it was midnight

very little, almost nothing

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Highgates heights & Hampsteads, to Poplar Hackney & Bow

To Islington & Paddington & the Brook of Albions River

We builded Jerusalem as a City & a Temple: from Lambeth

We began our Foundations; lovely Lambeth! O lovely Hills

Of Camberwell, we shall behold you no more in glory & pride

For Jerusalem lies in ruins & the Furnaces of Los are builded there

You are now shrunk up to a narrow Rock in the midst of the Sea

But here we build Babylon on Euphrates. compelld to build

And to inhabit. our Little-ones to clothe in armour of the gold

Of Jerusalems Cherubims & to forge them swords of her Altars

I see London blind & age-bent begging thro the Streets

Of Babylon, led by a child. his tears run down his beard

The voice of Wandering Reuben ecchoes from street to street

In all the Cities of the Nations Paris Madrid Amsterdam

The Corner of Broad Street weeps; Poland Street languishes

To Great Queen Street & Lincolns Inn all is distress & woe.

-- William Blake, Jerusalem The Emanation of The Giant Albion, copy E, c. 1821, #84

Thursday, April 02, 2009

As the city is the center of business; there is the Custom-house, an article, which, as it brings in an immense revenue to the publick, so it cannot be removed from its place, all the vast import and export of goods being, of necessity, made there; nor can the merchants be removed, the river not admitting the ships to come any farther.

Here, also, is the Excise Office, the Navy Office, the Bank, and almost all the offices where those vast funds are fixed, in which so great a part of the nation are concerned, and on the security of which so many millions are advanced.

Here are the South Sea Company, the East India Company, the Bank, the African Company, &. whose stocks support that prodigious paper commerce, called Stock-Jobbing; a trade, which once bewitched the nation almost to its ruin, and which, tho' reduced very much, and recovered from that terrible infatuation which once overspread the whole body of the people, yet is still a negotiation, which is so vast in its extent, that almost all the men of substance in England are more or less concerned in it, and the property of which is so very often alienated, that even the tax upon the transfers of stock, tho' but five shillings for each transfer, brings many thousand pounds a year to the government; and some have said, that there is not less than a hundred millions of stock transferred forward or backward from one hand to another every year, and this is one thing which makes such a constant daily intercourse between the Court part of the town, and the city[...].

-- Daniel Defoe, A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, letter 5 (1724-1727)

There is no Place in the Town which I so much love to frequent as the Royal-Exchange. It gives me a secret Satisfaction, and in some measure, gratifies my Vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an Assembly of Countrymen and Foreigners consulting together upon the private Business of Mankind, and making this Metropolis a kind of Emporium for the whole Earth. I must confess I look upon High-Change to be a great Council, in which all considerable Nations have their Representatives. Factors in the Trading World are what Ambassadors are in the Politick World; they negotiate Affairs, conclude Treaties, and maintain a good Correspondence between those wealthy Societies of Men that are divided from one another by Seas and Oceans, or live on the different Extremities of a Continent. I have often been pleased to hear Disputes adjusted between an Inhabitant of Japan and an Alderman of London, or to see a Subject of the Great Mogul entering into a League with one of the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these several Ministers of Commerce, as they are distinguished by their different Walks and different Languages: Sometimes I am justled among a Body of Armenians; Sometimes I am lost in a Crowd of Jews; and sometimes make one in a Groupe of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or Frenchman at different times; or rather fancy my self like the old Philosopher, who upon being asked what Countryman he was, replied, That he was a Citizen of the World.

