Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Category archive: Friends
Yesterday evening I attended the talk organised by Libertarian Home, in the City, given by Steve Davies. I sat right at the front, and took photos:
On the left, Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home photographs, on the right, Steve Davies. Here we see Davies taking time out from talking about the history of individualism in Britain, to describe the best way to play the opening chords of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.
Just had an email about some new postings at the Norlonto Review. Remember the Norlonto Review?
Click on that to get it bigger, and with all the stuff below that you can read.
Finally. Well, yes, fair comment, but I had and I have my reasons.
One of the reasons there have been so many inanimate objects in these wedding photos so far is that I got there so very, very early. And it was such a lovely day, and such a lovely place. What was I supposed to do? Not take photos of stuff?
But another reason for the relative absence of people in these photos is that just shoving random wedding photos of people at a wedding and its immediate aftermath onto the internet raises the question of just how public a wedding is. Is it the business of the entire world? Not really. Not necessarily. (Think of the arguments that rage about who may and may not photograph celebrity weddings. These arguments are not only about money.)
So, are weddings entirely private? Again, not really.
A wedding is certainly not just about the Bride and the Groom. They are of course central to everything, and in modern, self-scripted weddings, we guests are often included in the proceedings by being told that we are “sharing” this “special day”. But I think more is involved than us merely sharing a basically personal ceremony. What these two people, and typically also their two families, are doing is proclaiming to one and to all that, as of now, things are different. The Bride and the Groom are no longer separate individuals in quite the way they were before this day. They are now, in whatever way they want to do this, a couple. Still two individuals of course, but also in it together. And they are not just saying this to each other. They are saying it to … everyone. We are now living a different life. Back us up, people. Don’t hit on either of us during marital rough patches. Help us to live this new life we are embarking on, rather than expecting us to behave like the singles we used to be. If you are a long time friend of hers, but don’t much care for him, make the effort to change that, and meanwhile, keep your grumbles about him to yourself.
In the past, holding weddings in public was even more important, because only if you had lots of witnesses could most of those directly concerned be entirely sure that the wedding had even happened. Public ceremonies, a marriage ceremony being only one such, were public ceremonies in order that everyone could then agree that they had happened, on that day, in that place, and that this or that, these or those promises had indeed been exchanged. In pre-literate times, public ceremonies were the nearest thing most people had to a collective record of events. They weren’t merely the principal form of public propaganda (although there definitely were that too); they were the public record.
As the old Church of England marriage ceremony puts it, right at the very start of the event:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; …
God, this congregation, this Man, this Woman. The congregation is no afterthought.
But exactly who, at a wedding these days, are the members of this congregation? In the internet age, is the congregation the entire world? Hardly. Yes, families and friends gather together to tell each other, and then to pass the word on to all their families and friends, that, as of now, they’re a couple and we will all help them to be a couple and to stay a couple. But what of total strangers on the other side of the world? Do you want random bods in faraway places to be told all about this event, and all about who was present at it, what they were wearing, and about how drunk they all got? Maybe you will be delighted to be telling absolutely anyone who cares all about it. But, maybe you will not.
So, in this next clutch of photos I have once again downplayed the individual portrait aspect of things, and concentrated on the kind of generic wedding-ness of the event. Ceremonial niceties, beautiful or quirky fashion statements, food, sunshine, music making, distant shots of brideness and groomness. But individual, recognisable faces? Once again, hardly any.
For me, the fact that, in my pictures of my fellow amateur wedding photographers, faces are so often hidden behind cameras is a feature rather than a bug, when it comes to showing my snaps, at least in theory, potentially, to total strangers. That’s basically why there are more photos in that collection than there are in this one.
Let me add another point on the anonymity front, relating to the sticking up of photos of people on a blog. Let me put it thus: I have quite a few subjects which I instruct Google to email me about whenever anyone mentions them on the big old www. One of these subjects is “face recognition”. I get a lot of emails from Google about that, often involving Google itself.
