Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rocco on Milo Yiannopoulos
Tatyana on Four towers joined together by two bridges
Patrick Crozier on Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Brian Micklethwait on Filling in a Meaningless Triangle near Kensington High Street tube
Alastair on Filling in a Meaningless Triangle near Kensington High Street tube
loony sports on Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
Brian Micklethwait on Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
Brian Micklethwait on Couple photoing their own shadows
MarkR on Couple photoing their own shadows
Brian Micklethwait on A Morris Minor advertising a ping pong night club
Most recent entries
- Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
- Coloured lights in bottles outside the RFH
- Avian Friday
- New chairs
- Milo Yiannopoulos
- Four towers joined together by two bridges
- Peter Foster on Robert Owen
- Quota Bald Blokes and Big Ben
- Less heat and more light
- Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
- Antony Flew on the Terrors of Islam
- Bell end?
- Couple photoing their own shadows
- Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
- What is this iceStone device?
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Communities Dominate Brands
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Food and drink
On Friday November 27th (i.e. exactly one week from now), my friend from way back, Antoine Clarke, will be giving a talk at my place entitled “Herding cats, or lessons from drunks about organising anarchy”.
These talks happen every last Friday of the month, and before they give one of them, I ask each speaker to supply a paragraph or two about what they’ll be saying, so I can email my list of potential attenders. Antoine has just supplied me with ten paragraphs on his talk:
It would be hard to imagine any more dysfunctional organisation than a leaderless group of drunks promising among themselves to quit drinking and to help other drunks to quit.
And then I realized that there is a similar organisation for narcotics addicts, one for cocaine addicts, crystal meth addicts and even “sex and love addicts” - whatever that may mean.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been described as a “benign anarchy” by one of its founders and manages to organize over 100,000 groups worldwide with between 1.5 million and 2 million members. Its power structure has been described as an “inverted pyramid”.
AA operates by having almost completely autonomous branches, no publicity, no professional class of “charity workers” and no set fees. It has a “12-step program” and “12 traditions” which have been described respectively as “rules for not killing yourself” and “rules for not killing other people”.
The effectiveness of AA at curing or controlling alcohol addiction is not clear cut. Because of anonymity, self-selection and the difficulty of known if someone who stops attending meetings has relapsed or simply found he can lead a functional lifestyle. The fact that over a dozen other organisations have copied AA’s 12-step and 12 tradition system suggests at least some level of success, unlike, say the UK’s National Health Service which has fewer imitators.
One particular problem for AA is that any 12-step program will only really work if it is voluntary, but in the USA especially, courts mandate that convicted criminals attend AA meetings as a parole condition. I think this reduces recidivism among the criminals (compared with them NOT following a program), but it surely dilutes the effectiveness of AA groups (more disruptive attendees, people going through the motions, possible discouragement of others).
I shall be looking at the elements of AA’s structure and organisational culture to see what lessons can be learned about the possibility of anarchic institutions especially at handling social problems.
What interests me is the “anarchy with table manners” aspect of AA and the contrast with truly dysfunctional libertarian organisations, like the Libertarian Alliance.
I’m also interested in the issue of government interference and the ways in which well-meaning interventions make matters worse. I shall also take a look at the spiritual element of AA’s 12-step program, noting that it claims to work for atheists and agnostics as well as for theists.
Hopefully, this is an attractive alternative to binge drinking on a Friday night in central London.
Indeed. There will be no binge drinking at the meeting.
I never did get to see that gas holder park I was on about yesterday. I had thought it would be clearly visible and clearly signposted, but it was neither, and I placed myself on the wrong side of a big building site, and never got near it. I only worked out exactly where it had been hiding when I got home.
But none of that matters. The point of having a photo-objective of this sort is to get me to a part of town that I might not otherwise be visiting, and in general, to get me out into the town. Gas Holder Park isn’t going anywhere, and my failed attempt to visit it, I got to be on the exact right bit of pavement to take this photo, which is definitely one of my recent favourites:
It’s not just the craziness of the vehicle. It’s the way that, with no other traffic - or even pedestrians - choosing to get involved in the short, and with my camera tracking the crazy vehicle and thus blurring everything else, the crazy vehicle becomes a sort of disembodied presence, liberated from the urban bustle that it was in fact surrounded by, like it was a movie character on drugs, or something similarly unenmeshed in reality as the rest of us perceive it.
