Category Archives: Philosophy

Killing to-die-for Food

Killing To-Die-For Food

I’d like to eat a butterfly.

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Let’s be honest, if I wanted to have open and truthful conversations about myself, then I wouldn’t be sitting here writing a blog. So being nominated by *slurps (go there for tea with Odin the octopus, you’ll enjoy it) for a Liebster Award brought some difficulties for me.

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As part of the nomination process, *slurps allowed me two options: answer a list of personal questions (what’s your favourite meal?, etc) or answer just one big question (If you had only one day left to live, where would you go and what would you do?). But my answers bored even me so much that I couldn’t see the value in inflicting them on others. However, the questions did get me thinking of another bastardised mutant mash-up of a question.

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What would you eat if there were no consequences to it?

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I don’t just mean eating loads of chocolate or chips if you weren’t going to get fat or sick from it. What I mean is, is there something that you’ve always wondered about how it tastes but that you can’t eat, like … music, or light, or a cloud, or the colour blue, or stripes, or sadness, or a memory? Or is there something more material that you would eat if it wasn’t going to hurt or do damage, like a lightbulb or a dvd or a ship?

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Or is there a thing that can be eaten but that you’re never going to eat in real life?

Everyone’s got different cut-off points about eating things. Most of us discount the potential pain of plants when considering food but then have very vague rationales behind what animals we will and won’t eat. (I have blogged before here  about the moral awkwardness of eating a chicken sandwich while watching birds eat). I’m generally against the idea of eating horse but I once had a casserole that was gorgeous and only found out afterwards that it was horsemeat. So I know that there are things that I don’t want to eat out of confused principles which are, nonetheless, possibly gorgeous to taste.

But if I could eat something and not have to worry about the consequences, eat it as if it was only happening in a dream and would not result in harm to either the creature or myself, then I would eat … a butterfly.

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Not SO strange, you may think. After all, insects are eaten across the world in many forms, it’s really only cultural traditions and financial considerations that prevent some western societies from snacking down on deep-fried little-things. (For some odd reason, prawns have fallen through the crack of those sensitivities despite looking like slugs that have been skinned by a particularly depraved serial-killer).

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And you might even accept that the majesty of a butterfly does indeed create an enticing prospect, were colour and pattern in some way to be transposed into taste.

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And then there’s the fact that I am a butter-fiend. As a kid, I would take a pound of butter from the fridge, grab a knife from the drawer, and wander round lopping off chunks of butter and popping them into my gob and letting them melt there. (I could eat half-a-pound in one go). So the implied notion of the buttery-ness of butterflies has always had an appeal*.

So far, a lot of you might be thinking why not do it, if only the once? It’s only one small butterfly and I squash flies and eat meat anyway so, what the hell, it’s not that much of a moral leap and it probably won’t kill me.

But here’s the kicker. …

When I imagine this delectable combination of colour and beauty, there’s one more detail …

… the butterfly is still alive.

You see I want to imagine the buttery beauty fluttering around inside my mouth, as if delivering the colourfully creamy sensations to different spots in a random and tickly manner.

And, bad and all as I am to be an insect-squashing carnivore, eating some beautiful defenceless thing ALIVE is just a step too far for me.

But I can still dream of tasting the beauty.

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And this is why you shouldn’t ask bloggers questions about themselves. But apparently the tradition of the Liebster Award is to take the opportunity of your nomination to in turn nominate some other bloggers whose work you enjoy, particularly bloggers who are relatively new to the blogosphere.

So I’m not sure if these good people would like to be associated with someone who wants to eat live butterflies, but you should check them out anyway and, if they don’t object, I am nominating:

 Honest to blog

She didn’t have any of her brilliant cartoon-drawings in her last post but we’ll presume that was a one-off aberration and forgive her for now. From ‘sub vaginas’ to ‘old-woman cats’ in one week, she’s not new to the blogosphere or in need of awards but this is one of the best things on the internet so have a look.

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“I am here”, she says, in small letters. And, sure enough, there she is. A wonderfully mordant wit with a taste for the ghoulish and a vocabulary to die for. As dora puts it: “and i digress. extremely.”

word constellations

The Griff makes a wonderful, if ultimately doomed, attempt to keep me abreast of what happens in young people’s lives – gaming, graphic novels, music, drugs and orgies (I may have made up the last two but it’s still good). More big words here too.

