Photoers from 2013: Varieties of facelessness

Photoer facelessness can be contrived in many ways, not least by the camera itself getting in the way. Then there’s photoing them from behind. Or having something else between their face and the camera photoing them. And of course there’s cropping.

Here’s another little clutch of not-then-posted but ready-to-go photoer photos, found when looking for something else. The guy holding up the red camera with two fingers, V-sign style, had already had the top of his face cropped off. But nothing further then happened.

My favourites, from the facelessness point of view, are the first photo and the last photo:

Burka Lady on the left looks like she had clocked me photoing her. But my guess is she and her friend were getting a lot of that.

Number 7, or 3.1, or bottom left or whatever we call her, is rather recognisable. But that interested me a lot. What is she doing with her two cameras? Trying to take identical photos, to compare her cameras? If so, I wonder how the phone did compared to the regular camera? Rather well, I’m guessing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Michael Jennings explores Tehran

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.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Robert R. Reilly on the nature of Saudi power

I am currently reading The Closing of the Muslim Mind, by Robert R. Reilly, with a view to reviewing it for Samizdata. Brilliant. For as long as I’ve been reading this book, finishing reading it has been my number one concern. Shoving up brilliant stuff here has … not. Some Facebook friends of mine have been choosing the books that have most influenced their thinking, and this book looks like it will be added to my list.

Here is a typically illuminating paragraph from this book (on page 144 of my paperback edition – which I am happy to note is towards the end of it):

The enormous influence of Saudi Arabia today in the Muslim world is often thought by Westerners to be almost completely due to its oil wealth – petro-Islam. However, this discounts the fact that many Muslims, including in countries like Egypt, which are traditionally opposed to Saudi Arabia, see this wealth as a direct gift from Allah. Can it be only an accident that these treasures are under the sands of this particular country? No, they must be there as a reward to the Saudis for following the true path. Why else would the oil be there? – a question that has to be answered not by geologists, but within the understanding that God has directly placed the oil there as He directly does all things. The presence of petroleum gives credence to the Saudi claim that its Wahhabi form of Islam is the legitimate one. It is because of the oil that other Muslims are willing to give this claim consideration. This is why Wahhabism has spread so significantly, even in parts of the world like Indonesia that would seem, from their cultural backgrounds, to have little sympathy with its radical literalism. Therefore, it is not only through Saudi oil largess but also because of where the oil is that Wahhabism enjoys such prominence.

For the sort of Muslim Reilly is writing about (and that’s a hell of a lot of them), what we in the West refer to as “reality” is continuously created by Allah, in a succession of miraculous whims. Even to study the laws of nature is to presume to place limits on what Allah might choose to do, and is accordingly a blasphemy. Whatever happens was done by Allah, and is accordingly right. Might is right.

And if the Saudis have most of the financial clout in the Muslim world, that means Allah must be on their side.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A couple of nice Tweets by Frank J. Fleming

I have yet to break my Twitter silence. I am just letting all the people I follow just Twitter away all over me, while I try to get a sense of who Twitters well, so that when I finally do, if I ever do, I too will Twitter well, or at least quite well.

One such role model is Frank J. Fleming.

From whom, this is deservedly getting around:

I think you’re always going to have tension in the Middle East when there’s people who want to kill the Jews and Jews who don’t want to be killed and neither side is willing to compromise.

More recently, I also liked this, about an American psycho-gang that President Trump described as animals:

I assumed the threat of MS-13 was being overblown since I don’t trust Trump, but now other people I don’t trust are doing overtime belittling the problem of MS-13 and I don’t know who not to trust more.

When I was young, I wondered if I would be able to respect my youngers but betters. How would that work? It turns out it works fine. That would make another nice Tweet.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

I need a link dump

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down. (I know, “bookmarks”. Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links. Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows – we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope. Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns? Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints? The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise. She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on. But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump. The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good. Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is. And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do. You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it. Jordan Peterson, take a bow. That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood. The only question is: By how much? Trivially, or significantly? My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam. I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is. These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”. If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground. I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did. Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden. As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe. His name? Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog. As do I. It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing.

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron. He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history. This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better. And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was. This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room. The job is not done, but I have taken a big bite out of it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Islam can’t be made nice

Says Armin Navabi:

The only way to reform Islam is to get rid of Islam.

A short video, lasting just over two minutes. Navabi is right, provided by “reform” we mean “make nice”. That verbal quibble aside, agreed.

There are many nice people who want to remain nice but also to remain Muslim. Can’t be done. Islam demands nastiness from its followers, and there’s no way round that, only out of it.

The current Western governmental view of Islam is: resist the bad stuff, appease the good stuff. But the only good stuff in Islam is good people trying to be good but being told not to be good by Islam. Islam itself is the enemy.

The way to defeat Islam is to persuade a large number of its current adherents to stop being its adherents. That will put Islam on the defensive, both ideologically and physically. Muslims will be put in the position of trying to explain that Islam is nice. They will fail, but will then look weak, because they will have abandoned their strongest weapon, which is the fact that Islam demands nastiness. And the Muslims will thus lose. There will still be many “Muslims”, so-called, in the world, but the ones who really believe in it will become a beleaguered minority, constantly betrayed to their enemies by other “Muslims” who are trying to prove, to the world and to other Muslims who are thinking of leaving Islam, how nice they are, despite going through all the motions of saying that they still believe nasty things.

In other anti-Islamic news, Dawkins notes a stirring of atheism in the Islamic world. I hope, and more and more think, that this is right, and very good news. The more I learn about this man, more I admire him, even though I mostly don’t agree with him on domestic political issues.

If you are now, still, a Muslim, stop it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Emmanuel Todd’s latest book – in English

Actually it’s by Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd. And it’s not that new; it was first published (in French) in 2007. But it has just been made available in English. And it is exactly the Todd book that, for several years now, I have most been wanting to read. It is entitled A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World.

If it is as interesting as I hope it is, this book could finally enable Todd to make his long overdue breakthrough into the English speaking world.

And it is, as Instapundit is always saying, in the post.

In all my previous Todd googlings, I had never before come across this stuff about Todd, although I am almost certain that it has been there all along. Will read this tomorrow, or failing that, Real Soon. (And ooh look: at the top left, under where it says “NEW!!!”, there is me, and three of my Todd postings.)

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog