Monday, November 28, 2022

Reopen the talent mines! by Paddington

As Heinlein pointed out, the natural state of Man appears to be poverty.

Two hundred years ago, a person living on my property was 10 miles from the nearest small town. If he didn’t plan ahead, he would starve or freeze in the winter. Thanks to advances in technology, all but the very poorest of us now have access to clean water, cheap and safe food, and terabytes of bad information and pornography.

These advances were the result of government investment in basic science, including semiconductors, computers, nuclear energy and the internet itself. The researchers who did most of this were middle class through and through. Most engineers and scientists still are, and gain their training through the public education system. The well-educated children of the rich become lawyers, bankers, and sometimes doctors.

The contest between the creative geeks and the leaders of our societies go back over a millennium.

During the Middle Ages, many of the skilled workers were represented by the guilds, including the Freemasons. The Catholic Church kept their power in by controlling the spread of science and technology, while keeping the nobility largely illiterate. This balance of power shifted in the labour shortage that resulted from the Black Plague.

As the population increased, thanks to the dissemination of technology, the balance of power gradually shifted back, until the Scientific Revolution required skilled workers in large numbers. This led to the drive for public education.

In our lifetimes, we have moved to a Global economy, giving access to huge reservoirs of cheap labour. Our business and political leaders, most of whom do not know how to do anything practical, simply assume that the vast riches around them are the result of their own brilliance, and so are quite happy to move all of our jobs to other countries. They also work to dismantle the education system, and cut money for research, since this saves them taxes. The current economic crises give them the perfect excuse.

The problem is that simply preserving what we have as a society requires mining our meager talents every bit as aggressively as we drill for oil.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The vet will Zoom you now

Pet insurer Pets In A Pickle are now advertising ‘unlimited access to video consultations.’

The NHS is ahead of the curve; one GP told a widow to show her husband’s body on camera so he could certify the death without making a visit.

I can just see how it will work for our animal companions:

VET: Can you hold your dog up, please. Now then, what seems to be the trouble?

DOG: *Whimper, whimper.*

VET: And how long has this been troubling you?


VET: Fine, I’ll send a prescription and bill via WhatsApp.

So much more efficient.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
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Saturday, November 26, 2022

What football says about the nation-state

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The ‘beautiful game’ teaches us the positive aspects of nationalism. To play it you have:

  • A defined playing area.
  • Qualifications as to players. Only these, plus the referee, are allowed on the pitch.
  • A clearly expressed objective.
  • Rules that set down how the game is played and influence its style.
  • Impartial judges to enforce the rules.

Similarly, with a well-run country you have:

  • Territory with clear, well-defended boundaries.

  • Laws defining who is permitted to be there.

  • An agreed understanding of what the country ‘is about’ and whom it serves.

  • Legal and economic systems to achieve those goals.

  • Impartial judges to enforce the rules.

The European Union does not work because it has:

  • A vast domain with highly porous boundaries. Penetrate anywhere and you can go everywhere inside it.

  • Rules for who should be allowed to reside, but which are overriden by international conventions on refugees that are easily abused by bogus claimants, at huge expense to the host country.

  • A lack of mission. The EU had its origins in the desire to stop the awful military rivalry of Germany and France; then it became a useful protectionist cartel that maintained the prosperity of advanced European nations in the face of growing competition from much lower-paid foreign workforces; then an expansionist empire drunk with aggrandisement even if it meant acquiring countries that were at a different stage of development and so would cause economic strains; then a cat’s-paw for US/NATO aggression by creeping ever closer to the borders of Russia and ultimately destabilising Ukraine to provoke war and devastate Europe.

  • A hobbling centralised bureaucracy unrestrained by democratic power.

  • A legal system to enforce the arbitrary edicts of autocrats.

You would think that once free of all that we would be ‘full steam ahead.’ What do we have?

  1. Clearly defined and potentially very defensible territory. We kept out the mighty German war machine in my father’s time.
  2. Rules for who should be allowed to reside, but which are overriden by international conventions on refugees that are easily abused by bogus claimants, at huge expense to our country.

