Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Jay on Halloween buckets
Alastair on MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
Rob Fisher on At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Michael Jennings on Only with a computer
Friday Night Smoke on Godot nearly ready
Simon Gibbs on Bald bloke taking a photo
6000 on Bald bloke taking a photo
Tatyana on The "colorful and curvilinear forms" of Herr Hundertwasser
Brian Micklethwait on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Friday Night Smoke on Driverless open-plan tube trains for London
Most recent entries
- MDL and DPD delivered what they promised but were wrong about me having to be there to sign for it
- At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
- The death of email?
- Only with a computer
- Godot nearly ready
- Bald bloke taking a photo
- Halloween buckets
- Strange bread
- Battersea flats are about to be sold and therefore are about to be built
- The “colorful and curvilinear forms” of Herr Hundertwasser
- How Bill Bryson on white and black paint helps to explain the Modern Movement in Architecture
- Two guys on Westminster Bridge photoing their icecreams in front of the Houses of Parliament with their iPhones
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: Middle East and Islam
Indeed. You don’t see this kind of thing every day:
But I did. Today.
As a general rule, I don’t advise combining ice cream with photography. Do one or the other. That is the rule I recommend. But these guys were doing an excellent job of merging these two things, and they weren’t just eating their ice creams and doing photography. They were photoing their ice creams.
I congratulated them for the excellence of their photographic imagination, and they were really pleased to hear this. I asked if I could photo them. Yes, they replied. And when I said “photo”, I meant, as they surely understood, photo them and put pictures of them up at my blog:
I also took lots photos of a demo outside Parliament by Kurds, demanding help from Britain in their battles against ISIS. Maybe (I promise nothing) I’ll put some of those snaps either here or on Samizdata, perhaps tomorrow.
But for where? Would you believe, Iraq? No?
Built in China, apparently.
Mick Hartley’s latest little clutch of photos illustrates one of the things I particularly like about his photography, which is his relish of colour. He even points spells this out in the title of his posting. I have nothing against black and white photography, especially in the decades when it was that or nothing, and neither does Mick Hartley. But there is something rather fetishistic and fake-arty about how black and white photography continues to be worshipped, long after colour photography became easy to do.
Often colour is deeply embedded in the story that the picture tells, as in this photo. This is not one of Hartley’s own, but he constantly picks up great photos done by others on his radar (this one being number nine of these twelve):
No prizes for seeing why I particularly like that one.
But it’s not just the photography aspect that I like. I also like that the anonymity angle is also covered. I more and more tend to prefer anonymity in the pictures I take myself of other photographers, and post here. Often it happens because the camera covers the face of the photographer I am photoing.
I went rootling through my archives for a snap of someone whose face is partially hidden, and found this snap, of which I am very proud. Here, the anonymity job, albeit only partially, is done by a big pair of sunglasses.
I also like the colours in that photo. Snobbery about blackness and whiteness, and especially about blackness, also extends to what colour cameras ought to be, doesn’t it?
I enjoyed this, which is the Daily Mash take on how cats “love any quirky and winsome humour associated with people”.
The piece concludes:
Cat Denys Finch Hatton said: “Our amusement at the eccentricities of human behaviour may be a way of switching off from our primal and sadistic natures which are obsessed by sex, killing and torture.
“Or maybe we’re just bored with our empty consumerist lives.”
To be a bit more serious, my understanding of cats is that they mostly look on us as giant domestic appliances, supplying food and warmth and strokes. Seriously, machines that do these things seem equally attractive to them.
It’s dogs that are truly interested in people. But dogs are goofy.
See also the Daily Mash view of the Ashes.
And, this is actually quite profound.
While I was on that Waterloo Station upper deck, I espied a couple of adverts next to each other, put out by this organisation.
Here they are together:
And here they each are separately, for you to click on to get them well and truly readable:
Okay, I accept these challenges, and will respond.
The left hand one is a variant on the theme of “a billion people can’t be wrong”. Yes they can. Why has the Qur’an remained unchanged? There are any number of reasons why that would happen, other than what they are trying to say, which is that it is all true. Because it is an object of unthinking worship, rather than of serious study? (Remember that the memorising of it is often done by people who have no idea what they are saying, merely reproducing sounds.) Because people have been too scared to challenge it? Because Islam remains stuck in the seventh century, and unthinking bigotry is built into it?
