steepholm: (Default)
My daughter has been working at Sainsbury's for a week now, but yesterday was the first day I'd actually seen her in her Sainsbury's jacket and name badge, when she popped home for some things before heading out again into the night.

It did make me wonder, though, whether she would ever be able to go into a supermarket while so attired. If she went into different store, say the Co-op, I imagine she would be driven out by staff enraged by her livery, much as crows will mob a sparrow-hawk. But if she went into a different Sainsbury's the following exchange would have a certain comic inevitability:

C [to the cashier]: Just this chewing gum, please.
Cashier: That'll be 45p.
Manager [interrupting]: You! Get to Till 13 right away! Don't you know we're understaffed today?
C: Me? But I'm only buying some chew--
Manager [hands already bunching into fists]: Don't answer back! Till 13 - hop to it!
C: But I don't even work here.... [Is bustled away to Till 13 and spends the next 7 hours weighing carrots.]


I don't know why I imagine all managers as ex-RSMs, but I do.
steepholm: (Default)
I was always fascinated by the story of Herostratus, the young man who is said to have destroyed the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, just so that his name would go down in history. Well, he got his wish.

I wonder how easy it would have been to destroy a large (110x55m) temple, without explosives or even paraffin? Weren't those things made of stone? It's actually quite an impressive feat, in its way.

The online Encyclopædia Britannica refers to Herostratus as a "madman", which seems harsh. At least, it's a very common form of madness - the last infirmity of noble mind, as Milton put it. And at least Herostratus didn't kill anyone, unlike Alexander the Great, who was born the day the temple burned and was clearly driven by similar motives, at least to judge by the number of cities he named after himself.
steepholm: (tree_face)
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?

Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?
steepholm: (Default)
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?


ETA: Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?
steepholm: (tree_face)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (Default)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've always thought that people who write essays should take the word "essay"'s etymology more seriously. These aren't finished pieces, not the last word on any subject, but rather (to use a phrase of Bacon's) "knowledge broken". Montaigne, when he coined the term, was surely advertising that these were merely "attempts", after all. I like that attitude.

Something happened in the centuries following, though. You can catch a glimpse of it in the changing livery of the essay's prepositional outriders. In English, the earliest essays (e.g. Bacon's own, and John Florio's translations of Montaigne), tended to have the word "Of" at the beginning: "Of Praise", "Of Followers and Friends", "Of the Education of Children", and so on. "Of" was a subject marker, but one that suggesting that the writer was partaking of the subject without entirely clearing the plate.

In philosophical and scientific circles, at some point in the seventeenth century, the word "towards" seems to have become popular. Hence John Wilkins' "An essay towards a real character and a philosophical language" (1668), Berkeley's "An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision" (1709), or Bayes' "An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances" (1763). I approve this choice: it suggests that the essay isn't a finished form but a vector, a movement in the direction of knowledge, a baton passed to futurity. It sits well with the conception of knowledge as a collective enterprise in which no one person can hope to achieve all.

After a while, though, this was superseded in popularity by "on". I suppose Pope may have had something to do with popularising it; at any rate, we can cite "An Essay on Criticism" (1709) as an early locus classicus. There's something closed off and uninviting about this preposition, something that descends on its subject as if from a great height. It seems to fold its arms and say, "Beat that, if you can!" It's a preposition for a more individualistic age, perhaps, but I can't help thinking that it stimulates further argument, if at all, in an unhelpfully adversarial (or at least emulous) way.

So I say, let's bring back the tentative nature of the essay! Let's leave its loose threads hanging instead of tucking them into the hems! Let's detach, as far as possible, arguments from egos! And let's listen to Bacon's sage advice in The Advancement of Learning and apply it to the essay form:

Another error... is the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth: but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.


I would write a polished conclusion at this point, but it seems against the spirit of the post.
steepholm: (Default)
I've always thought that people who write essays should take the word "essay"'s etymology more seriously. These aren't finished pieces, not the last word on any subject, but rather (to use a phrase of Bacon's) "knowledge broken". Montaigne, when he coined the term, was surely advertising that these were merely "attempts", after all. I like that attitude.

