2003-05-23 14:53 (UTC+1)
With Fiona packing up her yourt and herding her many cattles
off to pastures Göteborgean with no little degree of imminence, such
copies of Point de Vue as I may acquire from now on are mine
for to keep. So it's a pity, really, that the first of the new era is
complete pants. Isn't it about time someone did the decent thing and
toppled the despotic regime in Monaco, so that I don't have to keep
reading about their hapless dynasty? 12 special pages on Rainier, the
man who made Monaco, indeed.
Anyway, I have secured a copy of th' Nouvel Obs as part of my Old
Yoorpean outfit, and I've checked that I do actually have some money
in the bank. (They refund expenses afterwards, once the receipts have
been checked by a badly-paid and aggrieved someone who never gets sent
to exotic locations on fancy trips and is reasonably anxious that you
should appreciate that fact.) So, however laughably unprepared I may
be, I am actually going. I'll blog from The Road if it has broadband
and that, but even then it may well be quieter than usual, sorry.
2003-05-23 10:25 (UTC+1)
Eurovision has snuck up on me this year, and I'm going to be spending
it quietly pa
nicking about the trippage of the
Sunday, so I'll have to deputise you, Varied Reader, to enjoy it
properly on my behalf. If you're in the UK, do hurl the requisite
abuse at the "jocular", sneering Terry Wogan.
Also, last night was the last Swedish class of the year, which has
just rushed past. I think it's gone OK: I was out of my depth at the
beginning and now I'm not - I've reverted to doing homework in the
cafeteria just beforehand. I shall be back for more next year, of
course, and by then I want to be reading Proper Books regularly. (I
scored a copy of Röde Orm from a charity shop and it looks
just the ticket, and only I get to decide what constitutes a proper
book, so there.)
Finally, as a blog of record and incisive commentary, I can hardly
leave unmentioned Expressen's scoop on a dog which has adopted some
Tiken Fiffi tittar andaktsfullt på sina nyfunna bebisar. Nio små
[The bitch Fiffi watches devotedly over her new babies. Nine small
Ducklings are arguably the cutest dinosaurs in the whole world ever,
and as a bonus you probably could eat a whole one, yum yum.
("Vill du leker med din apelsin, kära lilla andung?")
Bleurgh. I fly to Utah on Sunday and so far about the only thing
I've sorted out is which books to take.
The cricket's back,
10.35am: Ah, here we go again: the gentle pitter-patter of drizzle on
empty seat, coupled with an evil easterly and covers strewn across the
famous Lord's pitch.
Play has started now - England are on 51 for 1 as I type against the
unfancied Zimbabweans. Oh, and:
More of your odd match reports. "Denmark beat Portugal in the final a
couple of months ago, to be crowned European cricket champions," says
Richard Perkins. "As far as I'm aware there wasn't a British (of any
description) or Dutch entry, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was
and we lost to Luxemburg or some such..."
So now you know.
2003-05-22 10:22 (UTC+1)
§1. Why don't we just declare it ´i¸ek week and have done with it?
An interesting interview in
English, and a couple
of articles in Danish (down the bottom) that appear to started as
lectures delivered during a visit to th' 'Mark. (Did he really
lecture in Danish? Enquiring 'bladeteers need to know!)
§2. Princessan Madeleine's signature permatan comes under the
fearsome scrutiny of Aftonbaldet's fashion
[Trendanalytikern och framtidsforskaren Henrik Mattsson, 53] tror att
prinsessans intensiva solande hänger ihop med hennes ålder. Och jämför
solandet med rökning. Farligt, men inte skrämmande för en person på
väg in i vuxenlivet.
[Trendanalyst and future researcher Henrik Matteson, 53] believes that
the princessan's intensive tanning is connected to her age. And
compares the tanning with smoking. Dangerous, but not frightening for
a person just starting out in adulthood.
(I.e., it's just a beige she's going through.)
That's one of my old riffs from back when I used to smoke and
fastidiously shunned the sun (I still do the latter) and persons of
beigeness were keen to exhibit self-righteousness at me.
§3. Maybe it's the whale-meat, maybe it's the fjords, but Norway seems
to have made some
The Norwegian authorities are struggling to come up with a clear
reason why Norway should have been included in a threat attributed to
the al-Qaeda network broadcast on Al-Jazeera television on Wednesday.
The hope of the authorities, as expressed by one diplomat, was
that al-Qaeda simply got their geography wrong and did not mean to
threaten Norway at all.
Dashing breathlessly over to VG, I find that «Kongeparet føler
seg trygge.» ("The royal couple feel secure.") Technically that's
only the King & Queen, but it bodes well for the return of
Kronprinsess Mette-Marit & entourage. It's the first time I've
been offered a chance to subscribe to updates on Kongehuset and Krigen
mot terror by the same story, and I'll be quite pleased if it's the
last. You really don't want to incur the wrath of the von Bladets, fundamentalist
terror persons, for our anger is terrible to behold!
