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2006-03-27 12:08

Toothsome and yummy!

It is those yummy sealcubs again!

The gruesome and gory Canadian seal hunt started yesterday with a claim from the country's prime minister that celebrity opponents such as Paul McCartney and Bridget Bardot were part of an international "propaganda campaign".

"Gruesome" and "gory" Indie-kid? Your spelling is worse than tehgrauniad's - it is, by the way, Brigitte Bardot, as a moment's fact-checking would have told you - and your bias is showing.

The US banned Canadian seal products in 1972, while the EU has banned the white pelts previously taken from unweaned seal pups, though not skins from slightly older seals.

By "slightly older" you mean "weaned", isn't it? That's the Norwegish minimum age, of course, and that's to no small extent why we prefer Norwegish seal-products.

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2006-03-27 10:38

Goodbye Slobodob

It is Belgrade, touriste destination:

Serbiens Belgrad r bullrigt och billigt. Trendigt och megamacho och enligt reseguruerna nsta stora stadsresml. Makedoniens Budva och Kotor r redan heta.

Serbia's Belgrade is noisy and cheap. Trendy and mega-macho and according to goateed twats travelgurus the next big citybreak target or goal. Macedonias Budva and Kotor are already hot.

They're not really selling this to us, sadly, but then we never did have a goatee.

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2006-03-24 22:43

Prolegomona to a geography of insolence

We are composing a monologue in Cherman with the requirement of length given in minutes and seconds of speech.

We have, accordingly, decided that of the various Lnder in Chermany, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern would make by far the best setting. However, not only is Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen By The Sea not, so far as we can tell or establish, a quaint seaside town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - oh, those Mecklenburg-Vorpommernian seaside towns! - it seems to be insolently altogether absent from all maps and atlases of Chermany at our disposal.

You're in big trouble when we catch up with you, Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen By The Sea, and catch up with you we will, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or wherever else you're hiding.

2006-03-24 15:16

How it was that we became so very spooked

It is a sundaygrauniad article about ghostwriters, and it is the most extraordinary thing we've read this week by a country mile. Andrew Crofts specialises in, amongst other things, trauma memoirs:

Crofts reckons that he can sit down with most of his subjects for a couple of days and get pretty much the whole story on tape. 'Mostly it's a question of getting how it looked to them. If someone has been whiteslaved, say, you want to know exactly what the airport looked like, for example.' He imposes a structure, usually a redemptive one, or at least he tidies things up, 'otherwise life would be just one rambling computer blog'.

'Strawdinry, isn't it?

When he shows his subject 'their' book the reaction, he suggests, is often the same. 'It's like if someone has taken a photo of you at a party. When you first see it you might not like it at all. But then you realise fair enough, that's probably what I look like.'

Our life, we are pleased to remark, lacks any occasion to be tidied up and is indeed quite like one long rambling computer blog. And we have
been told that our blog itself is not a bad likeness. We are pleased, when that happens, and we give our ghost an extra biscuit. Good ghost!

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2006-03-24 13:09

Meh

It is a line of toughness, and when isn't it?

Interior ministers from the European Union's six biggest countries are considering introducing an "integration contract" for immigrants.

The contract would oblige immigrants to respect the EU's values when they take up residence.

The problem is that the well of public discourse is poisened by the dead cat of widespread public bigotry, and it is never easy (not least for journalistes, who show no sign of even caring) to tell whether these such somethings are just "Sending A Signal" ("Sending A Signal" is a registered trademark of BlairCo PLC) as a smokescreen for a perfectly reasonable and therefore covert scheme of civics education for newbies, or whether it is just plain bigotted nastiness.

The same story, with added langwidge:

The six largest countries in the European Union are considering having immigrants sign a contract that would require they learn the language of their adopted country and accept its social norms or risk being expelled.

Given that there are six (6) countries, there are probably at least six (6) agendas.

