Tag Archives: baked beans

Bananas, baked beans and crème brûlée

20110319 Bananas Baked Bean Cans 150x150 Bananas, baked beans and crème brûlée

Regular readers will no doubt have spotted that I usually post an update on Thursdays.  Unfortunately (for you, fortunately for me) I was at a lovely Mexican restaurant on Thursday.  Speaking of food, this photograph is one I took a fairly long time ago now and despite first appearances this is not a contrived face but genuinely the product of randomly unpacking my rucksack after an apparently unproductive trip to the supermarket…  Rest assured I do eat more nutritious meals than just baked beans and bananas.  These items have one thing in common: they have all been eaten and no longer exist in their current form yet they have, in a profound way, become a part of me.  Vic Suckerbag is two cans of baked beans and a pair of bananas… half a crème brûlée a whole lot more.

Back in January when it was snowing, I stood on the platform at the station waiting for my train and saw my breath condense into a yellow cloud against the street lighting in the cold air.  A significant percentage of the human body is water and with every breath you take you lose a part of you.  But you are still nonetheless you.  You replace the water lost with new water in the form of tea, coffee, water (you don’t say), cola, orange juice and sangria to name but a few.  This sounds like a drinks menu in a fancy Mexican restaurant!  The point is that cells in your body keep dying and being replenished.  Are you the same person you were five years ago?  In more ways than one: no.

How many components can you take away from an object before the object ceases to be?  Take a wheel off a car and most people would agree it is still a car.  If you proceed to remove the aerial, is it still a car?  Yes, I would say so.  The question is at what point does the car stop being a car?  When’s a door not a door?  (Why can’t a match box?  Because a tin can…)

One thought is that an object stops being an object when it no longer accurately conforms to its dictionary definition.  A knife is an object that has a sharp edge designed for cutting.  If this cutting edge gets dulled it no longer does its job, so is it still a knife?  I would say it was.  Perhaps it is a case of design intent.  The cutting edge is intended to be sharp therefore it is a knife whether the edge is sharp or not.  But an axe has a sharp cutting edge and it is definitely not a knife.

Another possible answer is when there is no single word to describe the new object.  There is no single word for a car with a wheel and an aerial missing (Skoda?  Sorry, couldn’t resist…) but it is still “substantially” a car.  However, if you continue to strip the interior and exterior away until you are left with a steel frame you no longer have a car but a chassis, for which a word does exist in English albeit on loan from France.  Alternatively, if you stripped away every single component except the aerial, you would be left not with a car but with an aerial.  So far, so good, but what if you stripped away everything except the aerial and the exterior panel to which it is attached?  Then what do you have?  There is not a single word in the English language to describe such an assembly.  But language is arbitrary and some words in one language have no equal counterparts in other tongues.  The Dutch word “gezellig” has no accurate English translation, for example.  With this in mind, there is nothing to stop you inventing a descriptor for the above assembly – a runcible aerial, perhaps – like a runcible spoon.

On analysis there seems to be no clearly defined point at which an object ceases to be and it is subjective.  The real world is a continuum with shades of grey that isn’t captured entirely by language, which by contrast is discrete.  This is part of the human psyche and society has identified people by tags and labels, probably for as long as humans have been in existence: northerner, Whigs, chav… and so on.

If you were to cut the big toe off your left foot, would you still be you?  Your quality of life would certainly change, but the essence of you would be changed no more than it would if you had a haircut, though this depends on what you mean by the essence of something or someone.

What is that object?  What am I?  Who am I?  In the words of a now defunct mobile telephone operator: you’re every one-to-one you’ve ever had.  Profound words – for an advertising slogan…

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That question again…

20101127 Tin Can Sticking Out Tongue 300x225 That question again...Sometimes I wonder whether product designers ever look at their creations and go, “Ha! It’s a face,” or whether they build faces into products deliberately, purely for fun. This particular design of can has a tab, negating the need for a tin opener – a can of baked beans, I believe. In its unopened state there is nothing special about the can, apart from its delicious content, but pull the tab and a cheeky face emerges. Cheeky? Or perhaps another “gaper”. What’s a gaper? That question has been asked and answered before, I believe… 😉

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