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2005-04-15 16:25

Slow is the new fast; polite is the new rude

Nowadays it is not only my habit, it is also to my taste - a malicious taste, perhaps? - no longer to write anything which does not reduce to despair every sort of man who is "in a hurry." For philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow - it is a goldsmith's art and connoisseurship of the word which has nothing but delicate, cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today, by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of "work," that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to "get everything done" at once, including every old or new book: - this art does not so easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers... My patient friends, this book desires for itself only perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well! [Laughing Boy, of course]

We have always been good at fastreadning, but we are learning to read slowly, and it is a lot of fun. We read our OU books very slowly indeed, which is an exercise from which they (unlike us) often fail to benefit.

Also, the OU's moderated Interweb forum has been an instructive discipline for us, since it deprives us of the possibility of polemic.

Paul Rabinow: Why is it that you don't engage in polemics ?

Michel Foucault: I like discussions, and when I am asked questions, I try to answer them. It's true that I don't like to get involved in polemics. If I open a book and see that the author is accusing an adversary of "infantile leftism" I shut it again right away. That's not my way of doing things; I don't belong to the world of people who do things that way. I insist on this difference as something essential: a whole morality is at stake, the one that concerns the search for truth and the relation to the other.

In our case it's more that the moderators wouldn't allow it, of course, but the effects are much the same.

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2005-04-15 12:05

For shame, Danmark!

We had previously quite liked the queen of Danmark, even if she isn't a prinsess, but we're having second thoughts:

Queen Margrethe of Denmark has spoken out against radical Islam and called on Muslim immigrants in the country to improve their Danish language skills.

The queen, quoted in a new authorised biography, said people had to take the "challenge" of Islam seriously.

"We have let this issue float around for too long, because we are tolerant and rather lazy," she said.

[Our staunchly republican corresponding Danish, Birgitte is inclined otherwise than towards belief of this account at face value.]

Immigration to Yoorp has not been handled very successfully, but the only thing the autochthonic Danishes can find to reproach themselves for is that they were too "tolerant".

We think we would be interested in specialising in the sociology of immigration: the conceptual framework currently employed in the media and in the population at large are a disaster that is no longer waiting to happen, and not just in Danmark.

Of course, our recent skirmish as Defender of the neo-Darwinian synthesis has been a vair vair depressing reminder of the inequalities of the struggle between reasoned argument and ingrained prejudice, even without (as is mostly the case with evolution in Blighty) a formidable political and media machine fighting with the Bad Guys, but still.

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2005-04-15 10:34

They ask; We answer; it turns out they weren't asking us

Allons ! as they may or may not say somewhere in Abroad, where they speak Foreign.

Learning German and French in the UK is in terminal decline, while businesses are being hampered by Britons' poor language skills, research indicates.

So just why are we so bad at learning the lingo? And do Britons really deserve their bad image abroad?

Well, yes, according to figures compiled by the European Union.

The Beeb has been getting better at linkage, of course, but they don't link this, and "figures compiled by the EU" isn't quite enough even for our Googliciousness.

Why "we" are so bad, of course, is mostly that we lucked into the Lingua France, and much much less the insularity the Beeb has chosen to mistake for the answer.

But Isabella Moore, director of the National Centre for Learning Languages (Cilt) said times had changed. The world was getting smaller.

"Today's economy is global and more and more jobs have an international dimension. Unless our young people are equipped with the skills they need for international communication in the 21st Century we will be a poor player on the world stage," she said

Admit it, Beeboid, there's no such person as Isabella Moore: you assembled "her" entirely out of buzzwords and catchphrases. "Mama! Mama! Increasingly global world!"

They don't even manage to link the story from yesterday on this subject:

UK businesses will be "severely hampered" because language skills are falling behind those in other countries, a report warns.

The government's decision to make languages optional at GCSE in England will make the problem worse, the House of Lords European Union Committee said.

