Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Internet Manifesto

It is Tim Berners-Lee who is credited with the innovation of the World Wide Web.  He took existing computer systems, their data stores and connections and provided a means of linking them together.  Thank you Tim from the billions of us who have cause to be grateful for your foresight.  This post could not have been written without it.

His great great grandfather was the Rev. Charles Lee, interesting how the Anglican clergy crop up in the families of so many of our leading thinkers and doers.  What has been forgotten is that for a time in the 1860's as incumbent of Holy Trinity Church in St. Pancras he was the local vicar of Karl Marx, who lived just round the corner.

I doubt if he saw much of Karl in church, but I could be wrong.  Perhaps some of his sermons, he was keen on social justice, may have inspired some of Karl's later thinking on the needs of the working classes.  I wonder what Karl would make of the internet and the power it has given to the people, should they care to use it properly?

It was in the 1860's that Karl had a legacy which enabled him to move to a rental a little more upmarket within the general petit bourgeoisie.  His near neighbours at Grafton Terrace had included a noted sculptor, Alfred Head Baily, whose more famous father, Edward Hodges Baily (Wikipedia) 1788-1867, has one work atop Nelson's Column, that of Nelson.  Edward was buried at Highgate as was Marx.

After the move to Maitland Park Villas one next door neighbour, Henry Goddard was a Doorkeeper at the House of Lords, cue any number of bad jokes. On the other side was Edwin Willis, one of the family firm of organ builders, the best in their business.  Anyone viewing the Royal Albert Hall on TV will see one of theirs in its full glory.  "Land Of Hope And Glory" and "Rule Britannia" in musical form.

I have this vision of the Willis's singing hymns ancient and modern round their family organ while the Marx's try to counter the noise with "Prussian Glory" or "Die Wacht Am Rhein" on their piano.  But it is interesting that in all four Census Returns, Karl and Jenny are Prussian and never German whereas Engels in the two seen is German and not Prussian.

The Marx family like the great majority of people at this time, were renting; owning property then as now could as easily become a liability rather than an asset. Their home at Maitland Park Villas was on an estate for which the freeholders were a Maitland family. Whether this had the system of leaseholds common at that time is not known.

But if so, then the Marx family and the others would pay their rent to the leaseholder owners who would have a ground rent to pay to the freeholder.  It was this system in many areas where shorter leases were common that had the effect that when the leases were running out, at the end they became slum districts.  But it could be that the Maitland's kept full control.

As for the Maitland family, the one in the time of Marx would have been Ebenezer Fuller Maitland, items on the web, notably the History of Parliament under the Fuller Maitland name.  He was an MP and a City man, a director of the South Seas Company, believe it or not, the legacy company after its more famous predecessor of a century and more before.

His father was also an Ebenezer Maitland, also a leading City man and a director of the Bank of England.  One wonders about Charles Dickens "Christmas Carol" and Ebenezer Scrooge but this may be pushing it a little too far, albeit that in his time Dickens had a great deal more influence that Marx.  But the Maitland's were involved in charity provision as were many others of their ilk.

The 1860's were a crucial time in business history in that after a great many ups and downs and ruined shareholders, Parliament legislated to create limited liability, triggering vast changes in the nature and purpose of ownership and shareholding.  At a more practical level the discovery of compounding in steam engines drove rapid expansion in sea and rail transport.

Marx relied on others for much of his information, notably Friedrich Engels and the convention is that there perceptions were reliable.  But too often I am not seeing that at all. One idea is that Marx lived in near slum conditions.  This is a nonsense.

Even when at Dean Street in Soho, it may have been a full house but the others there would not have been living in a slum.  It is very possible that in later decades the addresses may have gone down market but in the time of Marx looking at the neighbours etc. and who they were these were not slums by any standard.

Also, one is left to wonder at how much Marx may have understood about the immediate world he lived in and what it was about.  The Round Room Library at the British Museum where he worked may have been full of worthy journals on poverty and the like for him to write his works but it was not his immediate domestic situation.

There was extensive poverty and bad housing conditions in many urban and rural districts together with all the health implications and troubles that arose.  But there was also a great deal of effort among many groups and agencies to tackle it albeit in a way and on the basis of beliefs that were very different.

In the 21st Century we have allowed the followers of Marx and Lenin to dictate their interpretation of history pushing a rapidly changing and developing society and economy into a strait jacket of thinking.  They have made a bedlam of history and perhaps like Marx, cannot understand what is around them or the way it is changing.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Strangers On A Train

The "Traingate" tale has filled the media and the web with fun of many kinds.  So Jeremy Corbyn's media advisers and PR decide to pull a train stunt to beef up the long and boring proposal to "renationalise" the railways.  Given the amount of state money, regulation and franchise details involved the private bit does seem on the small side.

