Friday, January 01, 2021

 Best non-2020 films seen for the first time in 2020 (out of 113 total)

  1. Babe (1995)
  2. Matewan (1987)
  3. Jane (2017)
  4. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
  5. Holy Flame of the Martial World (1983)
  6. Minding the Gap (2018)
  7. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
  8. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
  9. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)
  10. Déja Vu (2006)
  11. Red River (1948)
  12. Death Becomes Her (1992)
  13. Unstoppable (2010)
  14. Heaven Knows What (2014)
  15. The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)
  16. Thunder Road (2018)
  17. Birds of Passage (2018)
  18. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
  19. Contagion (2011)
  20. King of New York (1990)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis is that changes in the way people are employed have facilitated the rise of Corporate Psychopaths to senior positions and their personal greed in those positions has created the crisis. Prior to the last third of the twentieth century large corporations were relatively stable, slow to change and the idea of a job for life was evident, with employees gradually rising through the corporate ranks until a position was reached beyond which they were not qualified by education, intellect or ability to go. In such a stable, slowly changing environment employees would get to know each other very well and Corporate Psychopaths would be noticeable and identifiable as undesirable managers because of their selfish egotistical personalities and other ethical defects.

Changing companies’ mid-career was seen as being questionable and inadvisable and their rise would therefore be blocked both within their original employer and among external employers who would question their reasons for wanting to change jobs.

However, once corporate takeovers and mergers started to become commonplace and the resultant corporate changes started to accelerate, exacerbated by both globalisation and a rapidly changing technological environment, then corporate stability began to disintegrate. Jobs for life disappeared and not surprisingly employees’ commitment to their employers also lessened accordingly. Job switching first became acceptable and then even became common and employees increasingly found themselves working for unfamiliar organisations and with other people that they did not really know very well. Rapid movements in key personnel between corporations compared to the relatively slower movements in organisational productivity and success made it increasingly difficult to identify corporate success with any particular manager. Failures were not noticed until too late and the offending managers had already moved on to better positions elsewhere. Successes could equally be claimed by those who had nothing to do with them. Success could thus be claimed by those with the loudest voice, the most influence and the best political skills. Corporate Psychopaths have these skills in abundance and use them with ruthless and calculated efficiency.

In this way, the whole corporate and employment environment changed from one that would hold the Corporate Psychopath in check to one where they could flourish and advance relatively unopposed.

from "The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis" by Clive R. Boddy

Thursday, August 20, 2020

A fun Wikipedia loop

PJ Harvey –>

Ian Stewart (musician) –>

Exile on Main St. –>

Rolling Stones Mobile Studio –>

Stargroves –>

Sir Mark Palmer, 5th Baronet –>

Henrietta Moraes –>

Maggi Hambling –>

Vagina and vulva in art –>

Sheela na gig –>

Sheela-Na-Gig (song) –>

PJ Harvey

from Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance by Donald MacKenzie

"Apart from the general prejudice that the true driving forces must be grander things, there is a particular difficulty for those who are not intimately familiar with it in keeping the ordinariness of nuclear politics in mind. Like the politics of any office, to an outsider it seems intricate, devious, and boring, difficult to understand in comparison with the memorable but misleading simplicities of technological and macropolitical determinism. So it is perhaps worth substituting a single striking example for all the details. It may not even be altogether accurate, as it is not well documented, but if true, it vividly shows how the same sort of mundane considerations can shape nuclear war plans as can shape, for example, a local authority budget. If nuclear war had broken out early in 1961, Moscow was to have been the target for no fewer than 170 American nuclear weapons. This was not because that many were needed to destroy it: even a tiny fraction of that number would have been more than sufficient. Nor was it primarily because of worries that technical failure, a Soviet preemptive strike, or Soviet defenses might lead to attrition of the attacking force. The chief reason was the reluctance of the various branches of the armed services to give up the Soviet capital for a less prestigious target."

