The Selfie is the new Rock-and-Roll

Apparently there has been a change in the music that is being played at funerals. As the baby boomers are starting to shuffle of this mortal coil, it Selfieturns out that they are more often opting for defiant music.

Social trends like this really fascinate me. I have notice for my generation their seems to be and equally strong inclination to subvert for the wedding conventions.

It is almost like for people my age (31) the way you express your personality is to take the wedding format and add chef’s hats for guest to wear during dinner, or flip flops for the girls to wear toward the end of the wedding.

A trend I have picked up on that I don’t like; is the tendency for people to deride the selfie generation. Selfies are narcissistic. Selfies are juvenile. Selfies are pathetic and attention seeking.

I think this is to fundamentally miss-understand how this form of communication works for the people who use selfies.

selfie2Look at the decline in value of the photo:

There was a time when a photo was quite a thing. They had to sit dead still, sometimes in order to ensure that children sat still enough to not blur the images they would have a metal rod put down there back.

When I was in my late teen’s photos were a drain on my beer money. When I was in the business of serious selfie production I was using cheap disposable cameras, that almost like taking clothes to a laundry would be taken to the chemist for development, normally when my mum was doing a trip to get her own photos developed.

If you are the kind of person who is angered or irritated by other people selfies try and remember that there is a good chance that you are not the intended recipient of the message.

In much that same way that when the baby boomers played their music loud they didn’t necessarily want to irritate their parents, their parent were merely incidental. The music was for them and their friends to enjoy.

The smart phone has made photos as cheap as the transistor radio made loud music. It could be that before long the technology will move on. Inselfie3 the 1990’s my Mum once noted that there wasn’t as much music being play in public as there used to be when she was a teen. I think that was because by my early teens these things have reached saturation point.

Why would a young and self-conscious boy want to play a sound on a radio allowed and have adults bark at them and derided their choice when they could just listen to music privately.

I don’t think selfies are as narcissistic as people think they are. To judge them as you would a printed photo is to make a context error. The other day Hayley and I were out at the allotment and Hayley was sat on the floor gardening in one of our beds. I looked at her and had and had pang of emotion. It was one of the one moment’s that you hope you will be able to hold onto forever.

It seemed incumbent on me to grab it so that would one day be able to force it on my son and say: “look you were in mommy’s tummy then”. That won’t be as much fun for him as it will be for me:

two bye two space and time

click to enlarge

The reason selfies are not the same as photos is that photos by definition are past events. The recipient is displaced from the action in both time and space. That’s why, regardless of how good it was, very few people sit down to watch past world cup finals. You cannot be there in time or in space, so the experience is not fun.

In the 1980 and 1990’s people understood that watching someone else’s photo slide show, was an act overwhelmingly skewed in favor of the slide show giver rather than the slide show recipient. It’s fun to give a slide show because you were there in time and space. It is excruciating to watch a long slide show because you weren’t.

selfie5.jpgI took this photo, on Hayley’s phone because it was the only camera we had to hand.

Hayley up loaded it because many of our closest friends live 100’s if not 1000’s of miles away. Many of the people we care most about are with us in time but not in space. So we bunged it on, and didn’t think much about it.

At the time this was posted, we didn’t think much about the perspective of all 500 ish facebook contacts we cumulatively have. It was just posted there because that was where, any of our friends who were on line that day would see it.

But to be honest if you saw this image, on the day it was posted then that is because you have asked to be in, or accepted an invite to our social media universe.

My photography social norms were learned when my mum to my photos for development. So I doubt anyone was offended by this image. But I think if you see a young women posting and image of her flat stomach, and that offends you, remember that you are her guest in that media space. If someone registered offence at this image of my wife, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them where they could get off.

The image above is not a selfie. I am not in the image. As a result it doesn’t explicitly document the fact that Alex BB was there. It is interesting to think about how my presence would have changed this message.  Anyway what surprised us was how many people, we didn’t think would be interested in this image were kind enough to ‘like’ it. Judging by the engagement this is one of the more popular images we have ever posted.  There is something about this image that works as a Facebook post. However a slide show of us at the allotment probably wouldn’t.