Seconds later, I took another shot of the crazy vehicle as it sped away from me, hoping that it tell me what the white sphere was in aid of. It wasn’t a great picture ...:
... but it did the job:
And (see above) it’s a recently opened ping pong drinkery. The white sphere is a ping pong ball. More about the place here, where there is another picture of the Morris Minor, surrounded by urban bustle, so not on drugs.
I’ve not been out much lately, but last Friday night I got to see Perry and Adriana’s new version of indoors. That was the best photo I took, of a drying up cloth.
Click on that to see Adriana’s trousers, of the sort that are presumably threatening all the time to get tighter.
Photoed by me last night, at Southwark tube station:
Next to the ticket barrier at Southwark tube there are a number of these little history lessons, of which this was my favourite. This is the kind of thing you can usually chase up quickly on the internet, and find a fuller account of. But, my googling abilities are such that I can find no reference to this fish-discouragement story. Anyone?
A while back, there used to be Walkers Marmite flavoured crisps. Then, they went away. I mourned their passing.
… they’re back! That being a celebratory photo I took earlier this evening. Apparently I have democracy to thank.
I wonder, will there be a day when political elections include the added attraction of a prize draw, for all who vote?
I shan’t be voting for any other crisps to join Marmite crisps. Marmite was, as far as I am concerned, the big one. I am now happy.
I have a distinct recollection of posting a photo of Marmite flavoured crisps, here or somewhere, way back. But when I tried to find such a posting, all I could find was a photo of some Marmite spoons. But, by looking for crisps without mentioning Marmite, I did find a posting I did about an earlier round of Walkers crisp voting.
I believe I may have said here recently that I did not care for selfies, although I cannot find where I said this. But whether I said this or not, it is not entirely true. There is a kind of selfie that I do like, which is when I am photoing some scene or other, and I am able to sneak a selfie into it, in a small part of the picture.
Partly this is because my understanding is that Real Photographers go to enormous trouble to avoid such selfie effects. As with PR experts, if the Photographer is the story, or any part of the story, then he isn’t telling the story right. The Real Photographer is not doing his job, which is to create a photo of whatever he is photoing, not of him, the Real Photographer, photoing it. The Real Photographer is supposed to be invisible.
Well, fair enough, business is business. But I am not in business. I am wandering about, having fun. If I show up in one of my photos, that’s fine, because that was what was going on in front of my camera. There was this mirror or this window or this shiny windscreen or whatever, and my face bounced back to my camera off of it. It happens, and it’s all part of how cameras work and what can happen with them.
Besides which, more fundamentally, I am not trying to persuade you that you were or are actually there. No. This is a photo. Photos are different from what you actually see if you are there, that being a great deal of the point of them, and a great deal of the fun of them. Cameras see and tell you about things that you might very well have missed, if you had merely been there, just as I do constantly miss stuff when I was there taking the photo, and only see later. It’s not reality. It’s a photo. Which means that someone stood there, with a camera, and took that photo. And, sometimes, the camera sees that. Why is that wrong?
All of which is a preamble-stroke-excuse for the following selfie:
I am the bloke in the light green shirt and the dark jacket, reflected in the bus window, underneath the “38” of “38 Victoria”.
Now, I approach my original point, the point referred to in the title of this. To me, it doesn’t look as if I am standing where I obviously had to be standing. No, it looks like the bloke in the light green shirt can’t be me, because the bus, all of it, and especially the bit with the reflection of the green shirt bloke, is a bit to my right. Ergo, green shirt bloke had to have been standing a minimum of about three yards to the right of me, me being the bloke who took the picture. But, despite all appearances to the contrary, me and green shirt bloke are one and the same.
I presume that this odd effect is the consequence of the lens (there is only one) in my camera being of the very wide angle sort. This means that the camera takes a very wide view, but then makes the result look not so wide. Everything that would be seen by the eye as being way off to the side is squeezed into the picture. And things on the far left, to the left of the photographer at the time, are squeezed into looking as if they were on his right, in the picture.
I don’t think I’d have been able to see this nearly so vividly if this picture had not been, among other things, a selfie. On the other hand, it was not a selfie in the sense that I deliberately included myself in the picture. I am pretty sure that just happened, without me trying.
At the time, all I thought I was photoing was a bus, covered in a popcorn advert.
Incoming photo (which is something I like a lot), from Simon Gibbs, of a sign (I like signs a lot), near Southwark Cathedral:
Click on that to get the bigger, unhorizontalised picture, and read more about what this is about here. Google sends me regular links to anything that is “new architecture london”, and there’s been lots written about this place.
