The Saturday Miscellany: How to read the shipping forecast; cupcake neoliberalism; Tash Aw's bookshelf


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The Independent Culture

How to: Read the shipping forecast

Whether you're deep-sea fishing or suffering from insomnia, the shipping forecast can be a lifesaver. Helen Chivers, Met Office Forecaster, offers up these three steps to decode reports from Dogger et al:

"The shipping areas were named after islands, rivers or banks within them."

"It always begins with 'And now the Shipping Forecast...' and then the gale warnings. This is followed by the General Synopsis, giving the position, pressure and track of pressure areas. Finally, there are the 31 area forecasts."

Know your lingo. "A backing wind turns anti-clockwise so, for example, west to east, while a veering wind turns clockwise, for example, east to west. The only genuinely rarely heard term is probably 'icing'."

Rotating column: Cupcake neoliberalism

By Lucy Robinson

There's a cupcake concession in Topshop, Oxford Street. Since when was a cupcake an accessory? What is it meant to say about customers' style that they can indulge themselves in what is the most neoliberal form of baking? The cupcake is over-sized – to make our hands feel small and feminine – piled high with hallucinogenic amounts of super-sweet dyed icing – to incite childish levels of sugar rush.

The cupcake is an individual treat for an individualised society. What's more, it's infantilised, and presented in nostalgic candy counter-style that comes with low aspirations. I understand why the cupcake seems like a treat. But we shouldn't settle for the fluff and sparkles. I want the whole cake – a big, grown-up woman's cake, that I can share without marketised guilt and without retro irony.

Micro extract: McAmorphous

"As the McDonald's empire has expanded to 119 countries worldwide, they've had to accept that, globally, one size doesn't fit all. Food is a culturally sensitive product, American cultural imperialism notwithstanding."

From: 'The org: how the office really works' by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan (£14.99, John Murray)

Four play: Inaugural Hollywood walk-of-famers*

1. Hank Williams

2. Desi Arnaz

3. Fritz Lang

4. Angela Lansbury

*installed this day, 1960

Instant ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. I fancy my driving instructor, would it be inappropriate to make a pass?

A. Since the invention of the wheel, pervy driving instructors have been terrorising their students with inappropriate passes. Now, finally, you've come along to redress the balance. Go for it. Just remember to check your mirrors first.