Something happened in the centuries following, though. You can catch a glimpse of it in the changing livery of the essay's prepositional outriders. In English, the earliest essays (e.g. Bacon's own, and John Florio's translations of Montaigne), tended to have the word "Of" at the beginning: "Of Praise", "Of Followers and Friends", "Of the Education of Children", and so on. "Of" was a subject marker, but one that suggesting that the writer was partaking of the subject without entirely clearing the plate.

In philosophical and scientific circles, at some point in the seventeenth century, the word "towards" seems to have become popular. Hence John Wilkins' "An essay towards a real character and a philosophical language" (1668), Berkeley's "An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision" (1709), or Bayes' "An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances" (1763). I approve this choice: it suggests that the essay isn't a finished form but a vector, a movement in the direction of knowledge, a baton passed to futurity. It sits well with the conception of knowledge as a collective enterprise in which no one person can hope to achieve all.

After a while, though, this was superseded in popularity by "on". I suppose Pope may have had something to do with popularising it; at any rate, we can cite "An Essay on Criticism" (1709) as an early locus classicus. There's something closed off and uninviting about this preposition, something that descends on its subject as if from a great height. It seems to fold its arms and say, "Beat that, if you can!" It's a preposition for a more individualistic age, perhaps, but I can't help thinking that it stimulates further argument, if at all, in an unhelpfully adversarial (or at least emulous) way.

So I say, let's bring back the tentative nature of the essay! Let's leave its loose threads hanging instead of tucking them into the hems! Let's detach, as far as possible, arguments from egos! And let's listen to Bacon's sage advice in The Advancement of Learning and apply it to the essay form:

Another error... is the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth: but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.


I would write a polished conclusion at this point, but it seems against the spirit of the post.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've been trying to remember (without looking it up) at what point in my lifetime certain kinds of takeaway restaurant became commonplace in the UK. By "commonplace" I don't mean "available somewhere in the country" but "available in a typical mid-sized city" - say, a Derby, a Southampton or a Swansea.

This is my impression (but remember I lived my first 18 years in a small market town, so my knowledge is limited):

Common from before I was born: Fish and Chip shops, Chinese takeaways

1960s on: Indian takeaways and other curry houses

Around 1975-80: American-style hamburger and pizza places (Wimpys had been around longer than that, but seems a bit different in my mind, and not that commonly encountered)

1980s: Kebab houses

1990s on - everything else.


Is that reasonable? Have I left anything out, or got anything badly wrong? Remember, I'm not talking about London or the other really big cities - and of course cities with large immigrant populations from a particular country would probably have that country's food ready in takeaway form earlier.

Also, when did people start saying "to go" instead of "to take away" in this country? My impression is that this Americanism started in coffee shops like Starbucks and spread from there, which would put it the early years of this century. Do you agree?

And, on a different topic, have you noticed that "tsunami" has now almost entirely replaced "tidal wave" in common usage? It was not always so! On the other hand, I sense that "rickshaw" is being edged out by "tuk tuk", so the tide of Japanese-origin words is not entirely unchecked.
steepholm: (Default)
I've been trying to remember (without looking it up) at what point in my lifetime certain kinds of takeaway restaurant became commonplace in the UK. By "commonplace" I don't mean "available somewhere in the country" but "available in a typical mid-sized city" - say, a Derby, a Southampton or a Swansea.

This is my impression (but remember I lived my first 18 years in a small market town, so my knowledge is limited):

Common from before I was born: Fish and Chip shops, Chinese takeaways

1960s on: Indian takeaways and other curry houses

Around 1975-80: American-style hamburger and pizza places (Wimpys had been around longer than that, but seems a bit different in my mind, and not that commonly encountered)

1980s: Kebab houses

1990s on - everything else.


Is that reasonable? Have I left anything out, or got anything badly wrong? Remember, I'm not talking about London or the other really big cities - and of course cities with large immigrant populations from a particular country would probably have that country's food ready in takeaway form earlier.

