Wednesday, April 30, 2008

[thought for the day] walpurgis night

Just been out on our Walpurgis revels but instead of sacrificing an innocent and concerning ourselves with fertility rituals, we ate pizza. They always speak of the nun Walpurga "dying" on Feb 25th and being sainted for being a martyr on May 1st.

Usual motif on this day is "passing through the fire" and I'd like to know how exactly Walpurga died. They don't tell you. Also, on the Hotel Safari was a giant picture of a naked woman and an exchortation to join their Walpurgis Revels - surprised how open they were about it.

It's also Mayday tomorrow, actually today and "nash prazdnik" or our holiday when all sorts of marches and festivities take place in Russia but for me it's a working day.

Thought for the day?

"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire.

Anyone care to explain that one? And finally, some delightful people enjoying their festival.

I Feel So Sorry for Her But It´s So Funny!

Ok, La Sexta is one of six TVE (Televisión Española) owned channels, owned by the gov´t. There´s quite a bit of controversy surrounding this specific channel. I´ll leave that for another time. I´m here to focus on a specific progam: El Intermedio. It´s kind of like The Daily Show with John Stewart or The Colbert Report but much more cheeky. The host´s name is "El Gran Wyoming" (Big Wyoming). He´s left of center but doesn´t hesistate to make fun of the gov´t. Find below a video (which was originally sent to me by a friend, whom will remain nameless) where he "conducts" an interview with President Zapatero. This was a real interview that was done on Ana Rosa´s program. He basically asks about Zapatero´s sex life. When I have more time, I´ll post a translation.

He has a whole cast of other people, like Stewart and Colbert do. One of them is Usun Yoon. She´s from Utrera, a city in Andalucía (southern Spain) but was adopted. Her Spanish isn´t the best. They often send her to do interviews with people, who have trouble understanding her...too funny! She´s my favorite part of the whole program.

The Power of Powerthirst

I originally found this via Brando. My friend and I will be making a parody video of this shortly. Once it´s up, I´ll link to it! AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

I didn´t know it but a real commercial took the idea!

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

I checked out the web site, it looks genuine. Does anyone have any more info on it?


That´s what we will have starting tomorrow on Mayday. For those who are not up to speed on general Spanish slang (as I´ve heard this word employed by Colombians as well, I assume it is universal and not just unique to Spain and Colombia), it is an extended weekend. For instance, if you have a holiday on Thursday (like tomorrow), you also take Friday off (even if it´s not a holiday). Therefore, Friday bridges between Thursday and the weekend. Well, we have a holiday on Friday as well. It´s the 200th anniversary of Madrid´s uprising against Napoleon´s army in 1808. As Ron Burgandy would say, "I don´t know how to tell you, I´m kind of a big deal." That´s what May 2nd would say to the rest of the holidays this year. I plan on staying here in Madrid, instead of bombing around like I´ve done for the last few weekends. This weekend plans to be exciting enough. Maybe I finally get to Ventas on Sunday and see the first bullfight since I tried going in March and it was cancelled due to rain. Yeah, people aren´t happy when they´ve paid 40€ or more for a show that doesn´t happen, ain´t that right guys?When they are upset, they throw their seat covers into the bullring.  I saw one guy get drilled in the face, at row 3.  Strangely, it costs more to sit closer to the ring, which includes getting burned by the sun!

[housekeeping] this blog almost certain to end

I intimated some days back that this blog may well cease operations near the end of May. We're talking odds here and that's what a lot of people over here have been involved in at an official level since last Thursday - estimating the odds, which change daily. The fact is - if I come a cropper then the blog does too.

I'd dearly love to tell the tale - it's a good tale which is so illogical and my official status so invidious and yet I'm not able to tell all. Unless there is a miracle, this blog will most certainly end during the last week of May, with a fortnight hiatus being the best case scenario, rated around 20%, all things factored in. 70% says it's all over.

It's a story of one man in another city setting a new law in motion which has effectively ended everything. We are, of course, fighting a rearguard action each day now but the chances are not good. Other complicating factors make it well nigh impossible.

These are the days one finds out who one's real friends are but I have no expectations on that score, only hope.

Think I'll stop here now.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

[thought for the day] tuesday evening

"Goodness what beautiful diamonds!"

"Goodness had nothing to do with it."

[touch and go] the ghost returneth

Intriguing group this Touch and Go whom I posted on last December. The line-up looks like this [I can tell you now some of these links don't work]:
Most know the music but you'd be hard pressed to see any but Vanessa and James in concert and then only at times and mainly in Eastern Europe, which is interesting for a British group singing about Harlem.

The thing is, it was basically a David Lowe project which got out of hand and when Eastern Europe wanted them to appear as a ... well ... as a band ... they realized they'd have to actually create one.

Their best known hit was where Ms Lancaster sang:

I find you very attractive ... would you go to bed with me? The song's accompanying video feature[s her] asking the same question to various inanimate objects including an iron and a shopping trolley.

... all to Monsieur Lynch's manic trumpet work. Something quite tongue in cheek about the whole thing but the music still stands up over a decade later.

Here's a video using Life's a Beach:

In a careless moment, not so long ago, I wrote to them as to the possibility of a performance in my "home" town here, not actually expecting a reply.

Oh my goodness, I've just received a nice letter from Jim Lynch wondering what the heck I'm doing in this place and once these current "troubles" are over, I'm going to see what can be done.

Touch and Go.

[world predictions] and the fundamental interconnectedness of all things

It struck me, reading Sackerson on Marc Faber's take:

...In a real downturn, the United States (and other developed nations) would stop importing so much oil...and so much merchandise from China, which would have the consequence of reducing energy consumption by China too.

