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2004-10-08 15:10


1. Austro-Yorkshirean Empire, communication difficulties in:

A group of foreign doctors left baffled by South Yorkshire slang are being taught the local dialect so they know when their patients feel "champion".

The seven Austrians are fluent English speakers but were left confused by patients feeling "jiggered" or "manky". But now doctor-patient relations in Barnsley and Doncaster have improved after the local NHS trust compiled a special Yorkshire language guide.

In a German-speaking country, I think, such a problem could not have arisen. The excellent Kauderwelsch berphrasebooks are available in a a series of volumes covering the dialectal variations of the language. (I myself intend to acquire at the first opportunity a Berlin accent you could cut with a knife.)

2. Elfen Elfreide sells out!

Nr Aftonbladet beskte Akademibokhandeln i Stockholm fanns inte en enda av hennes bcker kvar.
- Vi hade tre bcker av henne p tyska och en p engelska, men dom tog slut direkt, sger Mats Eriksson p Akademibokhandeln.

When Aftonbladet visited the Akademibookshop in Stockholm there wasn't a single one of her books left.
"We had three of her books in German and one in English, but they went immediately," said Mats Eriksson of the Akademibookshop.

The Akademibookshop, incidentally, is the bookshop in Stockholm; it is where this 'bladet also seeks literary sustenance when it is in town.

3. Boring is the new interesting

The European commission yesterday recommended that Britain's model of corporate governance, including a powerful role for non-executive directors and a fully-fledged remuneration policy, should be extended to all listed companies in the European Union.

The transparency of directors' pay may not be the most glamorous cause, but boring is what the EU does best. (The reason that the French have always been in the vanguard of lobbyistes for closer and deeper union is by no means because they desire any such something; they simply get bored out of their Gallic minds with all the small print and seek to liven things up with a Big Idea or two. It may be silly but it's basically harmless. Now, Jacques, let's get back to the draft of subclause 17.2.3.iii(b) in the framework document on tractor inspection protocols. Yes, Jacques, we do have to.)


Towards a reconstruction of Proto-Sheep*

The fantastique What says a cow? is a superb resource!

We learn that Finnish sheep say "M", and German ones "Mh", while Polish sheep say "bee bee" and French ones "Bee-bee".

It is absurd to argue that this degree of similarity across such an extensive region could have arisen by chance, and it is well-known that livestock vocabulary in general is strongly resistant to loans - when English adopted French "mouton" as "mutton", it applied it only to the meat and retained "sheep" for the animal itself, and it is surely unreasonable to think that the sheep themselves would be more receptive to loan words.

It is hardly to be disputed, then, that when Sheepkind first arose and acquired the gift of bleating their first words must have been taken the form CV, with a bilabial consonant C and a front, unrounded vowel V of mid-height, and that this form, passed down from sheep to lamb, has maintained an unbroken continuity through countless generations.

* This paper was originally intended for inclusion in a Feindschrift in Honour of Merritt Ruhlen

[UPDATE: What says a cow? needs you! If you can fill in gaps in their database, and supply sound files of your pronunciation of the onomatopaeic text in your language, why not nip over and help them out?]


2004-10-08 10:00

Clarify me harder

John von Johnenbelle brings to our extensively unsought attention an interview with Janet "Ring-a-ding" Radcliffe Richards ("Is it really she?" you ask or enquire, and I have the pleasure to assure you it is), laboring under the headline "Bioethics, Darwin and Clear Thinking". (Again with all these clarities! It is the Applehood and Mother Pie of neo-scholastiques, is it not? I am rapidly approaching the point where I feel a need for a genealogical enquiry into the discursive functions these such words play in neo-scholastique texts.)


She has a theory, which is hers, that ethical claims should be investigated by seeking a premise from which they rationally follow. Here is an example, pertaining to the prohibition of abortion:

'Now the good clear reason sounds easy: you can say the foetus is a full human being with a right to life. But although some people do consistently hold that position, it can't justify the the abortion law in countries like this one, which allow some abortions but not others. So I set about trying to work out whether there was any coherent principle that could justify half-and-half laws like ours. And the only one I could find was punishing women for sex. It sounds preposterous - but I didn't come to this from any feminist intuition. It just seemed to be the only principle that came anywhere near giving a coherent basis for the present law.

