My statement of Kerouacian intent

This is from a quote by Colum McCann:

About 25 years ago, I took a bicycle across the United States. I soon found out that the greatest item of clothing was the trusty bandanna. There were dozens of uses for a bandanna – as a pot holder, a chain cleaner, a sun shield, a headband, a snot rag, a declaration of Kerouacian intent

Not only do I completely agree with him – my buff serves all of the above purposes when on the road (and many others!) – but the last bit is a wonderful turn of phrase.

Flea

This is Flea, some of you may already know of him. If not, click.

He did an AMA on Reddit recently and gave some nice advice to the question “what is the number one thing I should practice?”:

Well, once again, thank you for the kind words.

The most important thing – well, there’s 2 really important things in playing the bass, or ANY instrument. One is being very diligent about getting your technical facilities together, so you can physically play anything that you can think. So that entails doing all your exercises and scales, and practicing a lot to build up the knowledge, and music theory, and your physical ability to handle the instrument. And the other part, after you do that, is be yourself. Because every single person is completely different inside. We all have our own nervous systems, our own sets of fears and neuroses, and when we look at what we love, a sense of what makes us feel good, and to live a life where you are in touch with yourself, where you can express your most inside part on your instrument.

You have to be willing to put in the work when it’s boring, so that when the real exciting moment comes, you can ride that wave.

I think the last line sums up fantastically why you need to push through the ‘boring’ bits of practising a new skill. You’re essentially preparing yourself to be able to deal with the good stuff once it comes – a nice thing to keep in your mind.

The equal importance he places on sound technical knowledge and being true to your own personality is good too.

Spike Milligan’s London

There’s a passage in ‘The Looney’ by Spike Milligan about London. It contains such gems as:

The full text is equally glorious, even with its references of politicians I don’t recognise. I’m sure the inconsistency and ineptitude of their modern counterparts would annot Mr Milligan just as much:

London! Steaming metropolis of grot, grime, grit, gunk and gunge, mugging, Molotov cocktails, rape, football hooligans, bombs and assassinations. Dr Johnson said, ‘He who is tired of London is tired of life’ – fuck him. Faceless monstrous buildings thrust mindless and screaming up to the sky, a style known as Art Leggo. Buildings that, because of their sterility, denied the artisan work, the woodcarver, the marble and stone mason, the marquetry expert, the brass inlayer, the iron-craft master, the plaster moulder – all now lost in the four million unemployed. Architecture was dead, construction was in, slot square A into slt B continue upwards and voila! An enclosed space with glass. Classic London squares systematically ruined – vistas of St Paul’s blocked out. The cause of conservation is only just alive. How can there be any strength in depth when one day Michael Heseltine is Secretary for the Environment, his task to conserve, next he is Minister for War, whose job it is to destroy, next, he’s not a minister at all! A big laugh. Even the heir apparent, who can’t sting and speaks out, he won’t stop it. Even as he speaks the Seifert clan are designing a monstrous edifice that will destroy and dwarf the Limehouse area. The conscience of the nation is made up of money and money alone, it seems the whole city exists on a tightrope of finance, a dollar drop in the price of oil and the brokers swallow Valium and shit themselves. Jesus, is this the lot you died for? The young innocent and the confused take to drugs and end up in asylums.

Obviously massively cynical, but it made me laugh.

A no dairy diary

I decided to try being vegan for August, mainly out of curiosity. Ten days or so in I decided it was too difficult (and not really compatible with festival cooking), so I quit. Here are some insights:

The first 3 days were noticeably unhealthier. When I forgot to pack a lunch I relied on chip shop chips as a non-dairy option instead of some variation of a cheese salad sandwich I’d usually go for. I also ate a whole share-sized bag of crisps and a whole jar of olives for dinner one night. I’m not proud.

After that though, when I stopped being lazy and started investigating vegan recipes, it got healthier. One day the only ingredients I ate were sweet potato, sweetcorn, lettuce, nuts (unsalted), a plum, a nectarine, and a lot of water.

And here is what I learned:

  • A few recipes: polenta burgers and a couple of good salads being the main ones.
  • Adding oil to cous cous really improves the flavour, and also prevents the grains from sticking to each other when cooked. This was discovered by accident and has nothing to do with non-dairy. Just fits here nicely.
  • Lactate and lactic indicate dairy, lactose doesn’t. The former are from milk, the latter from some kind of bacterial reaction.
  • Loads of things are ‘produced in a factory that uses milk’, others ‘may contain milk’. What’s the threshold here? Do vegans take the risk?
  • Veganism is only potentially compatible with half of the Space Raiders flavours: 2 contain milk, 2 may contain milk. If you’re interested, red or orange do, purple and green (clearly the superior flavour) might.
  • Cheese wasn’t as difficult a loss as expected in terms of flavour. There was cheddar, halloumi, blue cheese and cream cheese in our fridge and I didn’t feel tempted to snap and gorge myself on them.
  • The difficulty came with most places and brands only offering cheese-based vegetarian options, meaning there was a lot of hunting for vegan-friendly sandwiches and such.
  • Most chilli sauces are compatible, which is a good sign. Meat I can live without, cheese I probably could too. No chilli sauce? Impossible.

The most interesting lesson: while it’s not much cheaper in terms of bought ingredients, the restrictions in choosing restaurants and snacks means I tended to avoid the expensive options.

So, an interesting diversion, but I’m not particularly bothered about doing it full time.

Important note: I maintain blissful ignorance when it comes to beer and whether they’re veg(etari)an or not.

Soda and gardening

Two videos today, each of somebody with a real passion for what they do.

 

This is John Nese of Galco’s Soda Pop Stop, explaining his passion for soda.

His store, in LA, sells hundreds of types of soda, and John is brimming with enthusiasm about it. Someone on reddit described John well:

At first I was thinking he was one of those blissfully ignorant people. But then he actually knew his shit and knew the laws related to his business, how the government works etc.
I didn’t think it was possible to stay like that once you realise how much shit goes on. Somehow he does it.

This is Stephen Ritz of The Green Bronx Machine, giving a talk about his experiences gardening with kids in The Bronx:

Stephen teaches (taught?) in the poorest congressional district of America where many families were below the breadline, and many children had health issues arising from poor diet.

In the video he explains how he bought gardening into the classroom, inspired his students to take part, and was able to improve their diets, grades, and attitudes to the community in the process. The food they grow is used to feed locals, and several of the kids have gone on to gainful employment in related areas.

Stephen stresses the importance of ‘the triple bottom line’ in business,  and this is definitely the way to achieve that.