London Lectures

I went to a lecture last night – one of the many great positives of living in the capital is there are free or almost-free lectures given by experts and eccentrics virtually every night on just about every subject.

Think of them as gigs for old nerds like me. 🙂

Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald

The speaker was Glenn Greenwald, a former Guardian journalist who worked with Edward Snowden, and whose partner was arrested when entering the UK for carrying information related to that story.  He was held in custody and threatened with prison as a “terrorist”.

A fascinating talk (Greenwald’s an engaging and knowledgeable speaker) was only slightly spoilt by the speaker not actually being there, and having videoed his talk and responses to some previously submitted questions.

Fair play, I guess – if the Lovely Melanie had been arrested simply for helping me with my (perfectly legal) job then I’d be a bit dubious about visiting the UK, too!

The whole thing was spoilt slightly more by something I’ve noticed before – the inability of so many people at these events to ask a single lucid question or make a trenchant observation in less than five minutes of aimless, dull mumbling.

It’s as though these lonely attendees don’t see real people the rest of the time and this is their one chance for some human contact.  Unfortunately, they’ve forgotten how to have a conversation and seize on this opportunity to unload all the things they’ve so desperately wanted to discuss while trapped alone in their homes.

I’m not even joking here.  One guy took five minutes – 300 seconds! – to ask the question: Should the power of the Daily Mail be curbed?

That’s the question he asked.  His asking of it took FIVE MINUTES.

You could see another guy was going to be trouble as soon as he opened his mouth: individual words were separated by whole seconds of speculative silence.  The audience were all leaning forward in anticipation, wondering what the next word (when it eventually arrived) might be…

Unfortunately, the sense in his sentence was completely lost through these cliff-hanging gaps, and the audience all began to leave, as did we.

If you’re reading this post, thinking of attending a lecture and – maybe – asking a question, I have two pieces of advice you might like to write down.

1. Try to formulate your question before opening your mouth,.

2. Interesting questions tend to be short; interesting answers to be long.  Questions=short, answers=long.

Your co-operation in this matter is appreciated.



  1. people tend to want to show that they already know a lot of background and that they are not dummies but end up looking like dummies by asking long winded questions. Academics also try to frame questions with lots of words because they think that the shorter the question, the more simplistic it sounds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s