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Wednesday, 10 August 2016


When you are close to 90 years old, the past is not yet gone.

Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful.

This is how I feel when, after fiddling with an image for too long, I decide that the silk purse is elsewhere.

Stephen Colbert called dressage the Sport of the Summer...for people who use "summer" as a verb.

"I think I'll hang that quote on my wall. Love it."

The most obvious and easily read thing above my desk, whenever I look up from my efforts to create beauty in images, is the ancient Egyptian proverb:

"A beautiful thing is never perfect"


Next to it at the moment is a photograph I recently bought in which the photographer has somehow used a form of unsharpness that I would usually dislike to make an otherwise pleasant, but ordinary, land/seascape painterly and beguiling.

I don't even know whether the result is intentional.

"The Big Fat Surprise: why butter, meat, and cheese belong in a healthy diet" by Nina Teicholz
It is, you will be. Just read it. Fascinating research into, amongst other things, the Mediterranean diet - the biggest made-up story (in nutrition and diet) in more than 60 years.

[No sale here. A variant on the dangerous no carb / lo carb fad, written by a nonspecialist. I quit after forty pages. --Mike]

Be sure to pick up Eric Schlosser's "Command and Control" as well. You'll never think the same about nuclear weapons after reading it.

It is true of many things that elegance, symmetry , spareness are hallmarks of everything from music , to architecture to scientific equations . I remember reading a quotr from Einstein that sometimes he worked backwards when trying to solve a problem---asking first what would be beautiful and seeing if it fit. Often it did.

That is a great quote! And as I am just starting to study Ancient Greek, it's a bonus that I was able to read and translate (somewhat) the Greek letters.

Another good food book that is doing me a lot of good in the past few months is "Always Hungry" by Ludwig. It is a book on the science and practice of good eating, and includes recipes.

The appetizing (!) thing about his approach is that while it omits bread/sugar, as do many others, they are replaced with whole-milk dairy. The idea is that the "lusciousness" of cheese and rich dressings helps to make you feel full, while losing weight. And I do, and I have.

I like the Xenophon quote. Here are a few from William Morris:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful"

"If you cannot learn to love real art, at least learn to hate sham art and reject it."

"History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created."

There were lots of things wrong with Morris' work, not least the fact that the price of his beautiful objects restricted them to the few, regardless of what he said, but I can't help feeling he was on the right track - just a few decades too early.

Hi Mike
Highly recommend as essential reading - The Big Fat Suprise by Nina Teicholz - (utterly shocking re the Medical Idustrial governmental complex😂) Great read and got me hoping mad
And a fantastic book by a Prof at UCL Tim Spector - The Diet Myth will get you eating cheese and butter again
All the best

I'm currently enjoying a high-fat, high-carb, high-alcohol summer diet. Perhaps I should write a book?

Well, I clicked through to Amazon and ordered "Eat to Live." Cheaper than a camera or a lens. May I recommend Michael Pollan's "Cooked?" Key quote: "First we cooked our food. Then it cooked us."

I have a gluten sensitivity. Pollan's essay on bread-making, and a recipe for sourdough bread, transformed my breakfasts, and allowed me to eliminate high glycemic index GF bread substitutes. He notes that, over the years, seed companies have developed high-gluten strains of wheat that suit the needs of commercial bakers. That commercial bakers have highly refined (!) the yeast-rising of bread, to reduce its time to just about an hour. And that Italian researchers, in a country with a very high celiac rate (who would have suspected, with all that pasta and pizza?), have shown that a long fermentation time somehow locks up the gluten protein so that it has a much reduced effect on the small intestine.

If you are interested, I can send you my own refinement and tweaking of Pollan's method. I usually start a loaf on a Monday, and finally bake it on a Friday. It is a bread much like what I knew from the 1940's, and an absolute delight. Despite the mystique surrounding sourdough starters, it's really not that hard to pull off.

Thanks for highlighting Xenophon's wonderful insight (via Knight). Clearly it resonates with you, and to many of us. Why not apply it to writing as well? Some aesthetic like it may explain, in part, the quality of effortlessness in your writing. Will head for the article first. Thanks for the book recommendations, too.

I push the cart up and down the aisles at the supermarket. I realize 99% (conservative estimate) of the products are not healthy. So, I come home with some greens, some fruit, some high-fiber low-carb cereal, Finn Crisp crackers, skim milk, a paltry amount of swiss cheese, an "all natural" chicken, and a 90% cacao chocolate bar. Once a week I take delight in eating a slab o' meat. That's all there is to it. So now that I've shared my grocery list, anybody out there want to do my shopping?