Irritatingly, nobody is listing German as a language of shortnesses, and while Japanese and increasingly Chinese are cited, these aren't and never have been widely taught in UK schools, and outside fairyland they aren't going to be.

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2005-04-14 15:26

Autopetardial hoistning

We are, of course, agog with excitement as Blighty prepares to elect a general to start all its many wars for the next few years! The tectonic plates of political inertia at these times lurches gloriously and allows the lava of the national Will To Democracy to surge forth unchecked!

Our coverage, however, will remain focussed on the traditional von Bladet values of frivolity and sarcasme. Oh, hello Killroy:

Euro MP Robert Kilroy-Silk has launched his Veritas Party's manifesto with an attack on multi-culturalism imposed by "liberal fascists in London".

The idea that everybody should respect each others' cultures was "nonsense", he said, adding that not all cultures were equal - some were "reprehensible".

Absolutely! We, for one, are delighted to condemn the culture of xenophobic demagoguery of, for example, the wretched Krisply-Slime. ("Liberal fascistes", though! Would that all xenophobic hate-mongering were so magnificently implosive!)

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2005-04-14 12:30

Recipe: Imperial Braised Oxtail

  1. Braise an ox
  2. Cut off the tail, discarding the rest
  3. Serve.

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2005-04-14 09:52

Vive la Rpublique des ides !

Distant cousins,
there's a limited supply
And we're done to the dozens,
And this is why:
....
Big-eyed beans from Venus!

[Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, "Big-eyed beans from Venus"]

We sometimes wonder about the future supply of crazy French intellos - some theoristes think that inability to meet the growing global shortage of enigmatic Gallic ravings will be the cause of the next generation of wars! - so we welcome la Rpublique des ides and its many extravagant ambitions.

A notre sens, la critique sociale ne doit pas tre une posture, une critique par les sentiments, mais un travail de connaissance. C'est ce que le marxisme avait de plus fort au XIXe sicle. En forant le trait, on pourrait dire que notre ambition est d'crire collectivement Le Capital du XXIe sicle ainsi qu'une nouvelle Dmocratie en Amrique.

For us, social criticism shouldn't be a posture, a criticism guided by sentiment, but a work of knowledge. That was the strong point of 19th century Marxisme. To put it bluntly, one could say that our ambition is to collectively write the Capital of the 21st century - as well as a new Democracy in America.

How can you neglect to love someone who claims that, despite the proliferation of les think tanks,

Restait l'urgence de l'atelier intellectuel.

The urgent need remained of an intellectual studio.

Not us, for sure!

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2005-04-13 16:27

Faith-based "Kick Me" Signs

Our new module is taking a leisurely tour around the ideas of "the natural and the social", with more than a hint of Latour in its refusal to sanction their divorce.

The opening chapter on ideas of human nature through history, which of course includes evolution, has flushed out some Young Earthers in the online conference. Accordingly, I have signed up for the Unitarian Jihad: you may now address me also as Brother Sabre of Enlightenment.

I don't like creationisme. I like it, if anything, even less than the Tories. It's post-modernisme at it's most contempibly decadent, as is insufficiently often pointed out, in my zealous opinion.

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2005-04-13 12:17

Tales from Big School

1.

We had three (3) computing officers in the department. One (1) retired, one (1) has signed off sick for a couple of weeks and one (1) works from home in another part of the country. There is no harm in keeping your fingers crossed, isn't it?

2.

The University's Department of Random Suits has advised us that any breach of the University's non-partisan stance on politics in the run up to the general election would be a breach of the terms of its charitable status.

So I am informing you, purely in my private capacity as Holy Roman Emperor, that I still loathe, detest and execrate the Tories.

More "faith schools"? It was a rubbish idea when Tony had it, and even he had the sense to shelve it after 9-11. Who could resist the suspicion that the Tories would very much like a band of Jesusy creationistes and other such nutjobs to do their vile bidding, FDRUSA-style? Not us, for sure.

3.

The students are still away, hoorah!