Do a google image search on the work ‘Selfie’ and then in a new tab do an image search on the works ‘Rock Star’ and tell me where you see more narcissism. I think they are about even.

I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to sit down a right a good rock song. I suspect there could be a big dose of narcissism at play in anyone with the courage to sit down one afternoon and give that ago. It seems to me that its way too early to pass judgement on the selfie or those who frequently employ them, like judging someone’s prose before the rules of grammar have even been written.

Please Help

If this post said something new or interesting please share it using the tabs bellow. It really helps.

thanks Alex

Elections: Which sack-of-meet goes in which chair

This week I realized that I don’t like elections. Normally I take a great interest in politics. I have never been one for watching TV soaps. I am far too clever a person to watch East Enders, so instead I have to trick myself into thinking that I am watching something important that matters and effects my life.

I like to watch politician shouting at each other rather people in fictional pub. It actually has no impact on my life. And even at budget time when the announce stuff that does affect me, I am way too lazy to do the maths to work out if I am up or down financially. I have worked out the UK politics is my soaps. My main motivation for watching it is emotional engagement.

The trouble with an election even one as “interesting” as this one is that they have in effect taken my soap off air. All the characters have gone weird. Some of the best shouty ones have basically been taken of air and they have all been lobotomized. It an election the already cautious have become hyper cautious. The stakes for the players are so high that they are all on “message”. This is shit.

I am so board of who is going to spend more on what. I have never run a government department so a sum of money the represents the total spend, doesn’t convey much information to me. For a top civil servant, perhaps that is meaningful. For me: no.

Take the NHS, I would like to know what they are going to do that is going to make me healthier, or make sure my parents are looked after over the next five years, after that I would like to know, how much of my income I am going to be able to keep hold of. The total spend is beyond my frame of reference and frankly irrelevant to me.

The only way I can wrap my head around it is to think about the difference between a BIG issue and a marginal issue, one that matters to me, but wouldn’t matter to most people. So NHS or education. Changes that are made there effect many, many people. You could argue, that even if I put my feet up and have a beer, changes in those places are going to be made regardless of my involvement.

Then I think about a marginal issue, one that affects me but would not affect many people, say cycling infrastructure. Despite frustration at the glacial pace, progress is being made there. That progress has come because a well organised, determined coalition of people has applied constant pressure to decision makers between elections.  If anything this election is a big pause button for getting stuff like that done.

At the moment we don’t have the band width to have anything like a sensible discussion about anything. Because all the main players are just shouting the opponents name follow by the emotion that they want you to map to the name: “David Cameron, BAD” or “Ed Miliband, Chaos”. In my head the all sound like Matt Damon in Team America World Police.

Let’s face it these election are boring because they don’t matter. They are just about which sack-of- meet is sat in which chair. It you want something, you have to work out what your leverage is.If you have none, cut your losses and move onto something you can effect. If you have leverage use it.

Election time is actually a hiatus. It A time when politics stops so Politicians can decide who gets to wear which frock.



Stella & Viennetta enjoying things around a £1

Yesterday Hayley and I had cause for celebration. So we went out and had a meal in a local restaurant we had been thinking of trying for a while.

Not only was the food Kishmish amazing it was also super reasonable. It is a very rare event that I both enjoy what I am eating and find that we have over ordered and I can’t clear every plate.

They don’t have a license so on the way there I stopped and picked up some beers. In the overpriced off-license I settled on 4 cans of Stella for 4 pounds. As Hayley and walked to the restaurant I joked that I don’t know when or why I stopped drinking beer from cans.

I am pretty sure at university I didn’t have trouble having a tin, and I don’t think of myself as a snob, so I don’t know how it came about that I mostly drink bottled wheat beer. I think it has to be that we tend not to have that much alcohol in the house and odd wheat beers tend to be the only thing in the supermarket on offer in the quantities I want to drink.

