... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

511: Can't Read, Can Use Chopsticks

It was pay day on Friday so I treated my female companion and I to Yo! Sushi (get a soft-shell crab hand-roll, it's delicious), then I treated myself to the new Nick Cohen book You Can't Read This Book. If you're reading this Nick, I'd like to say two things to you: firstly, I can read it and, indeed, am reading it. How dare you make such an assumption about my literacy. Secondly, I love you Nick; every word you write speaks the truth to me; I hate you Nick, you show me how poorly I write and how dopily I think, how lazy I am in my own thinking and writing, you embarrass me in unwillingly prompting me to gush like a newly pubescent sufferer of Beatlemania. I, you know, like, don't really love you.. I was only joking, it was a joke, pff godddd, but you know, I do, sort of, admire you, I guess.

I could discuss the content of the book, You Can't Read This, which is about censorship, particularly in the 21st century, and how the liberal Western world has become permeated with an incipient form of self-censorship designed to appease religious fundamentalists and fanatics, and is driven by fear of violent reprisal. It condemns the idea that it is bigoted to oppose Islamists (Islamic fascists using fatwa and murder to silence free speech); it condemns the liberal politicians, journalists and intellectuals who abandon their principals in favour of double-think when the rights they hold dear are challenged by the enemies of liberalism; the abandonment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali as she fought for the rights of immigrant Muslim women in Holland to live free from violence and intimidation, over the rights of immigrant Muslim men in Holland to live free to inflict violence and intimidation on their women; it condemns the idea that all cultures should be equally respected no matter how totalitarian and illiberal they are; it condemns the idea that free speech should be curtailed to spare the blushes of the pious; it condemns the idea that the illustrator of a comic or the author of a book is to blame for the violence carried out by people claiming to be offended by comics or books.

I could talk about these issues, but Nick Cohen can and does do it better than I do. As do Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc. I on the other hand would like to quote Grayson Perry, then proceed with an unrelated, inoffensive and trivial story about Yo! Sushi:

"The reason I have not gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel the real fear that someone will slit my throat," said Grayson Perry with candour rare when discussing the lack of mainstream criticism of Islamo-fascism.

So, I was in Yo! Sushi, yeah? It's a popular chain of restaurants serving Japanese food. The diners sit on bar stools along a bar circling the open-plan kitchen, while the food travels around a conveyor belt on tiny plates, colour-coded for different prices. You just lift what you want off the belt, and/or order from the menu. It's good; over-priced, but fun. Sat to my right were another couple of a similar age to us. The woman was really struggling with her chopsticks, he was managing but clumsily, and I am highly proficient having lived in Japan for eight months (Go! Me).

She said to him, "I'm not very good with chopsticks; what's the right way to hold them?" His reply both amused and annoyed me: "There is no right way; you just hold them however you like." This was so stupid and wrong that I did what anyone else would do: I started showing off, picking up very large items of food like the hairy prawns, or tiny items like single grains of rice; putting down and picking up my chopsticks without looking and in a single swift fluid motion, so they just fell into my hands perfectly placed. It was subtle: I didn't want to look like I was conspicuously showing off, but if she looked over I wanted her to see that there clearly was a right way to do it, and neither her nor her partner were doing it right. He held them as though he had just jabbed them through his clenched fist. His chop sticks had no room to open and close, no pincer movement; dear god, I was embarrassed for him.

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