Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Johnathan on Spot the Samsung connection
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Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
6000 on Cats without tails are not scary
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erickbruce on Wedding photography (5): Photography!
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- Steve Davies talk last night
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- the Norlonto Review is back!
- There are cranes and there are cranes
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- Spot the Samsung connection
- Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
- Cassette iPhone photographer
- Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
- Testing again
- BMdotCOM insult of the day
- Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
- BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
- Wedding photography (5): Photography!
- Phablet news
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Category archive: Food and drink
No, not taken by me, of course not. By my compulsively globe-trotting friend Michael Jennings, who has recently been trotting around in Georgia ...:
Foreigners, eh? An endless source of fun.
… and in Warsaw:
The Warsaw one being bigger, because the title of the email in which this one arrived went:
This is my favourite photo for quite a while.
I’m guessing this is because the old Soviet-imposed Palace of Culture is upstaged behind and beside by skyscrapers, and in front by Polish people actually having quite a good time, buying stuff, doing capitalism etc.
I can remember when that bag of wind John Gray was saying that liberated Eastern Europe, for which people like me had such high hopes, would all end in tears, because in John-Gray-world high hopes always do. But look at it now!
I visited Warsaw in 1984, I think it was. I recall rather liking that Palace of Culture, even though I wasn’t supposed to, on account of the nastiness that it was built to spread, and probably also because of the defencelessly fine stuff that got smashed to rubble to make way for it. I could entirely see why the locals all hated it. I, on the other hand, considered it to be an example of one of my laws, which states that the splendour of a building is inversely proportional to the excellence of what goes on inside it when it first opens for business. Later, better things can get done in the thing. But the tendency is: not to start with.
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
A while back, I had an enthusiasm for posting thin, horizontal pictures, of a sort that are ideally suited to the blog format, because they don’t provoke a lot of annoying scrolling up and won (the way the rest of this posting actually does), like this one:
I took that picture near South Kensington tube station, earlier this week. It tells you that the sign is on the outside of a restaurant called “Gessler at Daquise”, which is an odd name for a restaurant, but there you go. Gessler is a Polish family, and Daquise is ... what? A place in South Kensington? A building? There is a Gessler at the Daquise website, and it would appear that “Daquise” is a legendary restaurant, so legendary that they didn’t want to drop the name when the Gesslers took over. Or something:
Several decades of hard work and evolution have produced what arguably is the best Polish food offer in the world. Our U Kucharzy restaurant in Warsaw has gained both national and international acclaim, and was awarded a Bib Gourmand status by Guide Michelin for two years running - the only restaurant in Poland to be awarded such accolade. Now we are running a legendary Polish address in London - Daquise in Thurloe Street, which has been around since 1947. Our aim is to make it great again and we hope to see you there in the process!
Here is another snap of the outside, that shows what it looks like:
I didn’t eat that much, but what I did eat, a pancake, was delicious. The menu looks enticing, as do the prices. I shall return.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed the ambience. Not too loud for intelligent conversation, which restaurants often are, even if there’s no music.
Above all, given the excellent light that day, I loved the look of the place.
Here are two more photos, in the Digital Photography Imitates Art genre.
First, a still life:
Perhaps rather too much stuff there for a proper still life, but I liked it, especially the string of lights and all the little signs. Maybe you had to be there.
And second (note the Rothko influence on the décor in this place) an abstract:
With added mirrors, showing me from the neck downwards.
Most fun of all was the staircase down to the basement toilets:
That’s right. It’s in the front window!
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.
As already mentioned here, my next Last Friday of the Month (i.e. Feb 22 – please arrive at my home between 7pm and 8pm) speaker is to be my good friend Michael Jennings. The long version of his talk’s title is:
How the globalisation of commerce has made the world less rather than more homogenised, and what I have learned out this by travelling the world.
Which I will hereby shorten down to:
How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised.
As all his friends will unite in telling you, Michael has done a lot of travelling.
