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2004-03-05 hometime (utc)

здразбутя, my silly Engerleesh friends!

I've installed a new Emacs which has better unicode support, and so of course I wanted to be able to use it on the 'bladet, so that we may discuss Švyturis beer, yum yum, and use Wisława Szymborska's actual name (is that it?) and generally use a crazy collection of ģrāphs as we see fit.

So I wrote a utf-8->HTML escape code conversion script, as you can plainly see. (See the HTML source and weep!)


2004-03-05 aprs-samwidge (utc)

Preposterosity, now also in wimmin's sizes

Skihoppning is, of course, the second-finest sport in the world after cricket. And the second-best just got second-better, 'cos now they're letting wimmins play on the Big Slopes. Enjoy our sl-motion replay...

Before (just):

Det internasjonale skiforbundet (FIS) har gitt klarsignal til kvinnelig deltakelse i prvehoppingen foran helgens skiflyging i Vikersund. Anette Sagen nekter tro det.

The international skiing association (FIS) has given the go ahead for wimminlig participants in the test hoppning before the weekends skiflying in Vikersund. Anette Sagen can't believe it.

And just after (Ms Sagen's jump of 171 metres):

- Dette var helt sinnsykt. Jeg hadde ikke trodd at suget i bakken skulle vre s vilt, sa en jublende Sagen rett etterp.

"That was completely mind-blowing. I wouldn't've thought the acceleration(?) on the slope could be so wild", said an exultant Sagen immediately afterwards.

170m is an awfully long way to hopp (although some of the mannligare contestants later jumped over 200m) - the Four Hills distances were more like 14020m, so this really must be a giant hoppslope.


2004-03-05 not beer, hlas (utc)

Beer, slightly geopolitical

Zeige mir eine Frau, die wirklich Geschmack am Bier findet, und ich erobere die Welt.

"Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world."

- Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941)

In this increasingly global world, though, the beer may just conquer the world itself without the need for any smelly old Kaisers:

Le brasseur belge Interbrew, numro quatre mondial, et le brsilien AmBev, numro cinq, ont annonc hier leur rapprochement, par le biais d'un change d'actions et d'activits. Le nouveau groupe, InterbrewAmBev, sera le numro un mondial de la bire en termes de production, dtrnant l'amricain Anheuser-Busch, et dtiendra 14 % du march global.

The Belgian brewer Interbrew, the world's fourth largest, and the Brazilian AmBev, number five, announced yesterday their merger by menas of an exchange of shares and activities. The new group InterbrewAmBev, will be the world's number one in beer in terms of production, dethroning the American Anheuser-Busch, and will control 14% of the global market.

Pff. America is, like, so C20, isn't it?


2004-03-05 morning (utc)

It is thought to be very old-fashioned to speak the pa-Russky

In the Ukraine even:

An international congress on the future of the Russian language in the CIS opens in the Kyrgyz capital today, the Russian broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.

"Russia is finally beginning to spend more money on supporting teaching Russian in the CIS," the paper says, adding that over 23m roubles has been earmarked by the government for a programme teaching Russian in the CIS. The paper notes that the number of Russian-language schools in Ukraine has decreased sevenfold, according to the Russian Education Ministry, and by three times in Kazakhstan and Georgia.

"It is more prestigious to know English and it is thought to be very old-fashioned to speak Russian," the paper adds.

Russian-language schools, one would have thought, were not the only way to acquire some competence in Russian, especially if you start from Ukrainian (which is approximately Russian in the first place, unless you happen to be a booster of Ukraine's Glorious History and Cultual). But it's sweet that they're still calling it the "Commonwealth of Independent States (Sit Down Chechnya, Not Quite That Independent)", rather than the Commonwealth of Vassal Kleptocracies or something.


2004-03-04 paus (utc)

Let's Rename Slovenia!

How about "Bogoslavia"? I think they're making it up and there's not really any such place, anyway. I mean, it was (allegedly) part of Yugoslavia, but it hasn't had a war with anyone since the early 1990's. A likely story! So far as I can see the only way a former Yugoslav territory can be at peace for that long is if it doesn't really exist.

Anyway, Birgitte supplies a list alleged to be of Slovenian literatures in translation. and Lea Flis chips in her two bogo-zlotys:

As literary translations go it is not unexpected that poetry prevails; for centuries it has been the most direct and authentic expression of the Slovene national character. [...]