But doh!  Trains these days have modern surveillance systems that allow wide coverage of who travels and how.  Also, they are full of people with gizmo's that might allow a fellow traveller to reach out to the world all at the push of a few buttons.  If Jeremy had done an imitation of Luke Kelly of The Dubliners singing "Paddy On The Railway" it would have gone world wide in minutes.

The Youtube clip of this one is from The Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, but perhaps Jeremy is more James Joyce, G.B. Shaw or W.B. Yeats than Luke. Although, if Shaw he might have tried the song from "My Fair Lady", "All I want is a room somewhere...." sung plaintively by Eliza needing houseroom rather than train room.

While on the entertainment route, the contest between Jeremy and Owen Smith as to who offers the biggest disaster for the Labour Party is becoming more and more like something from the old "Steptoe And Son" TV series from the past.  This is where father Albert and son Harold argue about everything, often politics and policy, such as "Tea For Two" from 1970.

The blissful unreality of their debates and beliefs given what happened during the 70's is a poignant reminder that today's notions, or rather yesterday's polished up for the media and an electorate with a dislike of change are no better.  If the Steptoe's were misinformed and determined to impose a past on the future, they were well short of Corbyn and Smith.

There is the question of who the current franchisers are in the discussions of ownership of the railways.  One is Deutsche Bundesbahn, touted as the best and most efficient of systems.  But those of us who take a look at German news now see an increasing number of accidents and crashes.  All that one time German efficiency is a thing of the past and it is beginning to show.

So if either Jeremy or Owen start talking about the German model as to the one to go for it may be time to check the coach services out on line.

At least you won't get politicians pulling stunts next to the toilets.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A Forgotten Past

One of the features of The Arts is anniversaries of those of the past and long past who have left us their legacies in a form that can inspire and enjoy however long since their lifetimes.

The BBC does a good deal of this, but it can be choosy and it is a puzzle why with some they can go to extremes but others ignored.  One such is Thomas Linley the Younger, 1776-1758 a composer and musician of extraordinary talent recognised by his peers and especially by Mozart.

Born in the same year as Mozart during 2006, 250 years on since his birth, in a flurry of activity we had extensive coverage of Mozart and others but not a hint or mention of Linley.  There is a Wikipedia page and other information dotted about, a couple of things on Youtube, but he is lost to us.

So ten years on I will repeat below an item written then.

1756 - 1778

In Grimsthorpe Lake poor Linley died,
Carried to another Bourne,
His life given to those who knew him,
Together with a wilful posterity.

The generations more,
Two centuries and half beyond,
Only of works, family, name,
And who were touched remembered.

Sheridan, wit, poet, playmaker, politician,
Few of those remain.
Goldsmith, Johnson, Thrale,
The whirling names of London and of Bath.

Boyce and Nardini his tutor mentors,
Nesbitt to mind the money,
Sneyd to smooth the way,
All long lodged in written memory.

There was another, an Austrian of wit,
Few of those remain.
Who shared the music,
The dance, delight, and genius.

Mozart had few years in life,
Enough to create another world,
Rightly honoured, cherished,
As a wonder of the age.

He mourned Thomas Linley,
A fast friend, one of his own,
Allowed him to be master,
The finest memorial.

Who cares now in England?
Only passing ones of blood,
For the rest, it matters not,
The BBC utterly forgot.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Old Green Eyes

There's an off pink naked statue on the road to Washington,
There's a well used little White House in the town;
There's a howling winking woman who hates the Mad Old Trump,
And the gods of polling all gaze down.

He was known as Mad Old Trump by media Washington,
He was raving far more than they could take;
But for all his foolish sound bites, he was worshiped in the banks,
And the woman feared his spotting of a fake.

He had watched her constant flouncing and the flashing of her teeth,
The fact that his guts were hated were part of his recall;
She was nearly seventy years and firm in her belief
That votes for Trump would be only small.

But he started asking questions and she could not find the words,
So things began to change;

I greatly regret that the rest of this revised version of the legend of Old Mad Trump and the green eye of the little political god has been redacted by literary advisers.

Come to your own conclusions.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Left Right Left Right?

It may be surprising but despite many reservations there is a time or two when Mr. Corbyn says things which I can agree with.  He has indicated in an off the cuff comment that there are questions in his mind about the NATO alliance and the high flown talk of it "doing something" about Russia and the Ukraine.  This has been greeted with shock horror in the media.

It is possible he has asked the basic question that if NATO ought to rattle it's sword against its shield and bang a drum or two then who is to do it, that is whose army and with what air support.  It may be that the armchair warriors of the media and politics are thinking of going nuclear for the hell of it, but let us assume non-nuclear.

The thinking is that as the EU has pushed further and further east looking for lebensraum for its administrators and officials, it should now impose its will on the further shores of the Black Sea and The Crimea.  Ah, The Crimea, we have been there before and that did not end well.