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2005-04-13 09:36

27 is a round number, in trinary

It is Bulgaria and even Romania, and they're coming aboard the merry bandwagon of the Yoorpean Union!

The European parliament is expected to approve the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union on Wednesday. The decision will pave the way for the signing of an accession treaty later this month. Both countries are set to join the EU in 2007.

The EU can delay things for a whole year if its terms and conditions aren't met in full. This was, you will appreciate, a negociating strategy they subsequently adjusted for the benefit of Croatia and especially Turkey.

Bulgaria is getting quite popular as a holiday home destination: even we could afford to buy property there, and there are the many Black Sea beaches, and who knows what yummy local delicacies to savour.

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2005-04-12 15:10

Our other lunch is a samwidge too

With Sir Jamie Oliver having rescued the nation's childrens from Bad School Food, the spotlight inexorably turns, in at least one Beeboid head, to grownups:

Under the orange glow of heat lamps an over-thick pizza crust slowly takes on a biscuit-like crunch, its tinned tomato and processed cheese topping blackening as the hours pass by.

Nearby, a vat of baked beans softens to a porridgy mush, the intended chip and sausage companions lie in serving trays, sweating in their own fatty oils.

Fatty oils? Those are the very worst kind!

We ate two (2) sossages, egg and chips for lunch every working day for the first half of our master's degree. Then we decided to become vegetarian in a foolish quest for diversity. (The great thing, for us, about being vegetarian in Britain is that we still never had to make a decision - there was always a single vegetarian option, and we always had that.)

Then Norway cured us of further interest in vegetarianisme, since we did not wish to starve, and the university staff canteen, which is both bad and expensive, convinced us to stick with samwidges from the deli in the sports hall. (At the risk, sadly, being exposed to the dangers of passive exercising, but we have our legal team working on that.)

The downside of this such rgme of samwidge consumption, however, is that we have started to pine for things varied and substantial and above all hot for our dinner, so at the weekend we acquired a slow cooker - a cooker, which is to say, of slowness! - and we have been perpetrating such things as turkey drumstick au vin and knuckle of pork and yellow peas. We're thinking of rtesoppa med flsk on torsday, like we always did when we were growing up in Sweden, too.

If you're really bad, Varied Reader, we might even start posting rcips!

(We have more than half an eye on this, and the pigs for miles and miles around are justly nervous. But why won't anyone sell us some yummy Sauerkraut?)

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2005-04-12 11:49

One cottonpickin' minute, slightly on-held

It is just us ("Are it just we") or was Ronald Reagan's posthumous tenure as Single-Handed Toppler of Communisme unusually short?

(I toppled communisme single-handedly, of course, and so did my future wife. But we grow tired of hearing that Marxisme was refuted in 1989.)

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2005-04-12 09:40

On Belief

We are of course a Reform Nihiliste: we don't believe in anything, but we're not dogmatic about it.

We note in passing that we are in the habit, with good reason, of not asking other persons what if anything they believe. It never improves our mood when we find out.

(Why yes, we did have a tutorial last night, how did you guess?)

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2005-04-11 14:32

Smrgspost

1. Readable books in Foreign

Good advice on how to pick them. Which we generally neglect to follow, with hilarious consequences.

We have had the most success with trashbladets and Donald Duck comics and erudite books on the history of ideas, of course.

[via]

2. Everybody loves foopball!

We certainly do:

Du kan ocks vara med och ta stllning genom att kpa vrt kampanjarmband "lska fotboll".

You can also join in and show your support through buying our campaign armband "love foopball".

Except we can't, for lack of anyone to sell us one. Otherwise we certainly would, and we would wear it proudly with our "What would Giblets do?" bracelet.

3. We think you'll be amused by his presumption.

It is the seriously-ill Prince Ernst August of Hanover:

He is the head of the house of Hanover which ruled the UK from 1714 to 1901, but by marrying Caroline - a Catholic - he removed himself from the line of succession to the British throne.

