About Mike

An otherwise-unflustered observer of life's rich pageant

A Few Of My Favourite Things

Full beards on hipsters
And whiskers on barstaff
Skinny black denim and organic woodcraft
Brown shawl-necked cardigans tied up with string
These are a few of my favourite things

Cream-coloured lattes and gluten-free brownies
Fair trade and home-made
Food brings me to my knees
Young men eat Magnums and laugh: such a noise
These are a few of my favourite boys

Students in bell-bottoms, shaggy brown haircuts
Pesto made fresh from green basil and pinenuts
Thoughtful play readings that turn into drinks
These are a few of my favourite things

When the plan fails
When the loss stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

“Haters gonna hate”

This evening I walked home past Parliament and passed some people wearing sandwich boards with the usual “they shall surely be put to death” bits of Leviticus on them. (As well as a Gay Men’s Chorus singing “Express Yourself” a capella, which had a much larger crowd.)

What one friend of mine would call conformist liberalism comes perilously close to wanting them silenced, and I’m pretty sure that’s not something I want. (At least that’s the mercifully irrelevant Ann Coulter off my back.) But I did have enough of a reaction to post about it on Facebook, and ended up starting a reply comment which was really much too long for FB – and which properly belonged on my turf, not FB’s.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out why I’m irritated by the situation (which I am — both the trivially small protest and my response irked me) and I think it’s down to fairness and asymmetry (though I’m open to offers). Starting with an appeal from authority that I don’t recognise frames any engagement as a battle and a zero-sum game rather than a conversation, and I quite like conversations. Which is why I am doubly-irritated at my own temptation to fling a few choice verses back at them: Ha! I could yell, You’re wearing mixed fabrics and you shaved this morning – double disobedience, you hypocrite! — but any satisfaction from that sort of slightly-too-clever-sixth-former response would be brief and hollow: all I’ll have proven is my own ability to win a game they were never playing in the first place, and that makes me as much of a bully as I think they are. The opening gambit sets the terms and I lack the intellectual dexterity or maybe the moral courage to start a dialogue on a level playing field. Perhaps I’m also irritated by the recognition that fairness and debate aren’t available options to the sign-wearers, whereas life is in my experience rarely so obliging as to be binary (and that’s a bugger to reconcile yourself to) – and by my shades of disappointment that this is still how we as a civilisation end up managing a small fraction of our interesting disagreements.

This puts me in the near vicinity of a hand-wringing “why can’t we all just talk this over calmly?” You know, I’m not ashamed of that impulse, but I’m not sure I’m any closer to finding a credible and repeatable way to beat obstreperous framing in debate. Yes or no: have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Why My Unconscious Is A Douche, Pt. I

I woke this morning with a thought echoing in my head. Since My Unconscious Is A Douche, the thought was being pronounced in a Shatneresque tone of great portent and significance. And because my douchey unconscious had decided that this thought had an interesting texture, it needed to be repeated. Four or five times. In William Shatner’s voice (I mean, not in William Shatner’s voice, but it might as well have been).
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Sat on Richmond Green, enjoying an excellent pistachio ice-cream from Gelateria Danieli (genuinely extraordinarily good; drop by). Watching kids running around with footballs and dolls. It all seems incredibly far away from sovereign debt and credit default swaps and service-oriented architecture… Does this say more about how amazing humanity is at tackling complex stuff when it would really rather be in a park, or something vaguely zen-ish about maintaining room for a little bit of play and even silliness in life?


Quick and incoherent thoughts on my return…

Most important: go to Texas, because virtually everything you think about Texas and Texans is wrong, and since coming back I’ve decided it’s actually Europeans who are dreadful people – snotty, self-important, dismissive, ignorant, petty, humourless nations with a proud history of persecution and a propensity to dictatorship. (Post-holiday blues, moi?)

Texans are great. Humour as dry as a bone, enormously hospitable and all consumed with an honest curiosity about why on earth anyone would come visit them.

I am going to be saying “Awesome!” a lot for the next couple weeks.

My mates are also great people. Ten days hanging around with such focused, straightforward, do-y people did me the power. Thanks, guys.

Swimming is awesome. I need to do more.

Tubing is not just awesome, it’s totally awesome, but doing it on the Guadalupe River at 40 Celsius is going to be rather nicer than doing it on the Thames in October, so that’s one to save for a future trip.

Aside: the ice-cream place where M bought me a bakewell tart ice-cream in Richmond today is also awesome, but is not Diet.

The Ford Escape is the worst, sorriest, most appalling excuse for a simulation of something which might under the right circumstances qualify as a vehicle that I want to write to its design team and invite them to explain themselves very briskly indeed. Whether it was drifting round corners if taken at above 2 mph, creaking as though it were ship-built, or just being completely and utterly gutless, it never once gave me a moment’s pleasure. Driving it for a week ought to be reserved for people who hurt kittens for pleasure.

I have now eaten in a revolving restaurant. (In the linked page, I am the diner on the right, enjoying a typically low-key soft drink.) And we got there by going along the River Walk — a successful urban regeneration project for once….

Perfect final activity: watching beer be bottled, sterilised, labelled and packed in the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, “the cleanest little town in Texas”.

Texans are proud of things; it seems to come naturally to them. On the odd occasion they do have to go looking a little harder for the prize, though. I was constantly expecting women to mention in passing that their son, Skeeter, was the tallest pre-pubertal Caucasian teen born south of San Antonio on a Thursday since 1972.

Should more spring to mind, there will be updates.