(The Argument From Imaginative Poverty, hoorah! Shall we prove that p?

Now, p implies q, which is clearly true, and I can't think of any other reason why q. Thus p.)

This such theory belongs to a class of theories, including those of Freud and Marx, for example, in which the ostensible explanation that persons offer in order to account for their opinions and actions, is claimed to be false and rejected in favour of a hidden, true esoteric* explanation in terms of machinations of the id or the dialectical unfoldings of the class struggle or whatnot. (Brian Leiter, in particular, likes to refer to such approaches as hermeneuticses of suspicion.)

And, of course, a common way to counter such a proposal is to invoke empiricisme in an attempt to reject the ontological status of the whatnot in question, and I was just dusting off the Popper bat in preparation** when it suddenly occured to me that Radcliffe Richards hadn't actually proposed any such whatnot.

It is presumably this feature that entices Johnenbelle into calling this - with apparent approval! - a "moderate" hermeutics of suspicion, but we have no particular enthusiasme for such a Slight Readjustment Of Some Values. Luckily Radcliffe Richards goes on to provide a get-out clause that I, for one, could smuggle Belgium through:

'We know that there are lots of good reasons for limiting choice. It needn't be anti-liberal, because it's often rational to choose to limit choice. Given that it seems to be very deep in our nature to look for people to blame when things go wrong, I think we might well decide as a society that there were certain things we should put beyond our choice, because the problems caused by our being responsible for too much would be greater than the problems that came in the natural course of things. I suspect in the long run those are going to be some of the reasons we have for limiting choice.

'This is where a potentially good argument for not allowing too much genetic manipulation comes in, even though there's nothing intrinsically bad about trying to improve your children. One worry is the obvious one of creating too much inequality. But another is that children would be able to blame their parents for too much, and parents able to blame other people too much for their children. Women feel guilty enough when their children turn out wrongly as it is. So I think we're going to have to think about restraining choices, not because it's hubris or against the will of God, but because we may not want to cope with having so much freedom.'

Now, bear with me just a moment, Varied Reader; I need to be uncharacteristically precise: blame is not simply an attribution of causal responsibility; it additionally involves adopting an emotional attitude.

So, we might rationally wish (can you rationally wish, by the way? I can't) to limit freedom precisely because persons are intrinsically irrational and may react in undesireable, emotionally conditioned, ways to the consequences of their or others' actions. As a (malicious) example, we might impose restrictions on the way wimmins should be allowed to dress, because otherwise men's passions may become irrationally inflamed and they may not only behave improperly, but also blame the wimmins for this. (Since this is the Interweb, I should state explicitely that I do not endorse this argument: I do not endorse this argument.)

In fact, once you accept that your the real (dare we say esoteric? We do dare!) purpose of your ethical system - or if you insist on being "moderate", a very strong constraint on it - is to serve as a homeostatique mechanisme for a society of fundamentally irrational persons then the wheels have pretty much come off the Rationaliste Ethics project.

(We nonetheless look forward very much to Radcliffe Richards's forthcoming moderate masterpiece Civilisation and the Persons Who Are At Least Occasionally Less Than Entirely Content In It, should she choose to write it, or her A Handbook of Polite Conversation, As Related To The Author By Mr Zarathustra.)

* We acknowledge a (purely terminological) debt to to Leo "String-along" Strauss for the latter term. We have never read anything by Strauss, which is by all accounts plenty, but "esoteric" is lots of fun to say.
** This would indeed be against my principles, if I had any.


2004-10-07 (utc+1)


1. I like the wikipedia

Anent, as we say these days, Wilhelm von Humboldt:

The great work of his life [...] was interrupted by his death

Bulwer-Lytton, eat yer heart out!

2. The Nobel prize for writing about prinsessor

It has been won by "Elfen" Elfriede Jelinek for her nice play "Prinsessdramer".