For those with no background in Slovene prose, I recommend Jancar's novel Mocking Desire (Northwestern University Press, 1998) as a first read. No doubt the most frequently translated fiction writer in Slovenia, Jancar uses a deceptively simple language to deliver a critical outlook on Slovenia's current social situation, as well as our political and cultural heritage.

So, if the story of the European novel is of the way in which Europe became conversant with its identity, Slovenia hasn't really started yet. Jancar is "no doubt the most translated fiction writer in Slovenia" in the sense that precisely one book of his has made it into the Engleesh - and he's presumably an alter-ego of some American academic having a laugh. (Which is also a decidedly better explanation for the "poetry" - it must be pretty straightforward to cobble together a collection of verse you can plausibly claim was translated from the "Slovenian", don't you think?)

And perhaps the real reason everyone mistakes "Slovenia" for Slovakia is that that's exactly what it is. It would be easy enough: whenever one of the big international aid agency is reviewing your gravy train application, you ship them to a disused corner of Slovakia (it's not as if touristes ever go there, so they won't recognise it) and slip the locals a few zlotys to put on a fake "Slovenian" accent and say "Welcome to our beloved Slovenian homeland! I will now recite some of our glorious poetry in honour of your visit!" The hardest part would be keeping a straight face, I should think.

Come on, "Slovenia", 'fess up!


2004-03-04 stll mrnng (utc)


1. Head me some lines, and make 'em snappy!

French anti-crime law criticised. (Not for being tautologous, sadly).

Swiss who saved Jews pardoned. (For, as you will guess on the double-take, something else.)

I was going to put a snide remark about Austria there, but it's probably safer to borrow one:

If the story of the European novel is of the way in which Europe became conversant with its identity, Austria has some way to go. This is the country that busied itself with the concept of Heimat in the 1920s, printing postcards with factory chimneys brushed out; the country of Jrg Haider and of silence about its part in the Nazi enterprise. How many Austrians does it take to change a lightbulb, the Jewish novelist Doron Rabinovici asked me in Vienna. The Austrian's answer: "I don't know, I wasn't there, I can't remember."

2. Cheer up, Bulgaria, it might never happen!

And if the Danes would stop smirking for a minute, please?

Danskene er det folkeslag i Europa som er mest fornyd med sin tilvrelse, iflge en ny underskelse som ble offentliggjort i Brussel onsdag. [...]

Danmark topper listen tett fulgt av svenskene og nederlenderne, og med bulgarerne p sisteplass. Over 90 prosent av danskene er fornyd med sine liv.

The Danes are the European people most pleased with their lives, according to a new survey officially published in Brussels on Wednesday. [...]

Denmark narrowly tops the list ahead of the Swedes and Dutch, with Bulgaria in last place. Over 90% of Danes are pleased with their lives.

3. Bollocks, Your Majesty!

Oh yes, it's the ship's parrot whose language is, shall we say, saltier than is considered fitting in the company of our Beloved Monarch, so he's been granted shore leave for her visit.

En alltfr frisprkig besttningsmedlem p brittiska "HMS Lancaster" kommer infr drottning Elizabeths besk p fartyget nu p fredag att tystas ned. Den svrande papegojan Sunny har ftt landpermis.

Den gr jakon har de senaste ren tjnstgjort som maskot i fregattens officersmss, berttar Daily Telegraph.

Med tiden har gojan bland dessa herrar till allmn frtjusning skaffat sig ett alltmer explicit ordfrrd. Prov p hennes mildare kraftuttryck r "arse" och "bollocks".

Funnily enough, among my mildare kraftuttryck r "arse" och "bollocks". The Daily Telegraph is also to be commended for not claiming the parrot is telepathic.

4. Trieste and Slovenia

Slovenia, as seen from Trieste:

10km away lies Slovenia - one of the first countries to opt out of Yugoslavia in 1991 but is so constantly confused with Slovakia it has even considered renaming itself.

Trieste is now in Italy, having previously been Trst in Slovenia (where they don't much hold with vowels). I'm sure I don't need to tell you that there's a left-over Slovenian population in Trieste, nor that it considers itself beleaguered.