Monday, August 17, 2020

"The sad fact that few conservationists care to face is that many species, perhaps most, do not seem to have any conventional value at all, even hidden conventional value. True, we can not be sure which particular species fall into this category, but it is hard to deny that there must be a great many of them. And unfortunately the species whose members are the fewest in number, the rarest, the most narrowly distributed — in short, the ones most likely to become extinct — are obviously the ones least likely to be missed by the biosphere. Many of these species were never common or ecologically influential; by no stretch of the imagination can we make them out to be vital cogs in the ecological machine. If the California condor disappears forever from the California hills, it will be a tragedy: but don’t expect the chaparral to die, the redwoods to wither, the San Andreas fault to open up, or even the California tourist industry to suffer — they won’t."

from "Why Put a Value on Biodiversity?" by David Ehrenfeld

Monday, August 10, 2020

A faded and somewhat droll survival of ecclesiastical excommunication and exorcism is the custom, still prevailing in European countries and some portions of the United States, of serving a writ of ejectment on rats or simply sending them a friendly letter of advice in order to induce them to quit any house, in which their presence is deemed undesirable. Lest the rats should overlook and thus fail to read the epistle, it is rubbed with grease, so as to attract their attention, rolled up and thrust into their holes. Mr. William Wells Newell, in a paper on “Conjuring Rats,” printed in The Journal of American Folk-Lore (Jan.-March, 1892), gives a specimen of such a letter, dated, “Maine, Oct. 31, 1888,” and addressed in business style to “Messrs. Rats and Co.” The writer begins by expressing his deep interest in the welfare of said rats as well as his fears lest they should find their winter quarters in No. 1, Seaview Street, uncomfortable and poorly supplied with suitable food, since it is only a summer residence and is also about to undergo repairs. He then suggests that they migrate to No. 6, Incubator Street, where they “can live snug and happy” in a splendid cellar well stored with vegetables of all kinds and can pass easily through a shed leading to a barn containing much grain. He concludes by stating that he will do them no harm if they heed his advice, otherwise he shall be forced to use “Rough on Rats.” This threat of resorting to rat poison in case of the refusal to accept his kind counsel is all that remains of the once formidable anathema of the Church.

from The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals by EP Evans (1906)

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sir Halford Mackinder, one of the founders of the London School of Economics, executes several porters during an expedition to Mount Kenya in 1895

Mackinder ‘practised with my Mauser in the afternoon against a tree trunk' and kept discipline within his own group of porters by regularly shooting off rounds from his gun. The 'moral suasion of my Mauser'  was for Mackinder an effective physical representation of the social contract on safari: '[i]t was a strange experience to be thus brought face to face with the ultimate sanctions of society'. Mackinder regularly rejected pleas from his porters to stop for the day with the observation that: “[i]n the interests of discipline I determined that my will must prevail'. When Mackinder refused to stop, he noted that the whole body of Kikuyu porters tried to desert, and were only checked by a display of firearms. His notebooks recorded that 'Cam[pbell Hausburg and the Swahili] Sulamani got ropes for a chain gang, I walked about with a loaded revolver, the Swahilis exhibited some 50 firearms, and at length we got the Washensi [Kikuyu) into line.' Another show of force accompanied negotiations for food with a village chief: 'our Swahilis cleaned their rifles ostentatiously and drilled one another.' Elsewhere, a village Chief, Ngombe, was kidnapped and held hostage until their food needs were met. A brother of Ngombe, Wangombe, killed two Swahilis who had been sent on another food foray. '[M]uch against natural impulse', Mackinder refrained from retaliating since he was not sure he had better than 'demoralised forces and, after all, [w]e were a scientific expedition, and had reached the scene of our work.'

In addition to the two murders and the death from dysentery, at least eight other porters were 'shot by orders'. We know this by the list supplied by Hausburg to the Zanzibar company, from which Mackinder had hired the Swahilis.

Mackinder's own journey down from the mountain, after the exhilaration of the final assault on the summit, was equally desperate. He had twenty-five African men (fourteen of the Swahilis from Zanzibar, an interpreter and two tent boys hired at Mombasa, and eight Kikuyus hired from Kikuyu Fort Smith) and four Europeans with him. During this part of the journey he reflected that 'I could not help comparing the Swahili to a human camel'. Mackinder had to cope with porters who, to conserve their strength, threw away part of their load. He ordered twenty lashes for one Swahili who had thrown away a bottle of specimens in spirit', adding that there was 'an epidemic of this'. On another day, two men collapsed and had to be 'forced to continue', and Mackinder said that the day had been spoiled by the sick man'. He recorded that he 'did not like this slave driving, for that is what it really was.'

