother Rolf and sister-in-law Ester in some early works.

I wonder how today seeing images like this we can speak of poverty in the modern world. We of the older generation saw some of it, in the East End in my case, but even then we were coming out of scenes like this, though aspects of it still existed - when I first met my wife her parents' house still had gas lighting, today that is hard to believe, all in less than 100 years.

War photographers are almost a breed apart, to risk one's life as many did to get the ‘shot’ takes a special type of mindset that puts you in the frontline with nothing else but a camera as a ‘weapon’.

Of all the war photographers Robert Capa is the one who is most referred to, the best is a subjective word in this context and there will always be an image that will prompt one to say that was the best until you see another.

His life was in many ways as interesting as his photography. Robert Capa, not his birth name, was a Hungarian – American war photographer who was also the companion of Gerda Taro herself a photographer. Before he became an American citizen he established himself with his images of the Spanish civil war; in WW11 he covered some of the heaviest fighting in Sicily, Africa, Italy and then the Normandy invasion.

In 1947 he joined with Cartier-Bresson and others to form Magnum, the first co-operative of freelance photographers and spent most of that period helping others to become established. He did cover the war in Palestine and later volunteered for an assignment with Life magazine to photograph the war in Indochina and was killed by a landmine.

His relationship with Gerda Taro also had a sad ending as when fleeing Spain during the civil war before the borders closed Taro was hitching a ride on a lorry when it encountered a Spanish tank. It went off the road and she died soon afterwards. She was the love of Capa’s life but she would not marry him.

His work includes the controversial Death of a Loyalist Soldier, below,  described by many as staged and reputed to be taken in an area different from that as posted. Capa denied all those comments saying ‘In Spain you don’t need tricks to shoot photos, the pictures are there. you just take them. Truth is the best picture.'

The Falling Soldier


D Day

Somewhere in France

For many the father of photojournalism was Henri Cartier-Bresson. As with all masters of their craft he had an eye for the moment, so many of his images have you asking how did he manage to get that picture? His portfolio is superb and I was lucky to see an exhibition of his a couple of years back at the Sainsbury centre in Norwich.

Cartier- Bresson was born in France in 1908. He was a humanist, a taker of candid photographs and was really the forerunner to what we call today street photography. He came from a wealthy family in the textile business, went to a private art school but was discontent with what he saw as the rigidity in the teaching. He studied art literature and English at Cambridge University and became bilingual, and his first camera was purchased when he was 21. A convoluted story saw him escape to the Cote d’Ivoire and he sold pictures of game to survive, caught blackwater fever that nearly killed him and returned the same year (1931) to recoup in Marseille.

It was here that he embraced the surrealists, gave up painting and started on his stellar career as a photographer. He purchased his Leica camera and a 50mm lens in Marseille and that served him well for many years. it was the small size of the Leica that gave him the ability to remain unnoticed in the crowd when he took those early street photographs.

His first photojournalist assignment was the coronation of King George the V1 and Queen Elizabeth for a French weekly magazine Regards; his pictures showed the crowds and individuals, not one was taken of the King!

Brussels 1932

Hyde Park, England, 1937

Shanghai, 1948

Margaret Bourke-White was a first in many ways: the first American war photojournalist, she also had one of her photographs on the cover of the first edition of Life magazine and was the first foreign photographer to be allowed to take pictures in Soviet Russia of industry under the Soviets' Five Year Plan.

Her interest in photography started in her youth as a hobby when she lived in the Bronx. She went to several colleges and graduated from Cornell with a BA degree in 1927. A year later she left NY and went to Cleveland, Ohio where she set up a studio concentrating on architectural and industrial photography.

During WW11 she was attached to the US Army and spent time in Italy and Germany and the US Army Air force in North Africa. She flew as the first woman on a lead aircraft in a B17 on a raid on Tunis.

She became known as Maggie the indestructible having been torpedoed in the Med, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow and pulled out of the Chesapeake river when her chopper went down.

Later as she travelled through a retreating Germany with the army under Patton she was present at the arrival to Buchenwald where she says her camera shielded her from the horrors present in front of her.

Kentucky flood, 1937


DC 4 over Manhattan, 1939

And finally a picture of the lady herself taken by Oscar Graubner as she sets up for a shoot on the 61st floor of the Chrysler building. Despite her 'indestructible' title she had a long 15-year battle with Parkinson's before dying in 1971, but not before photographing Gandhi, Churchill and Stalin; an amazing woman and an amazing career.