Also, when did people start saying "to go" instead of "to take away" in this country? My impression is that this Americanism started in coffee shops like Starbucks and spread from there, which would put it the early years of this century. Do you agree?

And, on a different topic, have you noticed that "tsunami" has now almost entirely replaced "tidal wave" in common usage? It was not always so! On the other hand, I sense that "rickshaw" is being edged out by "tuk tuk", so the tide of Japanese-origin words is not entirely unchecked.
steepholm: (tree_face)
It's often intrigued - and, to an extent, bothered - me, the way people use the words "humble" and "proud" in what seems on the face of it to be an arse-about-face kind of way. Say, you've saved someone from drowning and are receiving a bravery award. More than likely, your acceptance speech will refer to the fact that it's a very humbling experience. The same goes for Oscars, and indeed most occasions when it might seem that, because you're having your personal achievements recognised, pride might be a more likely emotion.

Well, perhaps that's not so very mysterious. An expression of humility might just bespeak the person's desire to be seen as modest. Perhaps they feel they didn't really deserve the award - like when I won the fancy dress competition at my primary school and cried, because I thought it wasn't actually the best costume. I wonder how often that happens to grown-ups?

Conversely, people often say "I'm proud to be X", where X is a nationality or some other thing for which they can claim no credit at all, being merely a card dealt them in the lottery of life. While they might reasonably feel pleased or lucky to be born in X, or to have famous ancestor Y, where do they get off feeling "proud" of it? No one says, "I feel proud to have won the lottery": if they did, they would be laughed at. What's the difference?

I suppose it's that people's sense of self is partly social, and that you can feel pride in achievements of the wider group of which you are a part, even though you personally may have contributed nothing towards them - an attitude memorably mocked in this sketch. Similarly, you may feel shame in the actions of your wider group should you disapprove of them, despite personally having taken no part in them and even fought to prevent them. Hence the sight of Americans apologising on social media for the election of a man they never voted for.

On the one hand, the communitarian bonds this speaks of are admirable - but this way of thinking can obviously lead to injustice and prejudice of the "tarring with the same brush" variety.

It also explains the ease with which politicians and commentators are able to amalgamate populations with a wide variety of views and speak without qualification as if they were all of one mind. Thus Theresa May is able to talk about leaving the EU as "the will of the British people" and Nicola Sturgeon is able to say that "Scotland voted to remain", as if the millions who voted the other way were of no account - or rather, did not even exist. The fiction that "the British people" or "Scotland" are entities capable of will and decision-making, rather than groups of individuals whose individual decisions are triaged by an electoral formula, clearly has a powerful political function. You will never hear May say, for example, "Most British people voted to leave", let alone "Most British people who voted, voted to leave", still less "Most British people who had a vote and who also voted, voted to leave" - any of which would represent the case more accurately. The fiction of "the people" and its "will" legitimates the extremity of their actions. But without it, perhaps there would be no action at all?
steepholm: (Default)
It's often intrigued - and, to an extent, bothered - me, the way people use the words "humble" and "proud" in what seems on the face of it to be an arse-about-face kind of way. Say, you've saved someone from drowning and are receiving a bravery award. More than likely, your acceptance speech will refer to the fact that it's a very humbling experience. The same goes for Oscars, and indeed most occasions when it might seem that, because you're having your personal achievements recognised, pride might be a more likely emotion.

Well, perhaps that's not so very mysterious. An expression of humility might just bespeak the person's desire to be seen as modest. Perhaps they feel they didn't really deserve the award - like when I won the fancy dress competition at my primary school and cried, because I thought it wasn't actually the best costume. I wonder how often that happens to grown-ups?

Conversely, people often say "I'm proud to be X", where X is a nationality or some other thing for which they can claim no credit at all, being merely a card dealt them in the lottery of life. While they might reasonably feel pleased or lucky to be born in X, or to have famous ancestor Y, where do they get off feeling "proud" of it? No one says, "I feel proud to have won the lottery": if they did, they would be laughed at. What's the difference?