Foreign countries are happy to point them in our direction, in particular France (because it is closest) - remember the Sangatte camp, by the mouth of the Channel Tunnel? And now the rubber boats that French authorities seem unable to stop from launching into the Channel.

On top of that there are our Government’s policies on (much larger) legal immigration, partly to do with the right of families to be united, partly to fill gaps in the labour market that are allegedly unfillable otherwise.

Then there is the political Right that likes to import cheap labour (externalising the costs of unemployment, ill-health etc associated with the underclass it displaces, plus costs of the health, education, housing and welfare needs of the imported people.)

Meantime the Left has an insane abstract notion of the desirability of ‘diversity’ and how uncontrolled immigration will teach its nasty racist opponents a lesson - and somehow reconciles the idea of diversity with the fantasy that all people everywhere are basically the same underneath. The more this impacts on the working class, the more the latter grumble and protest and can then be dismissed as what Hillary Clinton called ‘a basket of deplorables.’

3. A lack of agreed mission.

It has taken centuries for Britain to restrain the arbitrary power of its monarchs. Our most precious possession is not the material comfort most of us now enjoy, but a Parliament that has the ability to call the Executive to account and so - we hope - limit the harm it can do.

But whom does the system serve?

Until relatively recently, the rich, profiting immensely from e.g. colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific, and the murderous greed of the East India Company. The ordinary person had no representative in Parliament. At the height of the British Empire’s prosperity people in the East End of London were working all the hours possible for a pittance, eating rubbish off the roads and facing the workhouse when they weakened.

Those who decry socialism as if it were Stalin’s Red Menace should read Jack London’s 1903 book to see exactly why we need regulations for housing, pay and working conditions, education, healthcare and welfare. The historian Correlli Barnett has argued that the paternalistic wartime regime of 1940-45 and the peacetime Welfare State that followed were unaffordable, sentimental. Well, we didn’t have it when we could afford it - Lloyd George had to break the House of Lords’ veto with the 1911 Parliament Act, just to get a modest provision for the underprivileged, and by 1945 the people had endured thirty years of wars and economic depressions and were in no mood for ‘jam tomorrow.’

Yet since then the British Labour Party has lost its way.

To some extent it was always conflicted, unable to decide whether it existed to serve the poorer element of this country or to promote international socialism, even at the expense of the British worker. Sixty years ago Labour’s leader Hugh Gaitskell warned the Party’s conference against membership of the ‘Common Market’, laying his finger on the tension in the socialist movement between international brotherhood and promoting the interests of working people at home.

More recently Labour seems to have been caught up in abstract thinking. It wants to buy the world a Coke but doesn’t realise that the world may have little intention of buying us one in return. It was enthusiastic about EU membership, under some Johnny-Head-In-Air delusion that we would all be jolly pals together (an illusion shared by many idealistic foreign Euro-MPs.) The consequence of EU mini-globalism and GATT maxi-globalism, as the late Sir James Goldsmith warned back in 1994, was socio-economic strain on ordinary families as the balance between labour and capital tilted sharply in favour of the latter.

We have to decide whether this country is to serve its people - an implication of the extension of the vote to all adults in the twentieth century, but not yet an express national commitment. Absent that mission plus control of immigration and renegotiation of trade terms, the country’s books will never balance and eventually the Welfare State must shrink and collapse.

If we go on as we are, then as I have said before, only disaster will save us. The wokeist flimflam from the Right is a cover for their old globalist agenda; if it and the Left don’t wake up in the proper sense, both will need to be replaced, as Nigel Farage is already advocating for the Tories. They must become nationalist and pragmatic if the nation is to survive and prosper.

4 & 5. … If that last is to be the plan, we need to structure our law and economics accordingly. This means revising our relationship with international and supranational bodies and agreements. We are now in a multipolar world and our team has to play for its own side.


That doesn’t mean hostility to other countries - in fact, we might have been spared the prospect of nuclear war if we had withdrawn from NATO as well as from complete absorption into the Euro-monolith, as de Gaulle suggested to us in 1969:

General de Gaulle made clear to our Ambassador that he wanted to see a Europe completely independent of the United States, which would result in the disappearance of N.A.T.O. as we know it; and that he would like to see the European Communities changed into a looser form of free trade area with arrangements by each country to exchange agricultural produce, and a small inner council of a European political association consisting of France, Britain, Germany and Italy.