His two alibis at this point were local custom and necessity: ‘[i]t was all done according to the dasturi (= custom) of the African safari, and we could not stay, for supplies were running short.' His threats perhaps escalated for he noted that the 'Swahili [...] did not cling to life'. A few days later, he found that three-quarters of the botanical specimens had been thrown on the fire to save carrying them further. This time he ordered a number of kiboko (lashes with a leather whip) unspecified, uniquely, in the typescript but given in the notebooks as thirty, the highest recorded. The lashings were for Musa, a Swahili who could speak French and that Mackinder trusted with a gun despite his not having been hired as a soldier, or askiri. Mackinder felt betrayed, referring to the culprit with surprise as 'the trusted Musa'. Musa was one of the porters recorded as 'shot by orders'.

On arriving at Naivasha, Mackinder telegrammed his wife that he would get back to Marseilles on 14 November, and this was in fact when the other Europeans got there, but the day after sending the telegram, Mackinder instead began a furious dash to the coast and arrived in Marseilles on 29 October. He was surely eager to get back to Oxford since he was in dereliction of his academic duties but, perhaps, he recalled the small print of the contract for hiring the porters. It allowed that in ‘a case of “grave emergency" ’, the leader of the caravan might go beyond flogging to whatever was required by the safety of the caravan or the members of the caravan”. However, it also reserved the right that ‘a competent Court may be called upon to decide whether (the leader had] improperly exercised their discretion'.

from Geopolitics and Empire: The Legacy of Halford Mackinder by Gerry Kearns

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Cleaning oil off sea otters after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989

"In total, 357 sea otters were captured and delivered to rehabilitation facilities. Of these, 123 died in captivity. Thirty-seven of the 234 survivors were judged unsuitable for return to the wild and were transferred to aquaria and other permanent holding facilities; 25 of these animals were still alive 10 months later. The remaining 197 survivors were released by August 1989, 45 of them with surgically implanted radios. Twenty-two of the instrumented animals were dead (11) or missing (11) the following spring, thus indicating relatively low post-release survival of the captured and treated animals.

"Some otters captured for rehabilitation were unoiled, and others were so lightly oiled that they may have fared better if left in nature to their own devices. About 70% of the animals brought to the rehabilitation facilities were determined to be uncontaminated (61), lightly oiled (123), or of unknown status (68). Finally, rescue efforts probably caused some mortality in and of themselves because otherwise healthy captive sea otters suffer a 5 to 10% stress-induced mortality rate under the best of circumstances.

"Capture and rehabilitation costs for sea otters alone was $18.3 million. Assuming that 222 otters were saved (the maximum possible), costs exceeded $80,000 per animal."

from "Catastrophes and Conservation: Lessons from Sea Otters and the Exxon Valdez" by James Estes

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

On the Konds of India and their earth goddess Tari

"The Konds also related a certain myth, in which Tari made a revelation to humankind by taking the form of a woman, called Amali Baeli, one of their first ancestors. The myth runs as follows. At the time when the earth was created, every place was simply a swamp and the whole countryside swayed and shook continually. At this primeval time there was a Kui house shaking in the morass; a woman and a man lived there and their names were Amali Baeli and Bumi Kuari. When the man was out one day, Amali Baeli was peeling vegetables for the pot. She cut her little finger and the blood oozed out, not falling on the vegetables, but on the ground. Then the heaving earth solidified and became very fertile. Amali Baeli said, 'Look, what a good change! Cut up my body to complete it!', but the Konds refused. Thinking she was a Kond, they were unwilling to sacrifice her, instead, they resolved to purchase victims from other peoples. Believing that without the falling of human blood on the ground there is no fertility, Kond's ancestors sought a way of burying human flesh; and so began the mrimi sacrifice.

"According to the tradition of the Konds, men still complained to Tari that they were poor and troubled in many ways. The goddess therefore demanded an extension of the human sacrifice, which had to be performed on many more occasions, with new ceremonies and new arrangements for the provision of victims. In addition, she told them that she would no longer limit the value of human sacrifice to her worshippers, but would extend its benefits to all humankind. The Tari worshippers thus believed that they became responsible for the well-being of the whole world, with the result that they practised human sacrifices in great numbers."

from "Human Sacrifice among the Konds" by Lourens van den Bosch

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Best new films of 2019

1. The Irishman
2. Gemini Man in 120fps 3D
3. Little Women
4. Monos
5. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
6. Marriage Story
7. Support the Girls
8. Her Smell
9. Midsommar
10. Us

