28 July 2007

On the road with Harry Potter

We are back from San Francisco. I will put most of the personal accounts on Not Mayberry, but there was something interesting we observed on the trip: the new Harry Potter book was everywhere. Remember, it went on sale for the first time the morning we left.

We got on the plane at 9:30 that morning and already the young lady across the aisle from us (right behind the two drunks) was plowing full steam ahead through the book. She was a third of the way through. She must have bought it at the airport bookstore when she came in to get her plane.

When we got into San Francisco we first walked over to Japantown and found a huge Japanese bookstore. All the books were in Japanese and all of the customers were Asian and presumably Japanese (except us). But right in the middle of the store, a huge stack of the English edition of Harry Potter.

The next night as we walked up the street to our hotel we passed a middle aged man setting on the steps of his hotel, reading Harry Potter. He was halfway through.

Later we went to a sushi bar for dinner. Soon we could hear a guy with a very loud voice trying to pick up a young woman with an equally loud voice. The conversation for some reason turned to the Harry Potter book. The young woman says, loud enough for the whole place to hear, "I got the book, and I've already finished it! It's GREAT!!" The guy has to ask, "Who dies?" And as she starts to blare out the answer, Carmen and I are just about ready to scream "NOOOO! DON'T SAY IT!" ... when the conversation takes an immediate and drunken segue to some other topic. That was close.

On the flight back to North Carolina almost the same thing happens. Just as a passenger is ready to tell their companion what happens in it, I turn to Carmen and start a totally pointless conversation, leaving her a bit puzzled by my sudden need to talk. But at least I couldn't hear what was said about the book.

20 July 2007

Off to San Francisco

Carmen and I are off to San Francisco tonight. We left the little lummox at the doggie motel and are all set. One more hour or so of packing, some pizza, and then out the door.

So no blogging until next Wednesday at the latest.

Have fun and stay out of trouble until we're back.

19 July 2007

Results of Harry Potter's Puppet Pals Post

(... or is too much alliteration a bad thing). Actually I am talking about this post which showed the lost episode of Harry Potter and the Mysterious Ticking Noise. I thought it was so dumb it was brilliant, and I love Valdemort in it.

No response here yet, but I talked to Maeráed and Mulan both (Maeráed is five and Mulan is twelve). They both loved it and wanted it played over and over. In fact, Mulan visited me in my office and asked to see it again.

Their parents, on the other hand, thought it was dumb.

So what does this tell us about Clemens' sense of humor?

Oh well. AOL had it posted for all its subscribers and it has even generated a fan parody - a parody of a parody. But I am not sure that makes me feel any better.

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16 July 2007

Samurai Kitty

I have discovered that virtually every nation on the planet has produced expensive epics of the great military glories of their past and if there is even one computer literate representative of that nation, they have put it on You Tube (you should see the one from Bulgaria!).

Well, being a military historian I just couldn't resist spending a few hours this week watching a few, starting with "The Immortal Lee Soon Shin" from Korea. Lee Soon Shin, or better, Yi Sun Sin, was a spectacularly successful Korean admiral who repelled the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 1590s. The movie is a made for TV epic that most have cost a bundle.

All the Koreans are noble, calm and dignified, even when under great stress. The Japanese are strutting and gloating until they find themselves surrounded and outgunned. Then they are pop-eyed, stuttering and howling. In fact the acting style for both the Koreans and the Japanese seems to be heavily influenced by old samurai epics.

Which brings me to Samurai Kitty. You have to watch a fairly long clip here which illustrates what I was saying. Then, towards the end, the Black Samurai with the really big horns starts acting a little funny. Suddenly, you see a fluffy white cat. And nothing else.

If anyone out there can understand Korean, please tell me and Carmen what the hell that cat is doing on a Japanese battle ship.

And if you want to see what an early modern naval battle between Japanese and Koreans looks like, click here.

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Dog and Cat fight at the National Review Online

Man, those guys over at NRO don't care WHO they offend. John Hood has posted on the site's blog that the historical ... no, I'd better let him have his say in his own words.