... that it really depends whom you're reading, meaning from which sector of the workplace. To listen to an economist you're lost in commodity prices, hyperinflation and the like. But come from a different angle - trade, for example, and the slant is different:

The idea that, by freeing trade, immigration and investment wealth could be optimized at low cost is a fantasy beloved only by academic economists. In reality, globalization of immigration, investment and trade each involves tradeoffs, and the tradeoffs are different, since each has different characteristics.

I ran this article past our Trade Min today and he largely accepted the take, especially:

Freedom of investment is another principle that in practice causes difficulties. The problem is that economics does not exist in a vacuum from foreign policy. In natural resources, for example, the normal ambition of most Third World governments is to seize control of any minerals discovered on their territory. Given that tendency and the existence of companies controlled or effectively controlled by governments hostile to Western interests, free foreign investment is a chimera.

In other words - autarky. Cityunslicker has an interesting comment on the downgrading of supermarket stock which also has to be considered.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss either trade or finance. It is that coming from different angles, the conclusions might well be different. There needs to be a more holistic approach when pundits punditize, methinks.

[culture gap] falling for the three card trick

Forgive me - I couldn't resist answering the comments on the last post as a separate post in itself. Certain ladies took issue with the part about girls having multiple partners and suggested males were just as bad, if not worse.

I'd say they are - far worse. There is no "no" in almost any guy's vocab.

So therefore the morality is set by the female, the nature of what relations are to be. Recently I went out with a girl and it was clearly a cultural difference. Over here, the moment the girl goes with him alone - that's a clear signal it will end up in the cot because the thought the guy would not want to does not compute in her mind or anyone else's.

Two generations ago it would be automatically assumed he'd taken only the first step and that it could either stay as a friendship or if he wanted to go the rest of the way, then it was tied in with going steady, at the very least and more usually getting engaged. There'd be no assumption she'd just "do it" there and then because there was a premium put on girls' final bargaining chip.

Even a girl having successive boyfriends is a separate issue to just automatically assuming that if you party, you automatically screw.

Take that girl [who is in the vast majority today, not knowing any other way 'cause no one's ever taught her otherwise] and put her back into the late 50s and she'd be looked at very strangely by the other girls.

Which is better - today's "free for all" or the "guy has to work for it" of that generation? I'd say that today's girl feels "empowered" that she can mete it out to whomever she likes but the 50s female had more power in that it was not automatically expected and she was held in higher esteem. It's like anything which you have to fight for to get - it's worth far more than something readily available.

The guy of that day was in her power, under her spell and if he wanted the final frontier, then he had to play her game. These days he need play no game - he gets it when he wants it with no strings. Females have effectively swallowed the feminist illusion and disempowered themselves.

And what is "it"? For a guy it's mainly the cot. For her it's increasingly just the cot too but way back then it was the whole package she got. All that this oh-so-modern idea of "who wants to marry anyway" has done is give the guys the right to dip the wick without responsibility. Hell I'm not complaining - it favours the male but if she thinks it empowers her somehow or gains her more respect in society as her own person, she's kidding herself.

How many times have I heard a single mum [my own goddaughter is a case in point] say she wouldn't want him anyway. Why not? Because he is useless. Why is he useless? Because he has no responsibility. Why not? 'Cause he's grown up without respect for girls as there has been no premium on that.

It's a vicious circle. At least in the 50s she'd run a reasonable chance he'd not be like that in the first place although, to be fair, if she did cut the cord to him, she'd be an unmarried mother in the 50s - not a good place to be. Better for her today of course.

All this dislocation would be minimized if women had had better Feminista to follow back then. Instead of the appalling bra-burners, if they'd listened to people like Dale O'Leary, Melissa Scowcroft, Christina Hoff-Sommers, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Camille Paglia, Judith Levine, Lillian Csernica, Diane Ravitch, Katha Pollitt or Nadine Strossen - true feminists in that they would have equally got women out from behind the Hoover but at the same time had them retain their "womanness".

Instead many women chose to follow Steinem, Jagger, Callaghan, de Beauvoir, Greer, Stanton, Hanisch or Friedan who actually did enormous damage [and by the way - they were into bra-burning in the next wave]. They achieved no more as lauded Feministi than the saner feminists but instead got most men's backs up and half of the women today as well.

Pollitt and Strossen are right in saying that women are simply people in the end, just as we males are people. These women want to work with the male rather than issuing ridiculous ultimata and harbouring deep hatreds.

That's why it needs to get back to a position of sanity. That's why girls should probably follow the debate between more intelligent women, say, Katha Pollitt and Carol Gilligan instead of the Misandrists who are lost before they begin.

[reformation] just around the corner

First let's get the bad news out of the way:

Property repossessions are expected to jump almost a quarter this year. The prediction, from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), comes as borrowers increasingly feel the pinch from higher mortgage costs and a tightening of lending criteria. At the same time, Britons have record personal unsecured debts and the cost of living is rising, stoked by soaring fuel and food prices.

... and some of its predictable fallout is stress. But stress does not completely explain this:

Two teenagers who kicked a woman to death in a park because she was dressed as a "Goth" were jailed for life on Monday, police said. They set upon the 20-year-old gap year student when she tried to stop a group of youths from attacking her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, 21. The pair were left unconscious.

This stems from something far deeper. Britain and the U.S. have always been fairly violent societies at one level - Doug & Dinsdale and Snatch illustrate that on the one hand and al Capone and multiple shootings on the other so how worse it is today is speculation.

While parents of the post-war generation espoused Christian charity, love thy neighbour and so on, as part of a new post-war package of idealistic hope to increasingly irritable sets of young Boomer ears, nevertheless the social blueprint existed and people could still quote from it.