Best non-2019 films seen for the first time in 2019

1. Bloody Sunday (2002)
2. Big Night (1996)
3. Swing Shift director's cut (1984)
4. Mikey and Nicky (1976)
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
6. Salesman (1969)
7. Melvin (and Howard) (1980)
8. High Noon (1952)
9. La Verité (1960)
10. Golgo 13: The Professional (1983)

Monday, January 07, 2019

Best new films of 2018

1. Mission Impossible: Fallout
2. Roma
3. The Old Man & the Gun
4. The Post
5. Phantom Thread
6. First Reformed
7. The House That Jack Built
8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
9. The Favourite
10. Cold War

Best non-2018 films seen for the first time in 2018

1. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
2. Sorceror (1977)
3. Frankenhooker (1990)
4. Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
5. Grand Hotel (1932)
6. Heathers (1988)
7. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
8. Hunger (2008)
9. Onibaba (1964)
10. Society (1989)

Best albums of 2018

1. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
2. Ice Age – Beyondless
3. Dilly Dally – Heaven
4. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
5. Son Lux – Brighter Wounds
6. Iglooghost – Neo Wax Bloom
7. Rival Consoles – Persona

Thursday, June 07, 2018

"The New Testament (NT) recalls Jesus as having experienced and shown behavior closely resembling the DSM-IV-TR–defined phenomena of auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, delusions, referential thinking, paranoid-type thought content, and hyperreligiosity. He also did not appear to have signs or symptoms of disorganization, negative psychiatric symptoms, cognitive impairment, or debilitating mood disorder symptoms. NT accounts about Jesus mention no infirmity. In terms of potential causes of perceptual and behavioral changes, it might be asked whether starvation and metabolic derangements were present. The hallucinatory-like experiences that Jesus had in the desert while he fasted for 40 days (Luke 4:1–13) may have been induced by starvation and metabolic derangements. Arguing against these as explanations for all of his experiences would be that he had mystical or revelation experiences preceding his fasting in the desert and then during the period afterward. During these periods, there is no suggestion of starvation or metabolic derangement. If anything, the stories about Jesus and his followers suggest that they ate relatively well, as compared with the followers of his contemporary, John the Baptist (Luke 7:33–34)...

"There is a 5%–10% lifetime risk of suicide in persons with schizophrenia. Suicide is defined as a self-inflicted death with evidence of an intention to end one’s life. The NT recounts Jesus’ awareness that people intended to kill him and his taking steps to avoid peril until the time at which he permitted his apprehension. In advance, he explained to his followers the necessity of his death as prelude for his return (Matthew 16:21–28; Mark 8:31; John 16:16–28). If this occurred in the manner described, then Jesus appears to have deliberately placed himself in circumstances wherein he anticipated his execution. Although schizophrenia is associated with an increased risk of suicide, this would not be a typical case. The more common mood-disorder accompaniments of suicide, such as depression, hopelessness, and social isolation, were not present, but other risk factors, such as age and male gender, were present."

from "The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered" by Evan D. Murray, Miles G. Cunningham and Bruce H. Price

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The best things I ate recently during five weeks in Thailand


Laap ped at Somtum Jinda in Ubon Ratchathani

This is my number one. I spent time in Ubon Ratchathani and Khon Kaen, two towns in Isarn province in north eastern Thailand, because I wanted to eat Isarn food, and specifically I wanted to eat laap ped, or spicy minced duck salad. (This is a very thorough explanation of laap.) At Somtum Jinda I had the best laap of my life, far better, even, than any of the other laaps I ate in Isarn. Although 'salad' is the consensus translation of laap into English, most of the time it feels like an awkward misnomer; this dish, however, really did feel like a wonderful salad, in the sense of a carousel of distinct ingredients whirling across your tastebuds. On another night I had a curry of fish belly with fish eggs, which was almost as good.

Although I went all over Ubon Ratchathani in search of laap, Somtum Jinda was directly opposite my hotel – clearly, a higher power led me to this restaurant. They even have a menu in English, which is surprising: no Western tourists come to Ubon Ratchathani, because there isn't really anything to see or do there. And that's the problem with a recommendation like this – realistically, none of you are ever going to go to Ubon Ratchathani. But if for some reason you do, you must eat here.