-- Joseph Addison, The Spectator no. 69 (Saturday, 19 May 1711)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fourthly, While we so eagerly adhere unto Antiquity, and the accounts of elder times, we are to consider the fabulous condition thereof. And that we shall not deny, if we call to mind the Mendacity of Greece, from whom we have received most relations, and that a considerable part of ancient Times, was by the Greeks themselves termed μύθικον, that is, made up or stuffed out with Fables.[13] And surely the fabulous inclination of those days, was greater then any since; which swarmed so with Fables, and from such slender grounds, took hints for fictions, poysoning the World ever after; wherein how far they exceeded, may be exemplified from Palephatus,14 in his Book of Fabulous Narrations. That Fable of Orpheus, who, by the melody of his Musick, made Woods and Trees to follow him, was raised upon a slender foundation; for there were a crew of mad women, retired unto a Mountain from whence being pacified by his Musick, they descended with boughs in their hands, which unto the fabulosity of those times proved a sufficient ground to celebrate unto all posterity the Magick of Orpheus Harp, and its power to attract the sensless Trees about it. That Medea the famous Sorceress could renew youth, and make old men young again, was nothing else, but that from the knowledge of Simples she had a Receit to make white hair black, and reduce old heads, into the tincture of youth again. The Fable of Gerion and Cerberus with three heads, was this: Gerion was of the City of Tricarinia, that is, of three heads, and Cerberus of the same place was one of his Dogs, which running into a Cave upon pursuit of his Masters Oxen, Hercules perforce drew him out of that place, from whence the conceits of those days affirmed no less, then that Hercules descended into Hell, and brought up Cerberus into the habitation of the living. Upon the like grounds was raised the figment of Briareus, who dwelling in a City called Hecatonchiria, the fansies of those times assigned him an hundred hands. 'Twas ground enough to fansie wings unto Dædalus, in that he stole out of a Window from Minos, and sailed away with his son Icarus: who steering his course wisely, escaped; but his son carrying too high a sail was drowned. That Niobe weeping over her children, was turned into a Stone, was nothing else, but that during her life she erected over their Sepultures a Marble Tomb of her own. When Acteon had undone himself with Dogs, and the prodigal attendants of hunting, they made a solemn story how he was devoured by his Hounds. And upon the like grounds was raised the Anthropophagie15 of Diomedes his horses. Upon as slender foundation was built the Fable of the Minotaure; for one Taurus a servant of Minos gat his Mistris Pasiphae with child, from whence the Infant was named Minotaurus. Now this unto the fabulosity of those times was thought sufficient to accuse Pasiphae of Beastiality, or admitting conjunction with a Bull; and in succeeding ages gave a hint of depravity unto Domitian to act the Fable into reality.[16] In like manner, as Diodorus plainly delivereth, the famous Fable of Charon had its Nativity; who being no other but the common Ferry-man of Egypt, that wafted over the dead bodies from Memphis, was made by the Greeks to be the Ferry-man of Hell, and solemn stories raised after of him. Lastly, we shall not need to enlarge, if that be true which grounded the generation of Castor and Helen out of an Egg, because they were born and brought up in an upper room, according unto the word ὦον, which with the Lacædemonians had also that signification.[17]

-- Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646; sixth edition, 1672), chapter six, 'Of adherence unto Antiquity'

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour.

By proletariat, the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.

-- Engels, footnote to the 1888 English edition of The Communist Manifesto.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

However much that state of things may have altered during the last twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in the Manifesto are, on the whole, as correct today as ever. Here and there, some detail might be improved. The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today. In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated. One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.” (See The Civil War in France: Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’ s Assocation, 1871, where this point is further developed.) Further, it is self-evident that the criticism of socialist literature is deficient in relation to the present time, because it comes down only to 1847; also that the remarks on the relation of the Communists to the various opposition parties (Section IV), although, in principle still correct, yet in practice are antiquated, because the political situation has been entirely changed, and the progress of history has swept from off the earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated.

-- Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, June 24, 1872, London (Preface to the 1872 German edition of The Communist Manifesto)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I spoke to another hedge fund in London so perplexed by the many bad LBOs Icelandic banks were financing that it hired private investigators to figure out what was going on in the Icelandic financial system. The investigators produced a chart detailing a byzantine web of interlinked entities that boiled down to this: A handful of guys in Iceland, who had no experience of finance, were taking out tens of billions of dollars in short-term loans from abroad. They were then re-lending this money to themselves and their friends to buy assets—the banks, soccer teams, etc. Since the entire world’s assets were rising—thanks in part to people like these Icelandic lunatics paying crazy prices for them—they appeared to be making money. Yet another hedge-fund manager explained Icelandic banking to me this way: You have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets. “They created fake capital by trading assets amongst themselves at inflated values,” says a London hedge-fund manager.

-- Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair

Sunday, July 02, 2006

In 1968, during location filming in Snowdonia for Carry On Up the Khyber, the team stayed at the Royal Goat Hotel, where on 22 May [Kenneth] Williams recorded: 'The barman says Charlie Hawtrey consumed two and a half bottles of port, a whisky and a pot of tea last night! Last night I heard him shouting and bawling on the stairs, well past midnight, so I'm prepared to believe it.'

-- David Seabrook, All the Devils are Here (London: Granta, 2002)