Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- My latest meeting went fine
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- Keeping up appearances next to Centre Point
- A model of London now opening to the public
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Category archive: Friends
This is a first:
I am at Brian Micklethwait’s place for his latest Friday. This argument against leaving the EU was made (I am literally live blogging, this is breaking news!): The good thing about Brussels is that it is impossible to be emotionally attached to it. This weakens the state.
Interesting discussion is now ensuing. And we have not even got to the speaker yet.
The liveblogger in question being Rob Fisher, to whom thanks.
The speaker and subject matter were described in this earlier posting here.
I do hope to write something soonish about what was actually said by Patrick Crozier, but meanwhile, the other interesting thing about this evening’s event, for me, was how well attended it was. By this I mean that the room was, as it usually seems to be, comfortably but not uncomfortably full.
What was so unusual about this outcome was that when I sent that first email out last Sunday evening, flagging up the meeting, I got no responses. Usually, one or two or three people reply by return of email that they intend to attend, and more acceptances come in as the week before the meeting (which is on the Friday) progresses. But this time: nothing. Not even one email. Not a sausage. In my reminder email, which went out yesterday, I pretty much begged people to come, and to tell me beforehand that they were coming. And a healthy trickle of positive responses duly trickled in, and I relaxed. And then, come the evening itself, as already revealed, pretty much the exact same number of people showed up as usually shows up.
How do people, collectively, know to do this? There has to be some kind of mathematical law in operation here, which says that the right number of people always shows up, no matter what.
It cannot be coincidence that the only time when far, far too many people showed up for comfort was the very first of these meetings, when I restarted them at the beginning of (I think it was) 2013. Never again. This strongly suggests to me that The Crowd, subsequently so wise, started out ignorant, of how much comfortable space there was, but that The Crowd has subsequently learned. And now, The Crowd knows how to turn up chez moi in the exact right numbers, every time. No matter what I do to assemble it, and no matter what it says beforehand, or doesn’t say.
I just sent out the email plugging a talk to be given at my home this coming Friday (the 29th) by Patrick Crozier, on “The Political Consequences of World War One” (as already flagged up here in this posting).
The email included this:
Many libertarians of my acquaintance talk about World War One as the great libertarian historical What-If? As in: Surely, surely, the world would have remained far more libertarian-inclined if only ... World War One not been blundered into by its deluded protagonists. Everything bad about the modern world, for many libertarians, has its origins in that fateful and fatal moment of mass mobilisation, for massed war, in August 1914. War is the Health of the State! And with war, modern statism just grew and grew.
But has this growth in statism happened because of war, and because of that war in particular? Or did war merely accompany the growth? Was this causation, or merely correlation?
Patrick Crozier writes regularly for Samizdata, specialising in World War One, and in events of WW1 that happened exactly one hundred years before the time of his postings. Just recently, Patrick has been, as it were, extricating himself from the trenches and from purely military issues, to look also at wider political developments, on the home front and beyond. So he seemed to me to be the ideal person to be asked, as I did ask him earlier in the month, this question:
Was the rise of statism in Britain and the West seriously accelerated by WW1, or would such stuff have happened anyway, with or without war?
Were there big moves being made towards statism before the outbreak of war, and not even in anticipation of war? Did neutrals also do lots of statist stuff at the same time as the war’s protagonists?
Sounds good to me. But then, these talks always do, because if at talk doesn’t sound good to me, I keep on looking until I find another that does.
If you didn’t get the email but would like to attend, or would like to get this and future emails, leave a comment or send me an email. To do the latter click where it says “Contact”, top left.
The weekend before last, just before getting ill, I attended a christening, at St James’s Piccadilly. Outside St James’s, I encountered two ducks, who seemed very much at home, and I’m assuming that this is their home. There was a small pond, which I’m guessing was theirs:
And on the right, the day’s other happy couple, showing off their newly christened daughter. Her name is not “Liberty”, but Mum and Dad are libertarians. Congratulations to Ayumi and to Richard, and to their daughter. A very good way to make more libertarians is to give birth to them and then raise them as libertarians. But a very happy day, whatever she decides to make of herself.
Today I began to feel properly recovered, and I spent most of my blogging time doing this posting, about this forthcoming Libertarian Home event, which is happening on May 14th. Interesting speakers, including Anton Howes, whom I particularly enjoy listening to.
Before getting ill, I managed (and thank goodness I did) finally to get properly ahead of myself with regard to my own speakers, for my own monthly meetings. After cutting it far too fine in Feb and March, but being rescued by two excellent speakers, I did some serious hustling, and am now able to announce that the following speakers-and-dates have now also been fixed, subject to all the usual qualifiers about how things might change but I hope they won’t, blah blah.