Although, rather oddly, I couldn’t find any pictures of this sign. Maybe this will change that.
The gimmick is that this is a pub that sprays alcohol into the air. That was always going to be catnip to the media, social and regular. “Breathe responsibly”. Arf, arf. There are already plenty of pictures around of that sign.
That’s not my punctuation. That’s their punctuation:
This is sort of a wedding photo, in the sense that I took it just before the wedding of Ayumi and Richard, last Saturday, just outside the Church, where there is a market.
There was nobody manning this particular stall, selling miniature pub signs. And I have a rule about signs that say No Photos, or for that matter No Photo’s. That rule is: I take a photo of all such signs that I encounter. Their rule: No Photos. My rule: Photo of their rule.
I’m guessing that what they mean by a photo is a carefully composed photo of just one of these signs, so I don’t believe that, in the unlikely event that they find out about me posting this photo here, they’ll care. Besides which, maybe they have discovered that if they exhibit all their signs for sale, and stick “Sorry! No Photo’s!” in among them, they get free publicity from photographers like me.
I didn’t really compose the shot. I just grabbed it, on my way into the wedding. But I do like how it says “Queen Vic” and then “England”, right at the top. And, top left: “London”.
This had to go up today, because as you can see, cats are involved. And my rule about sometimes having stuff here about cats on Fridays has mutated in my head into a rule that says that I may only mention cats on Fridays, otherwise they’d overrun the entire blog.
Speaking of cats, I also recommend this video, which I found when I visited, after long absence, Norman Lebrecht’s site, this morning.
And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.
I spent the morning not doing anything here, and then the later morning making sure that there were no Ashes mishaps. Then I spent from the middle of the day almost to the end of the night attending a wedding. I took about eight hundred pictures, but for now, one must suffice, not very wedding related, other than it was taken from where the reception took place, namely from the upstairs bar and terrace of Doggett’s Coat and Badge.
I am often out and about in London as the sun sinks, but seldom in a place like this, a crucial few dozen feet higher up than usual. I think this affected the effect of the sun on the Big Things of the City.
Although, it could just be that I was in a good mood and the view was slightly unfamiliar. After all, I was high enough to see over the new Blackfriars Bridge Station, and thus see those Big Things from an angle I’m not used to.
I am not used to the Gherkin being totally hidden by the Cheesegrater, which in this shot it just happens to be. Perhaps that is what is making the Cheesegrater look so good, to me, today. There is no bulge bulging out from behind it.
As you can see, one of the cranes was on fire with the light of the sun.
New dwellings and shops behind the facade of an old brewery, and a new power plant on top of it:
You can lose a test match on the first morning and England are well on the way to losing the first Ashes test in Cardiff, having already lost three wickets before lunch. England’s trouble is that their top four have none of them been in proper form of late, and the Australian bowlers are all just that bit too good for them to be able to solve this problem by batting themselves into some form against them. It will only get worse. If it gets better I will be delighted, but also surprised. As of now, I expect the result to be much as it was two years ago, when England shaded it three nil, except that it will be three nil to Australia, or something like that. This time, Australia are better, and England have less good batting (Bell has got worse basically) and two top bowlers who are two years more knackered, plus no Swann. So, England will lose. Anything better than that will be a bonus. We shall see.
And before anyone says I was plunged into doom by these three wickets, I was already pessimistic when it kicked off. I just wish I had put this an hour and a half sooner.
My mood is not helped by me still having to rely on my stupid laptop and it is like wading through sewage.
Also, I began the day with a Rameau harpsichord CD that had been on pause, and since it is one of those annoying CDs (a triple CD actually) without the tracks and timings on the cover, just in the inside booklet, it is hard to note where I am it in, so a CD started needs to be finished. And Rameau on the harpsichord, at any rate this particular Rameau on the harpsichord, was very minor key and lugubrious.
Every damn morning the laptop seems to insist on doing a “scheduled scan” (which always discovers nothing but takes for ever).. This is the sewage aspect. At least things on that front are now a bit better. (I was reminded about that by a little box bottom left saying Scan Completed 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0 blah blah blah.)
Last night I watched a very depressing documentary about the holocaust, The Allies knew. But they didn’t believe it, or didn’t want to. My newly purchased milk is already going sour. There is a tube strike that has caused the entire tube to shut for the day. The weather for the ASI boat party this evening looks like being very grim and grey.
At least England haven’t lost another wicket before lunch. 88-3. Not good, but not catastrophic. Or not yet.