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2006-03-24 10:42

Ecumenical Atheism

(I'm in a rush, so this is the condensed version.) Anyone committed to a religion making specific claims about the nature and history of the universe - who created it, who raised who from the dead, that sort of thing, is more or less obliged to think that someone committed to another religion of the same sort is in some important sense wrong about some important things.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi of Blighty nonetheless manage to engage on terms other than mutually derision and contempt, due to the miracle - which we do not especially claim to understand - of ecumenicalisme.

Meanwhile, losers like Richard "All-Dawk" Dawkins and "Ding Dong" Dan Dennett are atheistes and their atheisme also commits them to thinking religious believers are wrong, but they still insist on being charmless twunts about it, to the extent that we were uncomfortable calling ourself an atheist, since we lacked (and lack) any desire to be associated with these such attitudes and behaviours.

We are, in particular, quite happy to concede that atheisme is a component of a Weltanschauung, and we'd even concede that it qualifies as a "religion", if "religion" didn't mean what Dawk'n'Dennett and creationistes, and other such simpletons demand that it means. In particular, we reject an account of religion that is obsessively centred on a system of epistemological claims and sacred texts and "supernatural" entities.

The whole "supernatural" thing is a dead giveaway, frankly: the division of the world into "natural" and "supernatural" things is itself an artefact of a particular (i.e., Western) kind of modernity, and the idea that these are separate realms of which exactly one is dispensible is not a helpful start to a taxonomy of religions.

So as an atheiste we think the Archbishop of Canterbury is as wrong as the Chief Rabbi presumably does, and not more so, and all the Dawks's dunces and all the Dawk's phlegm can't put our hostility together again.

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2006-03-23 17:12

Smrgspost

1. Knigsberg, birthplace of Kant and modern topology!

It is Knigsberg, the only part of Russia we wouldn't necessarily refuse point-blank to consider finding ourself in!

Jutting out into the Baltic, the region of Kaliningrad is an accident of history, a part of Russia now literally cut off from the rest of the motherland by Lithuanian territory. But this small, Russian fifth column inside an expanding EU is mounting a surprise comeback. Buoyed by something of an economic boom, the region's extrovert, 42-year-old governor, Georgy Boos, has ambitious plans to turn the enclave into the Hong Kong of the Baltic. He also wants to transform the city once known as Knigsberg into one of Europe's least likely tourist destinations.

"Once known" as Knigsberg? Insolence!

Meanwhile Kaliningrad's location, cut off from the rest of Russia, will inevitably complicate development. For years before neighbouring Lithuania and Poland joined the EU, Brussels was locked in interminable negotiations with Moscow on how Russians could transit through EU territory, particularly Lithuania.

The end result was the creation of a special travel document which is cheaper and easier to use than a visa. There was also a promise to study the possibility of building a high-speed train link to cut through Lithuania.

Sadly, if the Baltic states go Shengen this non-visa will evaporate before you can say "Yes, that's what happened to the high-speed train link, too". But it would be wicked cool to see the Kant stuff, assuming there is some stuff and it's still there.

2. If...!

It is Steve Bell's If... cartoon, as featured on tehgrauniad's new Commentisfree website! Now could someone please to hack up a bootleg RSS feed? Yes, very drole Varied Reader, but we were thinking of someone other than us.

3. Not all changes do you good.

Professor Richard K Root flyttade till Botswana fr att brja ett nytt liv. I sndags blev han uppten av en krokodil.

Professor Richard K Root moved to Botswana to start a new life. On Sunday he was eaten up by a crocodile.

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2006-03-23 13:17

Sorrie hoor!

We've been slightly press-ganged into calculating Fisher's alpha for a regional scientiste we're engaged to be married to. (Other regional scientistes are cordially invited to calculate their own Fisher's alphas, of course.)

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2006-03-23 11:27

"The Prime Minister? He's off hunting yummy sealcubs!"

It is Birgitte Bardot in her new role as Cat Lady to the World (which is at least a step up from her role as brainless racist)!

L'actrice franaise Brigitte Bardot, venue Ottawa plaider pour la fin de la chasse aux phoques, s'est dclare "trs due" mercredi que le Premier ministre canadien refuse de la voir et s'est plainte d'avoir t victime de tracasseries son arrive.

