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Category archive: Friends

Saturday March 10 2018

I visit the Royal College of Music quite a lot these days, thanks to GodDaughter2 studying there.  There were those Bach Cantatas.  Last Thursday there was a recital of songs by Women Composers, in which GD2 performed.  And this evening, there was the RCMIOS (RCM International Opera School) production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  All excellent.

It doesn’t feel right taking lots of photos while in the place, but here was a snap that I both liked and didn’t feel bad about taking:


They’re hardly going to call that snooping, are they?

The RCM is a truly bizarre agglomeration of buildings.  The corridors joining this bit of it to that bit of it are labyrinthine.  I never know where I am, if only because I am usually following GD2 around the place, rather than finding my own way around.

Here is another snap I reckoned it okay to take, of some building work in progress:


The fact that both of these snaps feature things which are only temporary is what makes me think them not to be breaches of etiquette.  I don’t know if that’s truly right, but it feels right to me.

However, the point of these two photos is, as I later (like: one hour ago) realised, that they are both photos of the same things.  The first photo is the corridor from the inside, and the second photo, in addition to all that grubbing about in the earth at the bottom, also features the same corridor from the outside.  The outside of a corridor is not normally something you get to see, is it?

The reason I found myself inside that corridor is that it is the temporary way of getting from the main part of the Royal College to the college bar and canteen.  I took the above photo on my way from that bar and canteen to the main entrance of the College.  I was on my own at the time.

Wednesday March 07 2018

I gave a talk to Libertarian Home early in 2015, entitled What is the Libertarian Movement for?, and it is now up at the Libertarian Home website.  A more accurate title for what I ended up saying would be more like: What the libertarian movement is and how to be part of it.  It is more about how to do libertarianism than about why to do it, although that is implied.

What I said hasn’t dated in the time since then, and this was one of the better speaking performances I’ve done, I think.  Certainly better than the most recent talk I gave, at Christian Michel’s on the subject of causation, about which, it turned out, I had very little more to say than this.  Memo to self: now that the cold snap has ended, get a haircut.  I have reached the age when I need to keep my hair short, the way it was in this video.  The tramp look makes me look too much like a tramp.

My thanks to Jordan Lee for supplying a written summary of what I said.

Tuesday February 06 2018

After a hard afternoon yesterday, exploring Churchill and his wartime government’s subterranean lair, I was, in the evening, in no mood to do much else.  But Christian Michel had one of his 6/20 evenings (yes I know, on the 5th (there was a reason but I have forgotten it)), and I forced myself to attend, knowing that I would not regret this.  And I didn’t.

The highlight of my evening was undoubtedly getting to talk with an artist and art teacher by the name of Elina Cerla.  We spoke about how we were both fascinated by the difference between how two eyed people see things, and how one eyed cameras, or camera-like gadgets used by artists, see things.  Summary: very differently.  Also about how she is more concerned to help people solve the artistic problems they consider important, rather than to shape them all into her preferred sort of artist.

She gave me her card before we went our separate ways, so I’m guessing she will have no problem with me linking you to that website.

You could become one of Elina Cerla’s pupils by doing what this says:


Having already wandered about in the website, I was particularly struck by that naked figure when I came across it elsewhere on the website, so I was intrigued later to find that she chose it to illustrate her teaching advert.  I think you will agree that this image inspires confidence that the time of pupils will not be wasted.  This is someone with definite skills to impart.

I am presently listening to this YouTube interview.  Refreshing absence of art-speak bullshit and political infantilism, of the sort commonly emitted by those who practice (or who are attempting) shock-art.

Tuesday January 30 2018

My friends Perry and Adriana now live a short walk away from South Kensington tube.  I can now get to them in about half an hour, compared to over an hour when they lived way along and just off Kings Road, and a solid bus ride away from any tube station.

And just as good, every time I now visit them to collect the Amazon purchases that they receive for me, as I did today, I get to see one of my favourite statues in London, the one of Bela Bartok.  When I walk past that, I know I’m going the right way.

Trouble is, when I go past Bartok, the sunlight usually arrives on his back, and I get a photo like this:


Nice windows.  Shame about the face.

So, inspired by the example of 6k (see below), I cranked up my photoshopclone and redid the photo so that I could see what the face consisted of:


Nice face.  Shame about the windows.

You could probably combine the two, and make it: nice face, nice windows.  You.  Not me.  That kind of thing just does not interest me enough to want to know how to do it. I wanted to see the face and I did.  Mission accomplished.