What a shame that the then Labour Government sniffily rejected both proposals, as that link goes on to show.

What a shame, too, that we have forgotten the wisdom of Lord Palmerston:

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

We need to launder our kit, get onto the world’s field and play our hearts out.

Friday, November 25, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mariska Veres, by JD

Among the 'one hit wonders' of the Sixties was the Dutch band called Shocking Blue. Their lead singer was Mariska Veres known for her sultry voice, eccentric performances, and her striking appearance which featured kohl-rimmed eyes, high cheekbones, and long jet black hair, which was actually a wig. 

Her real name was Maria Ender. Her father was the Hungarian Romani violinist Lajos Veres.

.... and this is her father, Lajos Veres: 'Sirba pompierilor-doina' (1960):

Thursday, November 24, 2022

De-twitting Twitter

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The exodus from Twitter since Elon Musk bought it may be exaggerated. This report says 875,00 have deactivated their accounts and another half-million have been suspended.

In context, that’s a ‘flee’-bite. According to this source, Twitter has nearly 400 million users globally and half of those are daily users. Even with those numbers, the Blue Bird is merely the 15th most popular social network.

The writer also says:
10% of Twitter users are responsible for 92% of the tweets from all U.S. users, meaning there’s a particularly active group of users publishing a large chunk of content.
If those are the category leaving (and that’s not clear), maybe it will affect advertising revenue but otherwise are we going to miss them? After all, who’s going? Censorious hysterics who cannot cope with alternative views? Perhaps Mastodon is getting the fleas and Twitter will keep the dog.

There may be an opportunity here. Since we’re in a mass-spying and data automation age, there may be a way to scrape the user details of the screamers to make a list of those to be watched for totalitarian tendencies.

Similarly, years ago there was a regular ad on TV for a small, agile Peugeot car, showing it nipping through building sites and concrete pipes and generally zooming about recklessly. Soon after I noticed that dumb drivers with their d*cks on the accelerator were in such vehicles. I told a friend that the police and vehicle licensing agency could simply make a note of people making purchases in response to such ads, as a forewarning of dangerous drivers; perhaps shove nine points on their licenses to deter them from copying the driving style seen on the boob tube.

The immaturity and lack of impulse control are everywhere. I look on with concern at the way that e.g. universities have given in to intolerant wokies and could wish that my alma mater Oxford would rusticate such people as incapable of benefiting from a liberal education.

But no, that would be to play the game that governments and their agencies have been using against us for years. When Oxford students staged a demo march against Margaret Thatcher in the early 70s there were grey men perched up lampposts taking photographs of the crowd; seeing what kind of regime was allowed into power twenty-odd years later I think they can’t have done the follow-up work properly.

Best to take a laid-back approach, then. Maybe a lot of the noisy ones will grow up.

Or maybe they’ll take over and we’ll find out what happens when spoiled children get big.

Meanwhile, I’ve just registered with TruthSocial to watch Orange Man’s progress. It’s still a minnow - 2 million users so far - but it only started just over a year ago.

Will I be tainted by Evil Thoughts? Unclean, unclean!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

George Galloway blasts away at evil

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Gorgeous George was on top form Monday. With his staccato burst-fire oratorical phrasing he shreds four targets in this session:

1. Critics of Trump’s reinstatement on Twitter. GG reminds us that in 2016 Michael Moore called DJT a ‘human hand grenade.’ I have long seen Moore as a phony who has done nothing for the American working class but made himself a pseudo-scruffy millionaire with symbolic right-on guff aimed at white middle-class keep-your-own-hands-clean dizzyheads. As Matt Taibbi says elsewhere on this site (£$), the people who voted the egregious blond bulldozer into office ‘just saw a way to send a giant Fuck You to people they hated and distrusted more than Trump.’

2. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now retiring. GG says she has done nothing for the US plebs but her now-billionaire stockbroker husband has had a strange facility for making great investment choices by anticipating government moves. Pelosi is another one for the empty malign gesture, tearing up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union Address behind him on live TV and by the same token ripping up the decorum that should properly characterise her noble office.

