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Category archive: Food and drink

Friday November 20 2015

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.

Saturday November 14 2015

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.

Tuesday November 10 2015



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.

Monday October 05 2015

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?

Monday September 21 2015

A while back, there used to be Walkers Marmite flavoured crisps.  Then, they went away.  I mourned their passing.

Now ...:


… 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.

Tuesday September 01 2015

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.

Friday August 28 2015

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.

Friday August 14 2015

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 see also: Fossils reveal felines drove 40 species of canines to extinction after arriving in North America.

And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.

Sorry!  No Photo’s!
Golden Cheesegrater with cranes
Keeping up appearances in Sydney
It begins (badly)
Pancake White Van
Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
More keeping up of appearances
Heaven aka the Barley Mow
Tim Worstall on “reserves”
Strange London buses
Another use for a drone
Bad taste
Not squash
White Vin Van
Photoing the photoers on Westminster Bridge
The ROH bar and its floating-in-the-air drinkers
Drunkblogging a new London Big Thing
Talk tomorrow – haircut today
Incidental Last Friday details
Another place to look out over London from
Christmas Day photos
Santa’s tired helpers
ASI Christmas Party photos
At the ASI Christmas Party
Scary bunny
Hot dog shadow selfie
Friday photo-puzzles
The uniqueness of our microbiome
At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Halloween buckets
Strange bread
Two guys on Westminster Bridge photoing ice creams in front of the Houses of Parliament
Triple selfie
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Roof party
Out and about in the sunshine
ASI Boat Trip 9: The man driving the boat
Cat photo and cat news
ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
Colossal fun
ASI Boat Trip 3: Drink!
ASI Boat Trip 2: My photos were indeed better than they looked last night
ASI boat trip - one good photo to be getting along with
Quota photos of and from Tate & Lyle Park
Another London vista
Go Chef
Organised water
Guardian online is a group blog that trolls its own readers
A slightly foreign part of London
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
South Bank signs
Two bits of hospitality trivia
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar
Church really dwarfed by modernity
Happiness is still Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
3D printer sighted!
Scott Wiener on pizza boxes
La Porte des Indes
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Broad thrives properly on getting abuse
Fat bastard!
Pain in the midriff
A Strutton Ground shop and a Strutton Ground pub
Jamie Whyte on deferring gratification less as he gets older
Halloween is near!
The Heron Tower restaurant
Monty Panesar: “I piss on your short pitched fast deliveries aimed at my body!”
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Rothko Toast
A Fleet Street lunch
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
What Michael Jennings has been learning about and will be saying about globalisation
Photoing people who are photoing food
Talking architecture at the Libertarian Home social
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
Just Righter
Another pub
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
Marmite spoons!
Merry Christmas
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?
Blog hiati
Guerrilla webfare
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?
Quotes dump
Pull Tab
Magic bottle that makes dirty water drinkable
London Bites @ Sway
Summer break
Green eyed monster devouring cat food
Friend anonymous
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
Gadget gold
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!
Jellennium Bridge
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!
Renaissance Man
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