Saturday January 13 2018

Yesterday afternoon GodDaughter2 arranged for me to be in the audience (which was mostly singing students like her) of a master class presided over by American operatic tenor Michael Fabiano, a totally new name to me.  He should have been.  My bad, as he would say.  Very impressive.  Very impressive.

This event was the most recent one of these.  But they scrub all mention from there of the past, however immediate, so no mention there of Fabiano, which there had been until yesterday.

Here are a few recollections I banged into my computer last night before going to bed.  Not tidied up much.  I just didn’t want to forget it.

Sing, every note, all the time – switch off singing and then when you need to switch on again, you won’t be able to do it.

Singing is not just done with two little things in your throat.  Sing with your whole body, from head to toe.  Including your balls.  (The student singers he was teaching were all guys, two baritones, two tenors.) I hope you don’t mind me saying such things.  (Nobody did.)

You must sing to the people way up in the roof.  They must hear every note you sing.  Not just the people in the first five rows.

Don’t be afraid to take a breath - I’m a great fan of breathing when you need to breath – no seriously

First note is critical.  Final note is critical.  You can screw up in between.  But first note bad can mean they’ll hear nothing further.  Final note good, and that’s what they’ll remember.

Stay firmly planted on the floor.  Stand how you stand in the tube, when you have nothing to hold on to.  Don’t rise off the floor on your toes when it gets difficult.

Stay relaxed by going to your “happy place” in your mind.

In auditions, don’t be bound by rules that box you in.  Break those rules, do whatever you have to do to do what you do.  Applies to all artists.

Piano accompanists: play louder, like an orchestra.  Louder.  Twice as loud as that.  (He spent a lot of time conducting the pianists.)

Go for it.  (Said that a lot.) Be free.  Fly like a bird.  Never relax your wings (keep singing) or you fall to the ground.

In my opinion … this is my opinion ...

Make progress as a young singer by finding one or two people whose judgement you trust.  Follow their advice and work hour after hour, day after day, with them.  A hundred people advising is confusion.  One or two is what a young person needs.

How to make the transition from student to real singer?  With difficulty.  I began by doing 22 auditions all over Europe.  First 21, I followed the rules, stood in the spot marked X: nothing, failure.  22nd audition: disaster.  Fell over at the start, literally.  But laughed at myself.  Good middle notes, they knew I had a cold, but also a good personality.  Got work.  They trusted me to do better.

Mentor?  Renee Fleming was one.  Sang next to her on stage.  Her voice ridiculously small, on stage.  But, my agent way up at the back heard everything, and wept.  I then sat way up there myself and listened to Fleming sing equally quietly, heard everything and was equally moved

Sing oh well and sing ee well, and you’ll sing ah well.  (Think that was it.) …

And probably lots more that I missed.  But, I now find, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube.  However, the length-to-content ratio of watching something like this on YouTube is such that you, if you have got this far in this posting, are much more likely to make do with reading what I just put.  So let’s hope I didn’t get anything too wrong.  Plus: more mentions of this event, with video bits, at the RCM Twitter feed.  Fabiano also tweets, of course.  More reaction to yesterday there.

There were four student singers on show, first two being baritones, and in the second half, two tenors.  The most extraordinary moments of this event came in the second half, when the two tenors took it in turns to sing things that Fabiano has presumably sung for real, as it were.  And occasionally, to illustrate a point he was making, Fabiano would sing a snatch of the thing himself.

At which point, as the young people say these day: OMG.  His sound was about four times bigger than what the students were doing.  (The first of these moments got Fabiano a loud round of applause.) Fabiano’s talk, about filling the entire 2,500 people place, was a hell of a lot more than talk.  He does this, every time he sings in such a place.  The message was loud and the message was clear.  That’s what you guys must aim for.  That’s what it sounds like.

The good news is that the first tenor in particular (Thomas Erlank), was taking audible steps towards being an opera star, after only a few minutes of badgering from Fabiano.  I think you’re great, said Fabiano, which is why I’m being so hard on you.  Fabiano didn’t say those exact words to any of the others, so that will definitely have counted for something, in Erlank’s mind.  You could see him getting bigger, as Fabiano both talked him up and hacked away at his mistakes.