It proved a bit hard to remember everybody, and every date. All the more reason to do a memo-to-self posting here, gathering it all together, for me to refer to, and to refer other people to:
April 29th – Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of World War One. Did WW1 cause lots of bad statist crap, or might a lot of that bad stuff have happened anyway?
May 27th – Dominic Frisby on taxation.
June 24th – Anthony J. Evans on to what extent economic freedom leads to political freedom.
July 29th – Michael Jennings on the Middle East.
August 26th – Nico Metten on localism as a libertarian strategy.
Assuming that plan unfolds approximately as planned, that’s not a bad little handful of events.
Last night I dined at the new and rather temporary home of Samizdata, where I took this photo:
Click on this to get it larger.
These really are very tasty crisps, and I strongly recommend them. I immediately decided that I would try to serve some of these at future iterations of my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings. So, I took a note of these chips, with my camera.
When I pondered the impact of digital photography, way back when that was, this ability to photo not only mere prettiness, but also information, loomed large.
I mentioned how my friend Simon Gibbs and his workmates all use their smartphones to photo the mass scribblings on a whiteboard after a brainstorming session. The man making the thumbs-up sign in the above photo told me about a new app that he now uses at work which takes a picture like the ones Simon and his pals take, and smartens it up, so to speak. It translates handwriting, that is to say, into proper computer text (presumably computer text you can scan), and arranges everything more neatly and more readably. Impressive. And I’m guessing that the existence both of smartphones taking photos, and of apps like this that can make even more sense of such photos, changes what gets written on the whiteboard, now that more coherent text will be better recorded and processed. I’m guessing that handwriting improves somewhat. But does this app, I wonder, subtract somewhat from the informality of the process? And might that undermine creativity?
I wonder what this app would have done with my Tyrrell’s veg crisps photo.
I photoed Mr Thumbs-Up’s smartphone, where the logo for this app was to be seen, but alas, the smart-focussing in my camera was not smart enough to focus on this image. It was all a blur:
There’s no point in me showing you a larger version of that, is there? How sad that my photo-note of an app for processing photo-notes should be so useless.
I should have included more stuff off screen for my camera to focus on. As I later discovered when I took some other photos off of his smarphone, of how my blog looked on his smartphone. Those photos came out better. But that’s for another posting.
Indeed. The old Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo is finally coming back to life again, for boring rush hour services, but life.
Until late in 2007, Eurostar trains used to come and go from the new station they built at Waterloo for that exact purpose. But then they shut the place, and the Eurostars operated from St Pancras instead. Since 2007, the Waterloo Eurostar terminal has been a corpse.
After much searching, I managed to dig up a photo I took in 2007 of some Eurostar snouts poking out of the Waterloo terminal, just before it died:
Once again, we see Century House in the background of a photo here that is basically of something else. The previous posting in which this happened is here, at which there is a brief explanatory comment about Century House’s history. Spooks, basically. Now just flats.
Even older Waterloo Eurostar photos can be viewed here, posted here in 2013, but taken in 2003. I also just re-listened to a conversation involving Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and me, about the new St Pancras, which we all liked a lot, and presumably still like a lot.
Yesterday I duly climbed to the top of the Big Olympic Thing, but today I want to show you some creature pictures. Having decided to broaden Fridays out from mere cats, to any non-human living thing, I have been wandering through my photo-archives with half an eye for any nice looking non-human photos.
Here are a couple of snaps I particular liked:
These were both taken on a photo-walk that I and G(od)D(aughter) One did in May of 2011. We spent the day walking along Regent’s Canal. I did a couple of postings about this walk at the time, but took many more good snaps than that.
The two birds above are occupants of the Snowdon Aviary. At the end of that link it says that this Aviary contains some “white ibis”, ibis being, apparently, the plural of ibis. Are those things ibis? Could be. I’m hopeless at which brand of bird is which.
The sign, which actually includes a cat, is over an entrance to the footpath beside the canal, from the road. I think. You walk under it, I’m pretty sure.
Strangely, if my photos of the day are anything to go by, we didn’t see many swimming birds that day, in the actual canal. But when we got to Paddington Basin we saw a few.
I often try to photo such birds, but only rarely come away with anything that strikes me as very interesting. The world is, after all, full of extremely Real Photogaphers who like to photo birds. So, what can I add to all that?
These two birds are maybe a bit nice, if not actually what you’d call interesting. The feathers on the one on the left have come out quite well. And the one on the right has an interesting (because pink) beak, which doesn’t look normal to me:
GD1 and I don’t talk much on these walks. We each tend to concentrate on our own photoing. I occasionally photo her from a distance though, with other interesting things (such as bridges) in the background. And occasionally, she photos me:
I like how, in the picture of GD1 photoing me, there is another photographer operating, in the background, on the left as we look.