According to a number of historians and classicists, domesticated cats have probably been of greater practical value to humanity than domesticated dogs, due to their critical role in reducing the population of grain-eating and disease-carrying rodents. Medieval European foolishness linking cats, witchcraft, and the Devil led to eradication programs that may well have paved the way for deadly plagues. Karma.

Our weird little doggie is offended, but Mosby the cat seems fine with it.

As for the NRO folks, Jonah Goldberg and his dog(s) immediately posted this reply:

Mr. Hood - We are not amused. More to come tomorrow, when our passions will be less likely to get the better of us. Good evening, sir.

Well, ,the fur will fly now.

next post: Samurai Kitty

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13 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Mysterious Ticking Noise

I don't recall reading about this episode in any of the novels so far, so it may be in "Harry Potter: the Lost Episodes." Watch it carefully and see if you can explain exactly why Dumbledore loses his robes.



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Fine wine, fine crystal, group hugs: the answer to crime!

This is just about the weirdest crime story I have ever read, and it happened in my old home town, Washington, DC. I guess even a violent criminal can appreciate a good glass Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry served in fine crystal.

To say nothing of the much needed hug.

I don't suppose the good wine ploy would work with Jihadists though. Pity.

Thomas Sowell and what's good for the country

A few days ago I wrote off the top of my head in a response to something Jack wrote that Thomas Sowell had said the US needed a military coup. I'd vaguely remembered reading him on NRO to that effect. Here's a description of what he said on Hannity and Colmes regarding his column, and a reference to the column itself found on News Hounds.

I’m not sure if the interview with Sowell was a rerun of a segment I previously missed or had been pre-taped for airing on Memorial Day (the show seemed to be comprised of a mixture of both). During his portion of the interview, Alan Colmes questioned Sowell about a recent National Review column in which he wrote, “When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.”

That's pretty much what I remembered, although you will note that he is not, quite, advocating such a move. Nor saying that it would be a good thing. Just that it might be the only thing that could save our country. Personally, I am not sure you could accurately speak of 'our country' after such a coup, but that may just be me.

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12 July 2007

Difficulty getting a beer in Hades

I suddenly feel a need to atone for all my past sins and keep to the straight and narrow. You would to if you thought this could happen to you.

For eternity.

eww. Rancid year old Ice House. Well ... a beer's a beer.


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Cochon is back!

Xanda Panda was right. Cochon is back. Here is one of my favorites:

Cochon's pet revealed

Cochon has a pet rabbit. His name, after much deliberation, is Magellan. He likes carrots.


Of course, Xanda's lawyers may soon be talking to Clemens' lawyers to discuss copyright infringement. Still, check out the piglet's site.

Professors, Sex, and Reality

Just in case you were wondering what I do with my life as a university professor (and I know I work for a real university because it says so on the front gate, and on my business card) I have to tell you that it is a lot less cinematic than you see on the cinema. Take my word for it.

If you don't, read this.


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11 July 2007

Medieval Underwear

Tell the truth - you always wondered what medieval underwear was like, didn't you? Just like you wondered what a Scotsman wore under his kilt, until you saw "Braveheart." And I used to think that the increased use of underwear in the late Middle Ages - early Modern period improved public health and brought down the death rate.

But it seems that medieval underwear was really responsible for the rise in literacy, which was higher in the Middle Ages than watching endless reruns of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" would have led one to believe.

Read about it here.

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10 July 2007

An appreciation of Derbyshire

... by Andrew Sullivan of all people. Not sure I would go as far as Sullivan goes in saying that the Derby writes with genius, but it does explain my joke about National Review (which I wrote mainly on the strength of two writers: Victor Davis Hanson and Derbyshire). Here is the quote from the big D that got Sullivan going:

On the other hand, my rather strong impression is that while the president CAN think, he DOESN'T, much. The Iraq blunderings, the poverty of his off-the-cuff oratory, the endless repetition of tired, empty cliches long discredited, the Harriet Miers fiasco, the stupid squandering of his small remaining political capital on that major-stupid immigration bill... not much thinking there that I can see.

Can't say I disagree. As I said, some people writing at National Review Online can be interesting even when they are wrong. And even a blind chicken gets some corn.