By now, the name and face of the Groom is not much of a secret to any friends of mine or of his or of both who care, what with him explicitly name-checking a couple of us guests for a couple of our photos (in this piece), my one being one of the sign photos I took beforehand. I did take quite a lot of portraits of people at the event itself, of course I did. But they will be thrown into the photographic bran tub that the Bride and Groom will presumably trawl through about once every decade, without casual internet passers-by seeing them. I may even have the odd trawl through them myself in the years to come. But as for the rest of you, you will have to make do with snaps like this:
As you can see, this is not just the ceremony itself. It is also the reception.
In 2.1 we see the Bride putting a ring on the Groom. And in 1.2 we see us guests passing … something along between us, but I already forget what it was. This was in accordance with some kind of Hindu ceremony that the Groom had read about on the internet and, if I recall what the Bride’s Mum said, we (i.e. regular Hindus) never do. So the Groom, no sort of Hindu himself, had invented an entire Hindu wedding tradition. Outstanding.
I particularly enjoyed the bit later on in the day (see 3.2) where the Bride and Groom, surrounded by musicians, were photoed together, at the far end of the lawn from the rest of us. I got no really good photos of this, but what I saw reminded me somewhat of this famous Jack Vettriano painting, of people dancing on the beach, attended not by musicians but by umbrella holders. I thought there were musicians involved in that picture, but I now reckon I was combining in my mind that painting with this one. Ah, it seems that the man with the umbrella was singing. So music was involved.
Setting Vettriano aside, one of the musicians told me that although they had performed at many weddings, they had never, ever been asked to do anything like that before. So it was a slightly special day for them also. Excellent.
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
Me, here, on April 2nd:
On April 20th, two friends of mine are to be married, hopefully in the warm outdoors, and I hope to be taking photos of it, in the warm outdoors. They hope, as do I, that the cold will soon abate.
April 20th being this coming Saturday.
And, hey presto, here is the latest forecast for that day, from here today:
Every time I have here flagged up a forecast of cloudless weather, the weather has behaved exactly as prophesied. So, if the weather this Saturday is not superb, this will be a first.
Although, I’ve just realised that is for London. Where the wedding will actually be, out in the depths of the West Country somewhere, they say that there will be some clouds. But, still sunny, and no chance of rain. A few clouds are even nicer for photography than cloudless, in my experience, not least because you get a better sunset.
Immediately after my first relaunched Last Friday, the one at which Sam Bowman spoke, I suffered a dose of success depression. This is when you achieve a goal, and then feel not happy but empty, because deprived of the goal. The event had gone well. But I expected a little too much from it by way of immediate good consequences. A wise friend who attended the evening later told me that good results would indeed happen, but more gradually than I had been assuming, and that is now starting to happen.
One of the better consequences of these events is that because I send out emails to anyone I half know or know of who I think might be interested in attending, I have re-established contact with a number of friends and semi-friends who I was in danger of losing touch with.
One such, Alastair James, a libertarian friend from way back, recently sent me an email which included this:
I know you mostly like shots of one thing (often with some clutter in the foreground), but if you are also interested in panoramas I wonder if you’ve ever been to Blythe Hill Fields in Lewisham. I think it has some of the best views in London of Canary Wharf and the City but I rarely see it mentioned.
For years I have been nagging people to tell me about good spots to photo London from, but mostly without success. And now that turns up, pretty much unsolicited, merely through me being in touch with Alastair and discussing his son’s sporting triumphs, they being the reason that he often finds Fridays rather hard to do.
As it happens, I had never heard of Blythe Hill Fields, but it immediately sounded very promising, the clues being in the name. A hill, with nothing in the foreground getting in the way, just fields. Ideal for wandering around on, to find the best shots, and so, yesterday it proved.
I immediately found out where Blythe Hill Fields is (from Google maps), identified the nearest station, Honor Oak Park, and soon discovered (from this train website) that there is a train direct to Honor Oak Park from Victoria, which is very near to me. I also learned (from a weather website) on Monday evening, that the short-range weather forecast for Tuesday was, in a word: superb. Not a cloud in the sky, they said, and so it proved. So, a superb forecast in the other sense also.