I suppose it's that people's sense of self is partly social, and that you can feel pride in achievements of the wider group of which you are a part, even though you personally may have contributed nothing towards them - an attitude memorably mocked in this sketch. Similarly, you may feel shame in the actions of your wider group should you disapprove of them, despite personally having taken no part in them and even fought to prevent them. Hence the sight of Americans apologising on social media for the election of a man they never voted for.

On the one hand, the communitarian bonds this speaks of are admirable - but this way of thinking can obviously lead to injustice and prejudice of the "tarring with the same brush" variety.

It also explains the ease with which politicians and commentators are able to amalgamate populations with a wide variety of views and speak without qualification as if they were all of one mind. Thus Theresa May is able to talk about leaving the EU as "the will of the British people" and Nicola Sturgeon is able to say that "Scotland voted to remain", as if the millions who voted the other way were of no account - or rather, did not even exist. The fiction that "the British people" or "Scotland" are entities capable of will and decision-making, rather than groups of individuals whose individual decisions are triaged by an electoral formula, clearly has a powerful political function. You will never hear May say, for example, "Most British people voted to leave", let alone "Most British people who voted, voted to leave", still less "Most British people who had a vote and who also voted, voted to leave" - any of which would represent the case more accurately. The fiction of "the people" and its "will" legitimates the extremity of their actions. But without it, perhaps there would be no action at all?
steepholm: (tree_face)
How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times) who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.


Thus Thomas Nashe in Pierce Penniless (1592), a passage familiar to many because it appears to refer to 1 Henry VI, and thus constitutes one of the earliest contemporary references to Shakespeare's work. I came across it again recently in that excellent book, Comeuppance, and was suddenly struck by Nashe's dodgy arithmetic. In 1592 John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, had been in his grave not for 200 years, nor even for 150, but for just 139. Of course it suits Nashe's rhetorical point to stretch it a bit, but still - could one get away today with saying that Henry Fox Talbot (who died exactly 139 years ago, in 1877) had been in his grave for two hundred years? ("How would it have joyed him to see so many people taking photos!") I don't think so. So, why one Talbot and not the other? Does it say something about a change in education or in historical sensibility, or just about Nashe's style as a controversialist?

While I'm on Nashe, I recently wrote a piece in which I cited without too much qualification the standard line that the historical novel began with Walter Scott's Waverley. But even as I wrote it, I was bothered by the counterexample of The Unfortunate Traveller, which is set during the reign of Henry VIII and has a fictional protagonist, Jack Wilton, who (like Edward Waverley) rubs shoulders with historical figures, notably the Earl of Surrey. Why isn't that hailed as "the first historical novel"? I find it hard to come up with a line of argument that doesn't smack of special pleading.
steepholm: (Default)
How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times) who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.


Thus Thomas Nashe in Pierce Penniless (1592), a passage familiar to many because it appears to refer to 1 Henry VI, and thus constitutes one of the earliest contemporary references to Shakespeare's work. I came across it again recently in that excellent book, Comeuppance, and was suddenly struck by Nashe's dodgy arithmetic. In 1592 John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, had been in his grave not for 200 years, nor even for 150, but for just 139. Of course it suits Nashe's rhetorical point to stretch it a bit, but still - could one get away today with saying that Henry Fox Talbot (who died exactly 139 years ago, in 1877) had been in his grave for two hundred years? ("How would it have joyed him to see so many people taking photos!") I don't think so. So, why one Talbot and not the other? Does it say something about a change in education or in historical sensibility, or just about Nashe's style as a controversialist?

While I'm on Nashe, I recently wrote a piece in which I cited without too much qualification the standard line that the historical novel began with Walter Scott's Waverley. But even as I wrote it, I was bothered by the counterexample of The Unfortunate Traveller, which is set during the reign of Henry VIII and has a fictional protagonist, Jack Wilton, who (like Edward Waverley) rubs shoulders with historical figures, notably the Earl of Surrey. Why isn't that hailed as "the first historical novel"? I find it hard to come up with a line of argument that doesn't smack of special pleading.