As I sit writing this the following day with the third of my Stella’s having gone to my head, I am struck by how strong it is. I caught myself wondering if the Stella was worse for me because it was cheap? This is the same kind of thing you think about when you have McDonald’s. But very quickly the logical part of my brain jumped in and slapped me on the wrist for being so silly. The truth is that both Stella and the wheat bears are bad for me. The true is that both McDonald and my preferred GBK are bad for me, but I partake because it is fun.

On the way back from said restaurant, I elected to buy ice cream. I used to be fat. So now I have one sweet thing a week. That’s my rule. But I am always sure that that one sweet thing is a very indulgent thing. In the same off license a couple of hours later we stood in front of the fridge trying to justify to ourselves spending £5.85 on Ben and Jerry’s. I will be honest with you, I think had I been on my own I would have gone for it.

Hayley on the other hand was protesting. I don’t think I love Ben and Jerry’s too much. I think Hayley cares too much for the £5.85. Anyway it turned out amazing! At the back of the fridge was a Viennetta. Do you remember them? I have the memory as kid of Viennetta being something of a big deal. A family of six would sit around and have one between them. Well they are now retailing at £1.25. Young people may never be able to get on the housing ladder but with Viennetta at that price you can’t tell me living standards aren’t on the rise!

Luckily because I am old enough to remember my family huddled over a Viennetta trying to slice it with razor, eating a whole one to myself made me feel like a king. But it really did make me wonder: do I normal only enjoy Ben and Jerry’s because I feel it is a little too expensive? From now on I am really going to try and think about how much pleasure something gives me regardless of the price.

FTR48W 4FT round wooden folding table – fold away legs

Best call we ever made: Do you know what is great; the wheel. All the electronic gizmos in the world will never knock the wheel off the top ten list of all-time great human inventions:


Add a wheel to almost anything and it gets better the wheelie-suitcase and heelys the shoes are just two awesome cases in point. In fact now I think of it, probably the best way to make money is to look for an item in common use and add a wheel to it and say you “invented” something.


These tables saved me from making a massive mistake. Wine Rides is an event that runs “Just in time”. In the middle of the weekend we pack down our camp and move it to another vineyard while the customers are out having a fabulous time exploring the Sussex and Kent coast. Meantime we are running around like mad men moving a camp so they don’t have to. We were going to use fold up tables that became benches, but for a pilot event, before we had funds for kit we rented these: We ditch the original idea, and we have never looked back.


Anything made of wood is heavy: If you can’t make something light add wheels or make it the shape of a wheel. As a result they can be moved by one person not two. They can be put out in the time it takes you to walk from the van to the dining area.  Because the circumference is huge, they roll well on rough and uneven ground.


They go flat and that means other kit can be piled on top of them. If like me you want to use them in an outdoor context: get staff to wear gloves. Having a splinter imbed in your had and 5mph is no fun at all.


The reason these work so well for us is that: the surface is going to get marketed up but we cover them with table cloths. That lends a really nice formal ‘Alfresco’ dining element to the trip.


If you have read a review of a circular table, then I am guessing you are planning your own event. These are good. They haven’t let me down yet: seem fairly indestructible. Also the rubber strip act a bit like a tire and is easier to bodge a repair that with the metal ones.


I like to imagine you (reader) gliding around in heelys with a wheelie suitcase setting up tables for yours awesome event. If this blog has helped you at all, as one event planner to another, I would be super grateful if you could either share this post with someone who will find it useful, or like our face book page.


Remember: if it heavy, don’t pick it up. (Get one of the staff to do it)


Best of luck: Alex

Interval Training for My Mind

Last Sunday I notice something: There is a local fitness lesson that happens in a boxing gym near my house. At some point in their work out the instructor must tell them all to run out the building to the traffic lights up the road and back.


I felt a little smug: As a parade of fit looking sweaty messes pass me by I couldn’t help thinking, hey they aren’t in any better shape than me….


