Back in Paris

I’m back from Lisbon, and it was superb. Miles better, in my opinion, than the vastly overrated Barcelona. I’ll write a full report sometime this week, along with some photos. Hopefully I’ll put a blog post or two up today as well, but we’ll see: things are looking busy.

Luvvie Lovers Upset

The blogroll in my sidebar links to two blogs which specialise in films, and I have found both of them useful sources when looking for obscure films which pass under the radar but I nevertheless might like.  But being arsty-types, the proprietors aren’t half precious snowflakes.

Firstly, Mostly Film:

IF, in this Year Of Our Lord 2016 you think…segment after segment after segment on the living, breathing bowl-of-dicks now a month away from owning the nuclear codes aren’t topics for a late-night comedy show, then fuck you; you weren’t going to like it anyway.

Besides, when I called out this show for praise last year, there wasn’t a bona-fide narcopathic lunatic in the White House. When Last Week Tonight returns in February, god knows there’s going to be.

Satire pretty much never changes anything, sadly, and satire certainly didn’t stop Donald Trump being elected President. But if America’s shatteringly thin-skinned President-Elect is on (lying) record as being shatteringly thin-skinned about one particular piece of satire, then as far as I’m concerned, that particular piece of satire needs to keep doing what it’s been doing, only massively more so. Staying angry is the only response. That was this year’s finale’s message – don’t put up with this. You don’t have to put up with this.

Because if there’s one person in the world who doesn’t remotely care about deeply unsexy and boring institutional injustices that invisibly ruin the lives of the disadvantaged every single day, it’s that motherfucker.

Bless.  But wait, there’s more:

It’s a thoroughly satisfying film, although in a post-Trump world, it plays far more as an anger-inducing polemic than might otherwise have been the case. The tiny gains these women fought so hard for in terms of opportunity, respect and dignity, overthrown in a two-year campaign by a tiny-handed megalomaniac and his shit-for-brains supporters.

And more:

Hello to you all from Europe’s Best Website. Usually we take this slight breather to indulge in a bit of frivolity – a joke here, a quip there, a look at what we’ve come up with, and a glance at the upcoming treats the world has in store for our eyes and our brains.

This week, however – who gives the tiniest fuck about all that? When the world youactually live in takes a gigantic step towards a global fascist dystopia by handing the reins of power to the human equivalent of a massive bag of flaming dogshit, well, being snarky about upcoming movie trailers seems slightly beside the point. The caveat to that being if there was a film out there featuring a racist, woman-hating President-Elect being relentlessly bludgeoned to death by a crack team of angry gorillas – we’d definitely link to that. But there isn’t, so we can’t.

Next is Film Babble Blog:

In the age of Trump (man, I hated typing that), a story about fighting racism is as timely as can be, but this film teaches a lesson that would be just as important for people to learn and appreciate even if our country had elected the more qualified candidate.

As the saying goes, “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Right now, when it sure looks like we are doomed, it’s more crucial than ever that we look back at the times that we as the people of this great, but greatly flawed country actually got something right.

And again:

A blast of a spectacular yet intimate feeling big-screen musical is exactly what we need right now as there’s a strong sense that there’s bleakness on the horizon.

And again:

This film also stirs up emotions about dealing with the difficult transition involving power changing hands next month. The Obama administration was as close to Kennedy’s Camelot as I fear we’re going get again in my lifetime. Such a movie as this is a must see in these scary times as it reminds us that America has gotten through dark times before and will again. This movie makes me want to believe that, despite the scariness of what’s on the rapidly approaching horizon, Camelot lives!

There are few things more off-putting on a blog which adequately deals with a particular specialist subject when the authors start to shoehorn in their political views. It’s fair enough if it is a political blog, but when you go to a site which advertises itself as being about films in order to read about films and you find crap like this…well, at least write something that doesn’t read like a transcript taken from a high-school debating class made up of particularly wet pupils.

Holidays

Tomorrow I’ll be going to Annecy for Christmas, so blogging will be light to non-existent until I return on 29th December.

I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, and thank you all so much for reading.

