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

Saturday September 22 2018

At my home on the last Friday of this month (Friday September 28th – which is in six days time), Michael Jennings will be speaking about Iran, and in particular about how he recently spent some time exploring its capital city, Tehran.  The easiest link to learn more about Michael’s amazing globetrottings is to this list of his Samizdata contributions.

Each month, I solicit a few words from the speaker, to email to my list of potential attenders.  A few days ago, Michael sent me rather more than a few words about what he’ll be speaking about, more words than I need for that email. But I don’t want all these words going to waste, so, with Michael’s kind permission, here they all are.  In the email I send out tomorrow evening, I will be quoting from this, but will include the link to this posting, so that all who want to can, as they say, read the whole thing.

So, Michael Jennings on “Exploring Tehran”:

In recent years, I have done quite a lot of travelling in the Middle East.

From the western perspective - and particularly from the perspective of the western media - it is very easy to look at the Muslim Middle East and see something homogeneous. If you are inclined to see militant Islam and related terrorism as a threat, it is easy to see it as a single threat. However, there are two main strains of Islam, Shia and Sunni, and these are centred in two quite different cultures and civilisations: the first in Iran and the second in the Arab world.

These are two of the three largest cultures in the Muslim Middle East - the third being Turkey. These three cultures speak three unrelated languages - Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish - and the history and differences between these three cultures go back thousands of years - long before the time of Mohammed. These cultures are tremendously divided today. Iran fought a truly ferocious war with Arab Iraq between 1980 and 1988, the memory of which hangs over the country the way World War 1 probably hung over Europe in 1935. Much of the wars of the past 15 years in Iraq and Syria have been about Shia Iran (Persia) and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia jostling for position in the Middle East. As to where Turkey stands in all this - I think Turkey is trying to figure this out.

I am not remotely an expert in any of this stuff. I have, however, spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. I love to explore cities on foot. I have done this, or attempted to do this in many places. Slightly less than two years ago I spent 10 days exploring Tehran on foot. Despite the fearsome (justified) reputation of the regime that rules Iran, I found - from my perspective as a Christian westerner - the most culturally familiar and welcoming culture that I had found travelling in the Middle East. Despite the fact that Iran is the only country in the entire world where all women are required to wear a headscarf at all times, I was struck by the fact that the role of women in public life was clearly much higher and that women are clearly much better educated and have a far more prominent role in the economy than in any Arab country I have been to. The Iranian middle class is substantial, and it is a very westernised middle class. At times in North Tehran I found myself in cafes and restaurants that easily could have been in hipster areas of Los Angeles, apart from the lack of alcohol.

I also found something that I should have known already - Iran is a trading, commercial nation. In South Tehran I found myself in shopping streets and bazaars that resembled East Asia - possibly commercial districts of Bangkok or Hanoi - more than anything elsewhere in the Middle East. I found myself sitting in stores being made tea (and being offered illicit alcohol) by merchants who wanted to tell me all about their trading trips to Shenzhen. It was fascinating.

And yet, this is a country that faces sanctions, and is cut off from the official system of international trade. What happens when you cut such a country off from the official system of international trade, and international academia, and international everything and so impoverishing the country, even though this is a culture that wants to participate? Come along to my talk, and I will speculate. Or possibly just show you my holiday pictures.

The basic point of my meetings is for people to attend them, but another point of them is for me to spread a gentle wave of information about people who have worthwhile things to say and interesting stories to tell, even if you do not actually attend.  This posting now means that, this month, that second mission is already somewhat accomplished.

Saturday September 15 2018

I was summoned to Chateau Samizdata (which is in South Kensington these days) for lunch today, which meant that when I walked past that Bartok statue at lunchtime today, the light was behind me, rather than in front of me and behind Bartok.

So I was able to have another go at photoing him:

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But with rather mixed results.  The change in lighting made a lot less difference than I had been hoping.

I spent the late afternoon and the evening (a) doing stuff at home, and (b) keeping track of the climaxes of two competitions, this one, which was won by pianist Eric Lu, and this one, which was won by the Worcestershire cricket team.  Which means Worcestershire have had a mixed season, having also been relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  It was like them winning the FA cup but also getting relegated from the Premier League.  However, getting relegated from Division One of the Country Championship makes far less financial difference than dropping out of the Premier League.  So Worcester are probably now pretty happy.  Counties doing well in one format but badly in another is quite frequent.  They all say that, of course, they want to win everything.  But in reality, they prioritise this and neglect that.

Tonight, Radio 3 played the last two Leeds Piano Competition concerto performances, the three others having been played last night.  I will be checking out the performance of Beethoven 1 from last night, because, while they were waiting for them to pick the various prize winners, they played part of a chamber music performance by the guy who had played Beethoven 1, which sounded excellent.  Also, this guy came second in the overall competition, so he’s pretty good.