However, he remains the pretender to the throne of Hanover, which was an independent kingdom until 1866.

We pretenders to absent thrones have to stick together, isn't it? Get well, you silly prins!

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2005-04-11 11:35

Smrgspost

1. Hands off, puny humans!

Astronomers have discovered a loop-like structure some 20 light-years across close to the centre of the Milky Way.

And the team that found it believes the vast, bizarre structure could be some form of cosmic particle accelerator.

It is. It is our glorious interstellar particle accelerator. If you puny earthlings want one, you can jolly well get your own!

2. Earthquake in Tokyo; no prinsesses injured

Kronprinsessan Victoria befann sig fortfarande i Tokyo nr ett jordskalv skakade staden.

Skalvet som mtte 6,1 p Richterskalan drabbade staden strax efter klockan sju p mndagsmorgonen lokal tid.

Kronprinsess Victoria found herself still in Tokyo when an earthquake shook the city.

The 'quake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter scale, struck on Monday morning, shortly after 7 o'clock local time.

Is 6.1 a lot? By Tokyo standards? We have no idea.

3. Prinsess in Pink, slightly Principled

- Jag r ingen reklampelare fr enskilda fretag, sa hon irriterat.

"I am no advertpillar for individual companies", she said irritatedly.

Bad Volvo! No reklamkupp!

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2005-04-11 09:55

Monday Review of Stuff

(I know what you're thinking, Varied Reader, but I am in fact writing this on the laptop at home on Sunday, so order and harmony are undisturbed.)

It is Why Read Marx Today? by Jonathan Wolff. Which strikes us as an odd question, given that we occasionally claim to be a Marxiste, but Wolff is concerned to attempt a neo-scholastic rehabilitation of Marx or some bits thereof. Which is actually, to our mind, not less odd. Especially since neo-scholastics like Wolff have a slightly odd take on the history of philosophy:

[W]e value the works of the greatest philosophers for their power, rigour, depth, inventiveness, insight, originality, systematic vision, and, no doubt, other virtues too. Truth, or at least the whole truth and nothing but, seems way down the list. Now, we have to be careful here. The works of the great philosophers could have been created only if their authors passionately believed that they had just discovered the truth, or were on the verge of doing so. Single-minded pursuit of the truth is at the centre of all great philosophy. Yet the value of the resulting work does not depend on its actually having achieved this goal. To put it bluntly there are more interesting things than truth. Understood this way, Marx's works are as alive as anyone.

Remember when the "Derridean" Anglo-Continentalistes were accused of wanting to replace philosophy with literary criticisme? Here we have instead a desire to reduce the history of philosophy to the kind of waftily impressionistic literary appreciation of Quiller-Couch et al. (Oh, the sublimity!)

From its foundation by Russell and Frege, the neo-scholastic school has tended to be militantly ahistorical, as a necessary condition of its ideology of scientisme; while it is to Wolff's credit that he can't buy into this whole-heartedly, his suggested solution is by no means equal to the problem.

Overall his book is not, within the narrow compass of its ambitions, by any means a bad one, and he debunks several of the more widespread misunderstandings of Marx and Marxisme. But every once in a while he does just drop the ball. For example, in summarising Marx's early writings, which set out from the point reached by Feuerbach's critique of religion, he says of the theistic perspective that:

It is a constant source of wonderment to me that intelligent, educated people can bring themselves to believe any of this.

Which is presumably honest, if nothing else, and Lord knows it is nothing else. One and the same Wolff, apparently, is both reduced to bewilderment by the vrldsskdning ("Weltanschauung") of the majority of educated persons throughout recorded Western history and a fervent advocate of reading the Great Philosophers for their "depth" and "insight".

We should probably say again that we like and admire much of this book, narrow and occasionally silly though it is. It's just that neo-scholastics have a habit of getting on our Imperial tits more than somewhat, and Wolff certainly proves to be other than exceptional in this respect.

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