Of the others, the one who particularly impressed me was the second baritone (Kieran Rayner), who looked and behaved like a trainee accountant, but who sang like a trainee god.  By the time Fabiano had been at him for a bit, he started to get a bit more like an actual god.  The sheer sound of Rayner’s voice was beautiful from the start, I thought.  As did Fabiano.

Fabiano made a big deal of vibrato, which he seemed almost to equate with singing.  But vibrato is, for me, a huge barrier.  Rayner did do enough of it to satisfy Fabiano, but not nearly enough to put me off.  I mention this because I believe that I am not the only one who feels this way.  Too much wobble, and it just sounds like wobble and nothing else.  Singers who overdo the wobble never break past that oh-god-it’s-bloody-opera barrier.  But not enough vibrato, and they don’t get to fill those 2,500 seat opera houses.  And even if they do, no OMG, Fabiano style.

Final point, by way of summary.  When each singer did his performance, Fabiano made a point of going to the back of the hall, to hear how it sounded there.  Fabiano made no bones about it that what concerned him was not how you or he felt about it while doing it, or how Renee Fleming sounded to him when he was standing on the stage right next to her.  What matters is the effect it has on the audience, all of the audience, including and especially the audience in the cheaper seats.  Are they getting what they came for and they paid for?

Deepest thanks to GD2 for enabling me to witness all this.

Monday January 08 2018

I’m not saying Happy New Year to you, again, although now that I’ve mentioned it, I actually do, again.  No, what I have in mind is that today feels like my New Year has, at last, begun.

I always tell people that I like a quiet Christmas and a quiet New Year, but it seldom turns out that way, and it did not this time around.  This was not because I got lots of appalling demands to attend appalling things.  If they had been appalling demands and appalling things, then I would have happily played them all off against each other and ignored the whole damn lot of them.  No, the problem was: enticing requests to attend enticing things, frequented by enticing people whom I might not soon be meeting again, things that I knew I would enjoy and which I did mostly enjoy, hugely, but which just came one after another.  (Plus, I arranged an event myself at my home, on the last Friday of December.)

And then, in the midst of it all there was that dose of Ashes Lag, to play havoc with the already imperfect sleep pattern.  The point of such fill-in-the-blank lags is that it only takes one such night of lag to create a ripple lasting about a week.  Throw into that mix a few invites to things that happened not in the evening but earlier in the day, and it all became pretty strenuous.

But now, all these events have come and gone.  I had a huge sleep last night and way into this morning, and finally feel able to think about the year ahead rather than just the next thing I need to get to.

So like I say: Happy New Year.

Friday December 29 2017

This evening I had a party at my home.  All the people I invite to my Last Friday of the Month meetings were invited, and almost exactly the same number of people showed up as tend to show up for the meetings.  How do they do this?

I am now completely knackered, but it wasn’t the party alone that knackered me; it was … alas, I find that I am too knackered to explain.  Maybe, although I promise nothing, later.

So instead, a quota photo, of Southwark Cathedral not being dwarfed by modernity:


Taken out of the train window, on my way to Hither Green.

Spot the Gherkin.

Thursday December 28 2017

For years now, I’ve wanted nail down a particularly choice Terry Pratchett quote, concerning the limits of the idea of equality, which is that for there to be equality, someone has or some people have to insist upon it, and if that insistence is to count for anything, then there goes your equality.  My problem was that I didn’t have the name of the character that the quote was about.

But today, I described the quote as best I could to my friend Adriana, and she told me at once that the name of the lady in question was Granny Weatherwax.  And once I had the name, the rest was easy.

The quote I was looking for is the second from the bottom of these Quotes About Granny Weatherwax:

“Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?’

‘Oh no!’ said Miss Level, looking shocked. ‘Witches are all equal. We don’t have things like head witches. That’s quite against the spirit of witchcraft.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Tiffany.

‘Besides,’ Miss Level added, ‘Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing.”

That is to be found in A Hat Full of Sky.

