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December 22, 2005 by AK

Breathe, dear, while you can

Among the books I read as a child of school age, there was a certain one by a Soviet author titled In Template’s Country (V strane Trafareta). It was intended as an allegory of a capitalist country’s miserable existence (otherwise, why would it have been allowed?) but came out as an allegory of the Soviet Union’s uniformity and dullardy. What else can you expect of a book that depicts a land governed by a ruler called Template (or Stencil, Pattern, Mold, etc.: Trafaret) who insists that all buildings in his fief are built to standard design templates? (Of course Soviet apartment buildings were copies of Western, Corbusierian concrete hives for the poor, but these Western prototypes came to define and dominate Russian, rather than European cities.)

Template employed three chief inspectors, two of whom, I still remember, were called Wordcatcher (Slovolov) and Breathmeasurer (Dykhomer). The first was a censor mostly while the second was to make sure people did not breathe too deeply. (The symbolical significance of this might be that breathing deep is associated with freedom.) Breathmeasurer ended up being disloyal… But Alok Jha, The Guardian’s science correspondent, seems to be suggesting that Breathmeasurer move to Britain, for

Festive Britons will release almost 2m tonnes of extra carbon dioxide over the Christmas holidays, according to a new survey.

It’s not just their oxygen-wasting lungs that are to blame:

Scientists at the Institute of Physics calculated the extra energy used in roasting the perfect turkey, driving to see the relatives, watching television and opening the door to carol singers to work out the potential impact of a merry Christmas on climate change.

But as it seems terribly hard to prevent people from seeing their relatives and opening doors to carollers, the right remedy is to equip them with breath-measuring devices. Those will be easy to bundle with ID cards.

(Via The Daily Ablution by way of February 30.)


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