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2005-04-01 15:37

Homebrew Tact

In lane one (1), the Holy Father of the Roman Catholique Church, his Popeship, John! Paul! II!

After his heart problems on Thursday, the Pope received the Catholics' last rites for the sick and dying.

In lane two (2), Europe's longest-serving living monarch, "Prins"! Rainier! of Monaco!

The health of Monaco's Prince Rainier is "precarious" and there is only a very slim chance that he will recover, the principality's royal palace says.

I'm backing the Pontiff, for sure.


2005-04-01 12:31

A point for All-Dawk!

There may be a point to Richard "All-Dawk" Dawkins after all:

For many British people, belief in a six-day creation seems to be one of those incomprehensibly American quirks, like beef jerky and pledging allegiance to the flag. But a large and growing number of British Christians are defying Darwinist orthodoxy in favour of creationism - the belief that Adam and Eve are the mother and father of humanity.

Oh dear.

He [who cares?] feels frustrated that the scientific evidence is not treated more seriously. "So many evolutionists are incredibly arrogant and give the impression that only fools believe in creation, when there are many eminent scientists who say there is some evidence of design there."

Like bollocks there are. A handful of physicistes, maybe. And they're wrong.

Most apologists for creationism share this frustration. One of CSM's leaflets rallies support for teaching creation in schools: "The hard-nosed humanism of evolutionism has become entrenched in the British educational system and in society at large. We need your dedicated support to topple it!"

Humanisme, contempible Jesus-Freak? We don't need no stinking humanisme! Evolution is as true as a true thing, and I'm an old-fashioned structuraliste Marxiste and one thing old-fashioned structuraliste Marxistes like me are most certainly not is humanistes.

Not many peeps have been heard of Tony "Baloney" Blair's "Faith-Based" schools idiocy lately, what with the War on Whatever and all. And hoorah for that, for sure.


2005-04-01 10:14

Ett land, ett folk, én chokladmjölk!

What's that? Sweden's Glorious National Choklatmilk is being taken over by fiendish Danishes?

[Korvgubban] Mikail Karan har alltid gillat Pucko.
- Det är ju en klassiker. En symbol för Sverige.
- Nu får man hoppas på att danskarna inte får för sig att ändra på Puckon. Men man kan aldrig veta.

[Sossagevendor] Mikail Karan has always liked Pucko [for it is it!].
"It is of course a classic. A symbol of Sweden."
"We can only hope that the Danishes don't start meddling with Pucko. But you never know."

This such Ancient and Glorious Chocklatmilk has been part of the Swedish way of life since the Dawn of Time (or "1954", to use the technical term), Danishes! You meddle with it at your own risk or peril!


2005-03-31 16:15

Grievances, slightly petty

Item: I have to go out for some yummy öl this evening, but I would secretly like to finish my essay instead, so that it would be finished.

Item: The (French) book by Althusser I ordered doesn't have the essay I want, as I assumed it would, and the one that I can be sure does is out of print.

Item: The weather. It is rubbage.

Item: I still do not live in Berlin, and I am making negligible progress at learning German. When I finish my essay I must spend the slack time before the next block on this.

Item: My eyesight seems to be going wonky: for reading, at least, it only seems to like to focus on exactly one (1) distance, which is exactly the distance to my monitor in my standard working configuration.

Item: The clocks are telling the wrong time, and I am expected to join the conspiracy to pretend they are not. I do not like you, Blightian Somewhere "Time"!

Item: I don't understand databases, and in particular their relevance to blog management software. I am the proud owner of, and quite right too, but it doesn't point to anywhere, and it won't until I figure out how to cause there to be a 'bladet to be pointed to. Blogs are made of sequences of blocks of text, it seems to me, and relational databases are made of query-able tables. What, then, has (a) to do with (b)?

Item: I am just grumpy 'cos I'm tired.


2005-03-31 12:05

On writing essays

Unlike the many universities in the UK that content themselves with their role as finishing schools in which the nation's Gilded Youth can revel in their heady freedoms before taking up their positions of Future Captains of Industry, the University of Openness is open (hence the name) to essentially all-comers.

Which means, among other things, that it can't expect that its students have been briefed on how to construct essays, and considers itself obliged to explain this such craft or "skill".