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More on Movie Accents

Where were we? Oh.

Movie accents are indeed very tricky. The one historical epic that I thought got the tricky business of the subjective feel of accents in now dead languages was "Alexander the Great."
And critics roundly panned it for doing so. These were American critics, so I supposed they thought that everyone in the ancient world should sound like Johnny Carson, or Charlton Heston or something.

But consider: the Macedonians all had Irish accents, the Greeks all British accents, and Angelina Jolie an accent all of her own.

This makes sense: the Greeks, especially the Athenians, were the arbiters of all good taste in things linguistic and the modern British seem to feel the same way. The Macedonians were a mountaineer people who spoke Greek so poorly they could barely convince the Greeks they were speaking their language! At least according to the Greeks. And Queen Olympias, she of the really odd accent, was a foreigner to the Macedonians. She would have spoken Greek with a most peculiar accent.

So one thing Oliver Stone got right, was not appreciated by the American critics.

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Babies in Russia - lots of them.

One of our readers, Jack, is in Russia, or Tataristan to be exact (I love all the little Stans ... for years I had a key chain of the Kazakstan national flag which briefly was a Muslim country with more nuclear weapons than you could shake a stick at), and is making some fascinating observations of the scene in old Kazan.

Last 7-7-07 there was a surge, to use a current expression, in marriages here in the USA, as well as in Kazan. So much so that the streets were nearly deserted.

If there are so many marriages, then one would expect that in about nine months there should also be a surge in births (well, it worked that way for my favorite Irish American and my favorite Cuban American couple)**. This is especially significant in Russia where the birth rate has been low and the death rate, mainly due to alcoholism among men, has been high. Jack has some comments on all this here.

I am continually amazed at the quality of observations and writing on some blogs - fewer than I would like but more than I should have expected.

** Maeráed was one result, Joey Sobrino the other. Since Mr Sobrino's dad is 1/4 Irish, is it something about the Emerald Isle?


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08 July 2007

Begum Hazrat Mahal - a hero of The Great Mutiny

I was only going to make one link to today's issue of Dawn, but found this one, a column by Jawed Naqvi, simply irresistible. Naqvi seems to be Dawn's expert on Indian issues of interest to Anglophone Pakistanis.

In today's essay he discusses the life of a great, and much neglected, hero of the revolt against English rule usually called The Great Mutiny in 1857. One reason this outstanding fighter for independence may be neglected is that she is a female, the Begum Hazrat Mahal. Read the whole thing to see what Naqvi says about her, but here is a small taste:

She was born at a time and brought up in a manner suitable only for a life of gay abandon. Her obvious place was in the royal harem of the extraordinary King Wajid Ali Shah, essentially a poet par excellence and a connoisseur of beauty. William Howard Russell in his ‘My Indian Mutiny Diary’ writes: “The Sepoys, during the siege of the Residency, never came on as boldly as the zamindari levies and nujeebs (irregulars). This Begum exhibits great energy and ability. She has excited all Oudh to take up the interests of her son, and the chiefs have sworn to be faithful to him. Will the Government treat these men as rebels or as honourable enemies? The Begum declares undying war against us. It appears, from the energetic character of these Ranis and Begums, that the zenanas and harems (wield) a considerable amount of actual mental power and, at all events, become able intriguantes. Their contests for ascendancy over the minds of the men give vigour and acuteness to their intellect.”

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A Pakistani's view of Jihad ... and the West

It is easy to see Pakistan as a dysfunctional society overrun with the craziest of Islamist extremist who are on the verge of taking over ... and getting their thumbs on the nuclear button. This is too simplistic. Reading the English language Pakistani paper Dawn gives some idea of how secular, democratic, and international important segments of the society are.

A good example of this is a recent column by Irfan Husain, a regular contributor to the paper. He give a caustic overview of religious fanaticism and jihad, as well as an interesting view of the West's reactions. Here is a sample:

The theological underpinning of this [jihadist] logic requires a significant departure from orthodox Islamic teachings. For instance, standard commentaries prepared after decades of study by all the major schools of jurisprudence argue that only Islamic states can declare jihad. This is not something individuals can go around doing according to their whim.