The French actrice Birgitte Bardot, come to Ottawa to whine uselessly that seals aren't yummy enough to hunt, which they clearly are hence the widespread hunting of them, is in a huff because the Cananananadian Prime Minister couldn't be arsed, and who can blame him or her?

The former popstar Annie Lennox, we saw recently, has become a full-time anti-poverty activiste. The entrenched elite of pop stars (and movie stars too, for sure) are unbearable these days, isn't it? Surely U2, Sting et al. were quite wretched enough before they transformed themselves into the Hip Vicar doing a guest RE lesson?

We blame Percy Bysshe "Bash Bosh!" Shelley, personally.

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2006-03-22 15:19

Oh that world!

The base-ball World Classic involved - as the name suggests - much of the base-ball playing world. The base-ball World Series - as the name does not especially suggest - is contested between teams from the American League and the (USian) National League, which between them can muster one (1) team not from the USA, and that one (1) is in Canananada.

Oh, and the World Series is not named for a newsbladet-sponsor, and our Varied Reader is to kindly refrain from telling us it was, since it wasn't:

The New York World was established in 1860, just before the Civil War. [...] The New York World never had anything to do with the World Series, however, other than being one of the many newspapers to report the results. The modern World Series (like its predecessor series waged between National League and American Association teams from 1884-1890) was so named not because of any affiliation with a corporate sponsor, but because the winner was considered the "world's champion" - the title was therefore simply a shortened form of the phrase "world's championship series."

Since the FDRUSA didn't even make the semi-finals of the inaugural World Classic (only in America would there be an inaugural "Classic", we concede), an unusually high number of Americans is currently sensitised to the anomaly in the label their mostly domestic championship bears or carries.

For example:

The name of the World Series should be changed.

Every fall, we declare one of our Major League Baseball teams as champion of the entire world when we actually didn't invite anybody from outside the United States [and Canananada]. That is awfully pretentious ["arrogant"] of us.

We've just always figured that our best team had to be the best team in the world. Made sense. We invented the game. It's our national pasttime [mythologically, that is].

Well, wake up and smell the Cracker Jack [whatever that is]. When it comes to baseball, we're not the only ones who are world serious.

The true champion of this planet was decided Monday night in the title game of the World Baseball Classic between Japan and Cuba.

(The NYT and Intergalactic share an article to the same effect, but it's paywalled.) And while we realise that no one else will remember any of this in a week, never mind by the Autumn, we will and we have it on record.

Oh and the World (no, the one outside Amerca) played better base-ball, too:

If we paid attention, we also learned how to play the sport we invented. We've become so enamored with huge [i.e., steroid-enhanced] dudes who hit mammoth home runs that we forgot what makes the game beautiful. Defense. Small ball. Bunting. Stealing. Using brains as well as - sometimes instead - of muscles.

But did no one think of burning the stumps and preserving the Ashes of Amercan base-ball?

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2006-03-22 11:44

Once-Mighty Dinosaurs Now Impersonate Phones, Roofs

It is the plight of the tweetosaur, tweet tweet, in an age some describe as dominated by stinky rodents and other mammals!

Birds can mimic almost any sound, whether it comes from an animal within earshot or the noises of inanimate objects such as a squeaky farm fence, a mobile phone or a digital alarm clock.

Starlings have been known to learn the high-pitched, duo-toned screech of a car alarm. Then there's the fawn-breasted bower bird in Papua New Guinea which learnt the sounds made by workmen mending a tin roof: the noise of hammering, sawing - even the rattles of a stray ball-bearing rolling around inside a paint can.

Oh those fawn-breasted bower birds! They also make delicious pies.

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2006-03-22 10:12

Eng-ger-lnd!

Google's insolent attempts at "localisation" mean that we get the "UK" version of its News service. Under sport, there is admittedly some foopball, but that is followed by Merkins bleating about the honkbal, where they are - to their own surprise, if no one else's - not competitive with Chapan or Cuba.