Science, which the second advert seeks to argue was pre-echoed by the Qur’an, has changed over and over again. And this is a sign of science’s intellectual seriousness and intellectual vitality. Lack of change, century after century, signifies the opposite.
As for the claim of the Qur’an to be science before science, the real theory of the big bang is but the conceptual tip of an intellectual iceberg consisting of a ton of evidence and interpretation, and it is the latter that gives science its force. Science is not merely true. It explains why it is true. It argues about whether it is true. And consequently it gets ever more true. Islam is no truer now than it was thirteen centuries ago.
The good news here is that the claim that the Qur’an is as scientific as real science is a huge concession to the acknowledged intellectual superiority of science. “We have been right all along, and science proves it!” But if they really thought that the Qur’an was the last word on everything, they wouldn’t be dragging science in to back the claim up. Science would be ignored.
But they know that they cannot now ignore science. Science is a challenge they know they have to respond to. On account of it being so much truer and so much better at getting at more truth than the unchanging and unchangeable incantations that they are stuck with.
Incoming from Michael J:
Richard the Lionheart apparently occupied St Hilarion Castle in Northern Cyprus on his way to Jerusalem in the 12th century. Thus it is pretty clear that crusaders used these latrines. However, the castle is a couple of centuries older than this, so we must therefore wonder whether these are actual crusader latrines, or merely latrines used by crusaders.
“Crusader Latrines” sounds like an up-to-the-minute brand, doesn’t it? “Middle Age Privies”, on the other hand ...
This Samizdata posting, for instance, is about a guy using a great big iPad to photo Westminster Abbey. Scorn was expressed by some commenters at how stupid this man was making himself look. I disagree strongly, as did Michael Jennings.
Michael’s comment about this deserves further attention and here it is in full:
It is believed that the reason that the first generation iPad did not have cameras was because Steve Jobs believed that people using it to take photographs would look ridiculous. This received complaints, not so much for people who wanted to use it to take photographs, but for parents of small children. Point the iPad at the baby, start up a video conference with the grandparents, allow the grandparents to watch the baby, and the grandparents will be happily occupied for hours.
However, people then started using the iPad for taking photographs anyway. So, Apple gave it a decent camera. I have one myself, and I prefer taking photographs with it to taking photographs with a cellphone camera. Whether that is the quality of the camera, I am not sure. (By standards of cellphone cameras, the one in the iPad is of high quality, but most high end phones have cameras of similar quality). I think it may be the screen. Everybody who takes digital photographs knows the experience of taking what you think is a good photograph, but discovering later that it is blurry, but being unable to tell that at the time on the tiny screen on the camera. The iPad has a large, very high resolution screen, so you have a much better ability to tell at once if you have taken a good picture or not. If you haven’t, there may even be a chance to take it again.
A final good thing about the iPad is its fantastic battery life. (This isn’t hard to explain - if you look at pictures of the innards of an iPad it is almost entirely battery). At the end of a busy day, its not uncommon to find that your batteries are low or completely depleted on all your devices except the iPad. You see something that needs photographing, so you use the iPad simply because it is still going.
As for looking ridiculous, that is all about what is normal and expected. If everyone does it, it no longer looks ridiculous.
To me what is truly ridiculous is refraining from doing what works best, because you think that looks ridiculous. It’s like that thing about being cool. If you are trying to be cool, you are by definition failing. If your over-riding concern is not to look ridiculous, then you are being ridiculous.
To illustrate the matter further, Michael immediately added another comment, which included this photo, also deserving of a wider audience than it may get while buried in a comment thread:
Underneath which Michael added:
For instance, if on a slow afternoon you unexpectedly find your self at the tomb in Jerusalem where protestants believe that Christ rose from the dead, it can be really helpful to have your iPad with you.
Last night, Michael and I both attended the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party. Here is my photo of Michael, taking a picture of me with his iPad:
And here is my photo of Michael’s photo of me, as instantly displayed on his iPad:
Michael could be sure that his photo was in focus even as he was taking it, and certainly immediately afterwards. I could only be sure that my photo of his photo was also in focus when I got home, and actually, a great many of the other photos that I took at this shindig were not properly in focus, there being somewhat insufficient light (with what there was of it typically being ill-directed for my purposes), and people being prone to move about when they converse with one another. Which makes Michael’s point yet again.
Whenever, of a Friday, I go looking for cat news, there is always plenty.
