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2005-08-19 16:29

Why I am so very woosh!

Since the 18th of June we have spent our weekends in: Genoa, Genoa, Bristle (laundry), Madrid, London, London, Bristol (hosting McMootses), Bristol (laundry), Umsterdum and Groningen. This evening we're going to Derbyshire, where the Dowager Countess maintains her country estate; next weekend is laundry again, and then we are hostning again.

After a predictably bad mark in the OU assignment we did technically under exam conditions but also travel weary and more than slightly drunk, the last one was back to our usual mark, so apparently it doesn't matter whether we're exhausted and barely coherent as long as we keep coming up with cute theoretical twists. (Probably being exhausted and barely coherent helps with coming up with cute theoretical twists: we're currently yawning our head off and toying with the idea of building our next essay around GK Chesterton's Father Brown stories.)


2005-08-19 12:43


�1. Abusing hippies

It is Gail Kelly, who used to teach anthropology and then died!

This was the person, after all, who described hippyism in a lecture as "hedonism if it had been invented by puritans" and who remarked to me once that people spit in public "because they wanted to be disgusting and were disgusting."

�2. Abusing foopball fans

It is the Grauniad's Sean Ingle:

As Stefan Szmanski and Tim Kuypers show in Winners & Losers, The Business Strategy of Football, demand for football in the UK - like cigarettes and booze - is price inelastic.

Arsenal charge 1,825 GBP for a season ticket; R�al Madrid charge 200 GBP. English foopball fans, Ingle argues, are idiots. We, for one, can't afford to see our beloved bleus of Chelsea in person, for sure. We probably could afford to see Genoa Cricket and Foopball Club in Serie C1, though but - Ingle's suggested solution is to support a sufficiently local side; ours is to globalise your support. (We are an increasinly global foopball fan, for sure.)

�3. [Not abuse] Everyone loves Pingvins!

A surprise hit documentary about penguins has overtaken Amelie to become the second most successful French film at the North American box office [after The Fifth Element].

March of the Penguins made $6.8m (�3.7m) at the weekend, taking its box office total to $37m (�20m).

There is no sign of this such film having a date for distribution in Blighty, but the DVD of the French marche of the Empereur is on its way to our mountain hideaway as we speak.


2005-08-19 09:56

Of Langwidge, Minorities and Tact, and Especially Tact

Minority rights in Seth Effrica are complicated by a perception that some minorities are more righteous than others:

University of Pretoria students sang the apartheid-era national anthem Die Stem during a protest on Thursday against the alleged sidelining of Afrikaans at the institution.

Protesters sported a Freedom Front Plus banner, the university coat of arms, placards and chanted slogans such as "Engels se gat [English's arse]" and "Waar's demokrasie nou? [Where is democracy now?]".

We have in fact met more than one nice Seth Efrican, but there is apparently still no shortage of the other sort:

"I don't have a problem with people expressing their opinion. It is their democratic right," said bystander Ishmael Mohono, a member of the Pan Africanist Students' Movement of Azania, the youth wing of the Pan Africanist Congress.

"But statements worn on the T-shirts of these protesters, such as 'English Only is erger as Slegs Blankes [English Only is worse than Whites Only]' or 'Praat Afrikaans of hou jou bek [Speak Afrikaans or shut up]' are really insulting and disturbing."

We'll tactfully hou onse bek, then.


2005-08-18 14:35


�1. Boo!

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Denmark will not try to plant a new flag on a tiny island off northwestern Greenland that is at the centre of a territorial spat with Canada, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said in a newspaper column published Monday.

Mr. Moeller said he and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew intend to discuss the dispute over Hans Island next month on the sidelines of a foreign ministers gathering at the United Nations.

Boring smelly old negociations, bah! Fight! You could at least arm-wrestle for it, surely?

�2. Why we hate New-Agers

We hate them because they are Dirty Smelly Hippies, of course, but we can hardly put that in Our Glorious Essay. However,

New Agers tend to locate authority within the individual self.

"Knowledge and believing: religious knowledge", Ken Thompson and Kath Woodward, in Goldblatt (Ed.) op cit, p.69

Which is an essay-friendly reason to hate them: the rampart individualisme of New Age "spirituality" is obviously swiped from the neo-liberalisme they pretend to reject. What could be more capitaliste than their obsessive self-centredness and eclectic spiritual pick'n'mix?

Also, they are dirty and they smell.

�3. Colonel Pingvin!

Of the Norwegish Army:

A king penguin has been promoted to colonel-in-chief in the Norwegian army, after years of good service!

The bird, called Nils Olav, was made an honorary member of Royal Norwegian Guard in 1972, and has been rising through the ranks ever since.

We can't find a Norwegish source for this most excellent story, though. Does our Varied Reader have one?