3. Giving and taking away, a bi-handular approach

The Interweb German dictionary we used was obliterated into tiny fragments when Collins concluded that giving things away for free was an unsatisfactory business model, and we have been without one for a while but now we have a new one. Say hello to Leo, everyone.



2004-10-07 samwidge (utc+1)

Empire and Empiricisme

Oh, Denmark!

Denmark hopes to claim the North Pole and search for oil in high Arctic regions, the Science Ministry has said.

It announced that the country would send a team to try to prove that the seabed beneath the North Pole was a natural continuation of Greenland.

Just for that, I'm now backing the Grnland independence campaign, and don't think I'm not. (This story is also available in Danish.)


2004-10-07 morning (utc+1)

A bladet may or may not rejoice!

We certainly disapprove:

Det danske ukebladet skriver i morgendagens utgave at kronprins Frederik (36) og kronprinsesse Mary (32) venter barn.

The Danish trashbladet [Se og Hr] writes in morningday's edition that Kronprinsessmary is expecting a child.

We're treating this as just a rumour, for sure, and one other than in the best of taste, although we are not currently backing the invasion of Denmark to confiscate Se og Hr's biscuit stockpiles, we shall certainly be imposing a set of sanctions to prevent them from acquiring biscuits, or the materials required for their biscuit-construction programmes.

[UPDATE: According to Aftonbladet, that most excellent of 'bladets, the Danish court's custom or habit is to announce such happy somethings at the 17-week stage, and not before, whereas the kronprinsess is allegedly at 14-weeks.]


2004-10-06 tea (utc+1)

Be careful what you emancipate, isn't it?


L'Internet a instaur une forme de dmocratie participative entre les jihadistes et leurs sympathisants. La Toile a aussi acclr la diffusion d'ides, de rituels et de pratiques d'un bout l'autre de la plante. Ses vidos sanglantes, qui n'pargnent aucun dtail, sont autant de modes d'emploi. Il y a une surenchre de la violence et du spectacle de la violence, selon Anne Giudicelli. Ce n'est sans doute pas un hasard si l'essor du virtuel a suivi la chute, en novembre 2001, du rgime des talibans en Afghanistan. Dterritorialise, Al-Qaeda est devenue une idologie et des mthodes tlcharger. Plus besoin de recruteurs dans les mosques : le Web s'en occupe.

The Internet has inaugurated a form of participatory democracy among the "jihadists" and their sympathisers. The Web has also accelerated the diffusion of ideas, rituals and practices from one end of the planet to the other. Their gory videos, which spare no detail, are at the same time instruction manuals. "There is an infatuation with violence and the spectacle of violence," according to Anne Guidicelli [formerly with the French foreign ministry]. It's surely no coincidence that the expansion into cyberspace followed the fall, in November 2001, of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Deterritorialised, Al-qaeda has become an ideology and some downloadable methods. No need for recruiters in mosques these days: the Web's taking care of that.

Briefly: Al-qaeda is a brand, not an organisation; only terroriste information wants to be free in these enlightened days; unconstrained democracy is not panacea among horrible persons (see also the Switzyland).

(BTW: You know how washing up becomes insanely attractive as an essay deadline approaches? This is called displacement - "A psychological defense mechanism in which there is an unconscious shift of emotions, affect, or desires from the original object to a more acceptable or immediate substitute." If I still believed in causality, and especially geopolitical causality, this would be how I would explain Iraq.

Altogether now: "What do you mean 'fail'? I suppose you'd rather the dishes were still dirty, wouldn't you? I suppose you'd rather I died a slow and lingering death from poor crockery hygeine?")

[UPDATE: Compare the Beeb's dossier on the Jihadiste Web, which is as inane as only one prepared by professional analystes could be.]


2004-10-06 samwidge (utc+1)


1. Get 'em while they're cold, they're luvvly

Yummy seals, again. But this time, even the German trashbladets are taking the opportunity to claim the moral high ground:

Pervers ferie: Seldrap for 165 euro het det i gr i den strste tyske avisen Bild-Zeitung.

I dag oppfordrer avisen alle tyskere til ringe den norske ambassaden i Tyskland eller fiskeriministerens kontor i Oslo.