However, radical Islamists following the teachings of Syed Qutb and Maudoodi argue that in the absence of a genuine Islamic state and a caliphate, true believers have a duty to bring Islamic rule to the whole world, by the sword if necessary. This line has appealed to two generations of Muslims, and there has been a steady hardening of these beliefs over the last 50 years.

After discussing the negative side of the jihadist movement, he concludes in what is clearly meant as a warning to Muslims in general and Pakistani's in particular:

But as incidents like the ones in London and Glasgow increase the uncertainty and fear in the host community, people are increasingly questioning why Muslims who hate their ways are allowed to enter and work in Britain. Several of those allegedly involved in these latest attempted attacks are doctors. This has horrified westerners who are more used to seeing doctors as peaceful professionals than as suicide bombers.

The question being asked privately in the UK is: “If these people hate us and our way of life so much, why don’t they just go back to where they came from?”

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Meanwhile at NRO

While at least some of their writers at National Review Online are busy writing what is at least arguably intelligent commentary and analysis (wrong, usually, but intelligent*), the resident court jester, Kay Lo herself, is reduced to making political analysis of this sort.

I wonder if she is still touting Dick Cheney as the Republican candidate for president. She thinks he would be a great candidate and a great president. She also asks the burning question, is jogging right wing?

*wrong, because it disagrees with what Clemens thinks, intelligent because it can keep Clemens interested. That why the blog is named Sententiae.

UPDATE: This just in from NYT via TPM: Cheney's favorability now at 13%. A shame.


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China, the Siege of the Red Mosque, and a brothel

Sounds like a Johnny Carson routine, but what do they have in common? An interesting story, told here on National Review Online. Here is the key to it:

This is all to do with Musharraf having finally authorized an assault on the "Red Mosque" seminary in Pakistan's capital. It's a nest of radical jihadis, who have been making a nuisance of themselves going round the city imposing Islamic virtue, Taliban-style. One of those impositions somehow led to them kidnapping the madam of a Chinese-staffed brothel much frequented by Pakistan's movers and shakers (if you'll pardon the expression).

So the denizens of the Red Mosque made two mistakes. One, they threatened to deprive the decision makers of their 'recreation.'

Two, they angered the Chinese, who unlike the Americans actually CAN tell Pakistan's President Musharaf what to do and when to do it. For one thing, they share a 300 mile long border with Pakistan and the world's largest army is on the Chinese side of it. For another, they are a lot meaner than we are. I forebear to say that they are also more competent then we are, though I am certain the Pakistanis sure think so.

Point taken, at least as far as Musharaf was concerned. The Islamists he has been telling us he simply didn't dare take on, are now being taken on.

I am still mystified, btw, with why Dan Simmons in his little 'Century War' fantasy discounted the Chinese completely. No one in that part of the world does.

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Anti-immigration rules and employment

Actually, I am not sure if this is because of stupidly restrictive rules, incompetence in ICE, or simple nastiness. But the anti-immigration mood IS having an impact.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the opening of a software development centre in Vancouver after losing a fight to ease restrictions on the admission of foreign workers to the United States.

Well, there goes the computer industry.

Way to go, Canada.*

*The views of this song do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog nor its administrator.

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07 July 2007

Accents in Movies

Accents can sometimes be very tricky things. And very informative about the thinking of the movie makers.

Carmen and I just saw "Ratatouille," Pixar's latest animated feature. It's very entertaining but the accents are a bit weird. It all takes place in France, and all the characters are French, including the rats (no jokes about the Frogs, thank you very much). Now the rats all speak with American accents, which probably pleases the French, except that the human hero, Linguini, also speaks with an American accent. So what?

The restaurant critic speaks with a British accent (no surprise - he's voiced by the incomparable Peter O'Toole). The villainous sous-chef and the female love interest, on the other hand, have French accents so heavy it is sometimes hard to understand them. Especially when they speak with great passion, which, being French, they do regularly. So does everyone else, except for the ex-con, who has a German accent. Quite a mix.