A Stronger Man than I

Further to this post about the mental disintegration of Australians, I see fellow blogger Adam has succumbed to the same weakness.  Having posted a review of this article, we learn from the comments that:

I didn’t make it through. I skimmed and cherry-picked and had everything I needed about a quarter of the way in. I have no idea as to the rest of it.

I confess, I couldn’t even make it past the first five paragraphs.  I’d rather open the batting against Dale Steyn than wade through that.  Adam’s scored the equivalent of a half-century under trying conditions.

Blogging like it’s 2003

I never used to read USS Clueless, a blog that was big back in the days of the medium’s infancy in the early ’00s, but I knew about it and saw it referenced a lot.  I also used to see the blog owner’s name, Stephen DenBeste, appearing quite often among the blogs I did read.  I read yesterday over at Samizdata that Stephen had died, which is causing a lot of sadness among the bloggers of that era who used to interact with him.

The first blog I ever encountered was Peter Briffa’s long gone and much missed Public Interest.  I read a Thunderer column he’d written in The Times in spring 2003 about the Stephen Lawrence murder and followed the address at the bottom.  Having not seen a blog before and expecting a regular website it took me a day or two to figure out what I was looking at.  I remember the blogroll causing me a lot of confusion: most websites back then had very few outgoing links, almost all were internal.  Or maybe I was just dense.

Anyway, once I’d gotten my head around the concept I launched my own blog in March or April 2003.  This was when British blogging was in its early days with most of us using Blogger software with awful, buggy templates, before Moveable Type and WordPress came along and things improved a lot.  The big American blogs were well established by then, particularly Instapundit and Little Green Footballs.  Probably the largest in the UK I knew about would have been Samizdata.  That spring/summer/autumn of 2003 was a wonderful time to be blogging in the UK because the number of bloggers was tiny: everyone knew one another and it felt like we were at the start of something big.  Very few of those who were around at that time are still blogging, but a few are.  Last night somebody asked me how long I’d been running a blog for and I said over thirteen years.  That’s quite a long time, particularly given I’ve been doing it while in Middle Eastern theocracies and Putin’s Russia.  It’s why I laughed once when somebody, who hadn’t even known what a blog was before reading mine, saw fit to give me stern advice on how I should conduct myself online.  Yes, thanks for that.

Perry de Havilland refers in his post about Stephen DenBeste to “the early days when we were all known as “warblogs””.  British blogging took off in 2003 as the Iraq War was being waged, and this is no coincidence: ordinary people were getting so fed up with the poor and/or obviously biased coverage of the war in the mainstream media that they got online and started adding their own voices to the noise.  As the sadly departed Norman Geras said in July 2003: I’m joining the conversation.  And oh boy, he did.

Blogging then became the next Big Thing and by 2005 seemingly everyone had a blog and companies were touting them as a vital way of sharing information.  People then discovered blogging required some talent either by way of style, ideas, or merely having something to say, and the numbers levelled off and then started to fall.  Facebook came along, and then Twitter, and now my guess would be we’re left with the hardcore bloggers who probably number around 10% of what there were at the format’s peak.  That’s just a guess, mind.  LiveJournal got huge in Russia, and I have no idea if they sustained their numbers.

Anyway, my point is that it was the dissatisfaction of a large number of people with the mainstream media’s coverage of a major global event that drove the growth of blogging, both in the US and Britain.  We are now in a period where people’s dissatisfaction with the mainstream media is plumbing new depths as it behaves abominably over issues such as the US election, immigration, and a whole load of others which people care deeply about.  Twitter and Facebook have already shown they are prepared to censor unwelcome opinions, which has left more than a few people voiceless (at least until Gab picks up and develops a smartphone app.).  Indeed, I’ve always been surprised how many bloggers – who had full control of their own hosting platform and content – switched to Twitter, where they had none of the former and now, we discover, not so much of the latter either.  The beauty of blogging for me was always that I run the site and its content is wholly mine and subject to nobody’s approval.  There is no “report inappropriate content” on this blog.

This period in the runup to the US Presidential Election is starting to feel a lot like the spring of 2003: plenty of angry voices and a feeling nobody is listening.  If Trump loses, the opposite side will try to silence them.  One way of making themselves heard is via a blog, leading me to believe that we might see a renaissance of blogging in 2017.

