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Tag: Swiss

Chabuduo in China!

Monday, 23 January, 2017 0 Comments

The plight of the elites last week was summed up in this headline: “Distraught Davos finds globalisation saviour in China’s Xi.” The cause of the relief was the fact that Xi Jinping had become the first Chinese leader to address the World Economic Forum in the swish Swiss resort. His endorsement of globalization saw him instantly crowned as a kind of anti-Trump, but those bestowing the title made no mention chabuduo.

James Palmer is a British writer and the author of The Death of Mao: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Birth of the New China. He lives in Beijing and he’s very knowledgeable in that which Western boosters of China do not wish to discuss: chabuduo. The word means “close enough” and, says Palmer, “It’s a phrase you’ll hear with grating regularity, one that speaks to a job 70 per cent done, a plan sketched out but never completed, a gauge unchecked or a socket put in the wrong size. Chabuduo is the corrosive opposite of the impulse towards craftmanship, the desire, as the sociologist Richard Sennett writes in The Craftsman (2008), “to reject muddling through, to reject the job just good enough”. Chabuduo implies that to put any more time or effort into a piece of work would be the act of a fool. China is the land of the cut corner, of “good enough for government work.”

In his article for Aeon magazine, “Chabuduo! Close enough …,” James Palmer offers many terrifying examples of how chabuduo affects those unable to enjoy Davos:

“Mr Cha Buduo doesn’t understand why he misses trains by arriving at 8:32 instead of 8:30, or why his boss gets angry when he writes 1,000 instead of 10, or why Iceland is different from Ireland. He falls ill and sends for Dr Wãng, but ends up getting Mr Wáng, the veterinarian, by mistake. Yet as he slips away, he is consoled by the thought that life and death, after all, are close enough.”

As Davos Man confronted the Trumpocalypse over canapés, chabuduo was not on the menu. It’s a fact of life, and death, for Xi Jinping’s subjects, however.


Breakfast of Champions (calf version)

Monday, 4 May, 2015 0 Comments

While hiking in the Swiss Alps during the latter part of the 19th century, Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner stayed with a family who ate a simple breakfast food called “d’Spys” (Swiss German for “the dish”, in German die Speise). Inspired by the meal, he developed his own variant based on oats, dried fruits, seeds and nuts, mixed with milk or yogurt. Thus was born muesli and it became an essential part of the morning routine for patients in the Bircher-Benner clinic in Zürich, where a diet rich in fruit and vegetables was a core part of the good doctor’s nutritional therapy.

Language note: The word Müesli is an Alemannic form of Mues which means “mash-up.”

Agrarian note: Now that calves are very valuable, they need pampering and their very own calf muesli contains barley, maize, soya, peas, beans and molasses.

Calf muesli


The QR code piano man

Thursday, 18 December, 2014 0 Comments

Last Wednesday, the Swiss composer and performer Julian Layn tweeted, “I’m off on my end-of-year-tour starting today in #genova | tmw thursday #milano | friday #padova | saturday #munich | sunday #vienna.” It was a pleasure to see him perform in public on his QR-coded piano. The music is creative, classical and complex, which is inevitable given that Layn holdds a PhD in theoretical physics.

Julian Layn


Very late in the evening in Bern

Wednesday, 23 April, 2014 0 Comments

In Bern, the capital of Switzerland, the official language is the Swiss variation of Standard German, but the lingua franca is a dialect called Berndeutsch (Bernese German), and it’s tricky. Here, for example, is a Standard German sentence: “Als ich hereinkam, hatten sie bereits gegessen.” (English: “By the time I came in, they had already eaten.”) And here’s the Berndeutsch version: “Won i bi inecho, hei si scho ggässe gha.” Q.E.D.

If you’re interested, My Bärndütschi Syte offers a comprehensive introduction to the dialect, and includes a very useful dictionary and a grammar.


Heading for the border, running for the bank exits

Wednesday, 16 May, 2012

“Greek depositors withdrew €700 million ($898 million) from local banks Monday, the country’s president said, as he warned that the situation facing Greece’s lenders was very difficult.” The Wall Street Journal This is a classic Catch-22 situation as Greek depositors will increasingly want to avoid their valuable euros being turned into worthless drachmas, but a […]

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