"Sick holiday: Kill a seal for 165 Euros", wrote the biggest German 'bladet Bild-Zeitung yesterday.

Today the newspaper suggest that Germans should ring the Norwegish ambassador in Germany or the Fisheryminister's office in Ooshloo.

So, essentially, some touriste organisations are pointing to the bad PR as a reason to forgo the yumminess of seals, but I for one am not expecting such an argument to easily prevail.

2. Prinsess A hatcheck


3. It isn't cheap being a prinsess!

Let alone a kronprinsess, of course. Mette-Marit (sadly hatless) is getting a pay-rise of 100,000 Norwegish zloties. Buy yourself a bonnet, Mette-Marit, you know you want to! With that kind of cash, you might even have enough left over for a glass of whiskey or a nice seal hunt.


2004-10-06 morning (utc+1)

The Quadrophonique Nietzsche Project

I am making progress in German, although I am still very much a beginner. But I was all sulky the other day, for reasons that do not concern my Varied Reader, and decided on a little retail therapy, so I immanentized the actuation of the Quadrophonique Nietzsche Project:

  • Frenchy-French. (I went with Livre de Poche based on a good experience with their edition of Descartes' Discours. And also because it was cheapest.)
  • Tysky-Tsk in Reclam's iconic yellowjacket.
  • Svenska (It's the only one in a svenka "Pocket" edition, and I am not made of money.) and
  • Silly Engleesh

But the Silly Engleesh gives me pause - I was going to buy the Penguin edition, to match some other volumes of Laughing Boy's that I have accumulated over the years, but I have lately taken a dislike to Penguin's new policy of shameless price-gouging, and as it turns out there isn't a Penguin edition anyway.

So it's either the ugly American edition of the Kaufman (why so ugly, Random House?) or the irritatingly smug new Oxbridge translation which bills itself Nietzsche: The Gay Science - With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs and features significantly more text by Bernard Williams than I had anticipated ever giving house-room too.

I was leaning, nonetheless, towards the Oxbridge, until I went to Borders to check it out. It is so annoyingly big! Not a full 'Merkan-style bloatiback, admittedly, but definitely, and quite gratuitously, larger than a paperback book needs to be. So I'm putting the decision off. Maybe I'll just decide to work with Triphonique and limit myself to languages that haven't institutionalised suckitude at all levels of their philosophical text dispersal industry, and Anglophonia will tremble before my principled boycott. (It worked for Nelson Mandela, after all.)


2004-10-05 16:42

Bad AI projects don't die

They reinvent themselves as Interweb start-ups, instead. Search engines have been a particularly egregious tar-pit for disenriching the underclued, and here's another one:

"We want to build a system that understands language and connections between words," he says. The baseline of authority this will be based on is a dictionary.

"It is the most objective source we have and it's where we can get all the rules that govern language," says Mr Gardner.

Mr Gardner of Kozoru (for it is he of it!), your project is so spectacularly doomed that it was, in fact, endorsed as an example of how things could be worse at the last Emergency General Meeting of the Dinosaur Prophets' Society when the full implications of the impending comety kaboom had sunk in.

A terrine of doom in a doomberry sauce served with a coulis of doomfruit and some lightly-steamed doomsprouts is less doomed than your project. HTH


2004-10-05 15:03

Ho ho ho? Oh no!

Worry not and have no fear
It's never too soon for Yuletide cheer!

- Blind Spacefish Santa

Says Woolworths:

The Christmas shopping season is about to begin again. Woolworths is getting ahead of its High Street rivals by starting three weeks earlier than last year - with plans to get its seasonal stock on the shelves by mid-October.

Slackers! Borders has had its obstruction ("special offer") tables piled high with grotty plebian junk (parodies and humourous tidbits for the middle-aged gentleman who might conceivably think he already has enough ties in your life) for a couple of weeks now.

Personally, I am very fond of Twinkletree, but I do not especially wish to feel under seige from it. Twinkletree season at the Chteau von Bladet starts with the first festive snkaos of the season, and not before.


2004-10-05 10:20

Un fardeau aussi lourd qu'inutile

We are having computer issues, of which my contribution to their solution is to sit downstream of responsibility, whining.