The Slovenian language, incidentally, is ancient and noble, and not at all like the decadent jibber-jabber that passes for the rest of South Slavic, good Lord, no:

One of the Slavic family of languages, Slovenian is most closely related to Croatian and Serbian. It is usually grouped together with the South Slavic languages. It is however distinguished from them, in that it has retained archaic proto-Slavic features and lexical characteristics, which indicate a greater age and a strong lexical relationship with the north Slavic type (Bezlaj). For instance, the linguistically rare dual number still in use today links Slovenian to the Lusatian Slavic, the supine to Czech, the genitive case in the negative form to Balto-Slavic group. Unlike Serbian and Croatian, Slovenian is characterized by a great number of dialects - about 50 dialects and subdialects - which indicates its greater age.

Where do they get these people, and why on earth don't they take them back for a refund?

Explains the vowel thing though - vowels wear out much quicker than consonants and so older languages usually don't have as many - some really ancient languages, like Hebrew, don't have them at all.


2004-03-04 morning (utc)

EU enlargement: Malta

Malta is famous as being the only island ever to have been awarded the George cross.

Maltese is famous for being a Semitic language (closely related to Arabic) written with the roman alphabet.

The closest I've got to in-print Maltese literature in ze Engleesh is set in Cardiff:

Trezza Azzopardi's mesmerising debut novel, the Booker-shortlisted The Hiding Place, chronicles the life of a Maltese immigrant family in 1960s Cardiff, Wales, and is a beautifully evocative tale that ignites memories of family, childhood, violence and poverty for one young woman.

Oh, and the beginning of Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers is set there, if I remember right.

This is a lot more than I currently know about Slovenia, though.


2004-03-03 darkening (utc)

How Yoorpean are you?

It's official:

You are descended from Napoleon. You see no national boundaries and sweep freely across the continent. You are so European, if you had a pond, you would give your neighbours generous quotas to fish in it. You are probably whistling the Ode to Joy right now.

One of the questions is Where are you going for your holidays this year?, and one of the answers is Riga, it's the new Tallinn, [...], which I did (I demand that Twinkletree stands Janus-like between years) and it is.


2004-03-03 regn (utc)


Hoorah! But now I must work work work to make up for time of lostness.

2004-03-03 Engelsk sn (utc)

Taoisme, slightly twitchy

Thus spake the master programmer: "After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless."

Tomorrow, as a precautionary measure, I'll be bringing in my trusty HP-48 GX...

("FORTH IF HONK THEN", eh, Varied Reader?)

2004-03-03 tum-ti-tum (utc)

Of poets and posthumousness

When I die,
bury me with my guitar
beneath the sand.

[from "Memento", Frederic Garcia Lorca]

It's funny how the queue of persons wishing to congratulate themselves on bringing about the fall of communism from a safe distance is so much longer than the equivalent one to claim credit for the fall of Franco's very nasty regime in Spain. Except that it isn't, partly because there is no such credit to claim, and partly because the Ideologistes of the Flaming Right - who are most vigorously in charge of claiming that destiny knitted their bed-socks, these days - would be the last persons in any position to claim it if there were. Franco may have been horrid, but he was both a scumbag of the right and geopolitically of no particular consequence.

More than a quarter of a century after democracy came to Spain, more than 30,000 victims of the civil war and the repression that followed still lie in mass graves, scattered across the country.

Spaniards call them the graves of forgetting.

Efforts by families to reclaim their loved-ones' remains have been hindered by a lack of official interest and funding.

But pressure to open the grave shared by Lorca means the issue is coming under renewed - and for many unwelcome public scrutiny.

Some would prefer not to reopen old graves, and wounds, this having been the deal post-Franco Spain made with itself.

Even Lorca's relatives are against disturbing their uncle's grave - though they are being shouted down by the families of the men who share the grave and by the poet's fans.

Which is to say, the Lorca industry has recruited some genuine griefs as a fig-leaf for its machinations.

For future reference, then:

Unwilling Testament

If I should die,
cut off my ears,
And keep them in a jar,
On a shelf
Behind my local's public bar

When I'm deceased,
Cut off my toes
And thread them on a string
And always wear them round your neck
When you go wandering

When I should croak
By all means flay
The skin from off my back
And use it as a tarpaulin,
In case your roof should crack

When I'm a stiff
Please petrify
My liver and my spleen,
And plant them in your flow'r bed,
Upside down, and painted green.

But if you'd rather not do that,
Do something else instead:
It's not as if I'll give a toss
If I am really dead.
(Please check!)

- Frederic Garcia von Bladet.

2004-03-03 sigh (utc)

The EU enlargement considered as a reading list

The RAID (="redundant array of inexpensive disks") array [sic, just like PIN number and ISBN number] on the server has died horribly, shortly after both RAID arrays on the Big Computer died horribly. The point of RAID arrays is, of course, precisely that they don't just die horribly, but there you go.

