The Verdict of the Stoa

Neil Clark is even more objectionably stupid than Stephen Pollard. In fact, it’s not even close. He’s been ahead of Pollard in the stupidity stakes ever since he started conversing with a spambot in the comments section of his own blog (18 months ago or so? not sure), but he’s now way, way out ahead of the rest of the field.

And remember: this isn’t just about 91 interpreters, and nothing, but nothing has actually yet been achieved. This campaign is about everyone who is in in fear of their lives owing to their links to the British forces in Iraq, and their families: i.e., quite a few thousand people. If you haven’t already, write to your MP. Especially if your MP is Hugh Bayley, who doesn’t seem to have much of a clue.

Campaign video over here. (It’s both funny and gruesome, so be careful.)

UPDATE [5 minutes later]: Jamie Kenny says it so much better than I ever could.

Heroine of the Stoa

Coming out of the monkey-house at the ménagerie in the Jardin des Plantes here in Paris yesterday, we read a notice about the orang-utans, which said, among other things, that

“Sa mère Wattana rejoindra prochainement un groupe de femelles élevant leurs petits à  Appeldoorn, en Hollande, afin de compléter l’entraînement qu’elle a suivi à  la Ménagerie pour recouvrer un comportement maternel.”

And what was the matter with her comportement maternel, we wondered?

The internet, as ever, comes to the rescue. This page starts with a disussion of La grande erreur de Rousseau, but eventually gets to the ape in question:

Des observations récentes, en milieu artificiel, suggèrent même que les grands primates sont susceptibles d’apprendre la culture et les comportements d’une espèce voisine, y compris en ce qui concerne des éléments aussi sensibles à  la sélection que les comportements sexuels. L’exemple de Watana, célèbre jeune femelle orang-outan de la ménagerie du Jardin des plantes à  Paris, qui reçut des éléments de culture sexuelle bonobo au zoo de Stuttgart et se retrouva plus tard rejetée brutalement en milieu orang-outan, est à  cet égard particulièrement édifiant!”

Regular readers of Popbitch can probably guess what’s going on here — the giveaway phrase, culture sexuelle bonobo, will be setting off the alarm bells. But there’s also this page which gives a few more details:

“Le second exemple concerne une amie orang- outan, Wattana. Elle appartenait, de naissance, à  cette espèce solitaire dont les comportements sexuels, dans la nature, sont rares, pendant le court oestrus des femelles et plutôt calmes. Les hasards de la gestion des parcs zoologiques l’ont fait élever parmi des bonobos, chimpanzés bien connus pour leurs performances sexuelles permanentes et variées, nombreuses et brèves, entre partenaires de toutes combinaisons de sexes. Eduquée par ce groupe, Wattana fût ensuite “mariée” à  un orang mâle qui, d’abord, prit si mal ses grimaces provocatrices et propositions sexuelles explicites qu’il fallut les séparer ! Dans un deuxième temps, introduite dans un groupe familial, Wattana fût acceptée par son fiancé, dont elle modifia culture et comportements, ainsi que ceux des autres membres du groupe!”

Grimaces provocatrices! Anyway, this seems to be the deep background to help explain why she’s now off in Holland to recover her comportement maternel. The scientists seem to be interested in the case, as it’s a good example of the extent to which sexual behaviour is learned, rather than innate. (There’s also an academic article out there about Wattana’s talents with knots.)

And for more on the culture sexuelle bonobo, you might start here.

Pollard, film critic

Stephen Pollard isn’t just an expert on cycling (“the team element is missing”, etc.). He also has sophisticated opinions on postwar European cinema. Here he is, for example, discussing the films of Ingmar Bergman. It’s already been labelled “the dumbest thing I’ve ever read” by one of the cinéphiles over at the Criterion Forum.

I should say that I’ve not seen much Bergman: Wild Strawberries once upon a time, and lengthy snippets of The Seventh Seal. So it’s just, just possible that I might agree with Pollard were I to see the rest of the oeuvre (which I’d like to do). But given that he lumps Bergman in with James Joyce and Harrison Birtwistle — my favourite novelist and one of my favourite living composers respectively — somehow I doubt that he and I are going to end up seeing eye to eye on this one, as on so much else. [Yo, bro.]

UPDATE, UPDATE: The same brother reminds me I’ve also seen Bergman’s Magic Flute (and it’s stupid of me to forget this, as I’ve got the DVD at home), which is just fantastic. And it probably has the best Pantomime Walrus in cinema history. YouTube clips over here, though I’m not sure they’ve got the PW in there.

2d UPDATE: And here he is, the darling:

[images nicked from over here]

Jeudi Entente Cordiale Blogging

(What follows is pretty trivial, so I really don’t recommend you read it.)

One of the things I come across from time to time is people – especially young people – using the word “refute” to mean “disagree with”, “oppose” or “deny” rather than, as the OED neatly puts it, “to disprove, overthrow by argument, prove to be false.” (Indeed, the OED notes the incorrect usage, and labels it incorrect, with a series of examples that I’ve placed over the fold.) (I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks that postmodernism is something to do with this, but that’s a conversation for another occasion.)

Anyway, this Summer, Le Monde has a daily feature revisiting past controversies that have beset what it calls the “intelligentsia hexagonale”. So this week we’ve had discussions of the bicentenaire, Heidegger, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and today (i.e., the issue dated vendredi) we’ve had the affaire du foulard in its original 1989 incarnation. And it’s in this last piece that we find this:

Dès le 24 octobre, Guy Coq, membre du comité de rédaction de la revue Esprit, pousse un premier cri d’alarme dans les colonnes du Monde. Il réfute l’argument de la différence culturelle à  respecter. C’est le maintien même de la tolérance qui “périrait si les diverses communautés religieuses entraient en compétition pour s’emparer de l’espace laïque de l’école, pour en briser l’unité, pour y manifester non pas l’esprit d’accueil pour chaque individu en lui-même, comme simple humain, mais le signe de la clôture de chaque communauté contre les autres”.

Now unless my French is even worse than I think it is (which is wholly possible), that looks suspiciously like using “réfuter” to mean “deny”, i.e., following the incorrect English usage of “refute”. So is this because the French verb has a broader meaning than its English equivalent, ranging all the way from “deny” to “disprove”, or is the same bad habit that the Anglophones have developed shared by Francophones? And, if so, has it spread from England to France or vice versa, or is it properly autochthonous in both linguistic communities (if that’s not too pretentious an expression to use)?

I may just be barking up the wrong tree, or just barking. But any thoughts are more than welcome.

Continue reading “Jeudi Entente Cordiale Blogging”

Thursday Cheese Blogging

There’s not enough cheese-blogging in these parts, so here goes.

I’m eating a lot of cheese while I’m in France, and one thing I’m noticing is that if I eat a lot of cheese in the evening, I have weird dreams. Not bad dreams — which I get if I drink red wine too soon before bedtime — just distinctively weird dreams. I can’t report on the content of any of these (you’ll be relieved to hear), because I have almost invariably forgotten the content of my dreams by the time I’m washed / showered / shaved / breakfasted / caffeinated in the morning. But they are weird.

Here’s information from the British Cheese Board blog on the subject, though in their less than cosmopolitan way they are only concerned with the effect that British Cheese has on dreaming.

UPDATE [8/8]: The nonbloggishblog has more.