Unten Daiko

Nov. 2nd, 2016 05:23 pm
steepholm: (tree_face)
Being interested in two cultures is bound to alert one to myriad business opportunities in the field of import-export. Of course I want to sell Marmite to the Japanese, and fill the empty shipping containers with kotatsu for the return journey. Who wouldn't?

In particular, though, I wonder why no one in the West (as far as I know) has taken up the idea of "unten daiko"?

Imagine that you've driven to work and get asked out for a drink afterwards. You can't go, or at least you can't drink alcohol, because you've got to drive home afterwards. Annoying! Or, imagine you've been invited to a party, in a place that's not well served by public transport. Obviously, if you mean to drink you can't take your car, and will have to get a taxi both ways. Expensive!

This is where unten daiko (運転代行 - roughly, "substitute driver") comes in. The unten daiko taxi has two drivers. One gets into your car with you and drives you home, while the other follows behind. At the end, your driver hops back into the unten daiko car and they disappear into the night. Yes, it's a bit more expensive than an ordinary taxi (you're paying for two people, after all, and presumably they need extra insurance for driving other people's cars), but now your car isn't stranded far away from your house.

This system seems such an obviously good idea for any place that doesn't have excellent public transport (i.e. almost anywhere outside a big city) that I can't believe it's not found its way to the West. So, if you feel like it, set up an unten daiko company with my blessing, and watch the profits roll in!

(I only want 5%.)

Unten Daiko

Nov. 2nd, 2016 11:17 am
steepholm: (Default)
Being interested in two cultures is bound to alert one to myriad business opportunities in the field of import-export. Of course I want to sell Marmite to the Japanese, and fill the empty shipping containers with kotatsu for the return journey. Who wouldn't?

In particular, though, I wonder why no one in the West (as far as I know) has taken up the idea of "unten daiko"?

Imagine that you've driven to work and get asked out for a drink afterwards. You can't go, or at least you can't drink alcohol, because you've got to drive home afterwards. Annoying! Or, imagine you've been invited to a party, in a place that's not well served by public transport. Obviously, if you mean to drink you can't take your car, and will have to get a taxi both ways. Expensive!

This is where unten daiko (運転代行 - roughly, "substitute driver") comes in. The unten daiko taxi has two drivers. One gets into your car with you and drives you home, while the other follows behind. At the end, your driver hops back into the unten daiko car and they disappear into the night. Yes, it's a bit more expensive than an ordinary taxi (you're paying for two people, after all, and presumably they need extra insurance for driving other people's cars), but now your car isn't stranded far away from your house.

This system seems such an obviously good idea for any place that doesn't have excellent public transport (i.e. almost anywhere outside a big city) that I can't believe it's not found its way to the West. So, if you feel like it, set up an unten daiko company with my blessing, and watch the profits roll in!

(I only want 5%.)
steepholm: (tree_face)
I suppose people have always insulted their political opponents: "Tory scum" is hardly a new coinage. But it's only recently (in this country, at least) that people seem to have started suggesting that their political opponents are so irresponsible/evil/stupid that they should not be allowed to vote, or that their votes should be ignored.

I won't say it began with Brexit, but it's been very noticeable in its wake. The narrative that those who voted Leave should be overruled because they were a) too racist, b) too stupid, c) have probably changed their minds by now, etc., kicked in pretty much immediately after the vote. Even if all these things were true, though, it doesn't change the result: in a democracy, even stupid people get a say. If you don't like it, then why not just come out and say honestly that you would rather have a different kind of political system - a government of technocrats, for example, like Mario Monti's or Xi Jinping's? A case could be made, I'm sure. What you don't get to do is call the result democratic. Yet, in a wonderful but it seems unconscious irony, one of the movements to overturn the referendum result and take the power to decide on Brexit away from the voters has named itself "the People's Challenge". That kind of double-think is not untypical of political discourse in the UK today.