Living not too far from you,I enjoy what I grow and eat that.Might be nice to eat that with you.

I've read a couple of those books and recommended "Eating on The Wild Side." I need to read it again, just to refresh. I was in the habit of taking much better care of my greens after reading it but I have become lax. I still poke holes in gallon Ziploc bags though.

I tested high for both blood pressure and cholesterol at age 50. I've taken care of the blood pressure with a little pill and plenty of exercise, but the cholesterol takes more serious intervention.... a vegan diet. Unfortunately it has worked, dropped 40 points. Carb consumption went way up. but fiber from fruits, beans and veggies too. I say unfortunately because it is so difficult to cook good tasting vegan food if you are a foodie who loves all sorts of stuff. There is a learning curve. Recently we've added back fish on occasion, and we eat meat if we are with friends, but have to be strict at home. We have a doctor friend in great shape who says his cholesterol drops like crazy when he works in India and eats so many legumes, but he takes statins in the U.S. because he likes hamburgers too much.

>Remember the Doritos ad campaign, "Bet you can't eat just one"?

I _think_ that was a Lay's potato chip slogan...

Mike I would also recommend Gina Kolata's work. She writes for NYT and just today has an article about the failings of research in this area. Her books "Rethinkinh Thin" and "Ultimate Fitness" look at the research behind many fitness and nutrition "truths" - how many people were in these studies, how they were reviewed, and who stood to gain from the findings. Notably she found that the universally accepted (and universally questioned on an individual basis) target heart rate standards came from a couple of guys looking at just a few data points. Then the heart rate monitor people ran with it... She won't teach you what to do but will certainly makes us better consumers of all the advice we find in the press.

MikeR: Please let the rest of us in on your sourdough recipe tweaks! Your bread sounds wonderful.

You can significantly lower the GI of potatoes by adding a little fat: olive oil, butter, sour cream, cheese etc.

No one can take away my potatoes; the Irish part of me won't allow it. Adding the fat lowers the GI and the guilt.

Thanks for the list of your favorite food diet books. I also have been facinated by this subject, more from an eating healthy perspective, and an interest in the amazing variety of opinions, and have read many books on the subject, including some of these.
I enjoy your off topic posts. We have many similar interests, except for billiards

I've read there is a return of facial angularity as when younger and loss of weight when not eating after sundown due to various factors - circadian and etc. Some of this is covered on Dr. Jack Kruse' FB. https://www.facebook.com/drjackkruse/posts/1327407307323620

As books on food and cooking go, Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal was pretty inspiring. She starts with boiling water (if you can boil water you can cook) and goes from there. It's less a recipe book (it has some) than a book about the philosophy of cooking.

I quite liked reading "Eat Drink and Be Healthy" by Walter Willett. It's a very science-driven book (as much a nutrition book can be).

I have mixed feelings about "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Like you, I enjoyed the sections about corn - they alone make the book worth reading. I was less enamoured of the anti-science strains in it - Pollan's chemistry-related comments somehow got by his fact-checkers - made the sections on preservatives, etc. almost embarrassing to read.

Great line of thought, Mike. I find the inspiration from painting, music and poetry much easier to act on photographically than the inspiration from other photographs. It's too direct. Or is it not direct enough in the things that matter?

As D.A.H. councils: "Shoot what it feels like, not what it looks like."

On the old v new, you're on the right track. Have a look at what David Allan Harvey and John Stanmeyer are doing with Instagram stories. (And while you're there, look up @_xst ... amazing work.)

To make it easier, here's a link: https://www.instagram.com/_xst/

That quote pairs well with

"What I cannot create, I do not understand."

Richard Feynman

Hello, the best book about food that i ever read and the basic of modern cooking:
Auguste Escoffier: A Guide to Modern Cookery (ISBN-13: 9781108063500).
You will learn a lot about what went wrong since then.
Have a good time in the kitchen!

I have managed to lose around 30 lbs since 2010 without reading any diet books or starving myself. I just applied common sense and did some research of my own, and lost about 7-8lbs a year for the first four years, which was relatively painless.

I've been about the same since 2014, which is well within the 'normal' BMI range.

