Friday, January 10th, 2014


Friday, January 10th, 2014 04:07 pm
robinturner: 2010 (tricycle)
Back in the '80s there were three tunes you could not escape. One was the theme tune to Eastenders, one heralded Dallas, and the other went “Neeeighbours … everybody needs good … neeeeighbours.” Out of curiosity, I dived into YouTube and found that this series actually still exists and is on episode 6750 or thereabouts. This is a triumph of, er, something, but that is not what I was going to write about. I was actually thinking of who I would like to have as a neighbour if I could choose, and that song sprang forth unbidden.

I'm excluding A-list celebrities, because living next to a celebrity wouldn't be much fun what with all the fans and paparazzi, and I'm excluding people I know but most people don't (e.g., my mum) so this is a list of moderately famous people I'd like to live in the same building as.

Tim Ferriss

Now Tim Ferriss has published his third best-seller and got his own TV show, he's getting dangerously close to the A-list, but I still think it'd be possible to live next door to him without being annoyed by fans camping out on your doorstep. I'd like to have him as a neighbour because of his infectious enthusiasm for learning just about anything. Conversations on the staircase would go “Hi Tim, how's it going?” “Not so bad—I just started learning Indonesian nose-yodelling.” He's also a great cook, which is always a good trait in a neighbour.

Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin is similar to Tim Ferriss in that they're both obsessed with learning, but is in a way his opposite. Ferriss is interested in becoming the best you can at something with the minimal expenditure of time and effort; Waitzkin is just interested in becoming the best. And he does: eight times US chess champion and three times world t'ai chi pushing hands champion. He also comes across as a really nice guy. Anyway, it'd be fun to have a former world champion to do pushing hands with, though I think I'd pass on the chess. I played a lot when I was a kid—enough to realise that I'd never be that good at it, and that there were more enjoyable games to be played, which neatly brings us to …

The McGonigal Twins

Jane McGonigal shot to geek-fame after her TED talk on how games can make a better world, which if nothing else demonstrates the power of telling people what they want to hear. Inspired but a tad skeptical, I ordered her book Reality Is Broken and was not disappointed. But even if her claims for the benefits of games are wildly exaggerated, I'd love to have such a bubbly, enthusiastic neighbour to play games with. Her sister, Kelly, is a yogi and health psychologist and seems like she'd make a wonderful neighbour too. And hey, twins! Twins are always fun (unless you mix them up, when they can be quite unforgiving, as I found out the only time I dated a twin).


Mazhar Alanson, Fuat Güner and Özkan Uğur are talented musicians and interesting people, performing a unique variety of Turkish folk-pop-rock laced with satire and Sufism since 1971. If you're not Turkish you probably won't have heard of them, unless you used to follow the Eurovision Song Contest in the days when Turkey could be relied on to get “null points”. This is a pity, as they have some great songs (though I don't count their Eurovision entries here). Mazhar Alanson has added his deadpan humour to a couple of films, and Özkan Uğur also acts in sitcoms from time to time. And as I said, they're into Sufism. Definitely the kind of neighbours you'd like to have round for drinks.

Yaşar Nuri Öztürk

Another person I'd like to have round for drinks, though in this case non-alcoholic ones, is the theologian Yaşar Nuri Öztürk. Again, this is someone you probably won't have heard of unless you're Turkish, which is a pity, as he's one of the best writers on Islam around. In Turkey, he's controversial mainly for demonstrating that the so-called "Islamic headscarf" is not Islamic at all. Even if you're an atheist, it's hard not to be impressed by his intelligence, scholarship and good humour.

Malcolm Gladwell

I never paid much attention to Malcolm Gladwell until I watched another TED talk, where he spoke of spaghetti sauce. At this point, I realised his true genius, which is making pretty much anything interesting. What better person to bump into regularly? “Hi Malcolm, how are you?” “Fine thanks, and did you notice the design of this stairwell?”

Ursula Le Guin

Every neighbourhood needs a Wise Old Woman, and since I'm not allowed to include my mum here, who better to fill this role than Ursula Le Guin, who was born in the same year? Not only is she one of my favourite FF/SF writers, she just oozes wisdom. She's like her own character, Ogion the Silent, except fortunately not silent.

So my Sunday would start with yoga with Kelly, followed by t'ai chi with Josh. I'd have elevenses with Yaşar and Malcolm, then learn Ecuadorian juggling with Tim in the afternoon. After dinner (cooked by Tim) we'd have MFÖ round for a sing-song, then Jane would teach us her latest game before Ursula reads us all a bed-time story.


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Robin Turner

June 2014

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