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2003-07-14 09:22 (UTC+1)

[Tact] Domestic tact

From the Guardian's Steve Bell: today's cartoon and previous cartoons.

You'll like him; he's very tactful. (I especially love this one and I don't even get the references.)


2003-07-11 12:38 (UTC+1)

[Tact] Sweden's Euro debate

One Janet Bush has been active on behalf of the "No" campaign in Sverige (on the issue of joining the European Monetary Union, which is to say the Euro). Previously, she was active on the same question in Britain, which has not yet risked a referendum.

There's no need to worry, though, she's irreproachably tactful:

I reklamsnuttarna anvnde hon sig av Englands mest knda komiker. En klddes upp som Adolf Hitler och fick bland annat sga:
"Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Euro".

I ett annat budskap hette det: "Om Hitler var fr det, mste vi vara emot."

[In the adertising campaign she used one of England's best-known comedians, dressed up as Adolf Hitler and saying, amongst other things:
"Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Euro".

In another message the slogan was, "If Hitler was for it, we should be against it."]

For all I know that would apply to Mussolini, too. It would certainly explain a great deal about the trains in Britain if it did. I am not in a position to apologise on behalf of those of my fellow country-persons in which this did not inspire revulsion at and contempt for the perpetrators of the advertisement, but that wouldn't really be in the spirit of European Tact Week anyway.

Instead, I remind my Varied Reader of Godwin's law :

Godwin's Law prov. [Usenet] "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups.

Desbladet, you will be relieved to note, also follows this tradition.


2003-07-11 09:56 (UTC+1)

[Tact] Tyskebladets, tsk tsk.

Many of the German magazines that cover the Scandewegian royalties really aren't very nice at all, VG reveals:

Bladet 7 Tage, som kom ut i gr, har ikke ftt med seg nyheten, og skriver at Mette-Marit skal til den engelske gynekologen Sir Peter Greewich om to uker for bli operert slik at hun kan f barn.

Et annet blad skriver at det n er slutt mellom kronprins Haakon og Mette-Marit.

[The bladet 7 Tage, which came out yesterday hasn't had the news [of Mette-Marit's pregnancy] and writes that Mette-Marit is going to the English gynaecologist Sir Peter Greewich [sic] to have an operation so that she can have children.

Another bladet writes that kronprins Haakon and Mette-Marit have split up.]

What's up with that, Tyskebladets? I did have a go with the Tyskebladets of this type that can be procured over here and it was painfully obvious they were just flat-out lying. Where's the fun in that?


2003-07-10 16:49

Airconditioningsaga and creamy Celtic crapology

The world, I fear, is not yet ready for the airconditioningsaga. Besides, I do not yet know how it ends.

Meanwhile we begin European Tact Week, somewhat belatedly, with a little bit of domestic politics. In the wake of Cornwall's exhumation of the Cornish language, and its continuing efforts to promote its Celtic heritage (because the world was otherwise looking to be dangerously short of nationalism and geoethnique bickering, ho ho), the neighbouring county of Devon has promptly invented its own flag and started a campaign that amounts (loosely paraphrased) to saying "We're as Celtic as they are! And our cream teas and scones are famouser, too!"

The reception from the Corneesh has been, um, unseasonally cool:

The row has even spilled over into academia, with Cornwall's leading historical scholar, Prof Philip Payton, accusing Devon of "wanting to invent traditions".

"The idea of naming the flag after St Petroc is gratuitously offensive," says Prof Payton. "Most people here will treat it with mild disdain."

I am choosing to treat Devon's stance as a very sophisticated act of guerilla sarcasm at the expense of Corwall's "traditions" - Hobsbawn would be proud of them - and since I spent the bulk of my childhood summer holidays in Devon (Exmouth, since you ask) I am now an enthusiastic Devonian nationalist, hoorah!

Tomorrow, we will continue our tact masterclass with Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and British examples, many of which will also feature Germany.

2003-07-10 09:09 (UTC+1)

Snkaoses of mass destruction?

Send in the Danes!

Denmark's troops in Iraq may dream of the frost of a Scandinavian winter on days when the temperature rises to a blistering 46 degrees.

But many may have been wondering if the military back home really had to rub it in when a recent supply shipment turned up a snowplough and a stock of salt for icy roads.