Their advice is undoubtedly very excellent, but I do not, and cannot, follow it: they recommend

  • making a plan, composed of a series of paragraphable points;
  • deciding on an order for these such points; and then (and only then)
  • making an uppwritening, complete with elegant linking prose between points.

But I only find out what order stuff has to go in when I am practising my Rhetoric Fu and focusing on the smooth. Which means that I have to draft and redraft just to decide the structure, but I get a completed essay as a side effect.

Life is hard, for sure, and redrafting is very much a form of work, but it is our new secret weapon: it is an amazingly effective tool (which we never use on the 'bladet, of course).


2005-03-31 09:54

How to tell if your mattress is really a scone.

The only really sure way to tell if your mattress is in fact a scone, in our experience, is to spread it with jam and cream and see how it tastes.

Should it turn out - as we certainly hope it does - that your mattress is not in fact a scone, this procedure is apt to leave it in less than ideal condition for sleeping on, but this is surely a small price to pay to sleep safe - if sticky - in the knowledge that you are not at risk of ambush by paper doilies and the many fiendish instruments of Devonian fundamentalists.

Constant vigilance, Varied Reader; constant vigilance!


2005-03-30 16:06

Tact, Turkish style


Mein Kampf, the book Hitler wrote in prison before he rose to power in 1933, has become a bestseller in Turkey, provoking consternation.

Colour me consterned, for sure, but the piece drips with incidental tact:

"Obviously we're very concerned," Ivo Molinas, one of Turkey's 25,000 Jews, said in Istanbul. "This is a democratic country and the book can't be banned, but it would be good if the Turkish government openly said they don't like it being sold. Unfortunately, there has been no such approach."

Mein Kampf is of course banned in naughtily undemocratique Germany.

Analysts believe the book's popularity is related to a rise in nationalism and anti-US sentiment since the invasion of Iraq.

Anti-US sentiment? Bad analysts to be suggesting that the wise and judicious employment of Imperial Stormtroopers for Freedom(TM) in Iraq or elsewhere might provoke anything other than love and affection!


2005-03-30 11:36

Tact à la francais

We hate the Common Agricultural Policy, for sure, but we are enchanté by this masterpiece of controlled spite from Die Welt:

La reine d'Angleterre, le prince Charles et un certain nombre de ducs, comtes, barons et marquis font partie des plus gros bénéficiaires des subventions versées par Bruxelles à la Grande-Bretagne au titre de la politique agricole commune (PAC).

The Queen of England, prins Charles and a number of dukes, counts, barons and marquis form are among the biggest beneficiaries of the subsidies distributed by Brussels to Great Britain according to the terms of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Oxfam and the Times used the Freedom of Information Act to get this data, and well done them.

[L]es grands propriétaires terriens sont sans doute conscients de leurs privilèges, car ils ont tout fait, avec l'appui du Parti conservateur, pour empêcher, vainement, la publication des chiffres qui font mal. Les gentlemen-farmers, mal nommés en l'occurrence, ont refusé de répondre aux questions de la presse.

The major landowners are surely aware of their privileges, since they unsuccessfully tried, with the help of the Conservative party, to obstruct the publication of these damaging figures. These (inaptly-named) gentlemen farmers have refused to answer questions from the press.

Good abuse, well directed. We hereby declare ourselves to be pleased with Die Welt.


2005-03-30 08:57

Why I am so very back

It is local logical Monday again!

§1. Of Langwidges and Legislation

Under legislation which came into force last September, 60% of lessons in the final three school years must be taught not in the students' native Russian but in Latvian, the state language.

(I have lately just headed myself off at the pass to avoid writing a vair vair long essay on the Ett språk; ett folk; ett land syndrome in Yooropean nationalismes for the University of Openness. Which was nice.)

Anyhow: put Russophone teachers and Russophone pupils and no inspecteurs in a classroom and I think you can guess how strickly this here law is going to be observed:

She is teaching them about Greek democracy. And despite the law, almost the entire lesson is conducted in Russian.

"They speak good conversational Latvian," says the teacher. "But it's not good enough for complicated ideas like this. They just don't understand the Latvian textbook."

She says she hands out crib-sheets in Russian to help them, "but strictly speaking, they are illegal".

Democracy isn't complicated, endearingly-baffled Easterners: you vote for whoever you like, but the government gets in anyway.