The result of the last Labour leadership election (and probably the next) is another case in point. The determination of many people not to see Corbyn's victory as legitimate, except in the trifling and legalistic sense that he got more votes than anyone else, is bolstered by a move to delegitimize the views of those who voted (or intend to vote) for him. Here I don't refer to the literal disenfranchisement of 130,000 Labour members by the NEC, though that's not irrelevant, but to the dismissive way in which those who support Corbyn's position are routinely described: they are members of a cult, they are bewitched, they are too young to understand the issues, they have had their arms twisted by Trots, they are Trots, they are "Nazi stormtroopers", or simply (as Financial Times journalist Janan Ganesh has it) "as thick as pigshit". Otherwise, they wouldn't be voting for a "lunatic",* would they? Given that, their views and votes can be safely ignored, and we can start undermining the result the day after it's announced, secure in the knowledge that we are defending democracy, war is peace, freedom is slavery, etc.

* Copyright Owen Smith.
steepholm: (Default)
I suppose people have always insulted their political opponents: "Tory scum" is hardly a new coinage. But it's only recently (in this country, at least) that people seem to have started suggesting that their political opponents are so irresponsible/evil/stupid that they should not be allowed to vote, or that their votes should be ignored.

I won't say it began with Brexit, but it's been very noticeable in its wake. The narrative that those who voted Leave should be overruled because they were a) too racist, b) too stupid, c) have probably changed their minds by now, etc., kicked in pretty much immediately after the vote. Even if all these things were true, though, it doesn't change the result: in a democracy, even stupid people get a say. If you don't like it, then why not just come out and say honestly that you would rather have a different kind of political system - a government of technocrats, for example, like Mario Monti's or Xi Jinping's? A case could be made, I'm sure. What you don't get to do is call the result democratic. Yet, in a wonderful but it seems unconscious irony, one of the movements to overturn the referendum result and take the power to decide on Brexit away from the voters has named itself "the People's Challenge". That kind of double-think is not untypical of political discourse in the UK today.

The result of the last Labour leadership election (and probably the next) is another case in point. The determination of many people not to see Corbyn's victory as legitimate, except in the trifling and legalistic sense that he got more votes than anyone else, is bolstered by a move to delegitimize the views of those who voted (or intend to vote) for him. Here I don't refer to the literal disenfranchisement of 130,000 Labour members by the NEC, though that's not irrelevant, but to the dismissive way in which those who support Corbyn's position are routinely described: they are members of a cult, they are bewitched, they are too young to understand the issues, they have had their arms twisted by Trots, they are Trots, they are "Nazi stormtroopers", or simply (as Financial Times journalist Janan Ganesh has it) "as thick as pigshit". Otherwise, they wouldn't be voting for a "lunatic",* would they? Given that, their views and votes can be safely ignored, and we can start undermining the result the day after it's announced, secure in the knowledge that we are defending democracy, war is peace, freedom is slavery, etc.

* Copyright Owen Smith.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I thought it might be fun to look at the Olympic gold medal table, adjusted for things that (one might expect) would make a big difference to the number of golds a nation is likely to win - namely, population and GDP. After all, the bigger the population, the more chance of its containing a winner; and the richer the country, the more resources it can throw at things like training facilities. Because I'm lazy, I've only used the top ten countries in the medal table as of this afternoon.

Golds

The UK does okay on all three charts, but the Netherlands is the unexpected star of the show. And oh dear, China.
steepholm: (Default)
I thought it might be fun to look at the Olympic gold medal table, adjusted for things that (one might expect) would make a big difference to the number of golds a nation is likely to win - namely, population and GDP. After all, the bigger the population, the more chance of its containing a winner; and the richer the country, the more resources it can throw at things like training facilities. Because I'm lazy, I've only used the top ten countries in the medal table as of this afternoon.

Golds

The UK does okay on all three charts, but the Netherlands is the unexpected star of the show. And oh dear, China.

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