Objects and Subjects

Ten helpings of fruit and vegetables. 

Grandma always encouraged us to eat our greens. When professional nutritionists got in on the act they decided that we should consume five helpings of fruit and vegetables each day in order to achieve optimum health. But they did not stop there. The latest recommendation is to take ten helpings per day. "Five portions of fruit and veg a day is good for you, but ten is much better and could prevent up to 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year, say scientists.” My thoughts are that if five portions are good and ten portions are better, how about fifteen or even twenty? There seems to be something inherently impractical about all this.

Trigger warnings at the theatre.

 Trigger warnings are now all the rage. Students at University demand and receive trigger warnings attached to set texts. They prevent unwary students, who might have been the victim of violence, accident or sexual assault, for example, stumbling upon an account which provokes flashbacks. Pretty well every single student, who attends university, will have Internet access and will spend a good part of everyday googling every single thing they come across in order to gain information about it. Would it not be reasonable to expect the same students to do a little research into the texts that they are presented with, for a given course, to ensure that they do not run across  their own personal minefield? Or does this ask too much of them? The Royal Court Theatre in London has taken to posting trigger warnings on its   publicity material and programmes to prevent some hapless punter from spending ninety quid for a ticket that is going to give him the heebie-jeebies. Already such warnings have been attached to the Great Gatsby, the Merchant of Venice and Mrs Dalloway because these works are deemed to deal with misogyny, anti-Semitism and suicide . ’Sensitivity readers’ are now available in the United States, who for a fee, will pour through books and plays in search of sensitive ideas or materials so the publishers can affix triggers to the covers of their books. It cannot be long before a pantomime production of Puss in Boots will deemed to be anthropomorphic and therefore unacceptable.

Viscose rayon

 Rayon or artificial silk was first manufactured at the very end of the 1890s. It was made by treating wood chips with carbon bisulphide in order to extract the cellulose from them that could then be spun into a fibre. It was, therefore, the first artificial fabric. It continues to be made in much the same fashion, only the raw material is now mainly bamboo and hence considered to be very green. Rayon is now made almost exclusively in Bangladesh and Thailand. It has been known for a very long time that exposure to carbon bisulphide is very toxic and causes brain damage. DuPont and Courtauld's, the principal early manufacturers of rayon, were well aware that many of their workers became delirious after their shifts. Suicide was not uncommon. Factory owners in Bangladesh and Thailand, involved in the industry, thoughtfully provide iron grilles over the windows of the upper stories of their premises in order to prevent their workers jumping to their deaths. Perhaps then, when we purchase a T-shirt made of rayon derived from bamboo for a few bucks we should consider the employees, who made it, while earning at most a few cents a day and having their brains rotted as a bonus.

Latest piece: Health Care Costs

David Amies,


March15 2017