Tonight’s Beethoven 4, from winner Lu, was excellent, albeit somewhat more subdued than I think Beethoven had in mind when he composed this piece.  Lu’s was a very “private” performance of what was actually, I think, written as a rather public piece (about private feelings).  But that’s very much a matter of (my) opinion.  Given what Lu was doing, he did it very well.  Besides which, who would want all concerto performances to sound the same?  Beethoven might have been surprised by Lu’s delicate and subtle performance, but that doesn’t mean he’d have minded.  On the contrary, he would probably be amazed and delighted that people were still playing the thing at all.

Tonight’s other concerto, the Schumann, was similar in artistic intention to Lu’s Beethoven 4, but to my ear it involved a few too many wrong notes.  The Radio 3 commentators didn’t mention these wrong notes, but I don’t think I imagined them.  I think they chose to ignore them.

Bartok wrote three Piano Concertos, each very fine in their contrasting ways.  None of these were played in the final of the Leeds Piano Competition.

LATER: I’ve just been listening to another county game, just started on Sept 18th, and I realise that the piece I linked to about Worcester getting relegated was dated 2015.  Theoretically, they could still avoid relegation this year.  But they’re not going to.  They’ve just been bowled out for 94 by Essex, and they are about thirty points shy of safety, with Yorks and Lancs both having to cock it up big time for them to escape.  As it is, Worcs and Lancs both look doomed to the trop.  But, in theory, Worcs are still in with a chance of avoiding this.

I am very sorry to have misled you, in the unlikely event that I did, and that you care.

Wednesday September 12 2018

Earlier this evening, I attended a fascinating Libertarian Home talk given by Jazon Cozens, one of the founders and bosses of Glint.  (Scroll down there a bit, and I think you will see why I think I smell yet another two-man team.) Glint enables those who think that currency ought to be gold-backed to get there hands on just such a currency, thereby personally reversing, as it were, the decision by President Nixon, in 1971, to take the US dollar off the gold standard.

This talk was excellent, and was clearly saturated in Austrianism.  In the highly unlikely event that Jason Cozens has not met up with a conversed with Detlev Schlichter, he should.

Here is a photo I took of Mr Cozens waving an ancient gold coin from Roman era Britain, which he had come by in some way that he did describe but which I immediately forgot:

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And here is that coin, and him holding it, somewhat closer up:

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Glint, however, does not deploy actual gold coins.  Any gold it arranges for you to own stays in a vault in Switzerland.  You get yourself a Glint account, with whatever combination of gold or other popular currencies in it that you want, and you can buy stuff with your card, which looks and works like any other credit/debit card.

Glint would appear to be well worth investigating.

I also found the evening very advantageous on a more personal level.  I was able to solidify no less than two future Brian’s Last Fridays talks, and was able to woo two other potential future speakers of great interestingness.  Others present seemed equally busy making connections of their own.  Which is a lot of the point of such meetings, and which is all part of why I believe in organising a steady stream of them.

Tuesday September 04 2018

Every so often my friend Patrick Crozier and I get together to have a recorded conversation and we did one a while back on the subject of President Trump.  You can now listen to this, by going here.

Scroll down here, to get all our recent conversations.

For further thoughts from me about what a microphone can achieve and what it mostly does not achieve, try this posting here.

Monday September 03 2018

So I went looking for interesting new bridges, as I do from time to time, but found nothing interesting that I didn’t know about.  Like I say, the bridge news these days is when they collapse.

So I gave up on bridges, and instead thought about doing a posting about the Brunel Museum, which I visited on Saturday.  There is, of course, a website.  But there is also a Wikipedia entry.  And look what I found there.  That’s right, it’s the Royal Albert Bridge, Saltash, made smaller and sittable upon, with a train:

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I’m pretty sure that, while waiting to be told about the nearby Brunel tunnel under the Thames (set in motion by Brunel’s dad Marc), I and my two pals were sitting sipping our drinks within a few feet of this bridge-bench.  But it was dark, and I only found out about it just now.

Here are two things I did see:

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On the left, a bust of Marc Brunel, in the little museum.  On the right, a photo of son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the famous photo with the huge chains behind him, projected onto the extremely grubby and deranged wall of the place where we listened to a lecture about the tunnel.  The guy is saying: “Well, you just can’t get the walls these days.”

No, he wasn’t.  He was saying something I didn’t catch because I wasn’t concentrating hard enough to make it out.  That being because the acoustics of this strange vertical cylinder in the ground were about as reverberationally bad as acoustics are able to be, and I could only make out about one in three of the words spoken by the guy, despite him being an actor who enunciated very clearly, and despite him standing about four yards from where we were sitting.

But despite all of the above, it was a fun evening.  Basically (a) because of the company, and (b) because now, when people ask me if I know anything about the Brunel Museum in Bermondsey, I can now say: Yes.  I’ve been there.  And because I had fun photoing.