The later Boomers and Gen X crossed the threshold which reacted against "the old values" and the baby was thrown out with the bathwater, e.g. in "open plan" education. What was seen then as new and fresh and self-empowering was actually a con trick but they weren't to know that at the time.

So while the old values were supplanted by the new materialistic hedonism and no one could foresee the catastrophe in an initially prosperous, technologically adept western society of the mid-80s, in fact the seeds of doom had been planted.

And here it is now - a whole third generation growing up unprotected by the societal values which once acted as a mild deterrent to the average person and subscribing to a bankrupt materialism increasingly out of place in a global scenario entirely at odds with the new social code. In other words, no one is equipped to cope because they have either renounced the mechanism for coping or have never learnt of it at all, except in the disparaging and scathing remarks of older people.

Two boys in the park don't like a goth - what's to stop them when their music subscribes to the "if it's female, f--k it, if you don't like it, beat it up" mentality, when they're alienated from an older society and when the only rule is the satanist "do as thy will".

Where once only a girl of a certain type would have screwed around, now two thirds have had more than one partner before marriage. Where once the exhortation not to seek one's own revenge was preached from the pulpit to sleepy congregations across the west, now the young unwashed know of no constraints - this has never been instilled in them. Nobody cares about it.

And the ones in the middle, the washed, are starting to come round to the notion that the shopping god is not all it's cracked up to be and there is no brave new world of peace, love and prosperity ahead. It was all a con.

How to come back from here?

A return to the old values will follow a global conflagration and the next generation will do it for themselves. Irrelevant whether you and I believe this or not - it's out of our hands now. Most of those reading this post will not be part of that process of picking up the pieces and forging a new society of old values.

That's for the next betrayed generation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

[thought for the day] monday evening

To play billiards well is the sign of an ill-spent youth.

[Charles Roupell - 1908]

[caption time] don't get caught short

[ceramics quiz] queen charlotte might approve

1. A composite material of ceramic and metal is known as _____.

2. Ceramics are inorganic and are formed by the action of _____.

3. Can ceramics be made from metallic materials?

4. The third major innovation for which Wedgwood is remembered was _____ Ware.

5. _____ (23 March 1733 – 1797) was an English potter born in a village that is now part of Stoke-on-Trent.

More on Wedgwood here.

Answers - highlight to see:

cermet, heat, no, Jasper, Josiah Spode

[hillary] and the firm grasp of reality

So every speech she gave in Indiana on Friday and Saturday had the same topic sentence. “My campaign is about jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs,” she said, always to thunderous applause.

In Bloomington, she promised to bring nothing less than economic revolution to the decaying Rust Belt. “You’ve heard of white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs,” she told her Fort Wayne audience, setting up a line about how efforts to address global warming and other environmental problems could spawn new industries. “We’re going to create green-collar jobs.”

Virginia: Mummy, are the people in 2008 actually taken in by cynical, desperate promises like these?

Mummy: Well, Virginia - many are and she's good at playing on the short term memory.

Virginia: Can she win?

Mummy: Anything's possible in Cloud Cuckoo Land, dear. Absolutely anything.

Virginia: But if she's an apparent criminal opportunist, surely no one will vote for her?

Mummy: Anything's possible in Cloud Cuckoo Land, dear. Absolutely anything.

Virginia: I see. The world's a strange place, Mummy.

[harriet] and the firm grasp of reality

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman
said Lord Levy was wrong. "It's been Labour's great fortune that we have had not one but two world class leaders in one generation. These are serious times and it's time for a very serious leader and that is exactly what Gordon Brown is."

Yeah right.

[consumer debt] people falling apart

The Telegraph is running an article on debt causing people to stress out and quotes a psychologist, Linda Blair, who:

... sees an increasing number of people emotionally incapacitated by financial worries. "When you have a problem with debt, you feel out of control of your life - what we call 'learned helplessness'," she says ...

Well yes, Linda, you call it 'learned helplessness' eh? To put it in layman's terms - you were OK before, you let yourself fall into debt, you now learn to be helpless and want the fairy godmother to bail you out.

This debt crisis is a wicked cocktail of people's aspirations, the dislocation of the income-cost nexus in the last four decades and the deliberate policies of the banks, from glamourizing credit and concealing its woes through to the unjustifiable sub-prime lending.

Are people acting like children to suddenly cry 'helpless' when they see their debts? Yes they are. But one sympathizes with the plight of any child. Are we angry that the lending institutions have been playing this game on unsuspecting punters? We should be because universal suffering in any nation is an indicator that there is something fundamentally wrong with the paradigm.

What's the solution?

* Firstly, to get the head together and understand that descent into stress-related illness is only going to hinder your chances of getting out of trouble. It's the hardest thing many will face - that the fairy godmother ain't coming and no one's interested in your descent into illness.

Do I sound like a callous bstd here?

I'm only saying to you what I am currently having to say to myself. I'm in this position too, just as you are and no one's coming to the rescue. Friends and contacts can do so much but only that much and no more. The rest is up to us. We must, must, face up to reality.

* Second thing is to put together a strategic plan - not by rushing here and there, handwringing but realizing we've been less than wise, mapping out a strategy and then putting in the legwork - looking up directories of agencies, seeking advice, going there, making agreements. After all, they can't get blood from a stone but any sign of your fiscal maturity will be welcome to them.

There's guilt and shame and general unpleasantness in all of this - it's time to put them to one side and concentrate only on the plan and stick to it without despairing.