Of the cricket, there's nary a trace. Insolent Googlebots! It may have been a drawn series, but EnglandandWales hadn't won a Test match in India for 21 years until today, so even if it isn't the Ashes all over again it's substantially better than nothing.

Three huge wickets just after lunch gave England renewed hope of victory , after a resolute partnership between the old India guard of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar had held them up for most of the morning.

Both were gone inside six balls and the injured Virender Sehwag soon after, leaving India needing to survive a possible sixty to stop England winning their first Test in India for 21 years.

(The Torygraph hasn't noticed it's happened yet, bless 'em).

If Sean Udal, England's unlikely off-spin match-winner, never gets another game for his national side, which is not especially unlikely, he will still have plenty to tell any grandchildrens, not least his.

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2006-03-21 15:43

Smrgsyum yum!

1. Ach! To in Mnchen be, now that March-bier's hier!

It is that most excellent of presents: now.

Tout est arriv en mme temps dans le quartier, vendredi: la benne des boueurs, la bire de mars et le printemps. A peu prs dans cet ordre. Et dj la Coupe du monde de foot perce sous la neige.

Everything arrived in the neighbourhood at the same time, on Friday: the rubbish truck, the March bier and the spring. In about that order. And already the foopball World CUp is piercing the sn.

2. Oh those Dutch alps!

It is Bavaria Holland bier, which rejoices in an Imperial Appointment and is brewed in those such lofty peaks!

Om bierbrouwer Bavaria een hart onder de riem te steken, heeft Cees Veerman maandag in Brussel als enige Europese Landbouwminister tegen de aanpassing gestemd van Europese regels voor de registratie van geografische aanduidingen.

To give heart to the bierbrewer Bavaria, Cees Veerman was the only European agriculture minister to vote against proposed European rules for registration of geographical designations.

(Dutch idioms, isn't it? "Een hart onder de riem te steken", indeed!)

It's a sticky wicket, that one, but you may as well chance your arm. In for a penny, eh Mr/Ms Veerman? (He said, not at all idiomatically.)

3. Things you probably didn't want to know about lickorish

Salty frog,
Salty frog,
I don't wanna be your man at all,
Just let me be
Your salty frog!

"Salty Frog" (trad.)

Gooey goo for chewy chewing!
That's what that Goo-Goose is doing.
Do you choose to chew goo, too, sir?
If, sir, you, sir, choose to chew, sir,
with the Goo-Goose, chew, sir.
Do, sir.

From Fox in Socks

It is saltliquorice, that noted aphrodysiac:

Har du svrt att f honom att tnda?
Testa att tugga litet salta grodor.
Var tredje man gr igng p doften av lakrits.
Det visar en amerikansk studie.

Having trouble getting him in the mood?
Try chewing some salty frogs.
Every third man is turned on by the smell of saltliquorice.
According to an American "study".

We like saltliquorice very much, for sure, but not, we assure our Varied Reader, like that. (Our zweetie - who claims to be Dutchy-Dutch - does not share our tast for "drop". Ridiculous!)

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2006-03-21 12:40

Why I hate America

It is the Intergalactic Expat-Tribune on the French jobs law and its discontents:

The battle over what some regard as an incremental change in the country's social contract is emblematic of the overwhelming challenge facing much of Western Europe as it tries to loosen rigid labor laws and trim costly entitlements that have built up in the decades since hybrid capitalist-socialist economic systems emerged after World War II.

"Hybrid capitalist-socialist economic systems", Intergalaxian? We in Europe call such systems "social-democratic", and if you didn't spend so much time pretending the New Deal was a mistake you'd know that.

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2006-03-21 09:49

Smrgspost

1. Lordships! Lordships!

Come on you lordships!

A constitutional crisis is looming after peers hardened their opposition to identity cards, throwing out the controversial scheme for the fourth time.

MPs will be asked today to overturn the defeat and send the Identity Cards Bill back to the Lords. But with neither side showing any sign of backing off, the trial of strength between the two Houses looks set to intensify.