Pride of place today goes to the news that the New York shooter loved his two cats. But, it is now argued, by some different scientists to the scientists who argued the opposite, that he can’t have caught brain cancer from his cats, because that doesn’t happen. Good to know. But, you might be driven by your cats to commit suicide. How about murder?
On the other hand, Cats that pester for food could be suffering from psychological condition. Yes. They’re cats.
News of a cat that is making itself useful: Cat opens new excavator plant in Texas. That must have been something to see. What did the cat say? Did it just chuck a champagne bottle against the side of the excavator plant? Is there video of this?
Next up, the encouraging news that M12 Cat 6A connector system delivers signal integrity up to 10Gbps.
And, in Israel, new born and very rare (apparently) sand kittens, like this one:
I actually don’t think the one on the right is very good. The cat connection is imposed, not explained.
However, I don’t believe the Moists actually care that their precious prophet has had his picture flashed about. I think they’re just looking for a fight, and I am giving them the oxygen of publicity. Oh well. But you can’t just ignore this crap. Here’s hoping the Gendarmes get them.
Don’t agree with the French politician (second link) who wants everyone to “respect” all opinions. Just tolerate, even as you despise and/or detest, is quite sufficient.
What’s Mo saying, by the way? Anyone? Ah, answer here.
I mentioned the difficulties I had last Saturday, at the Liberty League Conference, with indoor photography. The least unsuccessful indoor photos I took were of some of the speakers.
Part of movement building is telling each other what we all look like, so here are these snaps. Click to get bigger pictures, exactly as they emerged from my camera. If anyone uses any of these snaps elsewhere (as they are most welcome to do) they are also welcome to do whatever editing they consider might improve them.
The good gentlemen pictured below are, in the order in which they spoke at the Conference, James Stanfield (top left), Mark Pennington (top centre), Brendon O’Neill (top right), Kristian Niemietz (bottom left), Andrew Lilico (bottom centre), Mustafa Akyol (bottom left):
James Stanfield. Stanfield is a colleague of James Tooley, and was a late replacement for Tooley, who had been struck down by a travel-related bug. It seems that school spotting in far away places has its dangers. Having heard Tooley speak a number of times over the years, most recently last Wednesday, and not ever having heard James Stanfield before, I personally was not that distressed by this swap, although I’m guessing others present may have been.
Everyone, definitely including me, regretted the no-show by Toby Young, who got stuck in traffic and then failed to find anywhere to park and went back home. Bizarre. But at least Young phoned in to explain all this. The titles of two of his books, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and The Sound of No Hands Clapping, provoked laughter when mentioned by conference supremo Anton Howes as he passed on these travel updates.
Stanfield’s talk was distinguished by his assertion of the value of liberty, as a principle. Stanfield didn’t justify a total free market in education merely because it would, in the opinion of onlookers, have better educational results. People should, he said, be allowed to choose whatever education they want for their children, because that is an inherently good idea, along with such ideas as it being good for people to be allowed to say what they want and go where they want.
The other of the above speakers who particularly impressed me was Mustafa Akyol. I am no admirer of Islam. Akyol is the first person (Muslim or otherwise) I have ever heard to have got me thinking that I might be mistaken about just how inherently evil Islam is. He is the author of a book entitled Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty, a copy of which I purchased after he gave his talk. I probably still won’t be convinced, mind, but I am looking forward to reading this.
That a particular speaker may not have impressed me as much as the above two says little about him and quite a lot about me. I have reached the nodding off stage in life. If I nod off while you are speaking at an event I am attending, you shouldn’t take it personally. Could this be why so many people - people other than me - prefer not to sit at the front of the audience at events like this?
Actually it’s by Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd. And it’s not that new; it was first published (in French) in 2007. But it has just been made available in English. And it is exactly the Todd book that, for several years now, I have most been wanting to read. It is entitled A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World.
If it is as interesting as I hope it is, this book could finally enable Todd to make his long overdue breakthrough into the English speaking world.
And it is, as Instapundit is always saying, in the post.
In all my previous Todd googlings, I had never before come across this stuff about Todd, although I am almost certain that it has been there all along. Will read this tomorrow, or failing that, Real Soon. (And ooh look: at the top left, under where it says “NEW!!!”, there is me, and three of my Todd postings.)
Think about it: What’s the best way to make sure there is only goodwill out there towards Muslims?
That’s right: Kill all the bad Muslims.
