The War on Asparagus

May 10, 2008

Reading The Sun’s Bizarre column, as I am wont to do, I came across a piece about celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. In the article, Mr Ramsay, whose name cannot be mentioned in a tabloid without the adjective foul-mouthed being inserted, called for restaurants to be banned from selling out-of season fruit and veg. He then went on to rail against eating asparagus in December or Kenyan strawberries in March. The law should, according to Mr Ramsay come down like a ton of bricks on establishments which engage in such practices. Yes Mr Ramsay, what we need now is a War on Asparagus to combat this evil. Perhaps I should send Ramsay my shopping lists for his personal approval.

Ramsay also talks about having everything locally sourced which gives me an opportunity to talk about the Buy Local movement. Needless to say I am extremely sceptical about this movement as I think trade is a positive international force for creating wealth and actually making the world a better place. Historian Will Durant when talking about Ancient Greece summed it up eloquently:

   The crossroads of trade are the meeting place of ideas, the attrition ground of rival customs and beliefs; diversities beget conflict, comparison, thought; superstitions cancel one another, and reason begins.

            It seems incredible to me that so many self-proclaimed progressives support Buy Local campaigns and it is all the rage to be a locavore.  I have no problem with buying local but for me there is no inherent virtue in buying local. If a product can be made cheaper and/or better somewhere else, I think we all benefit from the deal. The whole question of food miles has become an article of faith for the green movement but is applied in a very simplistic way. Transport represents only one component of the total environmental impact of food production and consumption. One study published in 2003 showed that tomatoes grown in Spain and transported to the United Kingdom may have a lower carbon footprint in terms of energy efficiency than tomatoes grown in the United Kingdom, because of the energy needed to heat greenhouses in the UK. A more recent report in the journal Environmental Science and Technology  says that the distance that food travels is only around 11 percent of the average American household’s food-related greenhouse gas emissions. But this is about environmentalism as a kind of religious movement. Questions such as food miles, recycling, air travel become moral imperatives; we need a cooler perspective to deal with the problems that exist. I agree with Stefan Lomborg:

   When we fear for our environment, we seem easily to fall victim to short-term, feel-good solutions that spend money on relatively trifling issues and thus hold back resources from far more important ones. This does not mean that rational environmental management and environmental investment is not often a good idea – only that we should compare the costs and benefits of such investments to similar investments in all the other important areas of human endeavour.

And what about the effect on Kenyan farmers? They are denied the possibility of earning a living. We don’t need fair trade – we need  more free trade. That, alas, is a political utopia.


Further reading and listening



The Sun Gord: Ban out of season veg.


The Observer: How the myth of food miles hurts the planet


EconTalk: Boudreaux on the Economics of “Buy Local” (podcast)

25 Movie Clichés

May 10, 2008

1.       All members of alien species wear the same outfits, including clothing, hairstyles, and jewellery. This makes them readily identifiable. This may, in fact, be a consequence of the fact that aliens all have single, monolithic cultures: one language, one religion, one outfit, per planet.

2.       A cup of black coffee/splash of cold water in face is enough to render the most inebriated person stone cold sober in a split second.

3.       People never cough, sneeze, blow their noses, or show any other symptoms of being in less than perfect health. Only exception to the above is when they’re dying. A cough is a symptom of terminal illness. Menstruation is an unknown phenomenon in movies. Female movie characters are all immune from it.

4.       There are always people carrying around large sheets of glass on the street during a car chase. Chases will always stop to throw obstacles (trash cans, lumber, chairs) in their pursuers’ way. No matter that they take three times as long to dump the obstacles as it takes the chasers to simply jump over them.

5.       In situations like the Vietnam War, and violent inner city neighbourhoods, the person with the most plans, prospects, and hopes will die.

6.       A dying person’s last words will always be coherent and significant. When your sidekick, lover, or similar acquaintance is on the verge of dying, don’t call an ambulance; instead hold her warmly and whisper words of comfort, or kiss her passionately. Theoretically she may not be much into it under the circumstances, but hey, it may be your last chance! Then, when she relaxes or slumps over visibly, you can say your tearful good-bye to her, because this means she is dead.

7.       All movie mothers will prepare a breakfast, usually consisting of scrambled eggs, bacon, etc. Dad and the kids will invariably arrive at the table 30 seconds before Dad has to leave for the office and the kids have to catch the school bus. Each will have time only for a sip of coffee/juice and/or one bite of toast. There must be enough food left over in these homes to feed an emerging nation!