Yet again, we see here the working through of one of my favourite Laws, which says that new methods of communication (in this case the internet) do not replace older methods of doing things (in this case going there). Rather do the new methods complement and as likely as not reinforce the older methods. Writing gives people more to talk about. Printing makes writing massively more productive, and gives rise to masses more talk. Television adapts books and sells books and provides yet more conversation fodder. Email makes meetings, at which we can all talk to each other some more, far easier to organise and publicise. And now the internet makes wandering around London (also the world) massively easier.
This posting is already getting rather unwieldy, so I’ll hold the photos I took at and around Blythe Hill Fields yesterday for another posting. Instead let me finish up this posting by quoting and commenting on another bit of the Alastair James email, which further emphasises the point about how the internet makes travelling easier, and in his case more fun:
BTW I recently finally got a Smartphone and I find it much easier to follow blogs since I got it – I’ve always felt guilty sitting in front of a PC reading a blog that I’m doing something unproductive. Anyway I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading yours and how much I enjoy it!
You might be surprised to learn what a difference declarations of that sort can make to the morale of a blogger like me, who doesn’t now get many comments, still less comments like that. Without my Fridays, I never get to hear that, which is a perfect example of a somewhat delayed effect that my friend in paragraph one above talked about.
But note also the smartphone thing. Presumably Alastair now uses his to read blogs in circumstances where more serious work would be difficult, such as while travelling.
I am myself currently engaged in buying a smartphone, helped by my friend Michael Jennings (who is giving the next Friday talk this Friday – do come if you want to). Whereas for Alastair James a key app is reading blogs on the move, for me the killer app is definitely being able to learn exactly where I am at any point in my various wanderings, and how to get to where I want to go to next. It would have come in quite handy yesterday, but because of some serendipity that occurred without it (more about that later), I am actually quite glad that yesterday I did not have Google maps with me. That’s another story, for which stay tuned.
I suspect that Alastair and I are not the only ones now, finally, kitting ourselves out with smartphones. I sense a general society-wide stampede in this direction, as the iPhone works its magic. The iPhone defines what a smartphone is, and all those for whom money is no object get one. That tells the Taiwanese copyists what to copy at half the price, and now they have pretty much got there.
I will also be buying a “bluetooth” (Michael J says that will work) keyboard, much like the black keyboard in this posting (scroll down a bit), to go with my smartphone, the idea being that I will be able to type stuff in as well as read things. (That keyboard is also a straight copy, in black, of an Apple keyboard, incidentally. Again with the Apple influence.) A smartphone screen too small for typing, you say? My very first computer, an Osborne, had a screen that was hardly any bigger, and I loved that. Osborne equals a very stupid version of a smartphone, plus a keyboard, plus half a ton of electro-crap that is no longer needed. Discuss. I feel one of those ain’t-capitalism-grand postings for Samizdata coming on.
The trouble with my current laptop is that, like the Osborne if with less extremity, it is still quite heavy. This means that I don’t always have it with me, in fact I pretty much now never have it with me, because when I do take it with me on my travels I often never actually use it, and in the meantime greatly resent its weight. The idea is that I will always have my smartphone with me (obviously), and always (fingers crossed) with the keyboard. So whenever a blogging opportunity beckons, when I am out and about, I will be able to respond.
The smartphone I am getting also has a rather good camera included. It’ll be interesting to compare that camera with my present one.
One benefit of meeting up with fellow libertarians is that together we sort out the world. But there is also the matter of sorting out the ongoing activities of the libertarian movement itself.
When I finally got to the Rose and Crown did some exploratory chit-chatting with Simon Gibbs, about such things as future writings for Libertarian Home by me (I promise nothing but hope to do something) and about how he does his videos. I would like to get good at doing videos, but don’t know where to start. Except now I do. Simon has agreed to teach me what he does. He uses Adobe Premier Elements. So, that’s what I have in mind to be using. I also showed him my camera, the reviews of which when I first bought it said it would be good at video. Will that do? Yes, he said.