So could the master German's be at the front of the line?  Perhaps, but by all accounts your German army of the present day is a lot more Fred Karno than Freikorps.  It is less Prussian Glory and more Strictly Come Dancing without the timing.

The French, well not really, Beau Geste is into interior decorating and the Foreign Legion a lost cause.  The Italians?  No.  The Spanish?  So it has to be the Brit's, again.  Sadly, we are short of numbers.  The enhanced mixed brigade we might be able to muster might be good enough to get there, although this is arguable, but not to do anything and probably would need lifts from Ryanair or Easyjet to return.

As for air support, the Brit's could manage a day or two, the others even as much as a week, so long as no opposition was encountered.  If the Russians could put up a few planes and perhaps unlike the EU  ones with enough ammo' to make a fight of it, that would be a write off.  As for logistical support it would be another Iraq and a lot worse.

Mr, Corbyn may be against any of this purely on principle and there is a good case for thinking that NATO today is not what it was when I served with the colours just after Stalin bit the dust.  There is a better case for looking at just what it is and for and perhaps needs radical reform of purpose, structure, strategy and the other things that have been lost sight of in our new Europe.

We may not like Russia, but apart from the literature, music, opera and ballet etc. we never have and there is a long tradition of opposing Russian empires.  How many men were lost up the Khyber because we feared them moving into India?

But if we or the EU tell us to go out there and do our duty we should question whether it is a duty, or whether, like Bismarck, we should put Realpolitik first.

If you would like another tune, go to Youtube and take your pick of the choices of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.

But don't forget to duck when the cannon's fire.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Sports Page

Any major sports fest on an international basis, at least in the UK, will bring about the thunder of the hooves of hobby horses being ridden into the ground.  The present Olympic Games in Rio is allowing a choice selection arising from the successes of many of the UK participants.

The Guardian has a piece lauding the medal count as a triumph of central planning, comrades, which we should salute and embrace.  Meanwhile, other press points to the relatively high proportion of people from private schooling and the virtues of accepting elitism as a necessary condition of progress.

Perhaps, but the great age of the old grammar schools were years when the medal count was not as good as we were led to hope for.  While some private schools were organised more fully for sport, the general picture was one of amateurism and something minor in the great game of life.

But that was Britain and if the Olympics at the top end was a battle between the American universities and colleges and the Soviet and Communist East military, so be it.  In those innocent days which lasted until relatively recently, we should take account of the research benefits accruing to the pharmaceutical industries.

My chief complaint is the media wipeout of other news.  Unless you are a dedicated web searcher, for the vast majority relying on main media, all sorts of strange and interesting things could be happening that our leaders can avoid either telling us about, or later that the relevant issues arose during the Olympics.

Beyond this there are strange things.  John Major had been brought out from an attic of history, dustier than most, to be praised for his foresight and work in created a national lottery, gambling for all at a price, that has funded so much of the basic provision for the preparation of contestants.

The effect is that the lottery is entirely voluntary, nobody has to buy a ticket, so we can claim that this is truly a people's success.  That it entails unbridled elitism in that we are only concerned with the winners must appeal to one group of political philosophers or another, but I am unable to work out which.

Perhaps they have gone for a walk.  It was in the 1948 London Olympics where UK men won only a handful of medals, none gold, that Tebbs Lloyd Johnson, picture above, aged 48 took a bronze in the 50 Km walk.  To this day, he is the only Olympic athlete I have ever known.  He was an amateur in the sense that his wife ran the boarding house and he earned income as a handyman.

A far cry from the world of "Chariots Of Fire", which for many is their basic source for past Olympics.  But in some ways the Olympics are and have been a living fiction.  To claim them for central planning and a triumph of Trotsky thought is to claim that this is the way to run and economy and society.  Yet the nature of the individuality of those involved is diametrically opposed to this.

To argue that elites are good if we give them most of the money is wrong headed.  The contestants are mostly able to perform as a consequence of particular physical and genetic advantages.  I doubt that eugenics is the best answer to all our political and social problems, history suggests otherwise.

As for schools, if you have around the country a few schools that have careful selection requirements arising from sports etc. being a central feature of their specialisation, then inevitably, these private schools will see a higher proportion of their people gaining medals.

It might be better if we do want to watch and enjoy the spectacle, the excitement and the rest of people contesting to win the great prize in their field, we should do just that.

We are paying for it, so just ignore all the nonsense.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Walk And Ride

Our Prime Minister, Theresa May, is walking up hill and down dale in Switzerland and perhaps consulting with her private bankers in a welcoming gasthaus off the beaten track.

If she and her entourage are staying in one their excellent hostels to economise on expenses does the security man have the top bunk or the bottom one?

Might there be an assignation with President Putin at the Rheichenbach Falls, if so, which one will get the push?

While this is going on we are advised that this means that Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson is in charge of the shop and till.

Is it at all possible that something adverse is about to happen?