I am not in the least interested in someone saying: "Well you should have done this ... you should have done that ..." Don't you think we already know that? How does it help to dwell on what has happened except as a mental note for the future?

Don't let anyone lay a guilt-trip on you or expect you to wallow in it. Just acknowledge your fault then move on. If someone won't let you do that, then cut that connection. You have bigger issues than guilt trips right now.

* Thirdly - change your whole mental set about what you buy. We're not going to alter spiralling prices so we'd best get used to the fact that we simply cannot afford this lifestyle anymore. It's pretend-life, it's a dream we thought the bit of plastic could realize for us. It can't realize it. Change your life and for a start - stop spending on all but regular bills for some time.

Today is just such a day for me and the pressure is intense. It's not connected with debt, thank the Lord but it is still difficult and there's guilt in it. I'm not going to dwell on it, I'll take it one step at a time and see what can be done, expecting one step backwards for every two forwards.

Prayer is no joke - that's why I ran that "thought of the day" yesterday. If we can allow this of ourselves, I believe it does help, if only to face what is coming up during the day.

But inertia, putting off, depression - the pull is very strong to descend into this. We might be chronically depressive anyway - I think I might be - but it's not going to get me out of trouble and fewer and fewer people are going to come to my rescue as I go along.

In the end, I have to do it by myself and the time to start is today - now.

[james bond] history in the lens

In London, the Imperial War Museum is mounting: For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond. At the Fleming Collection gallery is Bond Bound: Ian Fleming and the Art of Cover Design, a look at the literary trajectory of James Bond, paperback hero.

An AP article says:

Honor Blackman glam and Bond innuendo - Pussy Galore

The covers are a great survey of taste, and of what was permissible. The US is much happier with guns, while the Europeans are much more relaxed about nudity.

The earliest cover, from the 1955 paperback edition of Bond's debut, Casino Royale, shows a strangely bland Bond, bow-tied and with a carnation in his buttonhole, seated at a poker table.

Later covers are slicker and racier - near-naked women, gleaming guns and glimmering diamonds are popular motifs.

Once you get into the late 60s, the covers get more and more glamorous. Then with the rise of feminism, the glamorous ladies disappear.

But only for a time. The newest covers in the show - Michael Gillette's designs for an upcoming Penguin reissue of the series - feature naked female forms, stylised and given a deliberately retro feel.

One could look at the clothing fashions of the time as well. I could never get over the 1969 George Lazenby, in his tan coloured cardigan and straight cut trousers or the 2007 Daniel Craig slickness.

The change in the women seems even more pronounced. From the the Honor Blackman glam, through the Maryam d'Abo helpless damsel in distress to the kick-butt Eva Green, the Bond franchise is a microcosm of modern western history.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

[thought for the day] sunday evening

And lips say, "God be pitiful," who ne'er said "God be praised."

[Elizabeth Barrett Browning - 1844]

[stóra planid] almost a gangster film

This blog has long been a fan of Iceland Review not just for classic stories such as Salmon Fishing is Better compared to an Average Year but for the uniquely quaint style of English in their reports.

This film review by the soon to be acclaimed Egill M. Arnarsson is no exception to this fine tradition, being arguably one of the finest film reviews this blogger has read in years - it will almost certainly reward your close attention [and good English].

Catch the Icelandic subtitled trailer here, courtesy of Poppoli.

Stóra Planid [almost a gangster film]

Award-winning director Ólafur Jóhannesson moved back to Iceland to make an Icelandic feature that is almost a kung-fu film and almost a gangster film. The film features debt-collectors, a well-known and mocked profession in Iceland, as weak thugs on the quest for a higher status in a questionable gang.

Considering that the Icelandic film scene is blossoming at the same time that organized crime in Iceland is on the rise, Stóra Planid’s timing is perfect. Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon, whose star is shining brightly these days, plays the lead as Davíd in Stóra Planid. He won the stand-up competition “Iceland’s Funniest Person” and got a spot in a silly TV show on a small network.

However, his roles have always been similar, and in fact, some might say that he plays the same character over and over again. His role as Davíd is no different. But even though Sigfússon did a great job, the Icelandic nation yearns to know if awkward and repressed characters are the only thing he is capable of acting.

Other roles and aspects

Thorleifsson delivers his role with great professionalism while Imperioli’s well-known face and accent-free English did not cast a shadow on the others’ performances. Benedikt Erlingsson (Fóstbraedur) and Stefan C. Schaefer’s characters were surprisingly well-written and added hilarious details (i.e. Erlingsson’s horse whip and boat-modeling interest) to a number of scenes.

The screenplay by director Jóhannesson and Ómar Örn Hauksson was mostly well-written, but a bit vague on key plots in the storyline. Also, it was missing a climax and highlights causing it to be a bit flat. An example of that is an awkward, unexpected sex scene without the traditional raw nudity and passionate moans, never before seen in an Icelandic film.

Rune Kippervik’s cinematography overdosed on heavy depth-of-field usage, which was a huge discomfort to the eye. A few shots seemed experimental and some lower-lit scenes were a bit grainy. The editing, however, often had good timing which compensated a little for some of the most annoying shots.

And in conclusion

The film breaks a huge chunk of the barrier between international and Icelandic filmmaking and pushes the limit of domestic film standards and creativity.

Catch the Icelandic subtitled trailer here, courtesy of Poppoli.

Perfect [almost]

[playboy] why a rabbit?

If you were to pull off a train robbery, would you only make off with a load of Playboy cushions?

The attack happened in the northern suburbs of Marseille, the regional newspaper La Provence reports. [T]he thieves blocked the track with sleepers, causing the 700m (760-yard) train to screech to a halt, and forced open a number of containers.