It reminded me that in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," everyone, including the beavers and Father Christmas, had British accents of one sort or another. Except for Maughrim, the evil commander of the queen's guard - he had an American accent. What kind of commentary is that?

Years ago in France I went to see "Le Gran Dragon du Lac de Feu" (known here as "Dragonslayer." I didn't know it at the time but Carmen went to school with the female lead, Kaitlyn Clark. Anyway, before the movie there were cartoons, one of them a Donald Duck story from the days when Donald was one mean nasty crank. Every character was dubbed into French except ... mean ol' Donald, of course.

We won't even get into the use and abuse of southern accents in movies.

Clemen's comedy break

Check this site for a take off on the iPhone ad campaign and see if you think it's as funny as I do.

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Read 'em and weep...

... or not. The state of book reading in this country is pathetic. Here are some stats from the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop:

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
(Source: Jerold Jenkins, www.JenkinsGroupInc.com)

Now I don't feel so bad about the paltry number of copies my book has sold. In fact, a nonfiction book is considered "successful" if it sells 7,500 copies. Only 7,200 to go!

This means that the idiotic reviews that appall me so over at Amazon.com come from the top 20% of the population in terms of reading. But more on that some other time.

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Canine political philosophy

The little lummox, aka the Beast with Four Paws, has been complaining that I have recently had one too many posts regarding cats, what with Sniper Kitty, Viking Kitties, and really big kitties in Africa.

So to make him happy, here is some hard hitting political commentary from the canny canine crew. Apparently if you are an SOB, so to speak, you do NOT want to vote for Mitt Romney.


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Fallout from the Immigraton Bill fiasco

Here is an interesting take on the failure of the Immigration Bill - it seems that a great many Hispanic legal immigrants who had no intention to become citizens are now signing up to do so. They are very specific in saying that they want to be able to express their opinions about the opponents of the bill by voting. What a great idea.

The comments from readers are interesting too. Here's part of one:

I’ve had three close relatives become naturalized citizens. My wife, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law(who came over here as a nurse). None are fans of illegal immigrants but also think Immigration, ICE, CIS, whatever you want to call it is both mismanaged and shouldn't have hiked the fees like they did.

As far as I know, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, who has ever dealt with any aspect of ICE, CIS, or the diplomatic personnel taking applications for visas have ever had anything good to say about the process, either the way they were treated or the accuracy of the information. This includes the writer of this blog and at least two of its readers (Maira and Cantanima) .

The government can be quite efficient, considerably more efficient than business or even NGOs - when it is politically expedient to be so. Social Security is a good example. Why are our immigration services so dysfunctional?


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Creeping bilingualism!

This ad appeared in the Macon (Missouri) Chronicle Herald:

Male Preferred
Must be of Collie Strain and be
able to lip-read and be bilingual."

Probably wants a dog that can speak Spanish to the maid, the nanny, and the yardmen. Oh WHEN will this country make English monolingualism a Constitutional amendment?

And this overlooks the rank gender bias (Male preferred) and doggy racism (Must be of Collie Strain).

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06 July 2007

Update on British bomb suspects

Sententiae is nothing if not timely and up to the minute (though admittedly some people do say that it is the former), so here are the latest charges filed against the foreign doctors involved in the London/Glasgow bombing attempts from a genuine Scottish e-magazine, so you know it is true, mostly.

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Somedays the lion eats you, and sometimes ...

There are a million stories out there on the veldt. This is one of them. Well, actually this video seems to contain at least three or four of them.

Remember, no matter how grim it looks, watch it ALL THE WAY TO THE END!

btw, this comes from an interesting religious site, aomin.org.

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05 July 2007

New word alert!

I found a new word (at least to me) in a back issue of Scientific American (Jan 04). Here it is from a column by Michael Shermer:

To "buncomize" is to "talk bunkum," and no one does this with a better vocabulary than pseudoscientists, who lace their hokum narratives with scientistic jargon.

Scientistic - it's the scientists' version of "truthiness."

Shermer gives an example from an ad for something called "laundry balls" which are little balls to be added to your laundry to make them fresher and cleaner: "it works on 'Quantum Mechanics' (Physics), not chemistry, with a method called 'Structured Water Technology" the add claims.