2005-08-18 12:05

Digital Dejtning Semiotics

If you're single and you know it, wear a ring (dring dring!)
If you're single and you know it, wear a ring (dring dring!)
If you're single and you know it and you really want to show it
If you're single and you know it, wear a ring (dring dring!)

[To the tune of "If you're happy and you know it", obviously]

En ring p� fingret som talar om att du �r ledig och �ppen f�r f�rslag. Den svenska singelringen har gjort succ� p� hemmamarknaden och ska nu ut i v�rlden.

A ring on the finger which says that you are free and open to offers. The Swedish singlering has been a great success in the domestic market and is now going global.

Notwithstanding the presumably fraught issue of at which stage of dejtning it becomes appropriate to cease to wear such a ring, we are mostly amused at the lengths Swedishes are willing to go to to avoid the unspeakable horror of having to, like, talk to someone.

Aftonbladet neglects to link the perpetrators, oddly.


2005-08-18 10:04

I don't know; why are you such a dweeb?

It is David Goldblatt!

When it snows I just see snow. If I think hard about it I might see sleet. But an Inuit living in Northern Canada. whose language includes over a dozen words for snow, will see a much more nuanced snowstorm than I ever can.

"Introduction", Knowledge and the social sciences: theory, method, practice, D. Goldblatt (Ed) pp.2-3

The claim is utterly false, of course. (See the title essay of G. Pullum's The Great Eskimow Vocabulary Hoax for an entertaining discussion, or his remarks here.)

Also, the Inuit are the Greenlandic bunch and the Canananadians aren't keen on the name; their habitat is technically an Arctic desert, so they don't get as much sn� as all that, and the "than I ever can" is just plain icky - learn, you couldn't?

But most exasperating of all is that this necessarily unsourced factoid stars in the introduction to the block on "knowledge and knowing" where we get to be all epistemological for once. It'll star in my essay, too, I think.


2005-08-17 15:17

On almost having a view, sort of

Oh it really is a wery pretty garden
And Chingford to the eastward could be seen;
Wiv a ladder and some glasses,
You could see to 'Ackney Marshes,
If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between.

"If It Wasn't for the 'Ouses in Between", Gus Elen

You can listen to (some of) it, too!


2005-08-17 11:24

Moral panics, slightly cheesy

There are stringent EU regulations related to the production of cheese from unpasteurised milk. The Directive in question dates from 1992, and is of dubious provenance:

What is also interesting is that the Directive was brought in on the back of a real problem, the emergence of a strain of bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) which, from the early 1980s through to the early 1990s, caused a number of serious outbreaks of illness and a few fatalities, as well as causing spontaneous abortion in a small number of women.

Such was the atmosphere of the time, however - with first salmonella and then BSE dominating the headlines - that Listeriosis (the technical name for the illness) escalated from a discrete, small scale problem to a major food scare in 1989. And, on the back of that scare came Directive 92/46/EEC, rushed in to address the problem, imposing a blanket ban on the presence of all Lm in milk, and milk products such as cheese.

Follow the link to discover how wrong all this is: we, for one, are tempted to start a single-issue European political movement to Save Our Yummy Cheeses from meddling Eurocrats.


2005-08-17 09:44


�1. Books, and the persons who don't read them

It is Posh Spice:

Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has admitted she has never read a book in her life - despite having apparently written her own 528-page autobiography.

The 31-year-old wife of England captain David Beckham told a Spanish magazine she does not have time to read.

We do not find this at all worrying, nor do we consider it evidence of the Decline of Anything In Particular. We like our wimmins slightly more wimmin-shaped and considerably better-read than Mrs Beckham, for sure, but chacun a son gout and whyever not?

(One of our least favourite things is when persons who like, as we do, to read books claim or insist, as we decline to, that this is decisive evidence of their inherent and intrinsic superiority to various other sorts of persons. It isn't, any more than skill at foopball is, although the latter certainly pays better.)

�2. War! Huh! What is it good for?

Putting on yummy frites! Say it again!

Friet oorlog

Friet oorlog of patat(je) oorlog verschilt per regio, kan zijn:

  • a) friet met pindasaus en mayonaise, naar keuze nog aangevuld met rauwe (gesnipperde) uitjes.
  • b) friet met mayonaise, ketchup, currysaus, pindasaus en uien.

Verklaring voor de naam "patatje oorlog" is dat het dan wel oorlog in je maag is!

Since at least the dawn of time and probably earlier, war has raged between the forces of peanut and the forces of egg. Since neither is especially stable on slopes, the Netherlands and Belgium have formed the natural battleground on which to contest their rival claims of beige and shelled superiority. While the details of the battles and campaigns that generations of scholarly investigation have uncovered on the basis of enigmatic hints scattered through folk tales and childrens' rhymes are beyond the scope of this note, it is remarkable that throughout the region frites are often eaten with a combination of peanutsauce and mayonnaise - a pairing aptly dubbed oorlog ("war") because it is after all a war in your mouth. It's very yummy, though.