8.       The hero’s best friend/partner will usually be killed by the bad guys three days before retirement. The hero’s new wife will be mowed down by 80 machine guns right after the wedding or during the honeymoon.

9.       Eight to ten-year-old kids are the best computer hackers on earth and can break into any system.

10.   Any lock can be picked with a credit card or a paper clip.

11.   Medieval peasants always have filthy faces, tangled hair, ragged clothing – and perfect, gleaming white teeth.

12.   Minorities such as Native Americans or Asians will always have some sort of mystical knowledge or innate fighting skill. For example, the Native American always knows the course of events to come from some sign in nature, and Asians are all born with Martial Arts skills they can use to battle the bad guys.

13.   Police Captains/lieutenants are always angry at their star detective and yell at him, threatening suspension if he doesn’t drop the case. Corollary: it is only after the detective has been suspended that he can properly crack the case.

14.   Most homicide detectives are brooding, near-crazed loners, most likely divorced or widowed, borderline alcoholics. Of course, there are more respectable-looking detectives, but they are inept and not nearly as tough as their mentally troubled colleagues.

15.   Whenever a woman announces to her husband/boyfriend that she’s pregnant, it comes as a complete surprise to him, whether pleasantly or otherwise.

16.   Most babies are born clean, with perfectly shaped heads and dry hair. All movie babies are born huge, usually the size of the average two month old.

17.   In jail, there must be a brutal guard and an evil scheming warden.

18.   All women moan during sex, but none sweat.

19.   The walls of a teenager’s bedroom or a twentyish adult’s apartment are always highly decorated, beyond anything sane, with every available inch of space covered with something cool.

20.   The bad guy is the foreigner. Corollary: the foreigner is the guy who speaks English with an English accent

21.   No matter how dead you think you’ve killed a bad guy, he can still get up at least 3 more times. Therefore, always make sure to leave his gun in or near his hand after you’ve killed him and you turn away to comfort the girl.

22.   The bad guy, instead of simply offing the captured good guy on the spot, will devise some sort of drawn-out, fiendishly clever method of execution that will take enough time to allow the good guy to figure out his escape.

23.   You can always tell which nationality the United States and the popular media are currently most unhappy with because that nation sends all their villains to star in Hollywood movies during those times (e.g. Germans in the late 40’s and 50’s, Asians in the 60’s and 70’s, Soviets in the 70’s and 80’s and Middle Easterners in the 90’s).

24.   Every army platoon has at least one, usually black, member who can play the harmonica.

25.   Two total strangers, upon falling into bed together, will always reach an incredibly intense, mutual, and simultaneous orgasm on the first try.



My Favourite Links #5

May 10, 2008

World Wide Words is a website run by the linguist Michael Quinlon. He discusses new terms, displays weird words, gets behind expressions in the news, helps you with tricky points, and answers questions. Quinlon collaborates with the Oxford English Dictionary. He is the author of dictionary of affixes, Ologies and Isms, Port Out, Starboard Home: And Other Language Myths and most recently Gallimaufry about words that are vanishing from the language.


Here are a few selections:


How many in the language and how many does any one person know?


English legal language is changing




Extraordinary rendition


The website is:

My Media Week 11/05/08

May 10, 2008

If there is a God, he’s not green. Otherwise airships would take off.

I didn’t know whether to include this in the humour section. Mr Monbiot now suggests we look into airships as a viable alternative to the airplane. New York in 43 hours! I’m just imagining a certain IH teacher  going back to New Zealand for his Christmas break.


Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke (Podcast). 

Baker has written a controversial and for me totally wrong-headed book, which recommends surrendering to Hitler as a rational policy option.


Philosophy in the Streets (Podcast)

In this programme Nick Fraser analyses the intellectual revolution that began in Paris in 1968. He sees it not as a political failure but as an intellectual triumph.


David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’

David Mamet the  American author essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director famous for Glengarry Glen Ross and Wag the Dog, is another one of those who have become disillusioned with the left. I find the way Americans use the word liberal as someone who believes in government intervention a bit exasperating.,why-i-am-no-longer-a-brain-dead-liberal,374064,1.html/full


Take a tip from ever changing cultures

Julian Baggini takes a lot at how different cultures interact.


Pope returns to Vatican with comprehensive plan to blow up United States

The Onion has a spoof on American anti-terrorist paranoia.


Sport is like sex … only better. 

I included this because I’m beginning to feel the same about blogging.