Now let's go out and be scientistic!


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On Speaking Chinese

Here's some info for anyone learning a bit of Chinese with the expectation of using it when they travel there. It is from John Derbyshire, who is nothing if not cosmopolitan.

Even if a foreigner can speak tolerably good Chinese, some Chinese people still have a mental block against processing Chinese-language input from a foreigner. Several times in China I have had the experience of addressing people in my tolerably-good Chinese, only to have them squint incredulously at me, turn to each other, say something like: “The foreigner sounds as if he’s speaking in Chinese. Is he?” “Yes, I think so. It sure sounded like that. Is that the weirdest thing you ever saw, or what?” then burst out laughing. Round-eye acquaintances whose Chinese is far better than mine report the same thing.

And you thought the French were bad.

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03 July 2007

The Perpetual Refugee

He's back and writing his best and most personal posts yet. Please take a look.

02 July 2007

Marxism and Beer

Most political movements are about petty little concerns like education or defense or law and order. Thank God some people have a sense of what's really important. Take this political movement in the 70s:

Britain's remarkably successful Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is a representative instance: founded in 1971 to reverse the trend to gaseous, homogenized 'lager' beer (and the similarly homogenized, 'modernized' pubs where it was sold), this middle-class pressure group rested its case upon a neo-Marxist account of the take-over of artisanal beer manufacture by mass-producing monopolists who manipulated beer-drinkers for corporate profit - alienating consumers from their own taste buds by meretricious substitution.
[Tony Judt, Postwar]

Come the Revolution! I'll have an ale.


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English in Europe

It has always struck me as a little odd that just as much of the world seems to be adopting English for certain purposes, Americans are getting worried about the status of English in the United States. Here's the situation in Europe, according to Tony Judt in Postwar:

To one side stood a sophisticated elite of Europeans: men and women, typically young, widely traveled and well-educated, who might have studied in two or even three different universities across the continent. Their qualifications and professions allowed them to find work anywhere across the European Union: from Copenhagen to Dublin, from Barcelona to Frankfurt. High incomes, low airfares, open frontiers and an integrated rail network ... favoured easy and frequent mobility. For the purposes of consumption, leisure and entertainment as well as employment this new class of Europeans traveled with confident ease across their continent --communicating, like medieval clercs wandering between Bologna, Salamanca and Oxford, in a cosmopolitan lingua franca: then Latin, now English.

Sounds very much like the world our friend Joey Sobrino travels in when he is in Europe.


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Bulgaria and the Turks

Not so many years ago much of Europe was in the hands of the Ottoman Turks, rulers of a great Muslim empire. It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that the final push to drive them out of Europe got under way. World War I would finish them off.

During all those centuries they were in Europe, however, many Turks moved into the area and many more locals became Muslims. Some of these latter continued to speak their native languages, like the Bosnian Muslims, others adopted Turkish. Many of those Turkish speaking Muslims stayed, at least until recently.

Take the 900,000 of them who lived in Bulgaria. Tony Judt in Postwar: A History of Europe since 1949 tells what happened to them at the hands of the Bulgarian government:

Things were brought to a head by the exodus to Turkey, during the summer of 1989, of an estimated 300,000 ethnic Turks -- another public relations calamity for the regime, and an economic one too, as the country began to run short of manual labors.

Of course, the effect on a wealthy country like America would be .... probably much worse.


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Tips on Learning Spanish

"If your concept of learning Spanish means having the ability to discuss critical socioeconomic issues with Mexican government officials, you'd better clear your schedule for awhile."

Michael Janich
Speak Like a Native

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The Glasgow attack and Scotish humor

No, that is not an oxymoron, though it can be a little dry. Here is a report from The Daily Mash with all the details on the charges being brought against the men accused of trying to blow up the airport.

(I had to explain to Murty the other day that the Scots were originally from Ireland and replaced the Picts - there's a lot of confusion on that last point)

And it seems that the Scots are still upset about that unfortunate Olympics logo.