�3. Men and childbirth

Among the many qualities required for childbirth and lacked by men, it now turns out, is a strong stomach: Bj�rn Backe, senior doctor and professor in midwifery (or maybe obstretics) at St Olavs hospital in Trondheim, remarks that many Caesarian deliveries are delivered thus at the behest of squeamish menfolk:

Backe s�ger att det ofta �r andrag�ngspappor, som helt enkelt upplevde den f�rsta, naturliga f�rlossningen som v�ldigt obehaglig, som vill ha kejsarsnitt.

Backe says that it is often second-time fathers, who found the first, natural, childbirth to be quite simply rilly rilly icky, who want a Caesarian.

We can see the gross-out factor, for sure, but what's the appeal of fathers attending childbirthnings anyway? Aftonbladet's survey shows nearly 90% of both men and women in favour of this, so we'll add this to the extensive list of things in which we (very hypothetically) line up with the minority.


2005-08-16 14:22

Top of the World

I'm on the top of the world
Looking down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
"Top of the World", the Carpenters Sugarcubes.

Is that I've moved office again, this time to the toppermost floor of the buildning ("gebouw"). This means I've collected a complete set of the non-administrative floors, hoorah!


2005-08-16 12:08


Our Dutchy-Dutch 'bladet of preference (which is an eveningbladet) is planning a nice morning edition:

NRC Handelsblad begint op 6 februari met een aparte ochtendkrant die gericht is op hoger opgeleiden die door internet nauwelijks meer een betaalde krant lezen. De krant, die alleen op werkdagen zal verschijnen, gaat heten. Het wordt een krant op tabloidformaat.

NRC Handelsblad[et] is starting a separate morning edition on 6 Februari, which is aimed at highly educated persons who hardly read a paybladet anymore as a result of the Interweb. The 'bladet, which will only appear on schooldays, is going to be called It becomes a 'bladet in tabloidformat.

Apart from location and langwidge we are firmly within their target demographic, and we yearn to know what a post-Internet 'bladet might be like, but the universe's track record at shipping Dutchbladets to Blighty is Not Good. (The Dutch model of 'bladet readning is largely subscription-based; retail is an afterthought. The German model is similar, but this is of course one of those bizarre coincidences that could happen to anyone. Anyone!)

Meanwhile, MM brings us news of the Grauniad's uppcoming sizereform

Having last year decided to join the exodus from the broadsheet market - led by The Independent, with The Times in hot pursuit - but plumping for the hybrid Berliner size rather than a tabloid shape, The Guardian's stately progress became a gallop when it brought forward the date of its conversion. Much to the relief of many members of staff, the new Guardian will now emerge next month.

It is claimed there and extensively elsewhere that Le Monde is ein Berliner. We always thought it was a broadsheet, but an emergency inspection showed that it is indeed slightly smaller. If that's Plan A for stopping the rot hos Grauniad we look forward to Plan B, for sure.


2005-08-16 10:17

An increasingly cricketing world?

It is Jonathon "Aggers" Agnew:

This is developing into a remarkable series, which has surely ignited an unprecedented love affair with cricket.

The 1981 Ashes captivated the nation, but thanks in no small way to modern communications and the internet, listeners from every corner of the globe hung on to every word that crackled from their laptops, or computers in internet cafes.

Toy shops have sold out of cricket sets as new followers discover that for protracted drama and excitement, no other sport comes close.

Actually, we mostly had other things to do in the Netherlands last week, but we were glued to the Grauniad's over-by-over coverage yesterday, for sure.

They really need to make this one count, though, if cricket is to have a future: the game is moribund in schools and in decline in villages and local leagues, and as of next year it will be the exclusive property of MurdochCo, and their sports offerings are a long way from cheap.


2005-08-15 18:32



104th over: WICK104th over: WICKET!! Ponting c G Jones b Harmison 156 (Australia 354-9)ET!! Ponting c G Jones b Harmison 156 (Australia 354-9)



2005-08-15 15:48


�1. Blame it on the boogie, silly Danishes!

Don't blame it on the sunshine,
Don't blame it on the moonlight,
Don't blame it on the good times,
Blame it on the boogie

"Blame it on the Boogie", The Jackson Five (5)

They aren't, though; they're blaming it on, of all persons, the prinsess:

Det var prinsessan Alexandra som bedrog prins Joachim - inte tv�rtom.
- Hennes otrohet krossade �ktenskapet, s�ger flera k�llor till danska tidningen Ekstra Bladet.