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Barbara makes a wonderful, if also ultimately doomed, attempt to keep me fed on more than just crisps and butter.

Vodka, Unicorns, and Lincoln Logs

Short quirky snapshots of kinda famous people in history through a curious lens. For example, here’s Camel-girl and Bettie Page:

 

And in the tradition of the nominating process – but as adapted by *slurps and further mangled by me – perhaps the nominees would answer one or both of our two questions:

If you had only one day left to live, where would you go and what would you do?

Or

What would you eat if it was possible and there were no consequences?

Or make up an even better question that forces you, like me, to reveal things about yourself that will probably lose you followers, gain you haters, and possibly get you arrested.

 

*Apparently, butterflies – or at least one kind of them – taste like dried toast. See here for the scientific research by Esther Inglis-Arkell in io9.

Image thanks: Blue butterfly by Gregory Phillips,  red by Richard Bartz, others by charlesjsharp.  Award backdrop from Club Penguin

 

Piss, Shit, Jesus, Mary, soap-operas, & sex

Piss, Shit, Jesus, Mary, soap-operas, & sex

Do you think about God while watching sex on tv? Don’t tell me. Keep your answer to yourself for the moment and we’ll come back to it. Here’s another question instead.

Do you know that ‘Piss’ is the Danish for ‘Shit’? No? Most people don’t. In fact, even the Danish don’t. ‘Cos it’s not true. At least, not literally. In Danish, ‘pis’ is the Danish for ‘piss’. But, when the subtitler on hit political tv drama-series ‘Borgen’ was confronted with the first ever female prime-minister saying “Pis! Pis! Pis! Pis! Pis! Pis! Pis!”, she decided to translate it as “Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!”. *

Two things must have gone through the translator’s mind. One was, “This is not what I imagined I’d end up doing when I graduated as a talented linguist and made my mother so proud”. And the other was, “They don’t use ‘piss’ as a swear-word in English the same way we do in Danish, so I’d better use ‘shit’ instead or it’ll seem odd”.

But that’s my supposition. Maybe they use ‘piss’ exactly the same way we do and it was a deliberate attempt to mark out the character as distinctive, but you’d have to bow to the translator’s professionalism and presume that she had taken that into account. After all, she did manage to translate ‘Borgen’ as ‘government’, and not ‘pile of tossers screwing people over’, so she obviously is making decisions in an objective manner.

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Swearing is a peculiar issue on television. Some things can’t be said before ‘watershed’ times and, even then, some channels have quotas for the usage of certain words within a day. Sometimes this apparent censorship is no harm, and the constraint can even lead to creative breakthroughs. The writers of ‘Porridge’ created an entire new lexicon of meaningless slang for their prison sit-com which was so effective that some of the words were adopted into popular parlance, allowing people to tell ‘nerks’ and ‘scrotes’ to ‘naff off’. The writers of ‘Father Ted’ came up with ‘fup’, when they were stuck for an alternative to what an angry man would naturally say, and got great comic mileage out of the notion of frustrated people being forced to say ‘fup’ instead of ‘fiddlesticks’.

Soap-operas always walk a particularly fine line in trying to capture the realism of everyday speech but without using post-watershed swearwords. Differing cultural attitudes to swearwords – even within the same island – are noticeable  on the two Irish soap-operas. On the English-language, ‘Fair City’, set in the capital city, swearwords such as ‘shit’ and ‘bastard’ are still out-of-bounds. However, on the Irish-language ‘Ros na Rún’, which is set in a west-of-Ireland rural community, the word ‘cac’, which is the Irish for ‘shit’, is scattered about with the casual abandon of a cow being literal. Similarly, a slight gaelicisation of ‘bastard’ into ‘a bhaisteird’ also makes the word acceptable.

And it’s this notion of what’s acceptable to the audience that is important. The two soap-operas are mostly following guidelines laid down by their broadcasters but some of the decisions are made according to the reactions of the viewers. In particular, the use of ‘holy names’ tends to draw complaints about blasphemy from religious viewers. Ignoring the semantic issue as to whether the usage is specifically blasphemous or not, the result is that the makers of the programmes tend to try and minimise the Jesus-es and Marys.