2003-05-21 17:24 (UTC+1)
Oh I love this stuff with a frankly unwholesome intensity. Parma ham
is Parma ham if it's sliced in front of you in a UK
supermarket, but not if it's sliced elsewhere, unless that
elsewhere is Parma, Italy. Capisce?
European judges have ruled the ham must be packed and sliced in Parma
itself to be marketed under its name of origin.
However, Asda can still use the Parma name when the meat is sliced on
a delicatessen counter in front of shoppers
Even if I don't feel all that much more posthuman than I did this
morning, it's good to see just how well the squabbling is coming
along. Six years it's taken to reach this conclusion. Six years!
Well played, Sirs and Madams, well played!
2003-05-21 10:24 (UTC+1)
The Transhumanistförbundet i Sverige, founded by someone who, like
everyone else in Sweden apparently, is attached to the Kungliga
Tekniska Högskolan (cf. Birgitte, who brought this link to my
attention, tack) is also up
for a bit of phantasmal stuff traversal:
Om den mänskliga naturen inbegriper förändringsbarhet och en vilja att
utveckla sig framstår inte längre möjligheten att använda externa
verktyg för detta speciellt problematisk. Deras tillämpningar kan
fortfarande kritiseras, men att vi förändrar oss själva är en del av
vår natur. Att förhindra försök att frigöra sig från begränsningar
framstår faktiskt i detta perspektiv som ett större hot mot mänsklig
värdighet än att tillåta dem.
[If human nature includes changeability and a choice to develop itself
the possibility of using external tools no longer seems especially
problematic. Their application can still be criticised, but changing
ourselves is part of our nature. To prevent attempts to free us from
our limitations is in this perspective as much of a threat to human
dignity as to allow them.]
The only literature cited here is "Fracis Fukuyamas bok Out
Posthuman Future", but we won't hold that against them. I'm not
joining, though, partly because I'm not in Sweden, and partly because
I prefer "posthumanist" (I like the way it hovers ambiguously between
post(humanist) and (posthuman)ist, you see), so instead I am founding
the People's Popular Posthumanist Front (membership: 1) as a rival
So, let us set forth onwards and upwards, Varied Reader, towards a
brave new tomorrow of morphological freedoms and unimaginably petty
squabbles, hoorah, hoorah,
2003-05-20 13:03 (UTC+1)
A while back, in the Nouvel Obs, I saw "Surgin'" Jürgen Habermas, the
pacy Frankfurt midfielder with the sweet left foot, taking
than his fair share of exception to human cloning on ethical
grounds. (That's just for background, and anyway I think we've had
enough of my translations of French translated from German for a
while. I know I have.)
I was unpersuaded, of course, and I seem not to be the only one -
Slovenian psychoanalyst and philosopher Slavoj ´i¸ek (Whee!
Iso-latin-9 lets me spell his name right, hurrah!) has done the honours:
Hegel would not have shrunk from the idea of the human genome and
biogenetic intervention, preferring ignorance to risk. Instead, he
would have rejoiced at the shattering of the old idea that 'Thou art
that,' as though our notions of human identity had been definitively
fixed. Contrary to Habermas, we should take the objectivisation of the
genome fully on board. Reducing my being to the genome forces me to
traverse the phantasmal stuff of which my ego is made, and only in
this way can my subjectivity properly emerge.
(NB: this is an LRB essay. Take a packed lunch, and preferably also a
mobile phone to summon help if you get lost.)
If there's phantasmal stuff traversal then sign me up at once! (And
even if he forgets to treat the risible Kevin Warwick with appropriate
contempt, he does work in the Cyborg Rats so we'll forgive him this
time.) ´i¸ek (´i¸ek ´i¸ek ´i¸ek, rah rah rah) has an extensive
bibliography, and it looks like it might be time to read some of it,
even if it is in English.
2003-05-20 09:27 (UTC+1)
"The truth of a statement is its means of verification."
This slogan, which the Vienna Circle attributed to Wittgenstein,
served as the original motto for logical positivism. The idea is to
provide a philosophical foundation for science by restricting
philosophical enquiry to investigating only statements that could be
shown (in principle) to be true or false, and discarding the rest of
philosophy (what they called "metaphysics", which they meant as an
insult) as "meaningless".
(One obvious flaw is that their beloved slogan itself seems to lack
any means of verification, so is presumably excluded from being "true"
in its own sense, oops. A thoughtful and critical, but sympathetic,
treatment of logical positivism and related philosophy, illustrated
with Monty Python sketches, is
Popper's innovation was to observe that scientific experiments (the
preferred model of a means of verification) is not in the habit of
proving things true, but can show that they're false, and thus to
propose falsifiability (by some experiment, at least in principle) as
a better criterion for a statement to be meaningful. This is still a
reasonable yardstick by which to establish scientificness in many
cases, although it does lead to a great deal of tiresome wibbling
about How Wrong Freud Was on the part of the more stubbornly pointless
Logical positivism itself was best summarised in A J "Freddy" Ayer's
classic book "Language, Truth and Logic", so let's leave the
last word to him. (I have seen this quoted in more reputable
sources I'll have you know.)
