Year of the golden porker
LET a hundred flowers bloom. The Chinese have said goodbye to the Year of the Dog and welcomed in the Year of the Pig. Oink! The Golden Pig to be exact, something that happens only once every 60 years. Apparently, in the Year of the Pig everyone has a chance of getting rich and the Chinese expect record growth levels. This means that even more people will move into the already overcrowded Chinese cities to work for Goldman Sachs.
If you think rush hour in Granada, Spain is hectic; you ought to try Beijing. Car drivers have been lost in the traffic for weeks. Five ring roads have already been built around Beijing to handle the traffic and they are currently building five more. Ken Livingstone is expected to be transferred from London to organize the inner city congestion charges and the Chinese expect to raise enough from these charges to buy back Taiwan.
About half a billion people are learning to drive in China at the moment and most bicycle manufacturers have re-geared their factories to make Nike shoes. Second hand bikes are currently worth about the price of a bowl of noodles. A major headache will be to find parking places for the thousands of new cars that are sold every week. People who live in Beijing already have to park as far away as Mongolia.
If you go to Beijing or another Chinese city for a holiday I would suggest that you take breathing equipment with you. The pollution level is so high in urban areas that oxygen is on sale in all McDonalds’ outlets. The consistency of the air, on a good day, is like that of a Saharan sand storm. Blended with coal dust.
The Year of the Pig promises to bring wealth to lots more people in China. The country has already changed from a basic agrarian society to a modern industrial society in a few years and traditional customs are disappearing. I heard some Chinese restaurants are already outsourcing their take-aways to India. There is talk that the one-child per family policy will also be outsourced to Delhi.
A new study claims that global warming is caused primarily by cigarette smokers. I believe this, as the carbon emissions at my local bar are at record levels. We have seen our glacier reduced by 60 per cent and all the polar bears have moved to Churchill, Alaska. Warnings on cigarette packets have not helped and seem to actually encourage puffers to smoke more. Things like: “Only half-wits smoke tobacco” and “You are being screwed by tobacco companies” do not seem to have any effect. Attempts to get smokers to plant a tree for every pack of cigarettes they consume has not worked either.
A most interesting suggestion to curtail the use of tobacco is to force manufacturers to include one highly poisonous cigarette in every 10,000packed. If you happen to light up one of these fags you will die within 12 seconds. It might not reduce tobacco consumption that much but it will stop many casual smokers from bumming a fag from you.
Green is the colour of my true love’s bomb
I sometimes think the world has been taken over by alien imbeciles. Surely, the most important political issue of our times is how to get people who disagree fundamentally about how life should be lived, not to blow each other up? Yet our focus seems to be on producing the most efficient weapons to actually achieve this aim. It is hard to believe men and women, most of them highly educated, go to work every day to design and build weapons systems to blow apart other men and women. When they go home and their spouse asks them how their day at the office was, they say things like: “Wow, I had a great day. I managed to design a cluster bomb that will kill more civilians per dollar than anything else on the market.”
BAE Weapons Systems, one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, has announced it is designing a new generation of “green” munitions, including “lead-free” bullets and rockets with reduced toxins. I kid you not. The initiative is being backed by the UK Ministry of Defence, which has proposed “quieter warheads to reduce noise pollution and grenades that produce less smoke.” BAE, on its website says they want to ensure their weapons are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than the competition. Their product range now includes: bullets with lower lead content as “lead used in ammunition can harm the environment and pose a risk to people;” armoured vehicles with lower carbon emissions; weaponry with fewer toxins; and “safer” artillery with a longer shelf-life. They also report they are experimenting with turning waste explosives into compost. Bombs into bullshit.
Monks and other fish
ASDA has banned the sale of monkfish from its supermarkets following pressure from environmental campaigners. This is because the monkfish (Lophius piscatorius) is getting as hard to find as an honest spin-doctor. The monkfish, known as rape in Spain, is a very popular item on menus throughout the world. However, the species has been heavily over-fished and is in grave danger of disappearing from the screens of our fish finders. Like the swordfish (pez espada), the grouper (mero) and most of the tuna family (atun), monkfish has been hounded to the point of extinction by rapacious fishermen. This is to satisfy the demand of celebrity chefs who decided a few years ago that monkfish was the new black.
Rape has a large ugly head (reminiscent of Gordon Brown), attached to a wonderfully succulent tail. The tail is more popular in Iberia than Penelope Cruz. Rape is/was found mainly in Northern European waters but quite a few got into the Mediterranean to meet their end. The fish is also called angler-fish, aptly named because it really does angle. It digs a hole on the sea-bed, settles into this depression in the sand and lets the particles that it disturbs cover its grey body until it is almost invisible. It then agitates an appendage with a small “flag” at the end (which is, in fact, its extended first dorsal fin), like an angler’s rod and lure, and when unsuspecting fish and crustaceans come to investigate the movement, they are swallowed up like smaller companies in a take-over bid.
Oppian of Corycus, in a poem on fishing dedicated to Marcus Aurelius, wrote of the large-mouthed fish: “He knows no saiety of food, nor any measure, but in his shameless belly he nurses gluttony, rabid and endless, nor would he cease from feeding if the food were at hand, till his belly burst utterly.” This sounds like a description of Michael Winner but Oppian is in fact referring to the monkfish, which also holds passports in the names of goosefish, belly-fish, all-mouth, toadfish, lamp-fish and day-sleeper.
The monkfish is of the order Lophiiformes, containing the family Lophiidae, and if you want to address him formally, Lophius is what you would call him. In the United States he also goes under the scientific name of Squatina squatina, which is perfectly descriptive. The fish is called rap in Catalan and by this name you often see it on menus. As good as they are to eat, we, like Asda, should not buy any more monkfish, or order them in restaurants.