Grilled pork neck at Gai Yang Rabeab in Khon Kaen

There may be no better place to eat the classic Isarn lunch of grilled chicken, som tam (papaya salad), and sticky rice. And on weekends, they also serve kor moo yang (grilled pork neck, above). Mark Wiens has written about this place on his useful website Eating Thai Food. Everything was superb, including the chilli dip – in Khon Kaen they serve a dip that tastes a lot like a Mexican chipotle en adobo, so it presumably must involved smoked chillis. If you ever go to Khon Kaen – again, there's no reason why you would apart from the food, but I don't know, perhaps you'll get embroiled in some baroque scheme to accumulate air miles which requires you to fly to Khon Kaen – and you want to eat kor moo yang, but it's not the weekend so they're not serving it at Gai Yang Rabeab, I can recommend a restaurant on the main drag with the straightforward name of Kor Moo Yang Khon Kaen.

Can I note at this point that I am not a person who takes photos of all my food? Only when I have a hunch that it's going to be amazing.

Nam prik ong at Sorn Chai in Chiang Mai

The best thing I ate on my prior trip to northern Thailand, a year ago, was the nam prik ong (spicy pork and tomato dip) at at a little place called Sorn Chai which I heard about from Robyn Eckhardt's blog EatingAsia . But I was there on my first day in Thailand, and at the time I couldn't be quite sure that the sheer exhilaration of being back there wasn't distorting my judgement. So on this trip I went as far as to book a hotel near Sorn Chai, and block out a whole day on my calendar, for the express purpose of verifying this nam prik ong. (Obviously it didn't take a whole day, but I just couldn't leave anything to chance.) And it was just as good as I remembered. In fact, if not for Somtum Jinda, this would have been the best thing I ate in Thailand for the second year in a row (which would have been pretty boring, so I'm especially grateful for that laap).

Khao soi at Khao Soi Loong Prakid Gard Gorm in Chiang Mai

Khao soi is egg noodles in yellow curry sauce with beef or chicken. There are certain khao soi places in Chiang Mai that come up again and again, and this isn't one of them, but I think it's my favourite I've had there. This has apparently been featured on the recent Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil, BUT I WENT BEFORE THAT AND I CAN PROVE IT.

Mango sticky rice 'nigiri' at Fruiturday in Chiang Mai

I don't think I've ever eaten a dish that was such blatant Instagram bait, but to be honest with you I really enjoyed it.

Boat noodles at Chen Long Boat Noodle in Hat Yai

Kuaytiaw reua, better known as boat noodles, are rice noodles with meatballs in pork broth. This is one thing I never realised about Thai street food before spending time in Thailand – on the whole, Thai people are not eating pad thai, tthey are not eating green curry, they are not eating anything you've ever eaten in a high street Thai restaurant – they are eating boat noodles. Boat noodles everywhere. In a lot of places you see as many boat noodles stalls as you see all other kinds of stalls put together. In practical terms, boat noodles is the national dish of Thailand. And yet it hardly exists in the west. Personally, I'm not a big boat noodle guy, but I think this one is the best I've ever had.

Bak kut teh at Ko Ti Ocha in Hat Yai

Bak kut teh is pork rib stew. Yes, that is an entire head of garlic in the bowl. This might be a good place to note that Hat Yai was my 'discovery' of the trip. As with Isarn province, almost no western tourists go there, but I found it an enchanting place: it's the fifth biggest city in Thailand, and the closest major city to the Malaysian border, which makes it very multicultural, 40% Muslim but also full of Chinese influence. If you've ever been to Penang, it's quite similar – not as beautiful, but almost as stimulating to walk around. And the food is spectacular. This, characteristically, is a Malaysian-Chinese dish, which I heard about from Austin Bush's Thai Eats map.

Curries at Khao Gaeng Khong in Hat Yai

Thailand is full of khao gaeng – rice and curry – shops, but this is the only one I've ever been to that operates as a buffet. They give you a plate and you can just serve yourself anything you want! My hands were shaking I was so intoxicated with possibility! I suspect it's down to the Malaysian influence, because the only other self-service curry place I've eaten at in south east Asia was in Penang. I went here twice and everything I tried was fantastic. It's only open after dark, and it's on Google Maps under its Thai name ข้าวแกง5โค้ง – just copy and paste that if you want to find it.


Pad si ew at Nai Lao

Pad si ew is flat rice noodles stir fried with pork, egg and Chinese kale. I read about this place on Taste of Bangkok, and I think it was the best thing I ate all week. You can't tell from the unflattering photo above, but somehow it looked like something you'd get served in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and it tasted like that too. It cost 40 baht, or 91p, and the place wasn't even busy. Bangkok is an extraordinary place.