It’s the way that he combines hate-the-hateful speech with everyone-live-in-harmony speech that makes it so funny, right speak with left speak. Reminds me of that great speech for the defence in Animal House.
This evening I attended the ASI blogger bash, and one of the speakers, Harry Cole, said something along the lines of: Lefties are better at comedy than the Right.. Which I suspect is a lot truer of Britain than it is of the USA. Closely related to that observation is that in Britain, as was also discussed, we are years away from anything resembling a British version of the Tea Party. The British Right, in other words, is not in tune with the Zeitgeist, or even any major slab of the Zeitgeist, the way the USA Right is in the USA. And even there, it may just be a temporary consequence of the Obama phenomenon,, which is a huge attempt to turn the USA into something entirely different. Europe, basically. When that attempt gets switched off, whenever that happens, the Tea Party may die with it. By which I mean either go home or else turn entirely into dull old regular politics.
LATER: Further illustration of the same proposition. When Cleese was funny, he was, if not Left, then at least anti-Right. Now that he’s not funny, he’s Right.
Came across this photo, here, having been sent there to read something else that I’ve forgotten about. Let’s backtrack and see. Yes, apparently I was reading this, for some bizarre reason or other. Plus, rootling through these photos also got me paying some attention to aqueducts. So anyway, the photo (slightly flattened):
A chance for the New York Post to get in a dig at the Israelis for being horrid to the Palestinians:
The fishermen go out every morning hoping that they will be allowed to go out to sea, but Israeli navy forces rarely allow them to leave the shallow waters.
Because after all, under no circumstances whatsoever could “fishermen” possibly be doubling up as anything else.
So, also a chance for me to link back to a posting here about how my attitude to Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.
But putting all that to one side, nice photo.
That’s twice in the last few days I’ve slammed some important nails on the head in brief and to-the-point blog postings at Samizdata. I did it with this, and I think I just might have done it again with this. The point will be a familiar one to all who read everything here. But how many is that? And I think, this time, I may just have cracked the phrasing of it. I hope that this latest one also has its little moment of virality, but assume nothing.
Just to say where I come from, in case strangers are passing by (welcome, by the way): I’m an atheist, for most of the usual atheist reasons, and an atheist who prefers Christianity to Islam, for most of the usual human reasons.
Were a time traveller/historian from the future to reveal to me that Islam had indeed been defeated (setting aside for the time being just what “defeated” might mean), I would expect him/her to add, at some point in our (I hope) quite prolonged discussions, that Christianity had played a big part in this excellent outcome.
Religion seems to me to be a part of human nature, which is not to say that all humans seem to need it like we all need air, food or drink. It’s just that a lot of us seem to. As an atheist I am resigned to this. All the arguments that convince me of the non-existence of God are not so much wrong, to a religionist, as beside the point. The point being that they really need their religion, and that’s the truth that matters to them, not people like me explaining the factual implausibility of spaghetti monsters or orbiting teapots (two favourite atheist inventions).
So the question for many is simply: which religion shall it be? And just now, it seems, although I don’t know the numbers, that when it comes to people converting from one religion to another, the big story in the world in recent decades is of people converting from Islam to Christianity, particularly (so I am told) in Africa, but even more particularly in the rich societies of Europe and the USA. See, for instance, this posting, which I dug up on the www, and in particular the comments, where “Kepha” says:
My guess is that the time is not far off when the number of conversions from Islam in the West will be so large that it will be noticed; and the most that the jihadis will be able to do is splutter with helpless rage ...
But, say other commenters in the same thread, Muslims are more than replacing themselves, by having a higher birthrate.
Many things could be said about this. I will confine myself to one (or maybe it’s two followed by a deduction), which is that whereas the flow of Muslims out of Islam and into Christianity can be expected to continue pretty much indefinitely, very possibly becoming a stampede once converts to Christianity are able to be more public about the process, the current high birthrates of many Muslim countries can be expected, in due course, to moderate. All modernising countries experience a big bulge in their birthrates, but this never lasts, or such is my understanding.
If the above is right, that’s very good news for Christianity and very bad news for Islam. And people like me, who would merely like to see Islam defeated, can just relax and be patient and let history take its course.
Okay, pessimistic cup-half-empty commenters, off you go. Tell me this is all wishful thinking.
If you feel like it. These Islam postings here are really just me thinking aloud. If others join in fine, but if not, fine too.