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01 July 2007

Chinese/Canadian blog - plus music

Wandering through the ether of blogland I discovered this interesting blog, 'Lotus and Cedar.' It's bilingual, sometimes trilingual. Half of it seems to be in Chinese, about half in English (Canadian version). Whoever the author is, he lists his choice of the best five songs of the 20th century. Check it out to see what his picks are.

I've already linked to the two Spanish songs in honor of Carmen over on Not Mayberry, but you can listen to number one here.

Why is it the Canadians seem to have the blogs that appeal to me most? Could it be the same reason the French didn't think I acted like an American? Whatever that meant.

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Robert A. Heinlein and the Right

As is probably fitting for the author of "Starship Troopers" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" Robert Heinlein has earned this retrospective from John J. Miller, a reporter for National Review magazine. Elliot and I had a brief discussion about Heinlein* - some of The Claw's readers characterized him as "a dirty old man," which is ironic considering his appeal to the Right.

Anyway, here is a taste of what Miller has to say:

Heinlein certainly wasn't a conservative traditionalist. His most popular book, in terms of copies sold, was "Stranger in a Strange Land"--a paean to sexual liberation and an attack on organized religion. Published in 1961, it resonated with hippies. Yet the author remained aloof from the counterculture: In 1964, he and his wife Virginia were enthusiastically for Barry Goldwater. A few years later, according to "Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion," he signed a magazine ad that supported U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

In his recent book "Radicals for Capitalism," Brian Doherty observes that "a youthful love for Heinlein's tales of rugged individualists often lies in the past of dedicated libertarian activists"--a statement that's possible in large measure because of the 1966 novel that many regard as Heinlein's greatest: "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

The story takes place mostly within a lunar colony, where the residents grow restless under a command-and-control economy imposed by the Lunar Authority, a government that operates for the benefit of Earthlings.

"Here in Luna we're rich. Three million hardworking, smart, skilled people, enough water, plenty of everything, endless power, endless cubic," says one of the moon-dwelling Loonies. "What we don't have is a free market. We must get rid of the Authority!" A few pages later: "It strikes me as the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace."

It's an interesting, though oddly incomplete, profile. Not surprisingly he devotes a lot of space to "Starship Troopers."

UPDATE: just realized this is a shortened version of the full article, which explains why it seems incomplete.

*I don't have the energy to search for the link. Sorry.

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Buying stock in America

Here's a quote from the Economist, a fairly conservative British magazine, in Time:

If the US were a stock it would be a 'buy', says the Economist, "an undervalued market leader, in need of new management." That is because more than any other rival, the US corrects itself.

Wonder when the correction comes.

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AnthonyTrollope and Writing

Continuing with the theme of how great, or even mediocre, writers write, I was listening to a recorded version of Anthony Trollope's "Barchester Towers" and learned that:

Trollope considered himself a craftsman rather than an artist creating great literature. He wrote to support himself and his family. Since he also had a job with the post office, he set himself a rigid schedule for producing prose. He was up and at his writing desk by 5:30 every morning and by the time he went to breakfast had finished his writing for the day. He was able to do this by setting his watch on the desk and forcing himself to crank out 250 words every fifteen minutes.

How could he do that? I have trouble writing that fast for my Matins, which is simply stream of consciousness writing with no thought whatsoever with what I am saying. Not only did he make sense, he produced a steady flow of novels that are still popular.


Monica Goodling: That Voice!

I had a lot of trouble taking Monica Goodling's testimony seriously. Here was a law school grad, admittedly a fourth tier law school but still, who was one of the most powerful people in Bush's Dept of Justice, and she talked with a high pitched little girl voice. I couldn't figure out what was going on and thought it was all a put on - the more like a little girl she sounded, the less likely those investigators might be to think she might be responsible for a breach of the law ("I know I crossed a line" as she put it). I admit that it didn't help that my starting assumption was that she was lying.

Apparently though, at least according to this story I heard on NPR's "Marketplace," it's part of a broader phenomenon. It would explain a lot. For several years now I have thought that some young women's voice sounded so shrill because my ears were getting old and wearing out.

Now if I could just convince myself that it must be true if I heard it on NPR ...

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