A Mandate for Damn All

Let’s leave aside, for one moment, the questions around the legitimacy of the Leave referendum victory, the phony promise of £350m a week for the NHS, interference from dodgy foreign billionaires and Russia, and the fact that the referendum as enacted by Parliament was explicitly advisory and that it was only the Cameron government who said that a leave result would be implemented. Focus instead on the fact that a 48% vote for the status quo plus a tiny share of the Leave vote would deliver a mandate for maintaining the status quo on almost any Brexit-related issue.

Read More · 27 November 2017 · Politics

Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain

Almost everything that Brexiters say now, in the circumstance of having chosen to leave, makes much more sense as a response to being forced to leave. ... Instead of the generosity, confidence, patience and optimism that might be expected to accompany victory what we see amongst Brexiters is an oscillation between sour, crabby, resentful anger and bellicose, belligerent, defiant anger. That anger seems, if anything, to grow with each passing week.

Read More · 24 November 2017 · Politics


The past bleak few weeks have been improved by the return of Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists, possibly the most perfect piece of television of the last decade. This charming, witty, beautifully shot series about hobbyists, archaeology and village life is also one of the most profound portraits of friendships and relationships, of many kinds, that I’ve ever seen on TV, all captured in a string of half hours that glitter like gold coins on a field.

Having watched it from the start, I was looking forward to a third series, although with some apprehension about whether the high standard could be maintained. Three episodes in, it’s already clear that series three will take the show out on a high note, as Crook spins his small-scale dramas into a story that connects to so much more about England and its place in the world.

That, sad to say, is one of the bittersweet aspects of watching Detectorists series three. The rapturous trance has been shaken, if not broken, by events since its 2015 Christmas special. Watching it now, you can’t help wondering which of the resolutely English residents of Danebury voted Leave. Terry, almost certainly. Sheila, probably. Lance?

I’d rather remember them, and rural England, as unsullied by 2016 and 2017. But there’s no escaping the times we find ourselves in, and in the face of Brexit, Detectorists remains some of the best escapism going. For one and a half more hours.

Series 3 will be the last. Mackenzie Crook interviewed. Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones interviewed. “When people find it and realise what is, they hold it close to them.”

23 November 2017 · 2 Comments · Television

Technological Marvels

Scientists call for a ban on slaughterbots (but could a ban even work?).

Something is wrong on the internet. How keywords trick kids into watching violent YouTube videos.

How foreshortening tricks Amazon customers into buying the wrong long bear.

One hour of access every Sunday night.

The power of boredom.


23 November 2017 · Net Culture

No Quarter

I’ve never thought of myself as being any sort of empath, but maybe there’s hope, because I never got past the first episode on the first DVD of series one of Louie that we got given one Christmas, and now it feels as if the vibe I got from it was guiding true. I’ve locked in that piece of critical armour for good.

This Twitter thread inspired by CK’s behaviour is what’s shaken me most. Most men, surely, would find it shocking that there are enough shitty men acting out their basest fantasies to scar so many women and children. We have the unearned privilege of being shocked because such creeps don’t try it in front of other men. All the more reason to publicise it, and to fight the patriarchal culture that gives rise to it.

Read More · 23 November 2017 · Events

Towering Cliffs

All that glitters is not good as gold.

Après nous, le déluge.

Cities that will be drowned by global warming.

A smog vacuum cleaner, and other magical city designs.

“For nearly 100 years, we have been stuck in the Age of Blorp.” (I don’t agree with it all, but it’s worth a read.)

Rejecting the modern world is a privileged fantasy.

100% renewable electricity worldwide is feasible, and cheaper than business-as-usual.

23 November 2017 · Weblog

Все нормально

Russia’s clown troll princess duped the world.

More than 250 Trump organization subdomains are in communication with computers in Russia.

A Russian Facebook page organized a protest in Texas. A different Russian page launched the counter-protest.

Peer-to-peer misinformation.

Hillary Clinton warned about Putin’s propaganda machine.

Russian cyber warfare threatens every democracy.

“Social media ... is an ugly dystopia, and has utterly failed to deliver on its promised goods.”

“This is fine.”

22 November 2017 · Politics

The Cost of Colonialism

How colonial violence came home, a long piece by Pankaj Mishra, is a fine read:

In this new history, Europe’s long peace is revealed as a time of unlimited wars in Asia, Africa and the Americas. These colonies emerge as the crucible where the sinister tactics of Europe’s brutal 20th-century wars—racial extermination, forced population transfers, contempt for civilian lives—were first forged.

Read More · 21 November 2017 · Politics

Movement at the Nation

A line in an article on EU citizens’ rights prompted me to do some calculations that I hadn’t before.

Read More · 21 November 2017 · Politics


It’s a strange atmosphere in Britain right now. All of the Christmas adverts have started appearing on telly, which ordinarily signal the start of a period where we don’t have to worry about anything too politically serious happening. But that period is a critical one this year. The chances of an exit from Brexit before the end of 2017 diminish by the day, as everyone gets into a Christmassy, “let’s hit the mince pies and mulled wine” mood; but if we’re still in limbo by early 2018, hundreds of companies, and thousands of individuals, will start implementing their contingency plans, and things will get very bad very quickly, long before 29 March 2019.

Read More · 21 November 2017 · Politics


As an Edinburgh southsider who hasn’t ventured down Leith Walk for a while, I’d only seen glimpses of the St James Centre demolition site, so it was quite something to walk past it yesterday, on my way into work after dropping the car off at an auto-electrician. I snapped this quick panorama on my phone (click for bigger).

St James Centre demolition site, Edinburgh, November 2017

Five districts of Edinburgh changed beyond recognition.

16 November 2017 · UK Culture


My brother was on a business trip to Bilbao last week, so I took a couple of days’ leave and spontaneously flew over to see him. We spent Sunday and most of Monday bar-hopping around the city, drinking cerveza and eating pintxos (the Basque word for tapas pinned to pieces of bread with—in Spanish—pinchos, or long toothpicks), as well as admiring one of the most extraordinary buildings in Europe. Pure pleasure.

It’s a busy week at work and home now, so the photos will have to wait, but here’s a pintxo to be going on with.

Bilbao, 29 October 2017

6 November 2017 · Travel

Once Were Webloggers

The other day I sorted through some old bookmarks of weblogs I used to follow—a more complete version of the pages of blogs I used to maintain here. Over 80% of them were defunct: archived, with depressingly similar farewell posts; or abandoned, with their most recent posts dating back years; or gone altogether. I filed those into folders marked “Hibernating” and “Missing in Action”. The rest, though, were still varying degrees of active, if not as active as most of us were back in the day. Any blog with a post from the past several months I considered a going concern, which is the least I can do when my own blog has sometimes barely matched that. Not many seem to be posting daily, though (not that I blame them), so even a curated collection of ye finest weblogges is no match for the Skinner-box hit of Twitter.

Several also seem to have got snarled up in Google’s push to deprecate http-served pages (as discussed by Shelley Powers of Burningbird, another old blogging hand who’s still at it). I fear that I’ll have to face that time-suck of site-maintenance soon, too, or see the ’snail sink even further into obscurity.

6 November 2017 · Net Culture

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