Alfred Eisenstaedt became almost as much of a celebrity as those he photographed. In later years his images of stars and prominent people took over much of his work and he himself appeared with them in many shots.

A German-born American he began his career in Germany prior to WW11 and became one of Life magazine's photographers when he went to the States.

He was another who when the opportunity arrived took advantage of the small size of the 35mm Leica camera for its relatively low presence for his candid work.

From Wiki…..

Eisenstaedt became a full-time photographer in 1929 when he was hired by the Associated Press office in Germany, and within a year he was described as a "photographer extraordinaire." He also worked for Illustrierte Zeitung, published by Ullstein Verlag, then the world's largest publishing house. Four years later he photographed the famous first meeting between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Italy. Other notable early pictures by Eisenstaedt include his depiction of a waiter at the ice rink of the Grand Hotel in St. Moritz in 1932 and Joseph Goebbels at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1933. Although initially friendly, Goebbels scowled at Eisenstaedt when he took the photograph, after learning that Eisenstaedt was Jewish.

In 1935, Fascist Italy's impending invasion of Ethiopia led to a burst of international interest in Ethiopia. While working for Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, Alfred took over 3,500 photographs in Ethiopia, before emigrating to the United States, where he joined Life magazine, but returned in the following year to Ethiopia to continue his photography.

In 1935 his family and himself emigrated to the USA as the threatening situation for them in Germany became more obvious.

The Kiss, one of the most iconic images of all time, taken in Times Square on VJ day. The two participants did not know one another and Eisenstaedt said at the time he was in such hectic surroundings he failed to get their names; they were revealed decades later.

Of his earlier images in Germany and Ethiopia there are several that stand out, the German ones for historical reasons.

With Goebbels by then knowing that Eisenstaedt was Jewish this is not a look that would have given the receiver any joy.

I have to admit this is one photographer with whose work I could easily fill a whole piece. His almost endless list of stars and important people as well as those in the street are a joy to behold, all on top of all his other work.

The one below is from a series taken in Paris pre-war at an outdoor puppet show.

His other works included many using symmetry as the main ingredient, nowhere better than this one taken at La Scala.

And another combining the symmetry and the human element; the waiters are in St Moritz in Switzerland awaiting the performance of Sonya Henie the Norwegian ice skater who won three Olympic gold medals and ten world titles.

Impossible to nominate just one of his hundreds of stars and important people; who to leave out? Well, all but the two that I have chosen, not because they are necessarily the best but because of the warmth it shows in the subject; again one of a series, the name doesn’t have to be mentioned it is self-evident, taken in 1961.

The second is a rare candid shot of Churchill complete with cigar and siren suit. Churchill was not an easy subject as having an artistic bent he thought he knew better than Eisenstaedt about where and when the pictures should be taken.

My God, though, how we need someone of that calibre today!

Friday, December 11, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Gerry Rafferty, by JD

 I think most people will be familiar with the song "Baker Street" as well as the Stealer's Wheel song "Stuck in the middle with you."

Both were written by Gerry Rafferty, the latter co-written by Joe Egan. Both songs were commercially very successful. If there is a Gerry Rafferty song on the radio it will be one of those two and their success has tended to overshadow the fact that he was one of the best songwriters to emerge from the popular music scene of the 1960s which is why I have not included them here. There is so much more to choose from and all of it is very very good.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Build Back Better and the WEF's Great (green) Reset, by JD

“You’ll own nothing” — And “you’ll be happy about it.”
“The U.S. won’t be the world’s leading superpower”
“You won’t die waiting for an organ donor” — They will be made by 3D printers
“You’ll eat much less meat” — Meat will be “an occasional treat, not a staple, for the good of the environment and our health.”
“A billion people will be displaced by climate change” – Soros’ Open Borders
“Polluters will have to pay to emit carbon dioxide” – “There will be a global price on carbon. This will help make fossil fuels history”
“You could be preparing to go to Mars” — Scientists “will have worked out how to keep you healthy in space.”
“Western values will have been tested to the breaking point.” – “Checks and balances that underpin our democracies must not be forgotten”

Here's my response to Wiggia's excellent post about our government's desire for a new 'green' future and why such dreams are nothing more than wishful thinking -

I start with with Wiggia's closing statement about sustainable energy production and climate change:

The climate change scam is not so much a conspiracy but is more in the nature of starry eyed ignorance. If you look at the politicians, the civil service, the XR 'children' advocating this nonsense and other academics doing various studies, what they have in common is a lack of any practical experience: in other words they have never done any real productive work, they have never got their hands dirty, they have never mended anything, they have never had to solve a problem such as Wiggia's lawn mower not working. They are ignorant, not in the perjorative use of that word but they simply do not know. Book learning is the sole source of their knowledge and the theories expounded in book learning are all derived, with few exceptions, from the trial and error of practical experience. [1]

I was reading this on saturday in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph -

Victoria Coren wrote that she did her own mini repair with polyfilla on a skirting board and it gave her enormous satisfaction. And I smiled when I read it because she had done something which was a skill that is non verbal, she had done something which did not require her usual mode of thought and that would have been a revelation to her. [2]

One of the main ideas proposed by the Great Reset is that robots and artificial technology will transform our lives -

"Unprecedented and simultaneous advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, materials science, energy storage, quantum computing and others are redefining industries, blurring traditional boundaries, and creating new opportunities. We have dubbed this the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another." - Professor Klaus Schwab, 2016. [3]

My response to that is to reprise part of a post I wrote in January 2019 [4] -

"The big idea of today is that human beings are unreliable and should be replaced by computers"
John Michell; The Oldie magazine, October 2005.

The two paragraphs below are copied more or less verbatim from Brian Keeble's book

"What began as a way of duplicating human skill on a greater scale will end by replacing skill altogether in order to produce goods regardless of any human intervention. As a necessary part of the process any call for the control of machines, however desirable in human terms, is bound to seem illogical since it amounts to the destruction of the system for generating the wealth needed to perpetuate the consumption that underpins the social fabric."

"Such is the remorseless pressure of this process that it becomes, in due course, a sort of cannibalism, first of all destroying the machine minder through automation then in a further step destroying the machine by an economy based on the virtual reality of computerised information. At this stage the question of human needs hardly arises, having been displaced by the internal demands of the productive system itself. This 'system' possessing no vision of an end other than its own perpetuation, must eventually bring about its own destruction."

The current drive to a greener future and the desire for technology to play such a large part in our lives are both doomed to fail; the green future for the reasons set out by Wiggia in his post and the 4th industrial revolution for the reasons explained by Brian Keeble in his book, quoted above.

The proposed 4th Industrial Revolution is in fact a re-statement of the principle underlying a Techocracy; it leads inevitably to authoritarian governments and social engineering. [5]

So far in 2020 we have been given ample evidence of both of those trends. We are still, in the old phrase, lions led by donkeys.[6]


[1] Two of those exceptions are Brunelleschi's Duomo on the Cathedral in Florence and Brunel's bridge over the Thames for the Great Western Railway.
[2] 'When one is painting one does not think' - Raphael. That applies to any skilled task and every artisan knows it.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Green Deal - Good For us? by Wiggia

The inevitability of Boris coming out with his (is it his?) green deal whilst the virus farce continues was bang on schedule.

Bold headlines promised much; all are to be spared the ravages of climate change, electric is good everything else bad, jobs for everyone, endless investment and soon, just soon, we will all be living in those sunlit uplands so often promised but still eluding us.

A state of nirvana will blanket us, joy will flood our lives as driverless EVs transport us to wherever we wish after a call to Alexa, energy will be clean to assuage any lingering doubts on its source, it will also be so cheap everyone will have access and will bathe in a warm and comfortable environment, strolling through the Elysian Fields and thanking Boris for his wonderful gift to us all. Bollox: for entry into the Elysian Fields one had to be virtuous, well that leaves out Boris and most of the incumbents of the HoC.

Never, since the last one, has such a statement gone so unchallenged, announced as the country goes into free-fall and enormous debt. He hoses billions of our money in the direction of a goal that cannot be reached, not just in the time scale laid out; it is unachievable, "as any fool no." Why and how are they allowed to get away with it?

Progress and change go hand in hand. They cannot be forced without consequences; there will always be resistance to change, often unfounded but equally justified. This green deal is neither justified or desirable in the form set out. Even its basic assumptions are flawed: 'massive increase in jobs for British workers as we lead the world in this technology' - what part of this technology is he talking about? The technology we sold off and failed to take advantage of the first time, like nuclear; or the manufacturing at home of his beloved windmills?

Even now the Chinese, already the biggest suppliers of batteries, are going ahead with an enormous plant in France to supply Europe; Tesla are building a giant complex to do the same here. Nothing British about any of that, we currently only spend 29% of the money on wind farms here in this country; the 50% of the £50 billion promised to the wind farm industry has already been earmarked for spending abroad.