3. The unnamed US intelligence official who told CNN that the missile that exploded in Poland was Russian and so Article 5 of NATO’s Charter applied and consequently the Big War was on. This bastard (if I’m to burn in nuclear fire I must be allowed to swear) was set to get us all killed; and so was Volodomir Zelensky, calling for ‘action’ against Russia. One day there will be a tinkling all over the Western world as scales fall from eyes about that Ukrainian psychopath; but we are also overdue a deep dive into and radical reform of the CIA, the State Department and other agencies that were originally set up to advise the President but have since taken on an evil life of their own and given the slack hand of a senescent Chief Executive have slipped their leashes.

4. Human rights bloviators focusing on Qatar as the World Cup begins. What they complain about they knew long before, not to mention FIFA’s institutional corruption. But people in glass houses should not throw stones; for Julian Assange still languishes in an absurdly top-security British jail, not having tasted freedom for over ten years, yet guilty of nothing but jumping a bail that if there were such a thing as justice in this country would not have been imposed in the first place. All that our judiciary appears to be doing is preparing the sprouts and gravy before delivering him well-tenderised to a salivating American political and intelligence establishment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Electile dysfunction in Georgia

Elections cannot be stolen. It’s official, so there.

But votes can be mislaid, and that’s official, too.

The small town of Kennesaw, Georgia (pop. 33,049) recently held an election for a city council post. The result was certified in favour of one candidate, but it then turned out that a memory stick containing 789 votes had not been successfully (or perhaps not in time) uploaded into the system. This turned the race into a marginal win for the runner-up. The Council re-tested the ballot scanners Saturday and began a recount Sunday. As at the time of writing (Tuesday a.m. UK time) we still don't know the final verdict!

The position had become available because the previous incumbent resigned in protest at the reopening of a local shop selling Civil War memorabilia:
Dent Myers opened Wildman’s in 1971. It became infamous for its display of a Ku Klux Klan robe, racist collectibles, prominently displayed Confederate flag, and storefront signs such as the one that says “White History Year.”
Some non-Americans may view that country’s racial difficulties with a kind of eagerness for the apocalypse, as the Left here appeared to hope for South Africa prior to the Presidency of Nelson Mandela.

There’s a twist in human nature that wants to see others suffer in fire and blood - it’s a major, perhaps the main theme of written and cinematic fiction. Not so funny when you have to live through it. America has had enough of violent mountebanks of all kinds.

As it happens, Georgia is also awaiting the outcome of a bigger election, that for its US Senator. The contest on November 8 was so close that neither of the main candidates achieved 50% of the total, so there will be a runoff just between those two on December 6.

Both the incumbent, Raphael Warnock (Democrat) and the challenger Herschel Walker (Republican) are ‘persons of colour.’ Good luck to them both, as the US continues its progress towards harmony at home.

Now for the same, in foreign relations.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Robot Will Teach You Now, by Paddington

In about 2015, our department was being pressured to offer online courses. When I read around the subject, it turned out that the results of such courses in Mathematics were much worse, in terms of total pass rates and retained material, than live ones. I was told by a resident 'expert' that this was simply wrong. When we did offer such a course, the drop-out and failure rates were much higher than the live sections of the course, even when offered by the same  faculty.

Fast forward to 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when one episode of the 'Freakonomics' podcast explored how universities would adapt to online learning. A resident 'expert' at the University of Arizona expounded that the bugs had all been worked out to offer comparable courses, especially in Mathematics.

The events of the past two years and decline in student achievement seem to indicate otherwise.

Friday, November 18, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Duo Del Mar, by JD

"Este es un dúo de guitarra peculiar. Son músicas del repertorio clásico español, y temas propios, más cercanos al flamenco."
Ekaterina Zaytseva/Marta Robles

Duo del Mar is a new project that unites two emergent figures of the actual musical panorama: the classical guitarist Ekaterina Zaytseva and Marta Robles, one of the few female soloist in the world of the flamenco guitar. Their repertoire mixes the pure flamenco elements and the classical music, interlacing rhythms and harmonies to show all the expressive possibilities of the Spanish guitar. Baroque sonatas that were inspired with popular rhythms and melodies, romantic works that evoke the modernist Barcelona or contemporary creation pieces where the classical language fuses with flamenco.