A lot of upset is caused by a very specific idea that just won’t die. The idea that: more-is-more. It has caught me out so many times. I have killed every pot plant I have ever tried to own, because this is a perennial problem for me. When I want to do something, I tend to be unrelenting in my pursuit. But if you want a big healthy pot plant the secret ingredient is time and consideration.


Beyond a certain point, no matter how much you water it, it isn’t going to grow any faster. If you go much beyond the “correct” amount eventually, you are going to see side effects. The soil around the route will be too damp. There won’t be enough air; bacteria will rot the roots and the plant will suddenly become unwell. Or more perniciously, you will just have weeks and weeks of retarded growth.


When you are watering the right amount, what do you do next? You test to see if another factor is limiting the growth of the plant. Light: Is it getting the correct amount of light? If this is a limiting factor; increasing it to a point will help. Once you have light and water calibrated properly, think up another variable, and test that. Each new optimization will increase the rate of growth.


How many people do you know who take that methodical approach with their own bodies?


I would say very few. I typically:  decided want to achieve goal X. I think what are the ways people have achieved goal X in the past? I do all of it. I make fast progress for a while. I become exhausted, I burn out, and I miss my goal.


The last two times I have tried to learn French this has been my pattern: 14hrs straight of continuous study followed by a psychotic break down that resulted in me stood out in the street holding a baguette and dressed as a mime.


If I had a cricket bat and someone through a ball at me I’d swing the bat. The bat would miss the ball, the ball would hit me. It would hurt and I would learn fast that I am bad at cricket and I should just try and block the next few balls. After a couple of games, I would learn that I am really bad and should switch to athletics, which although I find intensely dull, means I can be congratulated for throwing heavy things further than people who aren’t as strong as me. I won’t get any more swollen fingers, or a cracked jaw.


We are really good at learning that cricket balls bloody hurt when they hit you in the throat because a cricket ball to the throat can kill you a lot quicker than a lack luster pot plant. We are optimized for that temporal scale. This is the rate of feedback we like. We see things that move faster than a snail and slower than a bullet well because; those have tended to be the important things.


We fail to realize we are just pot plants that can leave the room when a sheep walks in. As a result I am a sucker for a puritanical binge. Often, I don’t take a moment. I act to fast and I am not productive. What I need is always just to the side of what I want.


I am learning to code. I want to learn to code. In order to learn to code I needed to understand how I learn to code: 20 intense minutes at a time, 3 times a day every day without fail. This is interval training for my mind. As it happens it is very similar to interval training for my body.


Body and mind both need the same thing: The Minimum Effective Dose.


Once you have that understanding and certainty, once you know the Minimum effective dose, you don’t feel the need to binge. You know when to stop and you can handle unusual situations that can affect your progress negatively.


Through this process of elimination I have found the minimum effective does of exercise I need to stay fit is: 2 sessions of 4 30second sprints per week, 2 ten minute sessions of strength work and two days as of calorie restriction, is my dose and I use an egg timer to measure out that dose, just like it was medicine.


In total I have to find 1 hour per week for this including the time it takes me to put my trainers on.  There is a lot more to think about here. And that hour is spread thinly through the week. It isn’t just a Sunday binge. But Like adding weights as you get stronger I built up this complexity slowly. I started with one thing and added more as I felt more comfortable.


Understanding what little and often looks like and that binging is ineffective, has a fun consequence: Rather than a puritan binge on something good for me, I hedonistically overdose on bad stuff: Sugar. My rule is one sweet thing a week: But if you’re going to eat something bad, eat a fat one! I have found this has far fewer side effects for me, than allowing myself small amounts of sugar during the week.


In summary:


Good things: Do a little-and-often.


Bad things: Do a shit load only occasionally

                     (Obviously: Don’t kill yourself with a toxic dose)


I know because I test my VO2 max, that I have a level of fitness that would be acceptable to a professional athlete. I am no Mo Farah, but the benefit of testing an iterating is that you always know where you are. Anecdotally: I feel fitter because occasionally I go out on long rides on my bike and I am always surprised how easy it is.


It really feels like I have no right, to be this fit.