Now we just need the execrable Pia Kjrsgaard to insist that she still has "absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of Weather of Mass Destruction programmes," and Denmark can finally be admitted to full membership of the Coalition of the Frankly Unhinged, hoorah.

Update: Danish bonus link, via Birgitte, and they don't come more authoritative than Ekstrabladet, that's for sure.


2003-07-09 15:57 (UTC+1)

Germany sexed up

Oh yes indeed. It seems like only last week that we were discussing the decline of Germany's role as corner stone of European culture, partly because it was in fact only last week. And already, notice has been taken according to the BBC a PR blitzkrieg campaign is planned in response, showcasing our German friends' sex appeal and sense of humour, yes really, for the benefit of Britain and France, but:

"Poland's going to be a difficult one," one cultural official concedes. "We're going to have to work out whether the funny and sexy attitude of these other campaigns is appropriate there."

Last week, Germany got rid of the Luftwaffe logo from aircraft used by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other top government officials.

The Luftwaffe reduced cities like Warsaw to rubble during World War II, and the continuing presence of the logo on aircraft is thought to have raised more than a few eyebrows on trips to the east.

It's "thought to" have raised eyebrows? Now that I have access to Courrier International, hoorah, I can inform both you and the BBC that Poland has a variety of news and current affairs publications, with all the columnistes and editorialistes (and intellectuals, who are expected to join in the circus in countries outside Anglophonia) that are traditionally associated with a free press in a democratic country. The state of the Polish eyebrow-in-the-street, then, could readily be remarked upon in the event that it was found to be remarkable.

(Urgent Newsflash for the BBC: They rebuilt the cities, I repeat, They rebuilt the cities.)


2003-07-09 11:21


Ooh, but I think my Norwegish is going to be in pretty good shape by January and today we're also learning some science, hoorah. As you probably know, blue-eyedness is recessive, so persons with blue eyes must have two blue-eyed alleles (which I'll notate b) and no brown eyed alleles (B). As you certainly know, Mette-Marit has blue eyes, and thus is of genotype bb, while Haakon's dad Harald is also blue-eyed, but his mother is brown-eyed. Since Haakon must have one allele from his father (which we will assume is indeed Harald for the sake of simplicity and uncontroversiality) he must be of genotype Bb, so the prins(ess)ly Bun in the Royal Oven has a fifty-fifty chance of getting a B from His Daddiness (again invoking the uncontroversiality assumption) to go with the guaranteed b from Her Mumminess. VG does this with pictures, but also in Norwegish:

50-50: Norges nye tronarving har like stor sjanse for f bl yne som brune. Genene fra kronprins Haakon bestemmer.

[50-50: Norway's new heir to the throne has just as much chance of having blue eyes as brown. Genes from kronprins Haakon will decide.]

Note, in particular, that a child whose parents both have blue eyes but does not have blue eyes itself has thereby misidentified at least one of its biological parents, although we hasten to urge our Scandewegian readers to use this information only for good.


2003-07-08 16:01 (UTC+1)

Frontotemporal dementia for artistes

[linkage via Our Lady of the Frogs]

It's been a while since spicy brains have been on the menu at La Trattoria von Bladetta, so this morsel is very welcome:

Few doctors in the world know more about frontotemporal dementia, or the brief blossom of creativity it can render, than Dr. Miller.

"One of the tragic aspects of it is the beginning of creativity heralds the onset of disease," he says. "And as the disease progresses, we go through a period where someone perfects the artistic skill, so it steadily improves as the disease is progressing, and then the disease eventually overwhelms the process and eventually the creativity is gone."

They refer to a paper in the journal Neurology "last month", sigh, although that's still better than BBC journalists usually manages, damn them.

A little digging turns it up, though: "The influence of frontotemporal dementia on an accomplished artist" Joshua Chang Mell, BS, Sara M. Howard, BFA and Bruce L. Miller, MD Neurology 2003;60:1707-1710.

Working for a University has some seriously cool side-effects on my brain, that much is for very sure.


2003-07-08 11:35 (UTC+1)

Vote early, vote often, but most of all, vote Ragnhild

As you will recall, Denmark recently named a prins "Felix" rather than "Knud" as all right-thinking people has been demanding. A disappointment, for sure, a setback, perhaps, but a precedent? Certainly not!

