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2007-10-16 15:03

Why we are so very revisionist

We have the day off today to prepare for the day off we have tomorrow, during which latter we will be sitting an exam on the Open University course DDZX200 Governing Europe.

We didn't especially enjoy the course, we regret to announce. Its compulsive interdisciplinarity has left us deprived of any particular set of analytic tools, and we do not find the focus on "governance" to be a satisfactory substitute. As the companion book for the economics part (about a third of the course) says:

So, there is some economics but not much. And what economics there is is relatively introductory - we have kept it to a minimum - and it is taught in a very gentle manner. You do not have to become a sophisticated commentator on economic matters to successfully complete this part of the course.

And they're not wrong.

Meanwhile, out there in the Europes of Zweden, everyone loves the EU!

Svenskarna har blivit mer positiva till EU, visar en opinionsmtning. Regeringen borde utnyttja tillfllet och tala vl om euron.

Swedishes have become more positive about the EU, an opinion poll shows. The government should take the opportunity and big up the Euro.

We love the EU too, bizarre and byzantian behemoth that it admittedly is. (One thing we did learn from the course is that in 1995, when Zweden joined the Union, it had just experienced a rather traumatic financial crisis. Poor old Zweden!)

2007-10-15 18:20

Unfashionable flavours dept: Germanic and Romance edition

1. Let's be Ltzebuergesch!

There is no valid or applicable reason whatever why we should want to study Ltzebuergesch als Friemsprooch, so it's just as well we've never been one for rationalising our desires:

Am Laboratoire de linguistique et de littrature luxembourgeoises vun der Universitit Ltzebuergesch gtt vum Wantersemester 2007 un eng nei Formation continue Ltzebuergesch als Friemsprooch (LaF) ugebueden. An dser Formatioun gtt zouknftegt Lierpersonal ausgebilt, dat Ltzebuergeschcours fir Erwuessener wll halen.

We particularly like it that the only information available on the course is in Ltzebuergesch. (Most of the "English" pages on the consistently trilingual website of the trilingual new university is in fact in French, which is also fair enough if you ask us since we are ourself trilingual in Engleesh alone.)

2. A fine Romance ... langwidge

It is Romanian, and an important lesson in the symmetry of suspicion.

n toate noile state membre UE, piaţa imobiliară a crescut constant naintea aderării şi n primii ani după aderare, după care a nceput să stagneze. Cotidianul Financial Times prezintă unul dintre cele mai spectaculoase exemple ale fluctuaţiei de preţuri n acest domeniu: cazul capitalei estone Talinn, supranumită noua Pragă, ale cărei imobile şi terenuri sunt vnate de ani de zile de britanici şi de locuitorii ţărilor nordice, n căutare de case de vacanţă ieftine ntr-un loc pitoresc.

Our Varied Reader will certainly recall that the EU expansion of 2004 was marked by worries from the prospectives that they would be subjected to an unmanageable housing bubble, as comparitively rich westerners sunk their excess capital into holiday and investment homes. Meanwhile, the oldies were terrified that a "flood" (it is always a "flood") of immigrants would wash up, taking their jobs and very likely their wimmins, since it is well known that wimmins cannot resist the working poor.

Our Varied Reader will surely also recollect that the newbies were sternly informed that that's the Iron Law of the Market, about which nothing can or should be done, and that (most of) the oldies announced that they wouldn't be opening their job markets just yet, because the Iron Law of the Market, about which nothing can or should be done, only applies if you're a loser because otherwise you could do something about it, isn't it?

Anyway, Tallinn, we infer from the above, is the new Prague: the old town is choc-full of staggering vomiting drunk Engleesh stag parties and the locals are rapidly being house-priced out of town.

(Sorry if the accents above are fubar; we set this page up before iso-latins 1 and 9 became entirely quaint, unfathomably long ago as that now seems.)

2007-10-13 14:45

Allez, comme toujours, Les bleus!

Our Varied Reader, living as he or she often does outside the geographically and culturally limited territory where such things are held to matter, may have neglected to take cognizance of the nonetheless empirically indisputible fact that Eng-ger-lnd and Les bleus of France will be disputing one of the semifinals of the rugby world cup in Paris ce soir.

In the event that we watch the match, which is by no means a foregone, we shall ourself be cheering on Les bleus, since this is after all our fixed habit and custom.

But there are also bigotted twunts out there who rilly rilly think like this:

"Tonight's match, perhaps inevitably, bears tactical comparison with the run-up to Agincourt," Ben Macintyre writes [in the wretched Murdoch Times]. "The English Army, hopelessly outnumbered, plagued by injury and disease, was the rank outsider: it was heavily reliant on long-range weaponry (the longbow in 1415; Jonny Wilkinson's boot in 2007)."

