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2003-05-09 20:07

Scoop: Parents to bring up baby!

Those crazy Scandewegians!

Prinsessan Märtha Louise och Ari Behn har bestämt sig för att inte ta hjälp av någon barnflicka för att ta hand om nyfödda dottern Maud Angelica.

[Prinsessan Märtha Louise and Ari Behn have decided themselves for to not take help of some nursemaid for to take hand of the newborn daughter Maud Angelia.]

Whatever it is they've got, I hope the lovely prinsess Whichever von T&T doesn't catch it - my plans for the future certainly don't include night time feeding or changing nappies.

(That's not the Googlefish, BTW, it's me reproducing the Swedish syntax to illustrate exactly how different it isn't.)

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2003-05-09 13:45 (UTC+1)

Can we have Luc Ferry instead, please?

From the Guardian:

In his comments reported today, the education secretary, Charles Clarke, has wilfully desecrated that entire tradition. Coming hard on the heels of his assertion that he was happy for the study of classics to whither on the vine, Mr Clarke told an audience at University College, Worcester that he believed the state should only pay for higher education that had "clear usefulness". Warming to his theme, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, he said: "I don't mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them."

Personally, I don't mind half-witted Philistines being around for entertainment purposes, but I see no reason for the state to pay for them, and even less reason to make them education secretaries.

In another story a spokesdroid attempts some spin:

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "The secretary of state was basically getting at the fact that universities exist to enable the British economy and society to deal with the challenges posed by the increasingly rapid process of global change."

Bad, wicked universities to be indulging in shameless and profligate acts of profitless scholarship! Why can't you just shut up and make nice sausages like nice sausage factories?

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2003-05-09 10:32 (UTC+1)

Of course, in my universe 128 is a round number

One of my favourite (and certainly one of the Frenchest) things about the «Que sais-je?» series is that they're always 128 pages. Realising this, Nathan Université's 128 series is not only named for the Sacred Number, but uses it as its logo.

Also, Précis de phonétique historique in this series is said to be good - it is mainly or entirely about the transition of Latin into French, but after all what else is there?

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2003-05-08 13:05 (UTC+1)

Synergies Proactively Leveraged - While U Wait!

Finest quality verbal Teflon(R) from a cute but psychotic fuzzball?

Yup, it's Catbert's Mission Statement generator.

Mine is now:

Our goal is to globally foster long-term high-impact intellectual capital such that we may continue to authoritatively disseminate timely deliverables.

So there you are (and don't you wish you weren't?).

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2003-05-08 11:54

Proof by procrastination

I've just been handed some proofs (marked "URGENT", yet) for a paper that was submitted in revised form at the end of last April. My thesis advisor had a paper in press that he used to send birthday cards to.

Still, mathematical truth is not particularly time-dependent, and it's all good stuff. I think I'll update my Personal Mission Statement (oh come on don't be like that we've all got them, it's practically the new black) to include something about "timely dissemination" in honour of the occasion.

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2003-05-07 15:24 (UTC+1)

In which I am just a bit smug

Hello, Mr Observer, what's that you've got there? Why, an article on Yoorpean literature, and the unwillingness of British persons to read any of it, how exciting!

Since the passing of the Sixties fashion for brandishing the novels of Gauloise-chomping Rive Gauche existentialists, we have proved oddly resistant in this country to writers in translation, with only the occasional bestselling exceptions such as Jostein Gaarder and Umberto Eco.

Ze fashion, she 'ave pass? Zut alors! (And you left out Henning "Hilarity" Mankell.)

Around 3 per cent of the 100,000 or so books published in the UK each year are translated from other languages, compared to 20 per cent in Germany and up to 40 per cent in some Scandinavian countries. [...]

[Europe Minister Denis McShane] comments that: 'Britain has become very lazy intellectually, thinking that all you need is English. The project is intended to encourage people to see the vitality of European culture.'

Bad, lazy British persons! Eat up your nice foreign literature at once or you'll have it again for breakfast.