Goat biryani at Muslim Restaurant

This is only available on Mondays and Fridays. The texture of the goat meat was just uncanny, like they'd put it through some kind of experimental matter transmuter from Star Trek. More about this on Eating Thai Food.

Yellow chicken curry at Krua OV

Extremely good. More about this on Eating Thai Food.

Green catfish curry at Jio

Also extremely good. I read about this on Leela Punyaratabandhu's blog SheSimmers. It's only open for breakfast and early lunch.

Mango sticky rice at Boon Sap

This is the closest thing I've ever tasted to a perfect mango sticky rice, although I wasn't able to compare it to the nearby Sor Boonprakob Panich because that was closed for Chinese New Year. More about this on Streetside Bangkok. The first time I tried to go, around lunchtime, they'd already sold out, so go early. I cannot recommend making the trek out to the much-praised Maewaree, which I found unexceptional. This is an illustration of the perverse and Sisyphean reality of being a 'foodie': when I first visited Thailand, I was thrilled by any random mango sticky rice from Chatuchak Market, but now half the time I just feel mild disappointment at the pudding's faults. What a way to live.

Pork satay at Jay Eng

Until I ate at this stall in Chinatown, I'd thought of satay as something you only ever eat in situations when you wish you were somewhere else having a real dinner: the canapés are coming round at a boring launch party, or you're in an awful central London bar with an 'Asian' menu. But here I learned that satay can be a remarkable thing. I came across it using Wongnai, the Thai version of Yelp.

Pad thai at Thipsamai Pad Thai and Orawan Pad Thai

I queued for almost an hour to eat the famous pad thai at Thipsamai. Yes, it was impeccable, but the thing is, there are neighbourhood places you can eat a pad thai which is almost as good and you don't have to wait at all. One of them is Orawan, which I read about on Streetside Bangkok.

Egg noodles with roast duck and roast pork at Prachack Pet Yang

This wasn't on the level of what I ate in Hong Kong and Macau in January, but it was still pretty great. More about this on Eating Thai Food.

Nang Loeng market

There was no one thing at this market that would have made this list on its own. But if you eat 1. a couple of curries at Khao Gaeng Ruttana, 2. saikrok pla naem (pork sausage with fish powder) at Mae Lek, 3. khao kluk kapi (fried rice with shrimp paste) at Sonthaya, and then 4. kanom gluay (banana cake) at Nanta, you may find yourself, as I did, almost tearfully grateful for the sheer beneficence of Thai cuisine. Three of those four are listed on BK.

Special mention: banana leaves

Most days in Thailand, my breakfast would be something wrapped in a banana leaf from a street vendor. I say 'something' because I don't speak Thai, so the contents were a surprise every single time; sometimes it would just be sweetened sticky rice; sometimes, best of all, it would be sticky rice with coconut milk and banana; once it was full of tiny sardines cooked with chilli and herbs; once it was just a wad of seasoned raw pork mince! (I was told by a nearby Thai person that although you're normally expected to put one of these in a microwave, you can, if you want, just eat it raw; so I had a taste, but it wasn't delectable enough for me to take the risk of eating the whole thing. After that I learned to check that the banana leaf was darkened by steaming or grilling.) I wish all breakfasts could involve unwrapping a mystery.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Why were the 1860s the most boring time in history to take a long voyage from England?

"Prior to the 1850s, it was common for ships sailing to India and Australia to stop en route for water and provisions, and many passengers were thankful for the break at Cape Town. In the 1870s, with the advent of the steamship and the opening of the Suez Canal, the journey not only became shorter, it had to be interrupted for frequent coaling stops. But for most of those traveling during the third quarter of the nineteenth century—and only a minority traveled on the celebrated clipper ships—the voyage was made nonstop and out of view of land for almost the entire distance. For those going all the way to Australia, the average journey took one hundred days.

"Additionally, whereas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many voyagers had been thrilled to make natural and scientific observations, by the mid-nineteenth century, most of what there was to identify had been identified – and how much more was there to say about the albatross? In short, by the third quarter of the nineteenth century, oceanic travel had become much more monotonous: it was less dangerous, the route was well known, there were few if any stops, land was rarely in sight, and there was little novelty in seeing birds and fish that had been seen and described before. This routinization of travel parallels the bureaucratization of work."

from "Imperial Boredom" by Jeffrey Auerbach