Saturday, July 12


the trouble with all these academic books I've been speeding through this summer is that so much moreso than non-academic books, they're always incorporating ideas from other interesting-sounding books. so many references and engaging paraphrasings. not all of them are of the sort that draw me in and make me want to read even more academic prose, but some of them are.

sometimes the titles alone are intriguing enough. like The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu. or some Edmund Burke: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. or these strange fictional pieces, He, She and It or The Female Man, both referenced/recommended by Donna Haraway.

another fiction (science-fiction) showed in up my most recent academic read to be paired with Huxley's Brave New World: Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. the contrast of the two makes me curious.

and then there is this one: The Compact Culture: The Japanese Tradition of "Smaller Is Better." Andrew Feenberg, in Between Reason and Experience, cites this book in connection with a postmodern-ish view of technology. he wonders in unison with its author whether we have Japan to credit with the advent and growing ubiquity of tiny little gadgets running microcomputers, and whether this path of development would or wouldn't have ever happened without the grand, tradition of small Japanese things. I was talking on the train yesterday with a lovely stranger named Megan and probably blabbered too too much about all these books I've been thinking about. when Smaller is Better came up we wondered jointly what sort of argument its author would need to make to convince anyone that a propensity for smallness was caused by whatever he imagined it was caused by. geography? physiognomy? genetics? I want to read the book, just to find out.

speaking of Japan and smallness and culture: sushi.
Miniature Food - Sushi
{ photo borrowed from the very kind St├ęphanie Kilgast on flickr. }

one evening the other week, friend Chris and I were wandering hungrily around Manchester and I was craving sushi. (parts of me are always, in fact, craving sushi.)

the particular island nation I'm currently hanging around in is not hugely known for its sushi, that I know of. but it is known for pasties and pies. and whenever I am in the UK I do my best to enjoy as many pasties as I possibly can. they are glorious.

and so on this hungry evening, two deeply rooted cravings confronted one another. I can't remember if it was me or Chris who suggested we get our hands on both.

I thought about what an interesting combination that would be--a tray of pretty sushi laid next to a few golden-crusted pasties with grease paper around them. but why not? after all, the concepts behind both are so similar. you can put almost anything at all in a lovely pastry crust and call it a pasty. and just about anything wrapped in rice and nori counts as sushi, doesn't it?

you might argue that seaweed paper and buttery pastry crust are not at all anything like close to analogous. but why not?

we discussed this a little bit. pasties come in many regional varieties. I've learned that in Scotland they're bridies. there's a whole list of alternatives and related food items on wikipedia. you might even expand that list to include things like burritos or tamales or dumplings or eggrolls or wontons. they all fit the pattern: savory something contained in a bread-like skin.

but does sushi truly fit? now that I've thought about it more, I'm not so sure. sushi involves savory bits wrapped in a perfectly decent grain... but it's not quite bread-like, is it? plenty of other differences pop up, too. the whole thing isn't cooked. it doesn't stay all wrapped up and self-contained, exactly--you have to slice sushi first. and it generally isn't the thing to eat sushi with your fingers, though I suppose there aren't really rules against it.

so what do you think? does sushi belong in this category? does it matter?

in the end we despaired of finding good enough sushi, so we raided Tesco for grapes and crisps and pita bread. the excellent photo of pasties + sushi on the same picnic platter has not yet come to be. I still think it should though. one of these afternoons...

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