With Mette-Marit of Norway now pregnant with the heir to the Norwegian throne (they have fixed the gender bug now, hoorah, so the blivande sproglet lines up after is its [oops!] father) it is imperative that we should do everything we can to prevent Norway from repeating Denmark's mistake. The Norwegian newspaper of reference, VG, is, as is so often the case, leading the way. To the question:

Br den nye tronarvingen f et kongelig navn?

[Should the new heir to the throne get lumbered with a Royal name?]

64.80 % of its stout-hearted and patriotic readers have given their considered assent. Needless to say, Desbladet is also lending such weight as it has to the "Olav/Ragnhild" (Ragnhild! Yay!) campaign.


2003-07-08 09:55 (UTC+1)


Visits here are through the roof, but it is not persons avid to spectate on my fascinating insights into French philosophers or even prinsessly gossiping. They want faked fotos of prinsessor in states of nekkidity, which I am delighted to say I do not have.

But if this isn't the sort of bladet they're looking for, they're also not the sort of visitor we are keen to attract. Shoo, prospective prinsessor pr0n procurers!


2003-07-07 18:00

Prejudices Confirmed While U Wait

Jonathon Rees, via Avva, via Language Hat, gives a public health warning: Do not read French philosophers in Engleesh:

For some reason, the translation of French philosophy has been a disaster by comparison [with that of German]. On the whole, the work has been left to translators with little knowledge of philosophy, no affection for it, and often a quite weak grasp of French as well. When Sartre, in Being and Nothingness, speaks of "having to be" (devant etre), for instance, the Hazel Barnes translation renders it quite bewilderingly as "being beforehand", and his central claim about consciousness puffing itself up with totalitarian metaphysics - that "consciousness is Hegelian - but that is its greatest illusion" - comes out as "consciousness is Hegelian, but it is Hegel's greatest illusion".

The baseline for these unhappy translations was set in 1948, when Bernard Frechtman - a young American in Paris, who later embarked on a long career as the translator of Jean Genet - made a very sullen job of Sartre's pre-war Esquisse d'une theorie des emotions. He had evidently not mastered the French for pin-tables (his version is still in print, so students must still be marvelling at French bars being equipped with "coin-making machines"), and he reversed the meaning of subjunctive clauses by translating the particle ne as "not". Frechtman evidently did not have much clue what Sartre was trying to say, and he communicates his condition most eloquently to his readers.

I have occasionally felt that I have no business inflicting my feeble translations of philosophers on my Varied Reader, but if that's the prevailing standard then I think I can hold my head up high. The rest of the essay is thoughtful and interesting about the way philosophical traditions scorn language barriers and just how complicated it can all get as a result, and it's all very concrete as befits an attempt to smuggle what is clearly an essay on hermeneutics past the censors of the Anglophone Establishment by not actually using the word, sssh!


2003-07-07 10:16 (UTC+1)

Cricket report

Last year we saw Sachin Tendulkar make a glorious century against a Sri Lanka attack deprived of Muralitharan. This year Zimbabwe could only manage 92 all out against an England attack featuring a rejuvenated Darren Gough, so it all fizzled out fairly quickly.

Still, much of the fun of being at a one day cricket match is being at a one day cricket match - the crowd at fine leg to our long on took the Zimbabwean fielder at that position to their hearts and greeted him with rapturous ovations every time he came back to his position, to his obvious embarassment. Funny the first time, absolutely hilarious the sixth. The Test Match Special team (one of our party had a radio) sent Henry Blofeld over to find out what the point was, completely missing the point. Our group were fitted out with glitter-covered hats, courtesy of another of our party, and black armbands. (After the recent rigged elections in Zimbabwe two of the cricket team took to the field in their next match wearing black armbands mourning the death of Zimbabwean democracy. The Zimbabwean cricket authorities are Mugabe stooges - the evil bastard turns out to be fond of the game - and promptly sacked them. Probably the ECB should have cancelled the tour - Mugabe would have noticed - but they didn't, so we protest genteely with armbands of our own since we are after all cricket fans.)

But even with the Zimbabwean getting through their overs disgracefully slowly and the obligatory middle-order wobble by England's fragile batting line-up it was all done and dusted by 3pm and we all went home to sober up with cups of tea and read our Les Gnies de la science biographies of Freud.


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