I am continually on the photographic look-out for many things, more and more things as my photographic activities have continued. Two of these things are: rather surprising selfies, usually reflected in something not completely obvious, like a motorbike or someone else’s sunglasses, or perhaps pictured on someone else’s camera; and: ways of taking photos of people without showing their faces, such as with their face hidden behind a camera, or behind a scarf worn over the face on a very cold day.
On a recent wander-around with G(od)D(aughter)2, I think I managed to combine these two preoccupations rather entertainingly.
On the right you can see the mirror that the photo was taken into. Okay, a mirror. Boring. But not this mirror, because it was a mirror above us. The building sporting this mirror is a recent and, I think, rather ungainly addition to Victoria Street, but the mirror is fun. At least the jagged edge thing from which the building takes its name - “Zig Zag” - doesn’t cut into the pavement but instead hovers above it.
And below is how the two of us looked in this mirror:
Click on that to get the bigger original, with more pavement.
The indispensable twiddly screen on my camera, enabling, this time, the screen to stay where it is, but the camera to be twiddled upwards, makes this kind of thing work rather well.
The other day (like there has been been just the one (which is idiotic)), I was in …:
… to have brunch with GD2 and her sister in their newly acquired home.
While there I took some photos, including this still life, of pots and pans and utensils, which looks rather nice, like an oil painting:
Staying tasteful and artistic, and seeing as how this is Friday, here is something else I snapped there:
Yes, it’s a cat cushion! It was, though, probably there when they moved in.
Since a major percentage of the point of Art is to stay a couple of steps ahead of and to thereby piss off the dumbo bourgeoisie, the latest batch of Artists would probably now reckon the cat cushion to be more Artistic than the still life.
As for the bloke who painted that Kentish Town sign, he probably now works for an advertising agency.
Yes, I have struggled over the years to get good photos of what my meetings are like. The problem typically is that I can never get everyone into the same picture, and the pictures look like about half as many people attended as actually did. Since the number wasn’t that huge to start with, that’s not what you want.
Here is a different approach:
That was the scene today following last night’s meeting, me having done almost zero tidying up to that point, bar hoovering up a few crisps. Now, Imagine that space with as many people sitting in it as you can fit in. That was what it was like last night.
If you reckon that the “table” in the middle looks like it could be improved upon, you are not wrong. There was a disaster when it collapsed last night, luckily not during the Tim Evans talk, and some fruit juice hit the carpet, along with lots of potato crisps. And it was then only imperfectly reassembled. More work is needed on that front. But it was a great evening, partly because of the table collapsing, because that sort of thing adds to the anecdotage factor. But mostly because it was an excellent talk, and because a very classy group of people who came to hear it. Including a baby, who was very welcome.
Talking of unsatisfactory tables, I wasn’t feeling so good myself today. My sleep last night was full of weird dreams, which I can still remember bits of, which is not normal. Plus, I have a new blender, and this morning’s concoction was terrible. The trouble with most vegetables is that they don’t taste of anything. Or, they taste rather nasty. Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes. But, all my current stash of cherry tomatoes got consumed last night by all the people that you can’t see in the picture.
This is weird. When I did a posting at Samizdata called My 2015 in pictures, I intended to include a picture I took of one of my meetings last year, the one at which Aiden Gregg spoke. But, although I talked about it, I didn’t actually include the picture. Rather humiliatingly, nobody noticed, or if they did notice, they didn’t care, or if they did care, not enough to complain.
So here is that picture:
I have also added it to that Samizdata posting, which absolutely nobody at all will notice. But, get it right, eh?
I think I got this picture by standing on a chair.
I mention all this now because I have another of these meetings, the first of this year, tomorrow evening. Speaker: Professor Tim Evans (also mentioned in that Samizdata posting), talking about Jeremy Corbyn and all that. Turnout looks like being just right, with the room comfortably as opposed to uncomfortably full. Luckily the seating arrangements have been improving.
Here, for good measure, is the photo I took of Tim when he gave his Inaugural Professional Lecture at Middlesex University, last summer, and which was also included in that Samizdata posting:
Not being accustomed to the ways of Academe, that get-up makes Tim look, to me, like he is in a very trad production of Wagner’s Mastersingers.
My life, in this digital century, has contained quite a lot of wonderful expeditions which I never got around to mentioning here. Take the trip that I and G(od)D(aughter) 1 made to Beckton Sewage Works, on September 21st 2013. The only time I mentioned this here, it would seem, was in this posting, where I mentioned that I otherwise did not mention it.
So, to go some way towards correcting that, here is a picture of some birds that I took that day:
You want to know why London contains so many birds? Sewage processing, that’s why. Birds love that. The Beckton Sewage Works is one great big open air bird canteen.