A J Ayer was interviewed by Brian Magee.
Question: Logical positivism must have had real defects. What do you
now with hindsight think were the main ones?
Ayer: Well, I suppose the most important defect was that nearly all of
it was false.
I'll drink to that, for sure.
2003-05-19 11:21 (UTC+1)
A 1932 article by
on Heidegger. I'm slowly working through it, but I've already
read enough to recommend it to persons are all down with the
Frenchy-French and thirst in the core of their being to know more of
this phenomenology thing, (early) Heidegger style:
Partons donc du problème fondamental de la signification de
l'être. Précisons en les termes.
Heidegger distingue initialement entre ce qui est, "l'étant" (das
Seiende) et "l'être de l'étant" (das Sein des Seienden). Ce qui est,
l'étant - recouvre tous les objets, toutes les personnes dans un
certain sens, Dieu lui-même. L'être de l'étant - c'est le fait que
tous ces objets et toutes ces personnes sont [apparaissent dans le
temps]. Il ne s'identifie avec aucun de ces étants, ni même avec l'idée
de l'étant en général. Dans un certain sens, il n'est pas ; s'il
était, il serait étant à son tour, alors qu'il est en quelque manière
l'événement même d'être de tous les "étants".
Unfortunately, the distinction between "l'étant" ("being", the present
participle of "to be") and "l'être" (the infinite used as a noun,
which is only really translateable as "being") collapses in English.
A little googling suggests "being" or "entity" for "l'étant" and
"Being" for "l'être", so let's do some CaseSensitivePhilosophy,
Heidegger distinguishes initially between that which is, "the entity",
and "the Being of the entity". That which is, the entity, includes
all objects, all persons in a certain sense, God herself. The Being
of the entity, that's the fact that all these objects and all these
persons are [appear in time]. It's not the same as any of these
beings, nor even with the being in general. In a certain sense, it
isn't; if it was, it would be an entity in turn, while it is,
in a sense, the event of Being itself of all the entities.
(Yes, well, I'm sure that helps a whole lot.) Heidegger's mission,
which he has chosen to accept, is to oppose the idealism of Kant, for
whom the Being of the being is definitively unknowable, by insisting,
after Husserl, that the perception of entities as Being, rather than
as simply a sequence of unrelated sense-data is an intrinsic part of
how we experience the world, and and also that of Hegel, for whom the
Spirit exists out of time and for whom the central question is "How
does the Spirit fall into time?", with the rebuke that "The spirit
doesn't fall into time, but actual existence, in decay, is
projected outside of original and authentic time." (Sein und
Zeit p.436, my translation of Lévinas's French translation.)
And you might be wondering, if you've even made it this far, who could
possibly care about all this, but you might be surprised. Here's
Antonio Damasio, a neurologist, in an article "The Person Within",
from the current issue of Nature (15th May 2003), on the way the
perception of the body serves to ground the symbolic universe:
In effect, the simplest level of self allows us to manufacture the
idea that objects and events are perceived from a singular
perspective, that of the organism symbolized by the self. At a more
complex level, we can generate the idea that the mental processes that
occur within this organism are our own property.
Where should we look for the neural basis of these self-involving
processes? I propose that we search in the neural mappings of the
"thing process" that is symbolized as the mental self. Others have
had this intuition before: Benedict Spinoza and William James perhaps
most vividly, but also Friedrich Neitzsche, Martin Heidegger, Maurice
Merleau-Ponty and Charles Scott-Sherrington, a venerable founder of
what we now call neuroscience.
I can remember when you had to swear a solemn vow of allegiance to
logical positivism (or its Popperian reformulation) when entering
Scientist territory or risk being run straight out of town - things
seem to have changed, at least among neurologists. Isn't that nice?
[Lévinas link via the The
Het Engelse onbijt bestaat traditionel uit bacon and eggs
(gebakken eieren met spek), vaak vergeseld van lekkernijen als witte
bonen in tomatosaus, geroosterd brood, gebakken tomaten, worstjes of
zelfs kippers (gerookte, gezouten haring). Hierbij wordt vrij
slappe thee met veel melk gedronken. De buitenlander die het
English breakfast niet zeit zitten, kan vragen naar een
continental breakfast een veel lichter ontbijt met brood, jam
Continental breakfast? Serpently knot! I'll have a full English
breakfast, but hold the gebakken tomaten, thanks.
Een goede en goedkope plaats om te lunchen is de pub. In deze
sfeervolle cafés wordt, meestad tussen twaalf en twee, en bescheiden
keuze aan maaltiden aangeboden, veelal vergezeld van chips
(frites). Een favoriet is de ploughman's lunch, en maaltijd
van brood en kaas, waarbij vaak en koele pint of bitter (halve
liter bitter bier) wordt genuttid.
[Wat & hoe Engels, Kosmos Taalgids, 1993]
A UKish pint consists of no less than 568
millilitres, I'll have you know. (This factoid used to be printed on
milk bottles, and was thus indelibly engrained on my mind from an