Duo del Mar, Ekaterina Záytseva and Marta Robles, are both members of Barcelona’s extremely active classical-guitar and flamenco scene. Záytseva grew up in Russia, but has lived in Spain the past ten years, playing as a solo artist and also in various configurations, including the Barcelona 4 Guitars. Robles is best known for her flamenco work and her folkish duo collaboration with singer Alba Carmona, but is also adept at straight classical and plays other styles.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: It's Surreal Thing, by JD

 Surrealistic brandy!

This bottle of Conde de Osborne "solera gran reserva" brandy is unique as the bottle, its label and the presentation box were designed for Osborne by Salvador Dalí who received the commission in 1964. The prototype for the milk glass decanter was handblown by Vidriera Catalana and is crowned by an indigo ceramic stopper created by potter Antoni Cumella.

The brandy bottle you see above is one I bought at some point in the 80s in Spain. I had seen them on the shelves behind the bar in one or two of the 'up market' bars, the ones tarted up to look like a typical English pub as imagined in the minds of romantically inclined foreign persons. One day I was asking the barman to tell me the story behind the design and I asked if he would sell me a bottle which he did. (I can't remember how much I paid but they occasionally pop up on ebay and sell for £25 or so not that I want to sell mine, I was just curious.)

It is indeed a very fine brandy and the Salvador Dalí influence has undoubtedly filtered through to the bottle's contents; after two or three glasses of that very smooth liquid the world begins to look like a Dalí painting!

Friday, November 11, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Clara Ponty, by JD

Searching out suitable videos for last week's music post on Jean Luc Ponty I was being offered links to his daughter Clara Ponty and she is continuing the family 'tradition' of playing music. So here is a selection including one where her father joins her on stage.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

America: where did it all go wrong?

 Was the American Revolution like throwing off the British Government in favour of rule by the East India Company?


Monday, November 07, 2022

America's Choice (like the UK, you are gently doomed)

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Put simplistically, there are two options on the ballot form:
  • Starve The Poor Party
  • Keep You Poor Party
The first one is more likely to lead to revolution.

My American brother explains the GOP two-step dance like this: cut taxes, and when that creates a budget deficit, cut benefits. In the ‘shining city on a hill’ for which they aim, the rich will pay no tax at all and the poor will simply die and cease to be a burden.

Until then, American billionaires are happy with funding think tanks, universities and lawyers’ associations to spread fear of ideological opponents, to bend the Constitution to their ends and condition ordinary people to see the game as one of opportunity and themselves as ‘temporarily embarrassed millionaires.’ It’s the proposition of State and national lotteries: it probably won’t be you - but it could be, surely your luck is better than average!

Meanwhile the financial extraction continues.

It’s a systemic thing: Adam Smith tackled this in 1776, discussing (among other things) the then ‘present state of Bengal’ (Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 8.)

Not very long before, in 1757, the British East India Company defeated the rulers of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey and took over. As a commercial company it was determined to ‘maximise shareholder value’ and did this by raising the tax on agricultural produce from 10 per cent to 50; and forbade the farmers from laying up stores (not that they could now afford to do so); and pushed them towards growing cash crops for trade, such as poppies and indigo.
This resulted in a shortage of grains for the people.

There was a minor shortage of crops in 1768 which was not an alarming situation.

But in 1769, there was a monsoon failure followed by severe drought. Starvation deaths started by 1769, but the company officials ignored this situation.

By 1770, the death count was increasing and almost 10 million people fell victim to this man-made devastation.
‘John Company’ responded to the revenue shortage by raising the tax rate further on those farmers who could still pay.