In exchange I was able to offer Simon some tips about how to do radio in general and the BBC’s Moral Maze in particular, which he was nearly on last week, and will surely be on Real Soon Now.
I daresay similar conversations were going on elsewhere in the room, where other libertarian doings were likewise being furthered.
I also got to talk with Richard Carey, who is to be my next Last Friday speaker but one. Which means that I now have my next three Last Fridays sorted. February 22: Michael Jennings. (We now – at last - have Samizdata author archives!) March 29: Richard Carey. April 26: Rob Fisher. Michael will be telling us some of the things he has learned about the globe and its ways of organising itself from his various globe trottings. Rob will be talking about open source software. And now it is pretty much settled that Richard will talk about the relationship between libertarianism and Austrian Economics. Excellent. Email me (see “contact” top left here) if you want to know more about any of these events.
Oddly enough, the one thing I didn’t think to do at this gathering was take any photos. I was similarly forgetful on the Last Friday of January.
Neither omission was at all clever. Photos create an aura of significance, a penumbra of meaningfulness, a force field of where-it’s-at-ness. Not much. A bit. We can all do out bit, and bits like that are easily done by me, except that on these two nights, they weren’t.
And after all that I went home, watched some TV, and then went to bed.
The reason for all my meandering about in the London Bridge stroke Southwark stroke Waterloo area last Thursday was that I needed to be at London Bridge to photo the bottom of the Shard before it got too dark, in other words around 4pm, but then had to wait around until after 7pm, before going to the Rose and Crown for the Libertarian Home social. Had I gone home, I’d only have had to turn around and come back again, more or less immediately. Hence all the meandering.
The LH social was a lot of fun. There was no one big conversation, just lots of little ones, and one of mine was about architecture and city planning. The problem of how to switch from a statist world to a libertarian one without destroying lots of sacred buildings was touched on, which I think is a very good question. Libertarians aren’t the Taleban, but the early effect might be the same if we aren’t careful. And if we don’t have answers to such questions, we won’t get very far.
Also on an architectural theme, I was reminded of these photos, by the man, “Ian F4”, who took them. He still had them on his mobile, and reminded me that he had put them in a comment here, on this posting. They deserve greater prominence, and at the very least, another showing:
I love how, in the left hand photo, a bright light (or in this case a bright reflection of the sun) makes everything else go dark.
The one on the right is the shot of the Shard from near the bottom of the Monument,
It was Ian F4 who got me doing this mad series of Thursday Odyssey postings, by telling me about how he reads my blog. This cheered me up no end, and I decided to have a bit of a go here, more than I have been doing lately. So, all these recent postings are his fault.
Yes, my Last Friday of the Month meetings are starting up again, with the first new one being on the 25th of this month. Speaker: Sam Bowman. Subject: libertarianism and “unknown unknowns”.
More about why the meetings, again, and about what Bowman will be saying in this Samizdata posting.
If interested, please get in touch, with an email, or with a comment here, or there.
Indeed. My own happy new year was delayed by illness. During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this). But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering. I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache. But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.
So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.
I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio. Lovely, albeit mad. (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing. The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work. I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.
Last night I attended a dinner at Chateau Samizdata.
Lots of photos were taken, and not just by me. The basic reason for all the photography was that the food was the sort of food that deserved to be memorialised in pixels:
And once one camera is out, I get out mine to photo the photoing, and from then on it escalates. As well as three old school cameras like mine, there were also several tablets and smart phones in action. In fact, there were probably more cameras present last night than there were people (which I reckon to be an interesting moment in social history) especially if you include cameras like the camera in my mobile phone. This stayed in my jacket pocket all night, but it was there.