Granny Weatherwax does not allow inequality
Another quote and two more photos
Deidre McCloskey praises the Bourgeois Deal
The Gayer-Anderson Cat
Photoing versus communicating
Me and Patrick talk television
Two phone photos
Vinyl Empire
Adriana Lucas tells Libertarian Home about the experience of communism
Naughty old adverts in The Star
The RSC’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Barbican
A clean dirty joke
The title and the blurb for a talk I’m doing in January
An imperfect posting (with a photo)
Quota hippo
How robots will augment human performance
Rodelinda at the ENO tomorrow evening
Self storage is a strange expression
Photos from friends
Watching the Surrey v Yorkshire feed
Photoer photos at the top of the Walkie Talkie
Me and Patrick Crozier talking about WW1: If only?
Two Union Jacks
Bad journey - good party
Tom Burroughes
While England were winning the World Cup I was photoing adolescent swans
A gadget that worked really well
My next five last-Friday-of-the-month speakers (and another one)
Quota photo of GD2’s Dad photoing The Laughing Halibut
Food photoing
A recital by GodDaughter 2 at the Royal College of Music
Photos of Jamie Bartlett speaking to Libertarian Home last night
Beautiful sea
New Zealand at the ASI
Burlington Arcade (with roof clutter)
Helen Szamuely’s funeral was today
Gloucester Road with evening sun
Anti-BREXIT demo signs
“Robot” suggests the possibility of fraternization
Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Objectivity is indistinguishable from hate
Photoing last Friday’s Last Friday meeting
Marc Sidwell on experts
Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
Some temporariness being immortalised
Punched in the face by comedy
On the value of speaker meetings - to the speaker
A useful little party
An entertaining New Year’s Eve
Home alone
3D printed jewellery by Lynne Maclachlan
Arthur Seldon Centenary photos
Citroen correction
The Wembley Arch and The Wheel
A very good meeting - and a quota horse with quota cart
An allotment and two cats
Another fine day at the Oval (1): Vans
Busy days
Illness and coolness
A Docklands footbridge about to be put in its place
The view from Docklands ten years ago
New York construction cranes in action
Incoming imagery from Antoine
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne
My latest meeting went fine
My next last Friday meeting: Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of WW1
Happy couples
My next five last Friday of the month speakers
Taking photo-notes and an app for improving photo-notes
The Waterloo Eurostar terminal is being revived
Regent’s Canal creatures (and a photographer)
Me and GD2 photoed in a mirror above us
A still life and a cat cushion in Kentish Town
Another way to photo my meetings
The first Brian’s Friday of the year tomorrow evening
The Beckton Sewage Works
With GD2 in Richmond Park (2): Deer
Out and about with GD1 (7): Instead of using her Real Camera GD1 mostly iPhotoed
Nearly invisible Walkie Talkie
Confirming an offer I made last night to Rob Fisher
Food memories from the outer suburbs
Out and about with GD1 (6): The journey gets properly started
Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
Calories defined
If you take a walk naked you need to know your way back
Alcoholic Architecture sign
The light outside the Proud Archivist on the evening of July 22nd
Sorry!  No Photo’s!
Digital photography ballet
Golden Cheesegrater with cranes
With GD2 in Richmond Park (1): Views of London
Tomorrow I will get out less
Out and about with GD1 (4): On the survival of professional photography
A man taking a Selfie before it was A Thing (and me taking a picture of him)
Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
Heaven aka the Barley Mow
A very distant and yet very good view of the Big Things of London
Church not dwarfed by anything
Ruddigore in Blackfriars
Customer service
White Van Brians
Bad taste
From a cat cushion to Bill Murray and a nude to a demon horse sculpture that killed its creator
The Leaning Stonehenge Tour Bus of Salisbury
Exit Caesar
It feels like Sunday already
Talk went well - two (not really) quota photos
Incidental Last Friday details
Old Quimper Cathedral
Christmas Day photos
My digital photos on his TV
ASI Christmas Party photos
Photoing at the ASI party
At the ASI Christmas Party
In the City with Gus
Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown
Triple selfie
A birthday party with difficult lighting
Happy Friday (eventually)
ASI Boat Trip 5: Individuals
ASI Boat Trip 4: Groups of posing people
Big Things from high up at the Oval
Last night at my place
Lilburne on a T-shirt and Lilburne on a mug
Two bits of hospitality trivia
Sam Bowman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Remembering another Christian name (and flagging up another talk)
3D printed baby in the womb
Church really dwarfed by modernity
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
Digital photography as telepathy
Happy Old Year
Mercedes-Benz W123
Friend on telly
Fat bastard!
Alex on Quentin
The Heron Tower restaurant
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Photoing each other - and photoing stuff in the canal