I had this complicated posting in the works, but, as often happens, it got too complicated. Usually, in these circumstances, I fob you off with a quota photo of that Pavlova statue. This time I thought I’d fob you off a quota White Van instead.
Learn more about the enterprise in question here.
As everyone else in the world found out several years before I did, a mobile phone is now an essential part of the kit you need to meet up with somebody. So, I made a point of having my mobile with me when G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I met up at Manor House tube last Sunday.
When I arrived there, at our predetermined time, I discovered that Manor House tube has three widely dispersed exits to choose from. Now you may say: “But how many ticket barriers does it have? One.” You are right, but what if the mobile phone reception at the ticket barrier, this ticket barrier being below ground, does not work? I needed to be out in the open.
Mobile phones cause plans to be more muddy and last-minute than they used to be, because that is what these plans can now be. GD1 and I had hoped that “the exit of Manor House tube” would be unambiguous, but we took a chance on that, because we would both have our mobile phones with us, and we could make it up as we went along if things got more complicated.
I picked one of the three exits and looked around for GD1. No sign. I left a phone message and a text message for GD1 saying to her: I am in the
Manor Park View Cafe, which is next to the big gate into Finsbury Park, which by then I was. Fifteen minutes later, I rang again, and eventually got through to GD1. She said: “I just sent you a text.” Ah. She was running a bit late, which, now that we all have mobiles, is okay because now such information is easily communicated.
Anyway we duly met up in the Manor Park Cafe, and we consumed consumables while deciding to have our walk anyway, despite the weather being vile, but also deciding that we would wait inside the
Manor Park View Cafe until it stopped actually raining.
What might have happened had we not had any mobile telephony at our disposal, I do not know. The old method, which is that you decide beforehand to meet at place X at time Y, used to work okay. Whoever got there first waited, and whoever was second said sorry, with whatever degree of sincerity seemed appropriate. But now, if you don’t bring a mobile with you, and if you don’t make constant use of it, you are misbehaving.
I brought my mobile with me to meet up with GD1, but at a critical moment I failed to consult it. “Getting old” will definitely be one of the categories below.
Photoed by me today at the top end of Victoria Street, aka Victoria, where there is a hurricane of new building going on, a horizontal slice of an old building:
If you click on that, you will be able to see, from the daylight in the windows and from the big horizontal chunks of metal between the windows, that this is another of those facades from olden days that’s being held up and behind which indoor modernity will be put.
I don’t often go to pubs, because of the noise. But Goddaughter 2, raised in France, wanted to try eating a pie in a pub, so we went to the Barley Mow in Horseferry Road to see what they had. They had pies, which proved very tasty.
Two particular circumstances made the evening pure perfection for me, besides the pure perfection of Goddaughter 2’s company I mean.
First, they had the latest England v NZ cricket ODI on the telly, and I got to watch the conclusion of England’s outstanding and outstandingly successful run chase that has just levelled the ODI series 2-2. And second, this being the twenty-first century, GD2 had her smartphone with her and was texting with all her friends. I hope you aren’t bored because of me doing all this texting, she said. No no, I said, gazing happily at the giant telly screen, you just carry on my dear. Don’t mind me. As I said to her when we were leaving, had I been asked to chose the perfect hour and more to spend in a pub this week, then given that this pub had the cricket on the go, and given that my ever-delightful companion was apologising for neglecting me and communing instead with her smartphone, this hour and more would have been it.
There was noise but it didn’t matter. We didn’t do much in the way of conversation, in other words we didn’t shout much at each other, although we did a bit because it wasn’t actually that noisy. But we were mostly doing two separate things that did not require peace and quiet to work. GD2 didn’t need silence to read and write her texts. I didn’t need any television cricket commentators to tell me that England were batting up a storm.
As we left I asked GD2 if she reckoned the social media have made it better for women in pubs. She reckoned yes they probably have. If men in pubs are diverted by men’s stuff, like cricket on the telly, then any women they have dragged along with them are now able to entertain themselves, instead of just sitting there moping and getting bored. Or, if the men were a bit more gracious than that, they would force themselves to ignore the men’s stuff and do conversation, despite their strong inclinations. Also not ideal. So, social media definitely equals progress. And if the women are distracted by women’s stuff, then the men can play with their smartphones.
One of the very few uses I have found for my own smartphone, aside from telling me where I am and where to go when I am out and about, is acquainting myself with the latest cricket scores when I am out and about.