The upshot is that I can't log in to my account (I'm logged in as root on my personal box, faut de mieux) and I don't have access to my bookmarks or my sacred blog-file. (Also I can't do any work, of course.)

But while I'm kicking my heels, why don't we all play a nice game? With ten (10) new countries set to join the EU in May, it has occurred to me that it would be good to read at least one book from each of them this year. And you can help choose! Contemporaryish (post-war 20th or 21st centuries only, for sure) literature only; novels rather than verse, where possible, please, and plays only if there isn't even any verse; translations into languages I know, for preference, which in practice means English or French, since Swedish bookshops do not especially consider that their role in life involves selling books. So far, the pickings are of thinness, sadly:

  • Malta (?)
  • Cyprus (?)
  • Slovenia (?)
  • Slovakia (?)
  • Bohemia ("The Czech Republic"): More Kundera, I suppose, and The Good Soldier Svejk.
  • Hungary (probably Imre Kertsz)
  • Polandland (Stanislaw Lem, and I've read a collection of Wislawa Szymborska's poetry in translation, which rocked).
  • Lithuania (?)
  • Latvia (?)
  • Estonia - The Czar's Madman, Jaan Kross

Any offers? There's plenty of slack there, up for the taking of - be the first on your block to recommend an unreadable Maltese epic prose poem thinly disguised as a novel!

2004-03-02 post-samwidge (utc)

Signals, slightly unheeded

For two quid, if you'd got there before me, you could have rescued one of the copies of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities from the increasingly untemptingly priced Oxfam bookshop's travel section. (The other one there was 2.50, and may still be if you hurry.)

I would like to take this opportunity to recommend the book to those who haven't read it, but I am somewhat undermined by the fact that that group still includes me.

2004-03-02 sulk (utc)

A lesser man might take offence

But if there is one thing we von Bladet's are not, it is lesser men.

Europas kongelige, Finlands statsoverhovede, det japanske kronprinsepar og mange flere, har nu som de fornemste og fineste gster alle fet invitationerne til Marys og Frederiks bryllup 14. maj. Resten m vente til ca. halvanden mned fr rets begivenhed.

Yoorp's royalties, Finlands President, the Japanese royal couple and many others have now, as the foremost and finest guests, all received invitations to Knudella and Kronprinsfred's wedding on the 14th of May. The rest must wait until the half-duck month for the event of the year.

When is the half-duck month, anyway?


2004-03-02 morning (utc)

Monday review of stuff

Leonard Bloomfield's Language (1935 in the Britished edition) is a work of enduring value, and well worth reading even now. The psychological framework leans towards behaviourism (boo!) and the morphology and especially syntax sections show their age, but there's nothing wrong with the good old-fashioned American structuralist phonology, which I hope is still taught before any of the fancy-pants post-generative malarkey.

Where the book really comes into its own is the historical and dialectal linguistics in the second half. Bloomfield vigourously defends (he does everything vigourously) a neo-grammarian account of phonetic change, and sketches a very plausible account of how this combines with analogic change and local borrowings to construct the kind of distribution of linguistic forms found in practice, but most importantly he draws on a rich variety of fascinating examples from a range of languages to make his case. He was professor of Germanic languages at Chicago at the time of writing, so there's a pleasant amount of Scandiwegian, but also plenty of Romance, and in earlier chapters quite a lot of examples from Native American languages (which was what Bloomfield mostly worked on).

Sapir's Language still rocks as a first introduction to linguistics, and is the most inspiring book on the subject I've read; Bloomfield's bigger and more comprehensive book would be an excellent choice to read next.

(I have Hjelmslev's Le Langage in the Frenchy-French, and I'm still looking for Jespersen's Language, which doesn't seem to have come out in Danish first.)


2004-03-01 dark (utc)

More quotey goodness

1. Le cerveau pic, mais pas localis

La dmarche neurophysiologique a donc pour but d'expliquer comment certaines fonctions cognitives sont soutenues par des systmes neuraux dfinis. La neuropsychologie n'a pas, ou ne devrait pas avoir, pour but de dcouvrir la localisation crbrale d'un symtme ou d'un sydrome.

The neurophysiological approach thus has as its goal to explain how certain cognitive functions are supported by definite neural systems. Neuropsychology doesn't, or shouldn't, set out to discover the "cerebral localisation" of a "symptom" or "syndrome".