Apart from the Playboy cushions, police said it was not clear what else was taken. The train driver was not harmed.

Right. Playboy cushions.

Which brings us to the next question - why a bunny? Why not a kitten or a lamb or a chicken? Wiki doesn't help:

They wore a costume called a bunny suit inspired by the tuxedo-wearing Playboy rabbit mascot, consisting of a corset, bunny ears, a collar, cuffs, and a fluffy cottontail.

Finally I think I have it: Hugh Hefner, the creator of the 'Playboy' magazine, once explained:

'I selected a rabbit as the symbol for the magazine because of the humorous sexual connotation, and because he offered an image that was frisky and playful. I put him in a tuxedo to add the idea of sophistication. there was another editorial consideration, too. since both 'the New Yorker' and 'Esquire' use men as their symbols, I felt the rabbit would be distinctive; and the notion of a rabbit dressed up in formal evening attire struck me as charming, amusing and right.'

The first sketch of the bunny

Added Art Paul, the magazine's first art director:

'If I'd had any idea how important that little rabbit was going to be, I probably would have redrawn him a dozen times to make certain I was doing him justice, and I suppose none of those versions would have turned out as well as the original. as it was, I did one drawing and that was it. I probably spent all of half an hour on it.'

Well, if it's good enough for Gloria Steinem, it must be OK.

Next week we'll look at the time I went undercover to a brewery to expose the shenanigans going on in the brewing industry and how I sampled twenty bordellos to expose the vice and corruption endemic in that industry.

Hands on, primary source reporting always carries more authority, don't you feel?

[shark attack] what did he expect

The KNBC-TV story, as reported, is pretty rambling and i have no link as it was e-mailed to me:
Dr. Dave Martin, a 66-year-old retired veterinarian, [was one of a] group of nine swimmers [who] entered the water near Fletcher Cove, off San Diego, in an area known as Table Tops, at about 7 a.m. for a morning ocean swim, according to Lt. Mike Cea of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. They swam northward, and while they were swimming, Martin was attacked by a shark.

Because of the form of the attack and Martin's wounds, the shark was almost certainly a white shark, according to Prof. Richard Rosenblatt, a shark expert at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla. He estimated the fish to be 12 to 17 feet long.

Witness said that Martin was lifted from the water by the shark. White sharks normally feed on seals, attacking from below with a powerful bite. The white shark ranges from north of San Francisco to the Gulf of California, so it is not unusual for them to be in the San Diego area.

Piecing it together, it seems the shark might have mistaken him for a seal and the fact that it bit him, harried him then let him go suggests it realized its mistake and then went off for seals. I should have thought the unusual presence of sea-lions in the area would have given them pause before they swam out but no - they were part of a triathlon club and seemed to know the ropes.

Here is an article on "Shark Dives" in the San Diego area which shows that the possibility of sharks in the area is at least substantial. Another thing which puzzles me is the board riders who went out the next day after the attack. Here is a list of sharks indigenous to the waters off California - another reason it didn't seem too bright an idea to venture out unprotected.

Finally is the nonchalant [or was it tongue in cheek] comment by one blogger:

San Diego beaches will probably be not-so-popular for a while.

For a while.


[dating easter] why the discrepancy

The interestingly [and today fittingly] named, newly 23 year old Oestrebunny asked about the Western and Eastern discrepancies in the dating of Easter, as we know it, known as Computus.

Phew - where to begin researching? I came up with this:

The Christian Easter is tied in with the Jewish Pesach or Passover.

The Passover itself is complicated and ties in with the Metonic cycle of years, which involve the Golden Numbers 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19.

From this come calculations for the Jewish calendar year - the Hebrew Pesach is determined in the Old Testament to begin on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan.

Almost from the very beginning of the existence of the Christian Church, the issue presented variations. Although the New Testament relates these events to the Jewish Passover, the details of this relationship are not clear.

On the one hand, the tradition of the synoptic gospels identifies the Lord's last supper as a passover meal, placing the death of the Lord on the day after Passover. On the other hand, the tradition of the Gospel of St. John situates the death of the Lord at the very hour the paschal lambs were sacrificed on the day of Passover itself.

In practice, one group were celebrating it on any day of the week [wherever the Jewish mid-Nisan fell] and they became known as the Quartodecimanists. The other was putting it on the Sunday after Passover.

The First Ecumenical Council convened at Nicaea in 325 took up the issue. It determined that Pascha should be celebrated on the Sunday which follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox-the actual beginning of spring.

There was a strong feeling in some quarters that the Christian tradition should not tie in with the Jewish calendar.

Also, there was the question of determining the calendar. In the East, the 19-year cycle was eventually adopted, whereas in the West an 84-year cycle. The use of two different paschal cycles inevitably gave way to differences between the Eastern and Western Churches regarding the observance of Pascha.

An event I'm proud to relate concerns the Synod of Whitby - held at Whitby Abbey which I have visited many, many times [it being close to my home], in which Northumbria determined the date of Easter eventually adopted by the English [despite the ridiculous assertion in the Wiki article that Bede's account is an exaggeration].

A further cause for these differences was the adoption by the Western Church of the Gregorian Calendar in the 16th century. This took place in order to adjust the discrepancy by then observed between the paschal cycle approach to calculating Pascha and the available astronomical data.

Therefore, in practical terms, the invariable date of the vernal equinox is taken by the Orthodox church to be April 3 in our current calendar (but March 21 on the Julian Calendar).

To this blogger, except that it is celebrated vaguely round the spring equinox, it hardly matters, as long as it is celebrated. The act of excommunicating someone for having the incorrect day:

Bishop Victor I of Rome, excommunicated the Quartodecimans (then apparently led by Polycrates of Ephesus) for not adhering to the Paschal practices of the majority of Christians.