"When the French realised that their tactics were not working, discipline collapsed completely: which is precisely what the English will be hoping for tonight as their fans "cry God for Jonny! England and St. George!)

We think you will find the Agincourt comparison was in fact entirely evitable, Murdochoid twunt. We are intrigued, however, that a fifteen-a-side game of rugbyfoopball could find one side "outnumbered".

And although we wish no specific harm on Saint Jonny and his sacred boot, we would particularly like it if the French showed - as they so very often have - that there's more than one(1) way to win a game of rugbyfoopball, and that at least one(1) of them involves something other than gnarled old men lumbering forward until the ball is in kicking range of the posts.

And if our Varied Reader knows anyone who is still nurturing the delusion that the Murdoch Times is something other than a mouthbreather's filthbladet, could you please suggest that they stop? Thanks very.

2007-10-13 10:54

Hirsch Ballin II

It is minister of Insolence and Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, and he is doing the explaining that it is that he has to do:

De Nederlandse nationaliteit is volgens het kabinet niet iets exclusiefs. Dat er in Nederland meer dan n miljoen mensen een dubbele nationaliteit hebben is geen probleem voor de integratie. Dat zegt minister Hirsch Ballin (Justitie, CDA) in een gesprek met deze krant.

The cabinet is of the opinion that Dutch nationality is not exclusive. There are more thann a million people with dual nationality in the Netherlands and that is not a problem for integration. So says minister Hirsch Ballin (Justice and Insolent, Christian Democrats) in an interview with this newsbladet.

This, they go on to point out, is in contrast with the views of ex-minister Verdonk, who found Dutch nationality very exclusive indeed, largely as a way to taunt persons of more complex nationality, whose widespread brownness was of course merely a coincidence.

But he doesn't actually retract his threat to Boris's passport, even if we look set to be able to have two(2) ourself.

2007-10-13 10:40

Hands off Boris's passports!

It is Minister of Justice and Insolence Ernst Hirsch Ballin:

Kinderen die over twee paspoorten beschikken en vijf jaar in Nederland wonen, moeten voortaan op hun achttiende jaar afstand doen van een van hun nationaliteiten.

Children who have two(2) passports and have lived for five(5) years in the Netherlands, should have to renounce one of their nationalities when they turn eighteen(18).

Most such children are, of course, of the brown persuasion and have also passports from Morroco or Turkey. This is, equally of course, what the legislation is actually about, but it is not allowed either to publically admit this or to exempt little Boris on the grounds that he is after all not brown. (For the record, we consider that to be a net win, distortions of the debate notwithstanding.)

This is some kind of reaction to the serious but not binding recommendations of the Government's Council of Scholarly Advisors, who recently announced that they saw no objection to dual nationality:

Hirsch Ballin gaat met zijn voorstel voorbij aan een recent gepubliceerd rapport van de Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid (WRR). Dat adviesorgaan vindt het geen probleem als burgers een dubbele nationaliteit hebben.

Hirsch Ballin's proposal is at odds with the recently published report of the Council of Scholarly Advice to the Government. That organ found it no problem if citizens have dual nationality.

The Countess is of the opinion that the WRR's advice is taken pretty seriously by governments, and that Hirsch Ballin is on the whole not.

This is some comfort to us and little Boris (both prospective double-passport holders), but the Christian Democrats who have bossed the last n government coalitions have consistently proven to be hostile to dual nationality. We don't know if they're just offering a sop to the Further Right or are themselves sincerely deluded. It now looks like we may yet find out; we will be sure to keep our Varied Reader informed too.

2007-10-07 09:18

Nous aussi, nous sommes plus bleu que jamais !

In the rugbyfoopball, les Bleus of the host-nation France took on the Nu Zillun Allblacks, whose destiny it has always been to triumph at the World Cup if only they could stop losing in it.

In, for reasons that escape the jurisdiction of logic, Cardiff.

France's L'Equipe has this to say about the match:

Les Bleus sont normes. Ils l'ont fait. Exils Cardiff pour disputer leur quart de finale contre les Blacks, ils n'taient franchement pas favoris, et peu de gens misait sur eux. C'est ce qu'ils adorent. Envers et contre tous, dos au mur, ils ont sorti le match parfait et ont montr enfin toutes les qualits que l'on connaissait cette quipe, en s'appuyant sur les valeurs fondamentales de ce sport : combat, courage, envie, solidarit.

Les Bleus are enormous. They did it. Exiled to Cardiff to dispute their quarter final against les Blacks, they were by no means favourites, and few were counting on them. They love that stuff. Against and despite everything, backs to the wall, they brought out a perfect match and finally showed the qualities that the team is known to have, in applying the fundamental values of this sport: combat, courage, desire, solidarit.