However, anyone who has ever spent more than two minutes in Dublin will know that it is almost impossible to capture the natural speech of a native Dubliner without including the word ‘Jay-zus’. And in both Irish and English, the average Irish person tends to spend a lot of time bemoaning their situation to the ‘Mother of God’. And yet, in direct response to the requests of the religious people who complain to the shows’ makers and broadcasters, these exclamations are being left out of the dialogue.

It can seem unnatural at first but writers and actors gradually find new ways of filling the gaps with other expressions. And the result is that the casual inclusion of religious exclamations in everyday speech is being eliminated from the most-watched programmes which purport to portray the ordinary people of Ireland and how they speak. And this, curiously, – and surely counter to the desires of the religious complainants – will accelerate the ongoing secularisation of Ireland, further obliterating the vestigial traces of Catholicism, removing the cultural fingerprint that has been left on Irish society by a once all-pervasive religiosity.

It’s like that old chestnut, “What do atheists shout during sex?”. Or, more specifically, “what do atheists who grew up as Catholics shout out during sex?”, since they will presumably have developed the majority of their range of exclamations when the religious lexicon was what was available to them. Of course, this ignores the fact that an atheist isn’t bothered whether they shout ‘God’ or not during sex, since it’s as valid or invalid as any other utterance that is really only a vocalisation of a feeling. The atheist may be quite happy to use the words in their contextual or metaphorical form without being troubled at all by the notion of being in any way blasphemous.

So the only real question would appear to be “What does an atheist shout out while having sex with a Christian who would be offended by their use of religious words and whom they don’t wish to offend (at least, presumably, until they have finished having sex)?”.

As to the answer? Well, as with many questions, a lot of people will take their lead from what they see other seemingly ordinary people doing on tv. And, as what they see – and hear – on tv is to an extent dependent on what other viewers choose to complain about, the question for the religious tv viewer who is considering making a complaint is:

“Do you want to have God in the minds of people while they’re  watching sex on tv ?”.

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*          Hell is other people, said Sartre (in French). You can debate that all you like but Helle is certainly an other person. The translator/subtitler on Borgen was a woman called Helle Schou Kristiansen (she also did a great job on a rather wonderful film called ‘A Hijacking’ that you should have a look at if you get a chance). One sidebar arising from the translating of piss into shit is the fact that both the verbs and the nouns are spelt** the same in English. But in Danish, the noun is pis while the verb is pisse. So, if we could attune our ears to the phonetic difference, or if we got to see Borgen  with subtitles in Danish, then we would know whether the Danes consider when they  swear that they  do so using piss and shit as verbs or as nouns. Alternatively,  next time you get annoyed and shout shit, perhaps  pause for a moment  to consider whether you are using it as a verb or a noun yourself. If nothing else, it should serve to distract from your annoyance and that, as Sartre might say, is better than a slap in the face with a wet fish (in French).

**        Americans tend to consider ‘spelled’ as correct and ‘spelt’ as a type of wheat. Outside of America, ‘spelt’ is considered both correct and a form of healthy punishment for having enjoyed other food too much.

Scaremonger(sign)ing

Scaremonger(sign)ing

Sometimes The Authorities go a little too far in their care for us. For example, is it really necessary to warn us that people may be using tuning-forks in this area?

pic tuning forkSure, it would be disconcerting to suddenly be aware of a strangely metallic ringing in G-flat as you drive along, but is it really worth being warned about? It may just serve to make you begin to worry about it, becoming anxious about the possibility of developing tinnitus. Life is stressful enough without unnecessary worries being foisted upon us.

Granted there are certain situations where warnings are necessary. For instance, this sign, which warns you to prepare to dodge bullets as you pass through what is obviously a very dangerous area (or a wormhole in time to the old Wild West).

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However, sometimes the signage can just create anxiety for no reason.

This is just scaremongering:

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It’s the signage equivalent of someone just running into a crowded room and screaming in terror for no reason. It’s basically just shouting “BE AFRAID!!!” without saying what you’re supposed to be afraid of. I don’t need that, there’s enough scary stuff without worrying about all the stuff that we don’t know we might need to be worrying about.

A Sign Just For You

A Sign Just For You

At first, this sign can seem absurdly vague –

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 – everyone stop everything, it seems to say.