... is one of the major reasons I'm not Roman Catholic though I deeply respect them for keeping the light of Christianity alive under its current assault these days. Sisu's series of posts on the Pope, preceding this one, was informative and moving.

Personally I like the two Easters plus the [actual] Oestrebunny angle with the rabbits and eggs but I also like the kulich and all that tradition, as well as the midnight vigil.

It all seems to give a nice balance of gravitas and fun. After all, the Resurrection is joyful by definition, not gloomy. Now I'm off for some tea and kulich.

Have a joyful day - already the sun has burst out.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

[thought for the day] saturday evening

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.

[Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938]

... unless, of course, you want to call the Lizard Queen. If she does not manage the nomination, I feel we should all call her, on successive nights, at 3.a.m., on a roster basis, to offer our condolences.

3 a.m. is also the time my U.S. readers start to overtake the U.K. readers and are roughly equal in proportion:

3 a.m. is also a nice time for cuddling your one and only:

... or when you stare, alone, into the log fire, with that glass of cheer in your hand:

... or when you get over to Grendel's place to watch this classic clip:

... or when the Morlocks come for you:

The possibilities are endless.

[housekeeping] some celebratory notes

There was a Bunny birthday recently and I missed it. Oh woe. There was also a Rob birthday and I missed it. Oh double woe.

I nearly missed my father's day of demise [April 26th] but my header at least is a memorial in itself. Well I didn't miss it but got round to posting about it late. Hope the party was good up there, Dad.

Glimmer of light in that other matter which shall remain cryptic as I don't wish to think of it on this happy occasion.

Which leads to the main dish of the day - Easter and the renewal. This is the day we're now coming into when He rose from the dead and conquered death:

Христос Воскрес. Воистину Воскрес!

People of an Orthodox ilk round this neck of the woods are at the local Khram or Sobor and doing the all-night candle vigil.

Call me a choker but I think I'll just blog on the matter and do my own little vigil.

Missed the whole painted egg show this time round but do have the kulich [pictured below]. This is very light bread with icing on top and yummy with butter.

So young lady and family have gone without me as I crashed six hours ago and just woke up. Let me just check the answer machine - hmmm, nothing. They might have forgotten me. Such is life.

Just check the e-mail. Yo - she wrote. That's nice but it was hours ago.

Orthodox Kulich [below] is pretty yummy but has no preservatives or chemicals of any kind and thus is only good for the one day, after which it dries up very quickly. It's their equivalent of the hot cross bun.

[national identity] time the namby-pambyness stopped

This is not a post about power plugs but power plugs do help us understand national mentalities.

Above is the British standard and the plug itself is a work of art. Huge, square and chunky, with beefy pins set perpendicularly to the long, overkill-design earth pin, the designers would say, "Well, it's electricity, init, mate? Can't muck about with electricity, can we?"

Note the two tone, partly protected live pins as well.

The British mentality is to fret over the least thing, to over-legislate to circumvent the direst imaginngs and to take pleasures tepidly, for fear of exciting the senses. Take something like a political demonstration, for example. The least sign of precipitation, the chance of leaves on the line or heaven forbid, even the wrong leaves and that's it, matey. No demo.

Lord Somber has kindly despatched a copy of a Pajamas article on this matter:

The news this week that authorities in the English city of Bradford had apparently banned a St. George’s Day parade by schoolchildren because it might offend local Muslims appeared at first sight to be yet another example of timid British officialdom caving in to the demands of extremists.

The parade story was reported by several UK newspapers, and picked up by the blogosphere. The response was predictable ... but because Pajamas asked me to write about the story I spent some time reading the various reports in detail, and particularly reports from Bradford’s local media. And a rather different picture of events emerged.

Organizers had been planning the event with a local police team for some months, but last week the city council, citing police advice from higher up, said the event could not go ahead as planned because of “health and safety” concerns. In true Hillary Clinton fashion, they added that the decision had been taken “in the interests of the children.”

What appears far more likely — and what the parade organizers are saying — is that senior police officers failed to communicate with their colleagues who were involved in planning the event, and when they learned of the proposed route they became concerned that troublemakers, whether Muslim extremists or members of far-right groups, might have taken advantage of the parade to stir up trouble.

But if the police really feared violence they should have supervised the parade in sufficient strength to ensure that they were able to deal with it. Instead they gave in — not to extremism, and not even to the threat of extremism, but to the mere notion of extremism

The irony, of course, is that one of the aims of the event was to bring young people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds together, with the aim of eradicating the distrust that leads to the kind of trouble the police apparently feared.

There’s a legitimate debate going on in Britain about the failure of Muslims and other immigrants to assimilate, but it’s not helped by the authorities, or the media, looking for problems where they don’t exist.

At the end of a report on Wednesday’s St. George’s Day celebrations, the BBC News website invited the public to send in photos and video of events — street parties, fancy dress parades, and the like — with the following disclaimer: “Do not endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.”

The more gung-ho Americans would raise an eyebrow at this at the very least - at least those of a certain mentality would. However I think the same mollycoddling pc-ishness is at large over there. If you see a potential problem float past on the wind, rush out and nail it down in a plethora of legislation.

You have to wonder about the short-sightedness. Whether or not Muslims have any intention of "assimilating", to include Muslim youth in the 2000 schoolkids marching on St. George's day would have been a filip at the least, for this goal.

But to cancel the march - well that also cancels any possibility of progress, let alone robbing the marchers of the moral high ground where any attack would have been roundly condemned by all communities.