The Nu Zillun Herald, largely seems largely to agree, modulo some affective texture:

Players, coaches and fans were trying to come to terms tonight with the All Blacks' shock exit from the World Cup after this morning's 20-18 loss to France.

The tournament favourites crashed out in Cardiff leaving the rugby world asking what went wrong.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry put it down to passion - saying the French had too much of it.

(The Herald also has a review of the press coverage, but they apparently neglect to employ anyone conversant in the tongue of the Gauls.)

2007-10-06 16:38

Intermittent national identities

Mostly we're not really very Engleesh, inside our head. About the only thing we're sure we miss from Back Home is the parsnip, which unaccountably doesn't get any love over here on the Continong. (Stupid foreigners, parsnips are delicious!)

But there is still one circumstance under which our vestigial Engleeshness can be kindled into if not a raging fire then at least a candle's-worth: when Eng-ger-lnd beat Australia at any sport more consequential than, say, tiddlywinks.

The 'Ger-lnd's triumph at rugby may have been unlikely, it may have been undeserved, it certainly owed much to Jonny Wilkinson's rejuvenated boot[1], but it was a temporarily jingoistic joy to behold.

If les bleus can dispense with the Nu Zillun Blackhearts joy will by no means be unconfined, but our smirk will surely become measureably broader.


[1] "Zonder Wilkinson is dit Engeland niets", said the Dutch commentator, and he wasn't wrong. Why it was on Dutch public broadcasting, we don't know - maybe it is just that the rights were competitively priced in the territory.
2007-09-30 09:09

Oh to be on the North Sea coast now that r's in the month are here!

It is, after all, mussel season.

We bought a dedicated musselpan for a few euros at Lidl a while back, and yesterday the Countess bought a pack of tasty live fresh gastropodial treats to cook in it.

You can, and we did, also buy preprepared packs of mussel vegetables to steam them with, and then it is as trivial as Fancy Food can get.

(We did use oven frites, though, since we are not permitted the otherwise ubiquitous friteuse for fear that we might never eat unfried food again, which is not an unreasonable fear by any means.)

Given the recent trend of wearing Redshirts for Burma, can we retrospectively declare this to have been the launch of our excellent campaign Eat Moules-Frites Whenever You Feel Like It To Show Solidarity With The State Of Belgium? Thanks very!

(We also saw a Suchet-Poirot afterwards, so it was practically a Belgian theme evening.)

2007-09-26 19:01

Tegenwoordigheid

It is Pascal Mercier (which is not his real name), professional philosopher and author of the male-menopausal novel Nighttrain to Lisbon, which has lately been taking Europe (by which we mean his native Chermany) by storm!

A key concern of his is tegenwoordigheid, which we shall be translating as being-in-the-moment, and is in his view intimately related to authentic life and inner freedom. (Are you getting a Heidegger rewritten by Paolo Coelho vibe, Varied Reader? We certainly are.)

But today we shall be mostly mocking his opinions on language, as exclusively revealed to the NRC Handelsblad treeware edition and translated - recklessly - by ourself.

Mercier finds it too strong to say that you become another person in another langwidge, but "life in French sounds completely different than in Dutch." If you speak more than one language, you have more inner freedom. "Whoever learns a new langwidge reaches a higher form of freedom, so that learning a langwidge also meens more being-in-the-moment.

You could make it up, we grant you that, but isn't it glorious that you don't have to? (It is churlish to note, as we churlishly hereby do, that Mercier does not include Dutch in his list of languages spoken.)

There is plenty more where this comes from, but we will restrict ourself to a fragment of his sub-Nietzschean rhapsody on the Mediterranean:

The light is different, Italian youths throw cigarette butts on the ground. Everything is chaos, anarchy, imagination. Perhaps the only northern equivalent of this being-in-the-moment is a snow-covered churchyard in Holland.

Unfortunately, the book itself costs more than we wish to spend in the Dutch (or the French, although they sound otherwise quite different), and the Cherman edition, although admirably inexpensive, is beyond the capacities of our current being-in-the-moment, so we are reduced to commending it to our Varied Reader's attention, sense-of-humour permitting.

2007-09-21 22:10

One-all to the Groningens!

They pluckily resisted the Italian wiles of the Fiorenteenies, which was nice. Except it wasn't on TV and we were at Dutchklass anyway.

Still, the prospect of the UEFA groupstagings is a prospect to contemplate, if they can wangle and win a penaltyshootout in the return leg. Which let's face it they won't.

2007-09-21 21:56

Those Hamborger Veermasters!

Ick heff mol en Hamborger Veermaster sehn,
To my hooda! To my hooda!
De Masten so scheef as den Schipper sien Been,
To my hoo da hoo da ho!
Refrain:
Blow boys blow for Californio,
There is plenty of Gold
So I've been told
On the banks of Sacramento.