L'Erreur de Descartes, A. Damasion, p. 84

I got the Frenched-up version because Amazon UK claims the Engleesh is out of print, and you can't prove I didn't. The point of this quote, though, is that while a region of the brain may be crucial for some task, it doesn't follow that it's solely responsible for it.


L'intentionalit, pris au sens psychologique, exprime precisment l'insufficance foncire de la coupure entre l'intriorit et l'extriorit. Dire que la conscience est conscience de quelque-chose, c'est dire qu'il n'y a pas de nose sans nome, de cogito sans cogitatum, mais pas non plus d'amo sans amatum, etc., bref que je suis entrelac avec le monde.

Intentionality, taken in the psychological sense, expresses precisely the fundamental inadequacy of the division between interiority and exteriority. To say that consciousness is consciousness of something is to say that there's no noese without noeme, no cogito without cogitatum, but also non amo without amatum, etc.; in short that I am interlaced with the world.

La phnomnologie, J-F Lyotard



2004-03-01 afternoon (utc)

Some intimate borrowing, sir or madam?

Soon after the German gets here [="the USA"], we find him using in his German speech, a host of English forms, such as coat, bottle, kick, change. He will say, for instance, ich hoffe, Sie werdens enjoyen, "I hope you will enjoy it", or ich hab ein cold gecatched "I've caught a cold".

Language, Leonard Bloomfield (Ch. 26, "Intimate Borrowing")

Margaret Marks is covering the English-language coverage of the Denglish, hoorah!

Advertising slogans in French magazines are often in ze Engleesh, and on those occasions are always (presumably by law) complete with asterisk directing the reader to a footnote in which a translation of Frenchness is given. I kind of miss that in German and Swedish, where it doesn't occur...


2004-03-01 samwidge (utc)

Authentique, more-than-slightly un

For sure:

A la veille de la sortie du film, les mdias ont dbattu de la vrit historique de la crucifixion. La Passion est-elle conforme la ralit ? se sont demand prtres, pasteurs et rabbins longueur de talk-shows. Quel a t le rle des juifs qui, dans le film, apparaissent comme les mchants ? Ont-ils voulu la mort de Jsus ? Gibson s'est appuy sur les Evangiles, mais aussi sur les visions de la stigmatique allemande Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), qui perptuait la rumeur accusant les juifs de voler le sang d'enfants chrtiens pour en faire leur pain azyme...

On the eve of the film's opening, the media debated the "historical truth" of the crucifixion. Does The Passion conform to reality? Priests, pastors and rabbis asked themselves during talk-shows. Why was the role of the Jews who, in the film, appeared to be the villains. Did they want Jesus's death? Gibson has drawn on the Gospels, but also on the German stigmatic Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), who perpetuated the rumour accusing the Jews of using the blood of Christian childrens to make their unleavened bread...

Anne Catherine "The Gibbering German" Emmerich's involvement has been noted in some of the saner media reviews (the Torygraph comes up trumps here) and you should see Naomi's old post on the subject for a more scholarly take.

"Historical truth", though? World's gone mad, innit?


2004-03-01 monday (utc)

I *heart* Frenchy-French intellectuelles!

Paul Virilio in the Vlobs, doing the Frenchy-French thing where the ideas don't necessarily make any sense, but the view is vertiginous:

Le grand danger contemporain c'est que le sentiment d'angoisse est en train de modifier de l'intrieur la dmocratie. La dmocratie tait lie la standardisation de l'opinion. De ce point de vue, elle est fille de la rvolution industrielle, c'est--dire la reproduction l'identique de produits mais aussi d'opinions. Aujourd'hui nous vivons live la synchronisation des motions. Et les motions sont admocratiques, avec un a privatif. La synchronisation des motions c'est la porte ouverte un mysticisme panique et hystrique dont les guerres de religion actuelles sont les mauvais signes. Mon esprance est pourtant intacte. Je choisis l'esprance contre toute esprance.

The great contemporary danger is that the feeling of anxiety is in the process of modifying the internals of democracy. Democracy was linked to the standardisation of opinion. From that point of view it's the child of the industrial revolution; that is, of the mass production of products but also of opinions. Today we experience live the synchronisation of emotions. And the emotions are undemocratic with a deprivatory un. The synchronisation of emotions is an open door for a paniced and hysterical mysticism of which the current religious wars are the ill omens. My hope is intact however. I choose to hope against all hope.

Top quality stuff, for sure.


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