And a side-order of constitutional crisis! (We still have only the loosest grasp on how Blighty's uncodified - don't call it "unwritten", puhlease - constitution actually works, sadly.)

2. Officially official

It is a great shame and we wish Montenegro the best in its forthcoming solo career:

Serbia-Montenegro has withdrawn from the Eurovision Song Contest following a row over the country's national entry.

3. A two-headed turtle!

(Thanks, zweetie!)

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2006-03-20 16:11

More hallucinogenic tea, vicar?

It is for religious use, hociffer, honest:

U.S. followers of a small Brazilian-based religion can import and use hallucinogenic tea in their ceremonies, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a case pitting religious rights against federal drug laws.

The court's opinion, the first ruling on religious freedom written by new Chief Justice John Roberts, rejected the U.S. government's effort to stop the import and use of sacramental hoasca tea by the New Mexican branch of the religion, called O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal.

More to the point, can we get some hoasca tea and is it worth having?

And while we're at it, has anyone done a comparison of the rhetoric of Castenada's Don Juan mimblings with those of HP "Sauce" Lovecraft? Non-euclidean space and non-linear flows of time, oh us oh we!

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2006-03-20 12:00

Smrgspost

1. The standards are falling on our heads, bwawk bwawk!

It is in Zweden, this time:

De nya engelska- och svens-kaeleverna p Gteborgs Universitet har blivit smre i grammatik och skrivning. Nu snker engelskainstitutionen kraven.

The new Engleesh- and Zwed-ishstudents at Gteborg Universititity have got worse at grammar and writing. Now the Englishinstitute is lowering its expectations.

We're curious about these things, without especially buying into the usual implications (that rampant illiteracy is on the march) of their claims, unlike the good old days when even illiterate peasants could still do the Times crossword in their lunchbreak, despite the fact they didn't even have a lunchbreak.

2. Post it!

With regarding unto the post, on the other hand, we do indeed subscribe to a narrative of inexorable decline, and it is not getting any better:

The Royal Mail is looking to axe night shifts across the country, prompting fears that deliveries will suffer as result.

According to an insider at the state-controlled postal group, managers have been asked to submit proposals about cutting costs with an emphasis on expensive night shifts. These will then be implemented within the next few weeks.

A lot of the point of night shifts was that stuff can be sorted ready for delivery with the "first post", around (everyone else's) breakfast time. Since the two(2) morning post system has been scrapped and post no longer arrives before 09:00, why bother beating yourselves up to have it sorted by 04:00?

Usually when services get worse, as they continually do, it is because persons are becoming more expensive. What's depressing about the post is that technology has taken up so little of the slack.

3. Chop-opportunities

When we were a youngperson we did not especially aspire to be a cog-development technician at Her Dutch Majesty's Royal Windmill Institute in the utterly negligible town of Bungaloo.

How times change, eh, Varied Reader?

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2006-03-20 10:13

Oh those touristes baba cool!

It is the Guides Routard!

Depuis sa cration, en 1973, le Guide du routard est devenu une marque culte et un phnomne de socit. Dans la foule de Mai-68, les touristes baba cool ont transform une boutique en une spectaculaire russite commerciale. Une prodigieuse machine gnrer du cash. En France, un guide de tourisme sur trois est un Routard. Au total, quelque 4,5 millions d'exemplaires sont vendus chaque anne, dont 2,5 millions en librairie.

Since its creation in 1973 the Routard Guide has become a cult brand and a social phnomnon. In the croud of May '68, the touristes baba cool have transformed a boutique into a spectacular commercial success. A prodigious cash-generating machine. In France, one touriste guide in three is a Routard. In total, some 4.5 million examples are sold each year, of which 2.5 million in bookshops.

(Where are the other 2 million sold, we wonder or muse?)

Anyway, the founder M. Gloaguen, is the sole author of all of them for royalty-collection purposes and treats his many staff very far from generously in all possible ways. Apparently the key to success in the travel guide business is a merciless fleecing of the backpackers and wannabes who sign up for the donkey work. (Any similarity with industrial TEFL is of course purely uncoincidental.)

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