And here is a picture of a sign that I took, which explains that a huge new sewage tunnel was in the process of being constructed, at the time of our visit:
More about that here:
The 75-metre deep Beckton overflow shaft is the entry point for the Lee Tunnel, a £635million project just as ambitious as the more highly-publicised Crossrail. Over the past five years, engineers have built a 6km tunnel stretching from Beckton up to Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford, east London. The Lee Tunnel will help prevent more than 16 million tons of sewage from overflowing into the River Lee each year by capturing it and taking it down to Beckton. The sewage treatment works itself is being upgraded and expanded by 60 per cent to enable it to deal with the increased volume.
And the Lee Tunnel is just the first phase of the even more ambitious Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km tunnel that will handle sewage from Acton in west London through to Abbey Mills in the east. The Thames Tideway Tunnel will deal with the 34 most polluting overflow points along the Thames. Work on the £4.2billion project, known popularly as the London super sewer, starts in earnest in 2017 with engineers pulling the chain, so to speak, in 2023.
And here is another photo I took that day, which I include in this posting because I like it:
Behind that fence may, or may not, be activity associated with the digging of the big tunnel. But, I think it was.
Several days ago now, but type/scribbled into a Word file straight after it happened ...
I enthusiastically show G(od)D(aughter) 2 a picture (on my camera screen) that I took of the scaffolding across my courtyard. Then I realise that this is a bit of a mad way to behave.
Me: “Sorry. I’m going a bit mad.”
Ah. Good. Not going mad.
GD2: “Nothing’s changed. You’ve been like this for a long time.”
Once again, the topic (du jour) is deer, this time the non-rein type deer of Richmond Park.
Here are some of the lady deer, looking very cute:
And here are a few of the deer lads, on their way …:
… to join the rest of the lads:
And here is another shot of the ladies, this time with a single gentleman deer in their midst:
I’m guessing that this is the deer who hits the annual genetic jackpot. He locks antlers with all the other male deers, and comes top, and wins … the ladies.
But I may have all this totally wrong. What do I know about what goes on in parks? Anyone really know what’s happening here?
Whatever it is, it sure makes for pretty pictures.
Yes indeed, this is posting number seven - seven - about a walk that G(od)D(aughter) One and I did, in June of this year. Is this Proustian attention to detail? Or is it just travel boring on an epic scale? If you think the latter, the titles of such postings as this one will chase you away. You are not sitting in my living room. I would love it if you did read this posting, and if you did click on all of the photos below and if, having done that, you enjoyed them all. But this is a blog, not a kidnapping.
For those still sitting attentively on this blog’s metaphorical sofa, first: thank you for you continuing kind attention; and: the central point of this posting is that not only are Humans now using smartphones to take photos, on an epic scale. So too are Real Photographers.
GD1 is a very Real Photographer indeed. She does Real Photography for a living. GD1 had her Real Camera with her for the day, yet for a number of reasons she spent most of our walk that day taking photos not with her big Real Camera, but with her iPhone. I vaguely recall that her Real Camera had not been sufficiently recharged, but I may be imagining that. Or she was wanting to send photos to friends as only iPhones and iPhone-like cameras can do. Or perhaps she was just curious to see how good iPhotos are capable of being. Or maybe she just wanted a change, on this day out, from her day job. Whatever her reasons were, as my photos of her show, she spent most of the day iPhotoing, rather than Real Photoing. I think that’s a very interesting sign of the times.
Photo 1.1 sets the tone of these photos by concealing GD1’s face, in this case with an iBag. I never tire of taking such photos, usually of strangers, but also of friends upon whom I do not wish to inflict face-recognition angst.
In 1.2 we observe GD1 photoing London’s Big Things. I don’t know if I have influenced her at all in this matter. Maybe.
Photos 1.2, 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 show her doing something that has definitely influenced me, which is photoing inconsequential objects to create consequential photographic effects. 1.2 and 2.1 both involve water, which is a particular source of photographic effects of the sort that the eye seems programmed not to see when looking at actual water, only when looking at photos of water. This does much to explain GD1’s liking for walking beside canals, which I definitely share, but for rather different reasons.
Mirrors (2.2 and 2.3) are another source of photographic effect. I too like mirrors, because they enable me to include me in my pictures. Which I like to do from time to time, because it drives home the point that I am not and will never be a Real Photographer. (Real Photographers only photo themselves by mistake.) Sadly, I could find no photos of GD1 photoing bits of mirror, with me reflected in any of the bits. Must try harder.
3.1: a swan family (I think maybe this is the iPhone influencing her – this would be too cute, I think, for her Real Camera). 3.2: gasometer.
In 3.3 we have arrived at our final destination, Alexandra Palace, from which Big Things can be seen. So I photo the Big Things, and she iPhotos Alexandra Palace.
Will there be further postings featuring photos taken by me on this journey? I promise nothing, but … almost certainly yes.