Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Friends

Sunday June 19 2016

Here is a photo taken by a friend with her mobile, of a construction site in New York, complete with cranes:

image

I love it when friends send me snaps of things they know I will like.

I am particularly glad to see New York construction cranes in action.  After doing that posting about how there has been no construction in the southern end of Manhattan, mentioning absence of cranes as evidence of no construction, I started to wonder if, in New York, they do things differently.  I wondered if they built skyscrapers without using cranes, but just lifting all the stuff up the building, as they built it.  Or something.  But of course they use cranes in New York, same as everywhere else.

Just to be quite sure about that, I googled “construction cranes new york”.  And I was greeted with scenes of crane carnage like you would not believe.

Apparently cranes in New York occasionally fall over, and this is the one time when the average person is interested in them.  As a result, the average person has a totally distorted idea of the positive contribution made by construction cranes to modern society.

Thursday May 19 2016

Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):

image

That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.

I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.

imageThe email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”.  When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).

Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat.  See right.

Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane!  So very tall, and so very thin.  It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything.  I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London.  Not that Antoine’s crane is in London.  It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.

I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes.  When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.

It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.

As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below.  Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.

Saturday May 14 2016

Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference.  Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs.  And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Conference programme here.

1.1: An attender.  1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden.  1.3: Syed Kamall.  1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides.  2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro.  3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook.  3.2: Brook.  3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books.  3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window.  4.1: Anton Howes.  4.2: Howes and Brook.  4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.

Sunday May 08 2016

The Mozart Requiem, or “Rec” (sp?) as performers apparently call it, was duly performed yesterday in the magnificent setting of Narbonne Cathedral, and was wonderful.  G(od) D(aughter) 2 and her colleagues sang beautifully throughout.

However, because of an oddity of the Cathedral’s acoustics, men’s voices would often leap out in front of of the general wash of sound, like closely recorded concerto soloists.  This happened when the chorus was singing, and it also happened when the lady soloists were singing in unison with the gentlemen soloists.  When that was happening, the lady soloists, mezzo-soprano Alice Ruxandra Bell (GD2) and soprano Isabelle Atkinson were, at any rate as heard from where I was sitting, somewhat drowned out by the gents.  The gents sang beautifully, but so did the ladies and you had to listen rather too carefully for my liking to realise this.

But towards the end came the Benedictus.  In this, rather than the ladies and the gents all singing at once, there were precious moments when the ladies were duetting together, while the gents waited their turn to do likewise, the gents complementing the ladies rather than singing over them.  Heaven.  At which point you realised why, following an earlier performance of an identical programme in the town of Ceret last year, a repeat performance was requested for Narbonne, with identical forces.

The all-important chorus, despite my acoustic quibbles, sounded great, as did the orchestra.

My feeling at the end of the Requiem was: I wish I could hear that Benedictus again.  Not right now, necessarily, but, you know, some time.  Was anyone, I wondered, attempting a recording of this occasion?  Following the enthusiastic ovation that greeted the performance, conductor François Ragot and his soloists returned to do an encore, and guess what.  They did a repeat of the Benedictus.  Heaven again.

Earlier, in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Séverine Paris was the mellifluous and utterly assured soloist.  The slow movement was, for me, especially eloquent.

Attendance at this event was free of charge, which perhaps was why the Cathedral was so packed.  Afterwards, the soloists said what a joy it was to be performing for such a huge throng in such a wonderful building.  Being just one of the throng was pretty marvellous too.

Friday May 06 2016

Today, I will be journeying from Thuir to Narbonne, to hear a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne Cathedral.  I will share the car journey with G(od)D(aughter) 2’s parents, the soprano soloist, the mezzo-soprano soloist (GD2), and the baritone soloist (I wrote about his performance as Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore in June of last year).  I heard a tiny snatch of these three singers rehearsing this afternoon.  Despite an unforgiving acoustic (quite unlike the cathedral), and the then very incomplete orchestra, it sounded to me like it will be excellent, particularly the three soloists I will be rooting for.  I heard nothing of the chorus, but conductor François Ragot is much loved by all and I’m sure they’ll do well.

Later, I also got hear a distant snatch of the piece that will proceed the Requiem, Mozart’s similarly beloved Clarinet Concerto.  That too sounded very promising.

I mention all this now (now being the very small hours of the night before) because today (i.e. tomorrow) looks like being a complicated day, and the option of not doing anything more here today (i.e. tomorrow) is one that it will be very convenient to have.

Friday April 29 2016

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.

Sunday April 24 2016

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.

Sunday April 17 2016

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:

imageimage

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.

Friday April 15 2016

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.

Tuesday March 29 2016

Last night I dined at the new and rather temporary home of Samizdata, where I took this photo:

image

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:

image

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.

Monday March 28 2016

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:

image

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.

Friday March 18 2016

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:

imageimage

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:

imageimage

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:

imageimage

I like how, in the picture of GD1 photoing me, there is another photographer operating, in the background, on the left as we look.

Wednesday March 09 2016

imageI 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:

image

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.

Friday February 05 2016

The other day (like there has been been just the one (which is idiotic)), I was in …:

image

… 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:

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Staying tasteful and artistic, and seeing as how this is Friday, here is something else I snapped there:

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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.

Saturday January 30 2016

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:

image

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.