But it is actually incredibly specific …

… in that it is directed solely at YOU.

JUST YOU.

You may think these signs are always there for everyone but they’re not, they only appear as you approach and they disappear once you have passed

So whatever it is that you’re doing, The Authorities are pretty sure you shouldn’t be doing it.

You have that look about you.

And your reputation precedes you.

So stop it.

Now.

Things That Go ‘Bump’ In The Road

Things That Go ‘Bump’ In The Road

Sometimes the Authorities warn us of a potentially dangerous situation without telling us what to do about it. When confronted with a sign alerting you to immediate peril, it can be hard to think clearly and quickly. So as you won’t have the same problems, here are my ideas on two road-signs which left me unsure as to how to react.

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WARNING!:

There is a pregnant woman lying in the middle of the road up ahead.

 Please slow down enough as you drive around her to ascertain if she is:

(a) just tired from being pregnant and having a bit of a lie-down for a minute;

(b) actively in labour;

(c) off her face on booze and pills and convinced that she is flying through the Milky Way on the back of a golden unicorn named Dobbin.

Then just carry on your way again but with a vague niggle at the back of your conscience that maybe you should have done something.

If you can’t handle the guilt, reverse back to where she is and run her over so that she doesn’t give birth to a crack-baby that’s gonna mug you some day in the future and make you wish hadn’t let her carry her pregnancy to full term. It may seem harsh but, in fairness, remember that this only applies in case (c).

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WARNING!:

Several pregnant women are lying down in the road up ahead.

 Either (a) there is a Lamaze class in progress,

or (b) a group of pregnant junkies are all on the nod together with no idea that they’re in danger of being run over.

In either case, you’re well advised to turn around and find an alternate route.

Yes, if it’s case (b), their junkie offspring – or indeed their drug-addled selves – may end up mugging you at some stage in the future, but you’re unlikely to have more than a hundred quid on you and you can always cancel your cards. Whereas, if their syringes or broken crack-vials puncture all your tyres, that’s going to set you back considerably more money in the short-term and waste up to a half a day on you. You’d have to be seriously unlucky to be mugged enough times by the junkies and their offspring to make it financially more viable to take the risk of running them over.

But this is just my advice.  It’s your call, it’s your money after all. The Authorities are just warning you. It’s not a proscriptive nanny-state telling you what to do. If it was, they wouldn’t allow Lamaze classes to be held in the middle of the road, would they?

Rage Against the Espresso Machine

Parents lie.

‘Tiddles is gone on a holiday’.

‘Those tablets are  Mummy’s vitamins’.

‘You can be anything you want.’

NOT TRUE.

Maybe if you’re poor you can become anything you want to be – astronaut, president, footballer, prostitute, crack-addict, – possibly even all of the aforementioned at the same time. Poverty will not deny any of those opportunities to you. It might even help. Basically the world’s your lobster.

But if you’re rich, there are just some things that you will never be allowed to be. And one of those things is …

… A PROTEST-SINGER.

A protest-singer must tell the truth of their life even if people don’t want to hear it. Apparently that’s all fine and dandy if you’re a poor person singing about the iniquity of society. But if you’re telling the truth from the other side of the fence then no-one wants to know about it.

( Admittedly the fence is electrified, with a moat beyond it, which puts a bit of distance between the singer and the common man audience).

Oh no, instead of supportive shouts of “You the man”, it’s accusations of “You’re The Man”. And apparently The Man should not have a voice, or at least should not use that voice to complain about troublesome aspects of his life (taxes on second properties, animal-rights campaigners getting in the way of fox-hunts, the difficulty of finding a good footman nowadays).

But consider this: – if Woody Guthrie was alive today he’d be a rich man!

… Not just because of the money he’d be earning from the royalties on his songs, but because it’s really the only rebellious confrontational position to take in modern liberal western society. Yes, Woody would choose to be wealthy.

So if you’re rich, sing it loud and sing it proud (and if you’re poor, you can just hum along in solidarity while acknowledging the undeniable truth of the lyrics and admiring the evidently complex melody):

“This land is your land

Well, it was your land

But then you couldn’t keep up the payments.

Now this land is my land

So technically you’re trespassing.

Leave now

Before I loose the hounds.”