In a fertile country where a third of the population had recently starved to death, you might expect a rebound, an end to the hunger years. But no, said Smith, because the British ‘vampire squid’ continued to suck out profits:
… three or four hundred thousand people die of hunger in one year [because]… the funds destined for the maintenance of the labouring poor are fast decaying. The difference between the genius of the British constitution, which protects and governs North America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot, perhaps, be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries.
Today in America, if the people could see avoidable death coming to them and their families because of oppressors, they would be able to do more than could the rural peasants of Bengal, but the Democrat FDR saved the system in the 1930s with (amongst other measures) the introduction of social security, so deplored by the wealthy.

Nevertheless, there is still an analogy with Bengal, in that those at the bottom end cannot lay up stores of wealth. They will be poor while they work (if they have work at all) and poor when they cease to work.

But they won’t die, not straight away. They won’t live quite so long - maybe 10 or 12 years less than the top tenth of society - and they will have worse health; medical and welfare costs will be expensive, even if grudgingly funded. Their children won’t starve either, and will be entitled to schooling and other support.

So one way to look at the underprivileged is as ‘useless mouths’ or ‘surplus population,’ a ball and chain on the legs of successful workers and entrepreneurs.

Another way is to see how the system works, and this is where Trump came in. Now Donald Trump was possibly the worst imaginable advocate for the ideas he was pushing - what was needed was an oily professional politician of the kind that we affect to despise but still vote into office.

Yet what he saw was the use of immigration and foreign outsourcing to keep down the wage rates of the indigenous working population - and as a side effect, cementing millions more into under- or un-employment, with further expensive multiple consequences for a society that has not yet become so hard-hearted that we just step over the bodies in the street.

Trump’s become almost an asset for the Dems, a bogeyman to scare up their supporters into turning out and voting. Yet this maverick (and crook etc.) is just a surfer; we need to look at the wave that carried him into the White House. Who voted for him? What are they like?

Ignorant? Maybe America should invest more in decent schooling. Resentful at economic precarity? Maybe America should do more to increase permanent employment and improve wage rates.

Maybe if the ordinary people of America had more jobs and more money and better education, their health would be better and so they would be able to work more years and pay more taxes but not at such high rates, and save more and retire in relative ease, and be happy (as far as people can be) and free, and neighbourly.

You would think that the Other Party - the Democrats - would, like the British Labour Party, work towards those goals.

Except the British Labour Party has long since ceased to represent the interests of the labouring classes; the class struggle has become one between the people and those who are supposed to speak for them. What Labour wants is to carry on winning elections, and to do that it has to maintain its client base. It does not want the proles to be better educated, climb up the ladder into the middle class and get notions of self-sufficiency. Labour was kicking away the ladder even in the 1960s - here, according to his wife, is Labour’s Education Secretary in 1965:
If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every f****ing grammar school in England. And Wales, and Northern Ireland.
And for all the schemes and handouts promised and provided by the Democrats, isn’t their approach much the same?

It can’t go on forever. The American middle class will be squeezed and squeezed, the underclass will feed and breed (why are the Right against abortion? Adam Smith noted the Chinese custom of drowning the babies they didn’t need); and the Welfare State will rot and collapse.

The Right won’t stop - they seem to imagine that they will be forever immune to the social disruption they are stoking; but where are the rich Mayans today?

So it’s down to the Dems, if they can get off buying votes with grubby handouts; if they can stop warmongering and endangering everybody; if they can protect the workers against unbeatable competition from ‘free trade’ and lower-wage labour forces.

Will they?

Recession signs

You can hear the recession

In recent years, the Bonfire Night (November 5th) celebrations began weeks early - rockets and bangers aplenty every night - in fact, evenings and mornings as well. And after the big event on the day, more for days and weeks after. It didn't seem to matter (even in our "artisan" area) that a single banger could cost £5 or more; every year was like Operation Shock and Awe.

Not this year. A pop or two in the days immediately before and after, something mild on the night. No more 70s Beirut.

Anybody else spot straws in the wind?

Sunday, November 06, 2022

COLOUR SUPPLEMENT: The Art of Painting, by JD

Following on from the art of drawing, the message is the same.... where did all the artists go and why is talent no longer needed?

Sandro Botticelli (1445? - 1510)

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 - 1669)

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)

Salvador Dalí (1904 - 1989)

Fiona Rae (1963 - )
Professor of Painting, 2011 - 2015, at the Royal Academy