DAY 24 – Call me Ishmael

January 27th, 2013 § 0 comments

Ethics, humans and fish; prompted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s revelation on a brief TV interview that he’d studied philosophy at Oxford; and that this had influenced his view on responsible sourcing.

Jonah and the whale (still reading!)

Really, Hugh? Was it from Aristotle, Kant – or even Levinas, today’s postmodern ethics man, that you learned to treat moules as ends rather than means? I’ve read you on how to deal with live scallops (Guardian, a week ago: ‘Using a flexible, long-bladed knife, cut between the muscle of each scallop and the inside of the flat half of the shell, so releasing the meat and causing the shell to open’); there seems to be a hierarchy of rights operating here. Naw, brother, if you want the true word on the rights of fishes, go to the Good Book. As Jesus said when hassled by the Galilean semioticians, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah’ (Matthew 12.39, if you want to know.) Jonah refused the Lord’s order to preach to the Ninevites; as goyim, he thought they didn’t deserve to be saved. So the Lord reversed his place in the food chain, serving him up as responsibly sourced fish food. Once safely out of the fish, Jonah had learned to treat both it and the Ninevites, some sort of Iraqis, one supposes, with respect. A warning to the carefree celebrity chef? ‘I will make you fishers of men’ said Jesus, further confusing the question of species boundaries.

Which are marked – more in the domain of unknown and useless facts – by a ‘species barcode’. It seems that, since Watson and Crick, and Wilkins, and Franklin and all, reduced the infinite variability of Nature to an ‘alphabet’ of four letters, (digitizing what we had all thought was an analog world, right?), there has been a further search for the bit of the gigantic DNA ‘sentence’ which tells us which species we’re in. And I gather from Wikipedia, since I can’t be bothered to seek further, that a mere 658-base-pair region in the double helix called the (COI) gene was proposed as a potential ‘barcode’. So next time you find an unknown weed in your garden, or varmint on your back porch (there seems to be some evidence that my missing copy of To Kill a Mockingbird has indeed turned up, from the folksy southern speech), jist run its COI gene through your scanner. You can tell the fish from the folk.

Casting our nets wider, informationwise, I should have known better than to ask (last post) questions to which the US  Army knows the answer; since the danger is, they may tell you. If, like me, you want to know the file formats appropriate for any old kind of biometric data – fingerprints, iris scans, DNA, you name it. Take a peek, if you have time, at the American National Standard: ‘Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information’, 440 pages of rules on how you should arrange your files. From this you can work out the answer to my question on how many Kb there are in a fingerprint, if you want; I’m off to see if there are any snowdrops coming up.

But I did learn, as you probably guessed, that a scan isn’t a round picture of your eye; it’s something called an ‘iriscode’, a collection of pixels in a rectangle. And – of which more some other time, maybe – that this leaves plenty of room for errors, hacks, and general skulduggery.

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 23.15.09



Meanwhile, it seems that a young man claiming to be a prince has been in Afghanistan flying an Apache gunship and shooting a number of brown people who he claimed were Taliban leaders.

Given the number of frogs around who masquerade as princes, and the dreadful record of Apache helicopters in friendly fire and shooting unarmed civilians, we’re cautious abut this news item until we can verify its accuracy.


My mother’s kitchen – Choman Hardi, Kurdish woman poet and exile

I will inherit my mother’s kitchen,
her glasses, some tall and lean others short and fat
her plates, an ugly collection from various sets,
cups bought in a rush on different occasions
rusty pots she doesn’t throw away.
“Don’t buy anything just yet”, she says,
“soon all of this will be yours”.

My mother is planning another escape
for the first time home is her destination,
the rebuilt house which she will furnish.
At 69 she is excited about starting from a scratch.
It is her ninth time.

She never talks about her lost furniture
when she kept leaving her homes behind.
She never feels regret for things
only her vine in the front garden
which spread over the trellis on the porch.
She used to sing for the grapes to ripen,
sew cotton bags to protect them from the bees.
I will never inherit my mother’s trees.

I illustrated post number 2 with a picture of Cecil Taylor, and ever since then I’ve been feeling I owe you some of the maestro’s music. Here he is playing at Perugia in 2009 (on 3 hours’ sleep allegedly). As one comment says – what’s on the piece of paper, which he never turns?


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