But it's not a 'diet' except in the general sense. I just exist on a wide variety of staples (around 50 items) which I restrict myself to, but it includes a lot of variety and is anything but arduous or boring. In fact it makes shopping a lot easier.

Nor do I go hungry. I eat when I want to, but small amounts and often rather than large meals. This reduced my appetite without even having to think about it, but I do always have breakfast.

In short, I just cut down on sugars (except fruit), substituted high-fibre carbs for most regular ones, and omega-3 fat sources for most saturated ones. Not exclusively, but to a large extent.

I still eat a full range of carbs, sugars, protein and fat, but the balance is very different and I tailor it somewhat according to activity levels.

I did cut down a lot on alcohol and cheese, and eliminated chocolate and other confectionary completely. That was the really hard bit.

I also substituted fromage frais and skimmed milk for yoghurt and real milk.

I also walk at least 20 miles a week, including 3 days of at least 5 miles. I just take a camera and go somewhere interesting. On those days I allow myself a treat or two, like some parmesan on pasta and meatballs. I love Italian food.

This was all much harder when I worked in an office and had limited food choices, vending machines full of Snickers bars and lots of enforced socialising (in the bar).

I also don't have any sugar-crazed kids to worry about, and my girlfriend, who is French, loves my cooking and eats a lot of the same stuff herself. She does have a bit of a chocolate fetish, but she does that in private ;-)

In the end, it's all about calories, but cutting out sugar and alcohol alone makes a big difference, far more that regulating my fat intake, which in calorie terms is more or less the same.

It's also about burning calories, but the trick is to burn them when you eat them, not three days later.

Exercise, fibre and omega 3 are also very good for cholesterol and blood sugar, but you don't have to go crazy on the exercise. A five mile brisk walk with a camera is fun, and far from boring - unlike an exercise bike which is neither. I did try cycling but in London it's far too risky.

I do watch what I eat and will offer these simple morsels (ha, see what I did there!) of information that anybody can put into use right this minute and benefit from:

- Eat only real food. That simply means you have to recognize it as a food that's more or less in it's natural state. There are no Hungry Man Dinner tree's out there or corndog fields. Meat, veggies, potatoes, fruits, rice, eggs, etc - that's what you want. If it's not real food, get rid of it and don't buy any more of it.
- Good fat is good for you - whole eggs, avocado, some nuts, extra virgin olive oil, etc. Dorito's and Domino's pizza aren't good fats.
- Look at the labels. If it's full of ingredients you can't even remotely pronounce, you don't want to eat it.
- Portion control. This one is so obvious it's amazing it's not mentioned enough.
- Time your carbs. Going to do a lot of physical activity like a run or going to the gym? Good, carb up before and after, with lots of protein. Shortly before bed after a lazy day? This is the last place you want to ingest carbs.
- Keep a nutrient journal. As you prepare your foods write down (for the portion size you are injesting) the carb, fat and protein makeup. After a few days look at it and make adjustments where necessary. This one will be a BIG eye opener. Personally I was so totally disgusted after making my first meal like this that I completely revamped my eating habits.

As one of the exercise guru's I follow has a habit of saying, "you can't out exercise a bad diet." If you don't exercise regularly, then you REALLY have your work cut out for you.

"...or misunderstood can never be beautiful"

That would just about rule out humans as photographic subject matter then, no?

. . . sometimes I mourn for what photography was that it no longer is. Now I've come around to believing it's a fool's errand to try to hang on to the values of the past when the past is gone.

I would counter that the values of the past are the only values we have. Xenophon, 4th century B.C.E. being a case in point. Maintaining those values is always a struggle, and sometimes an outright fight, but without them we have no future worth having, and no birthright.

The Xenophon quote is excellent. "Anything forced or misunderstood can never be beautiful." It's incumbent on the artist not to force or contrive his work, but in order to be understood - not misunderstood - he is depending on shared values.

My favorite "diet" books are The Larousse Gastronomique Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery, and Escoffier Le Guide Culinaire (With the latter I only ever owned the abridged version published in the 70s, but apparently the Van Nostrand Reinhold edition - which I think is what I linked to - contains all 5000 recipes from Auguste Escoffier.)

I think the healthiest aspect of food is joy. Joy and passion trump calories and carbohydrates, and define healthy eating - which in my book consists of fresh, locally sourced, mostly non-industrial ingredients and moderate portions. None of it means anything, though, without joy - which is why I sometimes like hole-in-the-wall diners and kebab shops and street food.

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