While we're waiting, how about a nice story?

Det var en gng en prinsessa som bodde i ett land lngt, lngt borta. Hon hade lmnat allt bakom sig. Sin karrir inom finansbranschen, sina vnner och till och med sin religion.
Hon lmnade allt med ett glatt hjrta, eftersom hon hade trffat en prins. En alldeles egen drmprins, som var vrd alla uppoffringar.
Men pltsligt en dag upptckte prinsessan att drmprinsen bara var en grodprins.

Once upon a time there was a [beautiful] prinses who lived in a land far far away.
She had left everything behind her: her career in financial business executry, her friends, and even her religion.
She left them all with a joyful hear, since she had met a prins. A dream prins of her very own, who was worthy of all these sacrifices.
But suddenly one day the prinsess realised that the dream prins was only a frog prins.

It's frogprins Joaquim from now on, for sure.

2004-10-04 tea (utc+1)


1. Pig fat, yum yum

Ukrainians celebrated their love of pork fat at the weekend by consuming a giant sandwich filled with 40 kilos of the "delicacy" called salo.

2. Elisabeth Tarnished-Washboard speaks!

We are longstanding fans of Ms Harrassed-Washstand, the doughty spokesperson of the court, but in this instance the focus or limelight is for once on the Treehouse-Wobbler herself. (What is a hovmarskalk anyway, you ask or enquire? It means, quite simply, that she is chef fr Kronprinsessans hovstat tillika hovstat hos Hertigen av Vrmland och Hertiginnan av Hlsingland och Gstrikland. Several of those such persons, we may suspect, are the lovely kronprinsess Vickan.)

3. Bier

Two of the world's largest brewers have gone on fresh spending sprees.

Inbev, the world's largest beer-maker has bought Germany's Spaten Brewery; while rival, and global number three, Heineken has purchased Russia's Sobol.

We like bier ("l")!

4. An upper bound on the number of Nobel laureates in economics

There are no (0) Nobel prizes in economics, and therefore there are no laureates in the discpline. Capische?

You can send my Bank of Brunei Prize for Countning in Memory of A J "Freddy" Neaubelle (no relation) to the usual address.


2004-10-04 samwidge (utc+1)

Neo-scholastique o'clock

I'd ask "Why?", but we'll settle for some what at a pinch:

What is analytic philosophy? One familiar answer contrasts analytic philosophy with so-called Continental philosophy, whose major figures, in addition to Hegel, include Schopenhauer and Heidegger. But the labels probably hinder more than they help, not least because the study of Continental figures by card-carrying analytic philosophers is a thriving contemporary concern.

Says them. (They are Alex Byrne and Ned Hall.)

Another answer is that analytic philosophy is a body of theory or doctrine, but disagreement between analytic philosophers is widespread, and there is no substantial common core. If anything unites those who today would label themselves "analytic philosophers," it is a method - one that stresses the importance of clarity and rigorous argument and sees as its end product truth and knowledge, not harmony with the universe or promotion of the good.

You hear a lot of this "clarity and rigour" malarkey if you get within earshot of neo-scholastiques during the rutting season, for sure. I suppose "dessicated inanity" doesn't have quite the same ring as a battle cry, isn't it?

The article eventually concludes that analytique philosophes have achieved approximately nothing (in particular, its contribution to knowledge and truth conspicuously lacks extensiveness), and (rather less compellingly) that this is compelling evidence of just how clever they are. Well done, neo-scholastiques!



2004-10-04 morgen (utc+1)

The Desbladet seal of approval

The Desbladet yummy seal of approval:

Nu provocerar Norge hela vrlden igen - och lockar turister med sljakt.
- De gr precis som vi gr med vra lgar, sger Jan Guillou, en av f svenskar som sjlv jagat sl.

Now Norway is provoking the whole world again - and luring touristes with seal-hunting.
"They're just doing what we do with our yummy mooses," says [popular novelist] Jan Guillou, one of the few Swedishes who hunts seals himself.

I love the bit where it says "Norwegish fishermen have been complaining for ages about the yummy seals coming over here, eating all our fish." The shame!


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