Either way, I’ll still be here.  Hopefully.

Gab

After Twitter dropped all pretence to impartiality by banning prominent right-wingers while giving free reign to those whose politics they approved of, a new service launched itself called Gab which hopes to be the same thing only with no censorship.

I never joined Twitter mainly because I couldn’t for the life of me see why anyone would want to write something in 140 characters instead of penning War and Peace on a blog, but there you go.  I also signed up only to find “desertsun” was already taken as a username, and so threw my toys out of the pram.

Anyway, I’ve signed up with Gab mainly to get the username I wanted on Twitter.  Maybe Twitter will collapse or disappear up its own arse and Gab will take over, I don’t know.  I won’t be writing anything substantial over there, but I might make comments on other’s posts.  So if anyone is interested, I am here.

Virtue Signalling in Disguise

I’ve noticed recently that something keeps happening to me that perhaps didn’t happen so much before.

I get asked my opinion on something and the person asking me doesn’t much like the answer I give.  Usually the question is on a topic which is controversial – Brexit, Donald Trump, the Iraq War, George W. Bush, Gun Control, Barack Obama – but only in the global sense.  What I mean by that is within a certain demographic – European, middle-class, degree educated – these topics are not controversial at all, and everyone is in lock-step agreement on each.

Which is where I think I’m surprising people.  I get asked my opinion on Brexit (let’s use that as an example) and I basically say what I said here: I would have been happy enough with a Remain victory for personal reasons, but on principle I am not unhappy to have seen the Leave campaign win because I think major reforms of the EU are long overdue and these would never happen without some cataclysmic event like Brexit forcing the issue.  This is hardly an extreme view but it causes a shock reaction nonetheless.

The immediate effect is for the person to challenge what I’ve said using the first response that comes into their head (“But the British economy will collapse, all the banks will move to Frankfurt!”).  My response in turn is to refute them using the same information, statistics, facts, and arguments I’ve seen presented elsewhere to the same objection.  The thing is, what my interlocutor has not realised, quite understandably, is that I take a keen interest in certain things and read and re-read dozens of lengthy arguments on these subjects which take place on the Internet.  I also have copious amounts of time on my hands.  A lot of the time I then post my own opinions on this here blog, having taken the time to consider each angle and argument carefully so that my stance can be both clearly presented and defended if necessary.  So when I am challenged on my opinion my responses are effectively prepared in advance and rehearsed, and for somebody who has just dipped their toe into the subject without such preparation they find themselves neck deep in an argument they stand almost no chance of winning.

Which makes me appear a bit of an asshole.  I have been accused of being defensive, aggressive, unfriendly, argumentative, and a whole load of other things basically because I can defend a slightly controversial opinion with quick-fire, eloquent responses which I’ve thought through in advance.  And also, probably, because I am a bit of an asshole.

For a while I thought about softening my stance, but I’ve decided against it.  The reason for this is because I figured out a lot of people who ask my opinion on such matters are not asking my opinion at all, they are looking to confirm their own.  As I said earlier in the post, the educated, European, middle-classes agree almost wholeheartedly on these issues: Brexit is bad and Britain’s economy will be fucked and the people who campaigned for it are stupid cowards and the people who voted for it are thick racists.  If you stated that over lunch in any European white-collar office not a single peep of protest would result.

Unless I was sat there.  Okay sure, I like an argument.  I’d start an argument in a coffin, as somebody once said.  But I get annoyed when people ask my opinion only for the purposes of confirming their own, which would allow them to say that they are informed on current affairs without making the effort to hear solid counter-arguments which challenged their own preconceptions and forced them to perhaps modify their views.  I wouldn’t mind if somebody wants a proper discussion on an issue, but most of the time they want a quick agreement of their own position, not a discussion.  And this is nothing more than cheap virtue signalling, and I hate that in any form.

So my advice is:

1. Don’t ask for somebody’s opinion on something if he writes about it on a blog unless you are prepared to hear something you might not like.

2. When you hear an opinion you don’t like from somebody who writes about it on a blog, be prepared for a pretty robust argument should you challenge it.

3. Pay particular attention to points 1 and 2 if the person writing the blog happens to be a bit of an asshole who likes arguing.