Here is Michael J photoing two of our fellow guests:
And finally, here are a couple of snaps of our host and hostess, being photoed ...:
... and then looking at the result a few seconds later:
As I keep on saying, the history of photography just now is not that this or that famous photographer has just taken a bunch more famous photos. It is that we all now have these things.
Not quite. The last posting at Samizdata before it does its Big Jump Through Hyperspace is actually entitled: Nice job you have here ... shame if something happens to it.
On Friday of this week, those links don’t work. Here’s hoping they come back on Saturday.
Well, I think it’s time I resumed more regular postings here, by sticking up more quota photos, so here’s one:
“Photocoy”. Heh. It’s isn’t a word, but it should be.
That could easily have been taken by me. It’s London, after all. Actually it was taken by Kristine Lowe, who writes of it:
Modern newsagents are diversifying as quickly as they can it seems. I just came across this fascinating photo I snapped last year because I was stunned by how many different services and goods this London newsagent sold. Is there a parallel here to the media industry? Should there be more of a parallel than there is? In either case, I find it a fascinating photo to contemplate.
I don’t know if it is right to call this shop a “newsagent”. England has always had what you might call “everything shops” run by persons who are shopaholics not in the sense of loving shopping but of loving to be in their shop all around the clock, and to have every little thing imaginable on sale in their shop.
But the thing that interests me about what Kristine says is about how she only realised how much she liked this photo when browsing through her photos, much later. Snap. I know exactly the feeling.
And like I always say, my camera regularly sees more than I do.
I can feel it starting to get harder to wander around London, physically. But I will be able to wander through my photo archives for many more years yet. As with wine collections, time will only add to the value.
I have been trying to ignore the Olympics, and I actually did (I now realise) pretty much completely ignore the Beijing Olympics. But if you live in London and the Olympics are in London, remaining indifferent to the Olympics is hard, especially in a place containing lots of Jamaicans, or at any rate Jamaicans for the night.
I took some photos of the screen, featuring Usain Bolt taking some photos of his own.
My photos were wonky and taken from way off to the side, like this:
But, stretched out and rotated a bit, that one looks quite good:
Here is a more photographically professional treatment of the same story, and they have some of the photos that Bolt himself took.
My favourite Bolt snap is this one:
How many photographers do you see there?
The man in the red circle is the owner of the camera Bolt borrowed. He was obviously not in any doubt that his camera would be returned to him by Bolt (rather than it going walkies in all the excitement), and he was a very happy man.
Last Sunday, I journeyed to by train from nearby Victoria Station to Peckham Rye, to take photos from the Peckham Roof, and also to meet up with some fellow Samizdatistas plus a Mrs and Baby Samizdatista. And of course, I took photos, of the roof and from the roof.
But the photos I took from out of the train on the way turned out just as well as most of those later snaps taken when I got there. The thing is, to photo London’s Big Things interestingly, you don’t have to be miles up in the sky. If all you do is get above regular roof level, you can see almost as much.
The light and weather were splendid and the carriage was deserted, so I hardlly felt foolish at all, snapping away through the shiny, reflective glass. Yes, there are reflections. I was in a train!
Two of the snaps, taken within seconds of each other, lent themselves particularly to the horizontal slicing process that I am fond of, especially the second one. Click to get them bigger, and to see all the foreground South London clutter, in front of the Big Things:
I got lucky there with the horizontalness of the camera with those two, which I often bugger up on account of my glasses “correcting” the view, but actually making it hard to get it horizontal and vertical, like it should be.
I wasn’t so lucky with most of this next clutch, which are just snaps from out of the train that I like. I could have straightened out all the wonky ones with my NotPhotoshop programme, but why bother? I was in a train!
And how about those Unités d’Habitation, bottom centre.
When you photo things, you see them.
Finally, a couple of snaps taken at the top. On the left, another of the rain, and of what the rest of the roof not occuped by Frank’s Cafe looks like. On the right, on another bit of the roof, a very strange state of affairs.
Table tennis eight stories up, in the open? I think they were expecting a nicer summer.