How is doubling the wind farm capacity going to make any difference on cold windless days, as we have had lately? On one the contribution by wind to the total energy output was just over 1.5%; spending billions will give us on the same days 3% and unless we have adequate backup eg nuclear we will have rolling blackouts - California has shown the way in this.

Does no one here ever read the news? It beggars belief that anyone would think it would be different here and it will get worse.

The demand that will be created if we change to EVs and replace gas with electric heat pumps alone will require huge changes, most of which have not been costed; although as with all things, like it or not the consumer will pay. This document from the National Grid lays out many of the proposed solutions and problems but is very short on feasibility and costs to the user.

The NG has quite a lot to say about hydrogen, which is more than Boris has; there is obviously a long way to go before hydrogen is pumped through the disused gas pipe system, so there will be no relief for some time yet, even if it is viable.

What we do know is the cost of replacing gas boilers with electric heat pumps, which themselves could be replaced by hydrogen/electric hybrid pumps, if we ever get that far, is astronomical compared with the gas boilers. Who will or can afford to pay between £10-15k for a replacement? If the government coughs up subsidies then again the taxpayer will have it added to his bill for going green.

Are there enough raw materials for all the batteries that will be needed? Another silence from those advocating the change. The lithium and cobalt needed is sourced from a tiny number of countries and one is the Congo, hardly a stable trading partner. The only answer I have seen to this question is that we must trust that battery technology will change, alleviating the need for these rare earths.

But battery technology has largely reached the end of the road with current types. Any new forms are in the experimental stage and have been for some years.

The disposal of these batteries at end of life has not even started, yet the business of scrapping millions of large batteries is another problem yet to be solved. The whole battery conundrum is itself anything but green from start to finish.

And they are not quite the panacea that climate change activists claim them to be:

What I think everyone has to ask is not whether all these things are possible - technological advances will always come up with an answer eventually - but why the rush? A cleaner, greener world is universally to be desired, but you cannot junk what has been the driving force of energy since the industrial revolution overnight. Also, why the narrow band down which this change is advancing? Coal and gas are plentiful as is oil; clean use of all three should surely be possible, while the other forms of energy production are refined or abandoned or discovered; it should not be one or the other. Wind in most cases is a dead end: any power supply that needs permanent stand by back up because of its reliance on a variable source by nature makes it expensive, you are running two parallel systems, but now we have the lunacy of going forward with wind and solar with little or no back up; unless more nuclear stations are to be commissioned, and that is a long term project with little sign of enough being done.

We are currently set in an anticyclonic condition for the best part of a month. The wind power today 29/11was just one gig, and we have been reliant on French imports at maximum for a part of this period. It doesn’t exactly fill one with hope that things will change when we go full-on for sustainable energy, and full electric everything; our own backup cannot cope with the shortfall now.

Boris also proudly boasted we would be leading the world in sustainable energy. He's a little late with that piece of malfeasance, the Danes are way ahead of us and are the leaders worldwide in the use of wind power.

At first glance they seem to have cracked it, but as with all in the land of eco believers not all you see is true. Several large pieces of information are missing; for a start they are the world's biggest wind turbine manufacturers which puts a dent in anything Boris claims about leading the way in this field; and of course, they are on our doorstep.

It is worth reading this as underneath the headline-grabbing 'Denmark has 100% energy powered by wind' several actualities are revealed.

For a start the Danes have never reduced their traditional power stations, they have enough interlocker connections to import electricity by up to 40% so the reliance on wind is offset by stand by power stations and imports when needed. There is very little information as to when the wind does not blow, that item seems to missing in all the hype about when it is, and the Danes pay the highest prices in the EU for energy, some is taxes and some is the subsidy for wind power.

It would be churlish to pretend that nuclear does not receive subsidies, but the difference is nuclear does not need a back up system, wind does and the indirect cost of that in Denmark or anywhere that has a significant amount of wind power is difficult to quantify.

Any counter arguments to the green ideology are reduced to little-read blogs and articles in small group papers, few get aired to the general public; this is one such article by Ruth Lea in 2019:


Phrases like ‘futile gesture politics’ are seized on and discounted because they go against the climate change narrative, rather like the answer to not locking down for Covid - ‘but if it saves one life...’ There really appears to be no balance allowed in any argument on the subject despite the fact you cannot beat nature anyway: if an ice age appears what are we going to do to stop it happening. There isn’t anything that can be done, there never has been, so why the difference over global warming which is also a recurring event over the millennia?