§2. Pollenterror!

Is it the new snökaos? Call it "hayfever" if you like, we call it s3xual assault.

§3. Alienate me harder (Latvian style)

In a park in the Latvian capital Riga, a small group of protesters gathers, all Russian, some wearing paper hats inscribed with the word "Alien".


More than 450,000 Russians and native Russian-speakers - out of a total Latvian population of 2.3m - are classed as "non-citizens" because they have failed (or refused) to take a test in Latvian language and history, which would allow them to have citizenship.

This was local election day, and they were protesting about the fact that as "aliens", despite having lived in Latvia all their lives, they had no right to take part in the elections - whereas citizens of other EU countries could vote if they had lived there for a mere six months.

We would quite like to have an opinion on the Latvian Russian question, but it's a fiddly one: minority rights are well and they are also good, but this particular minority was introduced more-or-less explicitly to dilute the ethnic Latvianness of Latvia.

We think we will settle, for now, for the fact that it all seems at least fairly polite.


2005-03-29 11:41


(We're still not here, by the way; back tomorrow.)


In our society, the character one performs and one's self are somewhat equated, and this self-as-character is usually seen as something housed within the body of its possessor, especially the upper parts thereof, being a nodule, somehow, in the psychobiology of personality. I suggest that this view is an implied part of what we are all trying to present, but provides, just because of this, a bad analysis of the presentation.


A correctly staged and performed scene leads the audience to impute a self to the performed character, but this imputation - this self - is a product of a scene that comes off, and is not the cause of it. The self, then, as a performed character, is not an organic thing that has a specific function, whose fundamental fate is to be born, to mature, and to die; it is a dramatic effect arising diffusely from a scene that is presented, and the characteristic issue, the crucial concern, is whether it will be credited or discredited.

"Swerving" Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, (pp. 244-5 in the Pelican edition).


En avril 2003, un an après l'invasion d'Irak, 78% des Blancs soutenaient celle-ci, mais le chiffre tombait à 29% seulement chez les Noirs selon un sondage Gallup.

In April 2003, a year after the invasion of Iraq, 78% of whites supported it, but the figure fell to 29% among blacks, according to a Gallup pole.

[St Louis Post-Dispatch, via Courrier International, 24 mars, 2005]


People don't seem to have a clear picture of the past of their country any more. It is not a question of the actual history, but rather the history that is required to create a national loyalty. If you look at the Poles or the Czechs, every schoolchild can tell a story about what his or her country is. It is not necessarily the truth - it is a bit of the truth with a lot of embellishment - but it is a loyalty-creating story that gives people a way of attaching their emotions to each other, and in particular to strangers.

Roger "Scroot-Scroot" Scruton, in the "Roundtable on 'Britishness Rediscovered'", Prospect (April 2005), also featuring Billy Bragg.

(It is slightly depressing to note that fellow participant Gordon Brown - for it was he! - doesn't seem to have the slightest clue about or interest in what makes nationalisms tick and was content to blither about basing a national identity on shared "values". We don't much like Scroot-Scroot - and there's more than a few central Yoorpean Romany ("Gypsy") persons who've felt the rough edge of loyalty-creating narratives that exclude them even more vigorously than the loathsome Daily Mail and its loathsome readers manage, but he does at least understand the question.)

§4. Hello, ¡Hola!

It is an exclusive interview with Mette-Marit about her debut solo official visit, to Malawi! In, um, Spanish! But we'll do our level best, of course.

La princesa sigue impactada por este viaje al horror y la esperanza, que permanecerá para siempre grabado en su memoria. «Siento de verdad que ha ocurrido algo dentro de mé, como persona. Tener unas impresiones tan fuertes te hace replantearte tus proprios interrogantes existentiales.

Right. Umm... The prinsess remains after her journey impacted by the horror and hope which are permanently engraved on her memory. (Phew!) "I feel that the something which has occurred outside of me, as a person. I have an impression of strongness to replant your own interrogantes existentiales."

Careful, Varied Reader: don't replant your interrogantes existentiales (a kind of flowering vine with flowers of a particularly delicate aroma) until you are sure that the season of ground frosts is past, or (like the lovely kronprinsess) you have a greenhouse at your disposal!


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