Emails will soon be going out confirming all this, and in particular drawing the emailee’s attention to the following, which is Michael writing at a little more length about the kinds of thing he intends to be talking about:
Around a decade ago, a friend of mine decried the fact that the American clothing chain “The Gap” was expanding around the world, and destroying the local character of the cities she was visiting. I then asked her in which cities, precisely, she had seen their stores. She paused for a moment, and said “New York, Toronto, London, and Paris”.
At the time she said this, The Gap had stores in precisely five countries in the world: The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, France, and Japan. (They have since spread a little wider, but not much wider. And certainly, not much deeper. In many of the countries they operate in, they might have one or two stores in the capital city, but they are not a brand that ordinary people will interact with on a day to day basis.) This said far more about her than it did about The Gap: she travelled to the very small number of places that were its target market - places containing people similar to her - and assumed that this was “the world”.
An observation I made then was one that has been confirmed to me since: when you find someone who decries the corporate homogenisation of the world caused by globalisation, one immediately realises that they haven’t travelled very widely. With more thought, one also realises they haven’t travelled very deeply. The number of interesting restaurants in a city is strongly correlated with the number of McDonald’s outlets and the number of fast food chains present, and it is a positive correlation. The number of interesting coffee shops (and Bubble Tea cafes, and Polynesian Cava outlets) is strongly correlated to the number of Starbucks outlets, and once again it is a positive correlation.
The question really, is whether correlation is causation. Does the spread of McDonald’s and Starbucks cause local ecosystems of food, drink, and other retail outlets to become more complex and more sophisticated? If so, how do they spread, and why do they spread?
I have spent much of the last five years travelling the world, chasing the answers to these questions in various countries and quasi-countries. (Quasi-countries such as Northern Cyprus, Palestine, or Kosovo are particularly interesting, in that the forces that spread businesses and cultures are impeded and obstructed in certain ways, while simultaneously being not obstructed in other ways that they are obstructed in real countries, and one can learn a lot about what these forces are from this.) In doing so, I have learned much about the spread of international corporations, but also much about real estate booms and cheap money. The spread of international business confirms, in many ways, the starkness of international borders and the power of international institutions and how these things trump commerce. A quick glance at shopping malls and high streets in a foreign country can tell huge amounts of information about the governance and legal systems of a country - merely through the presence and absence of brands, and through what alternatives fill the gaps left by the absence of international brands.
On February 22 I shall attempt to draw and share some conclusions from what I have learned.
As to Michael’s question about correlation, causation, and so on, between on the one hand Starbucks et al, and on the other hand greater eating diversity, my untravelled guess would be that both are caused by globalisation, and in particular by lots of foreigners descending on the place, because of easier and cheaper travel, more globalised business activity, and so on. Some of these foreigners want their familiar stuff, i.e. Starbucks. And other foreigners welcome the change to get away from all that, and want sample local delicacies and diversions, perhaps guided by local work colleagues. Opposite sides of the same global coin, you might say.
But what do I know? Less than Michael Jennings, that’s for sure. He has not merely travelled. He has travelled, to use his own excellent phrase, deeply.
If you want to attend this event, email me, or leave a comment here, and I’ll get back to you to confirm that you will be very welcome, as you surely will be.
Back to regular, occasional blogging, following my mad Thursday Odyssey (see the previous dozen or more postings below).
The marginal cost of digital photography is zero, which means that all sorts of people will find all sorts of further uses for their digital cameras, once they have them for some old fashioned reason like taking holiday photographs to bore their neighbours or blog readers with, or because they have a mobile phone which has a camera anyway.
Like photoing food. Or like photoing people who are photoing food.
These people photoing food are described as “hipsters”. But are they? They just look like people to me.
The reason for all my meandering about in the London Bridge stroke Southwark stroke Waterloo area last Thursday was that I needed to be at London Bridge to photo the bottom of the Shard before it got too dark, in other words around 4pm, but then had to wait around until after 7pm, before going to the Rose and Crown for the Libertarian Home social. Had I gone home, I’d only have had to turn around and come back again, more or less immediately. Hence all the meandering.