The Alex Singleton blog
The Johnathan Pearce Samizdata gap
Wedding photography (7): Evening
Steve Davies talk last night
the Norlonto Review is back!
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
A Fleet Street lunch
Wedding weather looking good
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Doing libertarian business at the Libertarian Home social
Talking architecture at the Libertarian Home social
Brian’s Fridays will resume on the 25th of this month
A (slightly delayed) Happy New Year
Christmas Eve feast
Nice blog you have here … shame if something happens to it
“I just came across this fascinating photo …”
Usain Bolt takes photos of photographers!
The view from the train
Happy New Year
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Les Rillettes Henaff
Alex Singleton has a new blog
No fruit juice
Five pictures of me
Sexy beasts
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
David Botsford a decade ago
Marmite spoons!
Merry Christmas
And here’s the proof!!!  Sixteen little square pictures!!!
Talk at Christian Michel’s
Thirteen swans
Only up to some random linkage and a little felinity
Transport Blog restarts
Beyond the Dome with Goddaughter One
10/10/10 launch for Norlonto Review
Cathedral photo
Ums and ahs
iScream from Artisan du Chocolat
Peaceful time in war zone
Tim Evans looking happy
Sneezing chat
Making the effort
Alex Singleton on Photoshop CS5
Steve Davies lecture - photoing and videoing the lecture - post-lecture chat
Goddaughter One is now a photoblogger
We’ll always have Chelsea
Why do pregnant women now do quite a lot of driving of their husbands?
Two real cats sighted in Spain!
Two red cats
Possible holiday interruption
Saying it with lights in the Victoria Station shopping centre that were still switched on!
Free Skullcandy on a bus in snowy Edinburgh
Samizdata and Zimbabwe both on the up and up?
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
I’ve just sold Jesus!!!
Decorated hippo
A little archaeology
Me and Michael Jennings talk tech trends
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
London Bites @ Sway
Summer break
Green eyed monster devouring cat food
Vince Miller with cat
Friend anonymous
Busy day and busy night
Cat blogging and Gormley blogging
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
Google and dongle
Another Samizdata piece
Happy Christmas to all my readers
Happy Christmas
Waiting for shooting to start
To Guy’s with Gerald
At Liberty 2008 all day
On top of Tower 42
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
When three’s company but four’s a crowd
Busy at my other personal blog
“Japan is fantastic …”
Why I prefer to live in a failing neighbourhood
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Twenty20 cricket on Sky TV
Posting at Michael’s
Party pieces
The new Lowe look
Tea with CDs
A new British citizen
Computer blues
Billion Monkey Alan Little?
Billion Monkeys say Happy New Year!
Here it is Merry Christmas
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
She’s alive I tell you! Alive!
Socialising with the Social Media
Talking with Antoine Clarke about Sean Gabb
Renaissance Man
Ideas and opportunities
A talk and a photo
On the appeal or lack of it to Young Europeans of “capitalism”
Friends of Slava
Billion Monkeys at the wedding!
Charm defensive
The visitor
Camera chat
The Mainstream Media finally get around to noticing Andy and his sand sculptures
Evite makes sure I remember it
Me on a bridge by Goddaughter One
When “it’s” becomes “it is” – plus a picture of some Mac users
That Rooney goal
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Superb Simon Hewitt Jones gig – and a couple of blogger gripes
Christmas and New Year’s Eve
Haircuts before and after
By the rivers and canals of East London with Goddaughter One
Hellcab at the Old Red Lion
Alice in Texas on form - England in Australia not
Why photographing Big Ben can resemble being photographed with a sandwich
Sometimes things just work out
Adriana Media Influencer: What do you do? (the mp3s of the book)
Screen back
“Publish it in your Blog!”
Everyone likes Magic Andy
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections quote of the day
Should blogs - this one in particular - specialise?
[new addition to my blogroll]
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
A talking blog welcomes me back
I’m back
Patrick and Brian talk about the War on Terror - thoughts about podcasting
Adriana tours her own back yard
Not much here today
Kristine writes down some of what Adriana said
Adriana’s Thing mp3
Podcasting with Adriana tomorrow
Unpaid happiness is not misery but it is a step in that direction
Billion Monkey Lady photos me!
Something to bore everyone
One click
Roll playing
Billion Monkey flash!
Bashing on for Samizdata
Billion Monkey at Tom and Noreen’s wedding!
A handwritten letter from Alex Singleton
On style and politics
Pie error
Another phone glitch
Chris Tame’s funeral will be this coming Saturday
On the spread of voluntariness
Quoted but not linked to
Not well
It went fine
Comedy on Thursday and rehearsing for it
Perry and Adriana in the Guardian