It's just that lately it has increasingly occurred to us to contemplate how much of even nineteenth-century European history happened outside Europe.

Belatedly, we cheerfully concede.

2007-09-15 12:42

First night at school

We cycled alone, for once, through the autumn cool of the evening into the centrum. In the courtyard, the bike racks were still half full even at 20.00, and the empty spaces were strewn with glossy new chestnuts.

A girl with an unusually strong Dutch accent greeted us, and gave us confusing directions to our classroom. Thus delayed, we found it almost full with, as it transpired, a couple of South American dentists, assorted young Chermans who knew each other from a previous intensive Dutch class, one each from Slovakia, Czechia, Hungaria, and Ukrainia, a Dutch citizen who grew up in Tunisia speaking Tunisian and apologies to anyone we've overlooked.

It's a serious grown-up course for serious hoogopgeleide people, this time, with trenchant slabs of grammar and irregular verbs, but still agreeably functional.

The weirdest thing is that we all speak English in the breaks. Global lingua franca or not, we all speak Dutch almost as well as Global Engleesh. What's the point of that, we ask or inquire?

2007-09-04 08:33

NB Nooteboom!

When I grow up I want to be
As nutty as a Cees nut-tree

It is however Cees Nooteboom, European extraordinaire and erstwhile Dutchperson, who is now more popular in Chermany than his native land.

His Ontvoering van Europa ("The R4pe of Europa", except that isn't a very apt translation) is entirely devoted to the alleged question of what a European identity might be, and how one might acquire or obtain such a thing. As a bonus, it seems not to have ever been Englished and it is even out of print in the Netherlands, so we can use it with gusto on our forthcoming course on European Identities with the University of Openness.

Sadly, though, we have pledged not to read it until our current essay is done.

2007-09-04 07:34

Motivate me harder!

We have another essay to write for the University of Openness. Our final mark for the course if we do not write it will, however, be indistinguishable in all practical implications from our final mark if we do.

This fact is not helping very much.

2007-09-01 12:31

Taalwaardigheid worth talking about

Our supply of free workplace Dutch lessons has dried up: as of now, only newbies get freebies.

This being somewhat belatedly announced, we were short of time to make alternative arrangements. Not least given the policy of the local university:

People who are interested in registering for courses higher than level 1 and have not previously taken a course at the Language Centre will first have to speak to a teacher. The teachers advice is binding.

The spreekuren when this advice-binding takes place are at lunchtime, and since we couldn't easily get back in time for the limited edition evening editions available in the summer we took an afternoon off to attend. After one (1) sentence, we were deemed worthy of attendance at a level 3 course (or even a level 4 one, but 3 is better suited to our current ambitions, as it teaches specifically towards an exam we wish to take).

The actual signing up takes place at the associated secretariate, and this being, which it is, the Netherlands, the secretariate closes for business before the spreekuur begins, so that two (2) trips during working hours are necessary.

This continuing to be the Netherlands, the secretariate declared, when the Countess attempted to deputise for us the following day, that the course was full, notwithstanding the web page's claim that it wasn't. The Countess, being - as she is - the Countess, however, launched one of her celebrated counter-offensives and we are registered after all.

So with a bit of luck we'll be ready for Certification as a Dutch-speaker before the new year, although we do not especially expect to be certified by then.

2007-08-26 12:44

"World Famous"

From a recent newspaper review of a cd:

In Zweden is hij wereldberoemd

He is world-famous in Zweden

We, no-doubt along with many World-Famous but otherwise obscure Crab Shacks, heartily endorse this development.

It is in any case probably necessary to modulate fame in a small country like this: there is a category of Bekende Nederlanders ("Famous Dutchpersons") who are understood to be operating on a different scale from the ultra-celebrities of Hollywood and MTV. (The biggest chat-show here, Jensen, often features celebs from the latter circuit, interviewed in English by the Dutch host and subtitled for home consumption.)

2007-08-26 12:13

Weekeinden

On Friday we attended the local cultural festival Noorderzon to hear Mike "Fat Geek" Daisey's monologue about Wal-Mart, Maine, Monopoly and Tesla, which contained entirely too much Tesla for our tastes. (Tesla-worshippers seem to intersect very little with persons actually conversant with physics.)

Then, of course, we had some bier and some more bier.

Yesterday there was a neighbourhood barbecue party, in which we finally met some neighbours and drank too much cheap red wine. But we didn't get Englished at all, even by the lady with four English-speaking grandchildren, so we can now officially declare that Englishing is not widespread in the north of the Netherlands.

And this (Sunday) afternoon we are engaged in a state visit to a farm just outside of town, where we sincerely hope we are not expected to get drunk again.

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