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2003-05-07 14:20 (UTC+1)

Desbladet

Desbladet wants to
be things appears to be bothered to switch conspicuously
between French accent to
read. Six leçsens, Roman Jakobson La thé
orie du changement»
the history of continuous becoming home archives guestbook
mail stuff host 09:47 Something when
I was still young enough to achieve, but the
family. The
Prinsessor von Thurn
and my personal favourite
la
perception, Maurice

[Rob's amazing poetry generator]

That's about right, I'd say.

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2003-05-07 09:47

A view from Europe

Chomsky(-ism). Sapir-Whorf. "Deconstructionism". Postmodernism.

To a quite remarkable extent, holding opinions about any of these things appears to have become detached from any consideration of the original sources (in so far as such things exist - "deconstructionism" itself is a term apparently coined by persons who are keener to refute Derrida than to read him, and is typically only found scare-quoted).

I completely fail to understand what any of this is supposed to achieve, but the technique does seem to be the dominant characteristic of contemporary American political discourse in general.

It becomes, then, an act, but perhaps - perhaps - a necessary act, of, if not resistance then at least defiance, as much as an expression of bewilderment to say that I have no theory about what this all means.

Je hausse les épaules en votre direction générale, mes folles amis americains.

["deconstructionism" link via AKMA]

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2003-05-06 13:16 (UTC+1)

Belgium, man, Belgium

While the splendiciously named Gioia Sardagna von Neuberg e Hohenstein Ferrari need have no fear of usurption from her number one position any time soon, and all available troths continue to be on active plighting duty for either or both of the Prinsessor von Thurn and Taxises, it would be foolhardy to overlook bilingual "Belgium"'s contribution to excellence in aristocratic naming.

So be upgiving of it, Varied Reader, for Astrid Pouppez de Ketteris de Hollaeken, la baronne Laetitia de Villenfagne de Vogelsanck and - my personal favourite - la comtesse Céline d'Arschot Schoonhoven.

I think one really ought to switch conspicuously between French and Flemish pronounciation with these, but not necessarily the way the orthography suggests - I think sometimes it's funnier the other way around.

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2003-05-06 11:39 (UTC+1)

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

1. Pynchon on Orwell.

2. A new interactive fun game for all the family.

The question, in short, is: what books should I take to the FDRUSA?

Clearly, they should be in French, and, shall we say, politically engaged, but they also need to be things I can actually be bothered to read. I'm currently leaning towards Barthes's Mythologies and Bourdieu's Esquisse d'une theorie de la practique because they've been hanging around on my to-be-read pile for embarrassingly long, but I could be persuaded otherwise. Is Althusser actually any good, for instance? All suggestions welcome...

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2003-05-06 10:22 (UTC+1)

[Review] La Linguistique Diachronique, Jean-Elie Boltanski

Another dinky li'l «Que sais-je» on linguistics, hoorah. Agreeably weekend-sized but appallingly typeset (the "partial derivative" and "contains" mathematical symbols do duty for schwa and open o everywhere except exactly one place each, presumably just so that we appreciate that the abuse is deliberate), the book starts out by outlining the comparative method of reconstructing proto-languages, then the internal method as deployed by Saussure in Indo-European, and this is much fun.

But this is after all a linguistics book, and that means that the bulk of it must be concerned with ideological infighting, hoorah - the chapter on the history of diachronic linguistics announces that one of its major concerns will be «l'idéologie, ou si l'on préfère, la théorie du changement» ("the ideology, or if you prefer, the theory of change", but say it in a French accent to get the full weight of the contempt in which one should properly hold any account of a theory that claims to detach it from ideology). And great fun it is, too. In particular, historical linguistics is mostly phonology, and/or morphophonology and this means that the book offers an idiosyncratic critical survey of phonology after Chomsky and Halle's The Sound Pattern of English (universally known as SPE).

If I was still young enough to want to be something when I grew up, I think I'd want to be a phonologist, so I'm just a little bit biased, but I had a great deal of fun with this book.

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