I noticed one of the commenters speak of multi-culturalism but I beg to differ. Take Australia, for example which, despite its claims, is not truly multi-cultural - it is a broadened culture which is still recognizably Australian. Despite British supposed inability to find cultural identity these days, this is surely rubbish. Of course there is a recognizably British tradition and English tradition which transcends the current nationality issue.

It's what parents in the colonies sent their kids to boarding schools to experience and what millions of visitors each year also come to experience. It includes St. George, tea, fish 'n chips and Trafalgar Square, Oxford and Cambridge, to name some things and requires no apology from any Brit of whatever hue.

[assumptions] things are not always as they seem

You know, when I went round the blogs in the last few days, the number of bloggers referring to "posting will be lighter" and who seem to have issues was eyebrow raising.

The bottom line is that we never know what's really going down inside with fellow bloggers or even friends in RL. A glance across at MyBlogLog here and I could name five of those immediately where I suspect things aren't completely happy at that end.

On Friday I had a meeting with a girl who was meant to have phoned the night before and had seemingly ignored my two e-mails. On pure speculation I went along so at least I could say I'd turned up.

Even though it had been arranged, still it was a shock when she actually walked through that door and on time too. I think you can imagine the opening topics after the greeting - what happened? What went wrong and so on. As became apparent - in that I'm helping her sort the trouble out even today - she had some major issues and these aren't just words - I saw the documents.

Ten days ago I got a phone call in the middle of the night from an airport. She assumed I was asleep but actually I was in the little room dealing with a health matter. When I phoned her back, neither number answered so I assumed she was p---ed off by that. Actually she'd had all her documents and phone stolen, had missed the plane and was stuck in the airport. She'd used her last local change to make that call.

Why do we assume that we have the cares of the world on our own shoulders but the other person doesn't? You can never tell from appearances and that's the bottom line here. You can never tell.

Cuts both ways though. Five years ago I assumed all was well when in fact a particular lady was playing me like a violin and getting deeper and deeper into subterfuge. Truth was I never tumbled to it, even when all the signs were there to see.

Three people have e-mailed me personally since yesterday [well actually 47 have but most of these were the usual matters], I've missed two birthdays in the last few days, three people in RL are feeling neglected and there are some health issues which we needn't go into. A friend flew in last week, called twice and has now flown out again. He's not going to understand that the phone had been cut off and then other things hit last week.

I know that each of these feels, maybe not peeved but a bit hurt by what looks like callous disdain, especially as I seem to be blogging jauntily, provoking as usual and visiting the same three or four blogs.

If it looks as if all is well, nothing could be further from the truth.

An inkling of this came out in two posts on Thursday but it was disguised to the point where Wolfie felt it was "overdramatizing". I smiled at that and poured a whisky and toasted him. Without going into detail, as the blog doesn't seem to be the place for that and I'd prefer to do an ostrich, I'm in - excuse the French - deep s-i- on four fronts, to the point where the two choices are to laugh or cry.

Today I'm going to have to call in some favours which I'd prefer not to do.

One of the blogfriends who e-mailed me has real health concerns. Another is at the end of the tether. One feels very hurt and rightly so. All with their own issues and troubles. How to cope with and help these friends? The issue seems to be one of over-extending - trying to take on too much with thin margins for error and when it fouls up, it fouls up big.

I suppose what I'm saying in this post is not to assume things which seem one way but might not be, in point of fact. And that applies to my own assumptions as well.

Personally, I think a combination of prayer, networking and grovelling apology might sort things out in the end. Otherwise I have no idea what to do.

Friday, April 25, 2008

[thought for the day] friday evening

Every time I fill a vacant office, I make ten malcontents and one ingrate.

[Louis Quatorze]

Same with blogrolling and memes.

[nationality] how russian am I?

This quiz is a load of garbage. It's "borsch" and "vam nravitsa" plus America does border Russia at the tip of Alaska. So I put in the wrong answers to get this result:

You are 100% Russian!

Great job!!!!! You did WONDERFULY!!!! Nice try!!! Were you born in Russia? How do you know so much about it??? Well, good job anyway!!!

How Russian are you?
Quizzes for MySpace

[nationality] how american am I?

The first time I did this wasn't gonna go down well with my Anglo or Aussie friends - 100%! So I went back and made some of the answers less American to get the score a bit below England/Oz. Here's how I went:

you are 100% American!!!

congragulations!!! your as American as they come. you fly a flag and support our country in every thing u do. you get upset when were down and rejoice when we win

how American are you?
Take More Quizzes

[nationality] how aussie am I?

OK - here's the second one:

You are 90% Aussie!

Spot on mate! A true blue aussie! Whether plonking down for a bit of telly and enjoying an ice cold vic bitter or singing Happy little Vegamite while chucking another shrimp on the barbie, you are always thinking Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

How Aussie are you?
Make Your Own Quiz

H/T Nunyaa

[nationality] how english am I?

OK - here's the first one:

You are 90% English.

Congratulations! You may now take your place as a subject of Her Majesty.

"And did those feet
In ancient times,
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
In England's pleasant pastures seen?"

Well, no, but it's a cracking good tune.

How English are you?
Create a Quiz

H/T Cherie

[orthodox easter] today is good friday in pascha

So much has been written about the whys and wherefores of the Crucifixion.

The slightly insane Mel Gibson produced a gory film I’m still not sure about. I’ve also thought long and hard whether to run an article by Dr. C. Truman Davis, vice president of the American Association of Ophthalmology, which is also gory in its medical descriptions. It is not for the faint-hearted and if you can’t stomach such things, best to pass this over.