It was prinsess Alexandra who betrayed prins Joachim, not vice-versa.
"Her infidelity destroyed the marriage", say several sources to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

Ekstra Bladet a newspaper? It makes BT look classy, frankly. And while we certainly approve of counter-examples to the folkloric hegemony that holds it is men who cannot be trusted, we do not approve of such counter examples if (a) they impugn the behaviour of lovely prinsesses and (b) they are reported on the say-so only of anonymous "sources".

�2. Pregnantprinsesspicture

Nu beh�ver man ikke l�ngere at kigge rigtig godt efter for at f� et bevis for, at der er en lille ny tronf�lger p� vej.

One need no longer squint to see
  the Bun that's in the oven;
Kronprinsess M bears radiantly
  the child who's fate's to govern.

There is a picture to prove it, of course.

�3. Frocks and sparklies!

We never could resist a wimmin in a nice tiara, we admit it freely.

Sweden's lovely young princesses [sic] Victoria and Madeleine made a pretty picture in pink and blue summer gowns topped off with tiaras when they attended the wedding of Prince Manuel von Bayern and Princess Anna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg.

"Prinsess Who zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-What", you ask or enquire? Well, it's like this:

Princess Anna's great-uncle, Prince Richard, is the current head of the house of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. He is married to Princess Benedikte of Denmark, who is the sister of Queen Margrethe, and the daughter of the late Princess Ingrid of Sweden. Anna's 32-year-old groom, Prince Manuel, is the son of Prince Leopold of Bavaria.

You know, Prince Leopold of Bavaria! Used to play inside-right for Charlton Athletic.

�4. Prinsess in lurrrrrrrve

It is the lovely kronprinsess Vickan of Sweden:

H�r visar kronprinsessan Victoria att Daniel Westling ska bli hennes man.
Hon b�r ett gnistrande halsband med parets initialer V och D.
- Det �r ett av hennes favoritsmycken, s�ger hovmarskalk Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg.

Here kronprinsess Vicktoria shows that Daniel Westling will be her man.
She is wearing a sparkling sparkly with the couples initials V and D.
"It is one of her favourite sparklies", says hovmarskalk Elisabeth Target-Wallmart.

The thing about prinsesses in general and kronprinsesses in particular is that they are not allowed to declare or announce their many feelings in public for fear of the public finding out, and so they (and the public) end up playing these arcane and anachronistic, but not uncharming, games of semiotics.

It isn't, we find ourselves once more remarking, easy being a prinsess.


2005-08-15 11:43

Habits and customs of the Dutchy-Dutch

�1. Bicycles

The Dutchy-Dutch really do ride pillion side-saddle on the back of each others' sensible shoppingbikes, even down busy shoppning streets. This would be utterly mad in a country where there are hills, for sure, but in the Netherlands there are famously none, and the traffic laws are such that if a drunk bicyclist dressed in black and with no lights rides the wrong way down a one-way street and is hit by a car it is, by law, the car-driver's fault. Obviously, nobody wears a cyclinghelmet.

�2. Beds

Dutch double beds are Puritanically provided with separate sets of bedclothes for the separate sides. Acts of blanketsharing are expected to be focused, functional and brief, because that's the way the God of the Dutches prefers it. (He's very Calvinist, you know.)

�3. Gezelligheid

Gezelligheid is Dutch for hyggelig. It mostly involves caf�s featuring a diverse range of periodicals and candlelight that is too dark for reading them in. I don't see it catching on over here, frankly.

�4. Fashion

C&A are still a going concern in the Netherlands; 'nuff said.

�5. Food and drink

We will have more to say about the mysterious Bavaria Holland Beer later, for sure, but it is worth remarking that the Belgian Jupiler bier is the one you actually want to be drinking.

And the Dutches do at least have excellent sossages (worst), which of course are quite unlike German sossages (wurst) which they do not resemble at all, actually, and why would they, h�?


2005-08-15 10:18

Dutchy-Double-Dutch class

�1. Beware of Frenchy-French teach yourself books

For you may habituate to an 'r' more uvular than is entirely necessary:

The phoneme /r/ tends to be alveolar in Belgium, in Amsterdam, and the north-east of the Netherlands, but uvular elsewhere.

["Dutch", Carlos Gussenhoven, Handbook of the IPA, p.74]

We may just decide to stick with our nice Rotterdam (or wherever) accent, because our /r/ is vair vair uvular.

�2. On not being Englished.

We can order biertjes, we can order cinema tickets and we can order - at least now that we have been briefed on the follow-up question "Vit of brun?" - samwidges in Dutch without being Englished. This is a fairly modest level of accomplishment, you might concievably think or opinionate, but it is already more than we are allowed to get away with in Swedish, which we actually speak.

�3. Sorrie!

The Dutches say "Sorrie!" for "excuse me" (and "I beg your pardon/sorry"). It is indecently cute, for sure. We now say it too, of course, in our best Dutchy-Double-Dutch accent.


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