The LH social was a lot of fun. There was no one big conversation, just lots of little ones, and one of mine was about architecture and city planning. The problem of how to switch from a statist world to a libertarian one without destroying lots of sacred buildings was touched on, which I think is a very good question. Libertarians aren’t the Taleban, but the early effect might be the same if we aren’t careful. And if we don’t have answers to such questions, we won’t get very far.
Also on an architectural theme, I was reminded of these photos, by the man, “Ian F4”, who took them. He still had them on his mobile, and reminded me that he had put them in a comment here, on this posting. They deserve greater prominence, and at the very least, another showing:
I love how, in the left hand photo, a bright light (or in this case a bright reflection of the sun) makes everything else go dark.
The one on the right is the shot of the Shard from near the bottom of the Monument,
It was Ian F4 who got me doing this mad series of Thursday Odyssey postings, by telling me about how he reads my blog. This cheered me up no end, and I decided to have a bit of a go here, more than I have been doing lately. So, all these recent postings are his fault.
Classical CDs from Gramex
Six Nations joy
Brian’s Fridays will resume on the 25th of this month
Christmas Eve feast
Cheese or font?
Usain Bolt takes photos of photographers!
Another excellent spot to photo London from
Happy New Year
Les Rillettes Henaff
WWWhat a great afternoon!!!
Empty tables and empty chairs
No fruit juice
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
The Armstrong Gun
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
It’s interesting …
Female cows in TV advert shock
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
And then give up and stay fat
And here’s the proof!!! Sixteen little square pictures!!!
Talk at Christian Michel’s
Cats know more about fluid mechanics than dogs
Why does a coffee lover not want coffee when he’s ill?
To Serve Man
The long and short of conversation - Hitchens on YouTube
Graeme Swann on drink-driving charge after 3am dash to save kitten
iScream from Artisan du Chocolat
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
Yo! Sushi cat says: Yo! Stay away!
Incoming from Molly Norris!
“Is this a case of us operant-conditioning them or them operant-conditioning us?”
Sounds like a brothel with film star lookalikes
We’ll always have Chelsea
I never knew Marmite came in tanker lorries
Alfie the cat answers the Elmlea challenge
Sushi and scaffolding at Victoria
Why do pregnant women now do quite a lot of driving of their husbands?
The cats from out of town that cleared out the rats during the siege of Leningrad
My sleep and luggage and bus and fluid travel hell
My local Blockbuster Video just closed
Saying it with lights in the Victoria Station shopping centre that were still switched on!
Picture purrfection and a rather good Clive James piece
In other news …
Talking with Toby Baxendale
How building St Peter’s Rome split the Catholic Church and how marzipan was invented in Luebeck
The decor in Peter Jones - and where in London can I find a small ice-cube-making machine?
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
London Bites @ Sway
Green eyed monster devouring cat food
Busy day and busy night
How technology has improved detention
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
Register for your free pack and five £1-off-coupons
Even crazier crisps!
Vote for crazy flavoured crisps!
It could be a rather small funeral
Milk containers ancient and modern
Happy Christmas to all my readers
There’s only one way to find out! Fight!
Palming them off with a sunset
England sinking fast
At Liberty 2008 all day
The uses of Jesus
When three’s company but four’s a crowd
Billion Monkey with icecream!
Big head and big something else
Heroic Billion Monkey falsely arrested by cop whom he photoed breaking law to get to chip shop!
Photo of some foodski
Tea with CDs
Billion Monkey Alan Little?
Brian Micklethwait dot com quote of the day - soup
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
Berlin Billion Monkeys photo rat and cheese sand sculpture!
White Man’s Poison?
Fat Man on a Keyboard
That Rooney goal
Why photographing Big Ben can resemble being photographed with a sandwich
Male cows do not have udders
Spreading the word for free
Grassy car with blog