Thursday August 30 2018

Today, in search of something worth displaying here, I chanced upon a directory of photos of photoers who were to be seen holding more than one camera.  I gathered these photos together some time in 2010, but then never got around to doing anything with them.  Almost all of these photos seem to have been taken in and around Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge, my most usual locale for photoing photoers, then as now.

Here are some of them now:

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These photos all date from 2005 and 2006.  I was not as fussed about hiding faces in those faraway times, but as you can see, I was making some effort in this direction, at any rate enough of an effort to give me plenty of faceless photoers, so to speak, to choose from.

As to why these ladies are holding another camera, this was usually because they were in a group, and were helping to ensure sure that each photo-op was registered in every camera owned by anyone in the group, and in particular that each camera owner had a decent number of photos of themselves.  (In the above photos, in other words, we are often observing selfies being taken.) Often, I would photo ladies (ladies especially seem to hunt photos in a pack) who were taking the same photo two or even several times, with two or several cameras, one after the other, with the inactive cameras hanging down from them in a clump.  Sadly, there are no ladies to be seen here with more than two cameras on the go.

Often one of the group would ask me to take a photo of all of them, with one of their cameras, and sometimes with more than one in succession, so that they had at least one photo or some photos with everyone included.  It’s all I can do to make any sense of my own cameras, let alone anyone else’s, but I would usually do my best.

It could also be that some of these ladies are taking photos with cameras supplied to them by absent friends or partners.  Remember, in these faraway times, communicating photos from this camera to that camera was harder than it is now, and if doable, a lot more cumbersome.  How much easier for it to get my desired photo in my camera, even if I myself didn’t take it!

Saturday August 25 2018

Yesterday, GodDaughter 2 and I spent the afternoon in Kew Gardens.  Which is a lot bigger and a lot bigger of a deal than I realised.

The high point of our day, literally as well as metaphorically, was our visit to the Great Pagoda.  And not just the Great Pagoda in a general way.  We climbed up the stairs to the top of the Great Pagoda.

There were views, of which this one was, of course, my favourite:

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Here is variant of that same view.  Note how the lighting has changed somewhat.  The Walkie Talkie remains as as strikingly lit as ever, and it remains the star of the show, but the Wheel is a bit different (as is the Waterloo Crane Cluster that reaches up above it). It was one of those bright intervals with scattered showers days:

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I know what you’re thinking.  Not very clear photos.  Rather vague and blurry.  All true, and you are definitely entitled to your opinion, if that is what it is.

But in my defence, and in defence also of my camera, take a look at the same view, minus the zoom.

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The third of the above photos being a lot closer to what I merely saw than the first two are.

The vast expanse of greenery in the foreground is … Kew Gardens.  That photo was photoed half way up the Pagoda, as soon as I realised that this view was happening.

Maybe a compromise is in order.  Maybe this is the best photo, with some zoom, but not the maximum allowed:

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Sadly, though, that lighting effect hadn’t yet occurred.  That was one I took earlier

As I keep saying, my camera has far better eyesight than I do, and I am afraid the gap is growing.

Something that continues to grow is my admiration for the Walkie Talkie.  When lit as it is in the first two photos above, and when it is seen from a great distance, it is the most beautiful City of London Big Thing of them all, I think.

Monday August 13 2018

From the I Just Like It directory:

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That GodDaughter 1 on the left there.  We were on one of our photowalks, in August 2013, in other words just under five years ago.  I was looking for something dated, perhaps because temporary, and there was quite a lot of stuff in that part of London, Olympic Games territory, that must look very different now.  But that snap grabbed my attention, and I hope it tickles yours.

Photoer shadows
A friend in front of a strange lighting effect
A Jordan Peterson evening
Complaining about the heat after complaining about the cold
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Gurrelieder at the Royal Festival Hall
BMdotcom and email problems – now sorted
GD2 graduates
Royal Albert and his Hall
How public is Facebook?
Chat perdu :( (et retrouvée)
HOZ PHOAICK?
The ultimate non-disruptive technology
Photos of Oscar
Angel Bear outside the Gare du Nord
I came for bridges but mostly what I got was leaves
Lunch in Paris
Talking with - and without - a microphone
Me and Me talk on the phone
Robot dog apocalypse
Hippo with lid
A temporary RCM corridor – the inside and the outside
A talk by me to Libertarian Home
Elina Cerla
A face and some windows
Michael Fabiano does a Master Class at the Royal College
Happy New Year (at last)
Southwark Cathedral from the train
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
Hippos
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
Heat
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
YPTD
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
Bonfire
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
Wonderful
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
Dialogue
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
Knackered
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
Inamo
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?
Tajo
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”
Publogging
Facebook
Douglas
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!”
Search
Everyone likes Magic Andy
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
BrianMicklethwait.com 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
Nosh
Another phone glitch
Chris Tame’s funeral will be this coming Saturday
Grief
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
Klara