All I can say is, having read it, it wouldn’t have been a whole lot of fun for Him. The main focus of Easter is the resurrection but His death bears thinking about as well. Here is a fragment from the text which you can read the whole of here:

Every ruse imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away this description, apparently under the mistaken impression that this just doesn’t happen. A great deal of effort could have been saved had the doubters consulted the medical literature.

Though very rare, the phenomenon of Hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress of the kind our Lord suffered, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process might well have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was next brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest; it is here that the first physical trauma was inflicted ...

The symbol that all the fuss and vitriol is all about

I hope we can begin from a position further advanced than questioning whether the crucifixion took place - that much scholars generally concede. The real issue is if the resurrection took place. One such discussion is described here:

A critical debate on the question "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" took place recently between world-renowned atheistic philosopher, Dr. Antony Flew, and New Testament scholar, Dr. Gary Habermas. A panel of five philosophers from leading universities judged the outcome.

What was the conclusion? Four votes for Habermas. None for Flew. And one draw. One respondent to the debate, philosopher Charles Hartshorne, admitted against his own bias:

"I can neither explain away the evidence to which Habermas appeals, nor can I simply agree with Flew’s or Hume’s positions."

Dr. Flew was judged to have retreated into philosophical sophistry while evading a whole host of widely-acknowledged historical facts.

To me, a lot of the claims and counter-claims fall wide of the mark. In this thing you're not going to be able to prove or disprove but a more scientific approach would be to look at the most likely scenario:

The authorities ... to deflate the new religious enthusiasm ... used every expedient in their power. They harassed, arrested, threatened, and flogged the apostles [but] could not produce Jesus' body. Central to the preaching of the early church was the joyous assertion that Jesus had risen from the dead.

To produce the body would have terminated the issue once and for all. True - He could have been taken away and ended his days in Kashmir with Mary Magdalene but there is no sustainable evidence of this. The swoon theory is also a good one.

But there is sound evidence that ordinary jews thereafter turned to belief in this resurrection in the face of great privations and disdain. You don't do that sort of thing for nothing. And why would the authorities retaliate the way they did?

Sociologically, the notion of redemption through resurrection was a highly subversive doctrine in those days and in fact in any age. Metaphysically, if one concedes an evil force, then it's just logical it will throw up a host of counter-theories and the first step is to suppress anything likely to support the contention in the first place.

One of the more powerful supports which the notion of the resurrection enjoys is the attempt to imitate it both through the Moloch ritual "passing through the fire" which world leaders emulate at Bohemian Grove and through occult rituals themselves, particularly on Walpurgis night [coming up soon - keep your eye on your children, parents, around May 1st].

This notion of resurrection and reincarnation is ancient, powerful and persistent. The further notion that it was achieved in those three days of Pascha is not one likely to endear itself to the wider world.

The Pascha Ritual

Wiki gives this explanation:

Preparation for Pascha begins with the season of Great Lent. In addition to fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, Orthodox Christians cut down on all entertainment and non-essential worldly activities, gradually eliminating them until Great and Holy Friday.

Traditionally, on the evening of Great and Holy Saturday, the Midnight Office is celebrated shortly after 11:00 p.m. (see Paschal Vigil). At its completion all light in the church building is extinguished.

A new flame is struck in the altar, or the priest lights his candle from a perpetual lamp kept burning there, and he then lights candles held by deacons or other assistants, who then go to light candles held by the congregation.

Then the priest and congregation process around the church building, holding lit candles, re-entering ideally at the stroke of midnight, whereupon Paschal Matins begins immediately followed by the Paschal Hours and then the Paschal Divine Liturgy.

Immediately after the Liturgy it is customary for the congregation to share a meal, essentially an Agápē dinner (albeit at 2:00 a.m. or later). In Greece the traditional latenight dinner is mageiritsa, a hearty stew of chopped lamb liver and wild greens seasoned with egg-and-lemon sauce.

Traditionally, Easter eggs, hard-boiled eggs dyed bright red to symbolize the spilt Blood of Christ and the promise of eternal life, are cracked together to celebrate the opening of the Tomb of Christ.

Dutch Easter - the persistent notion of "passing through the fire", also much emulated by the other side

The day after, Easter Sunday proper, there is no liturgy, since the liturgy for that day has already been celebrated. Instead, in the afternoon, it is often traditional to celebrate "Agápē Vespers". In this service, it has become customary during the last few centuries for the priest and members of the congregation to read a portion of the Gospel of John (20:19–25 or 19–31) in as many languages as they can manage.

For the remainder of the week (known as "Bright Week"), all fasting is prohibited, and the customary Paschal greeting is "Christ is risen!," to be responded with "Truly He is risen!"

Bit of fun

An article in The New York Times of May 11, 2002, written by Emily Eakin, reviewed a conference on ethics and belief at Yale University in April, 2002:

Eakin said Richard Swinburne, a Greek Orthodox professor of philosophy from Oxford University, used a probability formula known as Bayes's theorem to assign values to factors like the probability that there is a God, the nature of Jesus' behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after his death.

God overrides natural laws

“For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable,” Professor Swinburne said. “But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because He makes them operate.”

Swinburne gave his notes and calculations to the audience so they could follow while he did the math.

“Given e and k, h is true if and only if c is true,” he said. “The probability of h given e and k is .97”.

In plain English, Professor Swinburne's calculations allegedly show that the probability that the Resurrection really happened is a staggeringly high 97 per cent.

Many other academics have weighed into the defence of the Christian faith, the newspaper said. Brian Leiter, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, noted, “It would be accurate to say that it's a growth movement.”

So there you go - ignore it at your peril. :) Finally, to all you good people out there [and bad] :

Христос Воскрес. Воистину Воскрес!