And at the other side of the argument we have scare tactics like this….

Coal is a dirty fuel, but why has there been no effort to use clean coal methods of energy production? It beggars belief that clean coal is not possible seeing the billions thrown at other unreliable energy projects.

The costs of clean coal are argued about but with sustainable energy having huge hidden costs that one day will come home to roost. In a sane world, clean coal has to be worth more experimentation, not just shoved in the 'don’t use' drawer.

One of the many problems climate change scientists activists and believers have, is their predictions of global meltdown. Their apocalyptic scenarios have all come to naught, so why should anyone believe them? At this moment in time I am looking out of my study window and we have heavy snow; remember this from that centre of all things climate change in the UK, the UEA in 2000? -

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

He must be an associate of Professor Ferguson, who has never got a prediction right.

One of several abandoned wind farms in California: a blot on the landscape and a sign of the future?

And how much would any of those same scientists likely to actually bet their house on this actually happening; any?

Mind you, if that phone monstrosity should ever go beneath the waves it would do us all a favour.

The figures for the extraction of rare earths and metals for battery production are shrouded by the mists of those who don’t want you to know. So many conflicting ‘studies’ have been published it is impossible to pin down how much of these materials, lithium and cobalt in particular, are actually available and over what time frame.

Currently we have not even started to feed the monster that battery production will become if the way forward laid out by the likes of Bojo comes to fruition.

The bottom line from that piece, according to Argonne National Laboratory, is that “the available materials will not be depleted in the foreseeable future. … Known lithium reserves could meet world demand to 2050.”

If correct 2050 is when we all go total electric and the demand for batteries will be immense as will the demand for the materials to build them. Alternative types of battery have been in the pipeline for some time but are yet to see the light of day, and meanwhile the lithium ion battery has nearly reached its limit in development.

New battery technology needs to come on stream much earlier than predicted, lithium batteries being inherently unsafe as they use a flammable liquid as a conductor, and when new batteries start being used, who will want vehicles with the old lithium ones? And will the current price of between 30-50% of an EV that is the battery component come with the advent of solid state and the like. If it is expensive technology EVs will remain out of reach for many in the foreseeable future.

Another problem with current EVs is battery size equates to range, but that brings with it weight and safety issues plus an increase in costs that far outweighs those of conventional ICE vehicles.

And the cost of replacement? The price is coming down, the guarantees on the batteries vary quite a bit at the moment, assuming your car is a Nissan Leaf you have guarantee for the battery to retain 75% of its charge for five to eight years depending on battery size and /or 100,000 miles which is actually not bad, though the older ones are only to 66%, which in a car with a limited range is a big drop in mileage that can be covered. If you keep the car beyond those dates and you have to replace, the cost from a dealer is just under £5k which for a small car of that age would mean junking it rather than replacing the battery as it would be uneconomic. The hope would be that as in the USA third party batteries would appear at much lower costs.

 If you have a Tesla S you are in for a shock (electric joke) as the cost is around £40k, so those bigger batteries have to come down in price to make economic sense; the old adage 'wait till the technology is sorted' stands well here.

Tesla’s warranty conditions can be seen here and are similar apart from the caveat that brought about a class action lawsuit, updates can alter your battery in a negative way and there is no warranty cover. That may change but would be an expensive worry to a prospective purchaser.

What would stymie the third party battery business is if as with other items like cameras you end up with certain manufacturers making the micro chip technology unavailable to third party manufacturers. If that were to happen there is a problem as there would be nowhere else to go other than an official dealer and you would pay the going rate. That already happens with some standard batteries now, you can get third party ones but an official dealer will charge you to reset the onboard computer so it is useable and then charge for that on top of the battery costs. This is a contentious area.

Range in these cars, particularly the smaller ones, is optimal in summer conditions and day time running, but winter, lights, heater, windscreen wipers all make big inroads into the range available. I read somewhere that in colder climes owners fit diesel heaters to extend the range, which rather defeats the whole point of EVs.

Man has a way of finding solutions and no doubt will re batteries and powering of items from phones to EVs. The real problem, at the moment unsolvable, is the production of energy using ‘sustainable' wind and solar: if that sort of production becomes mainstream the demand for back up becomes even more imperative, which leads us to question why we are going on this uncertain and costly route; it is not to save the planet, our efforts even at the maximum predicted won't even scratch the surface. No wonder people think the climate change scam is a conspiracy.