A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for September 2007

[META] More blogroll changes

The news sources
Asia Times
and Inter Press Service are now on the interesting stuff section of my blogroll, while, in the bloggish segment of said, some blogs have been trimmed and
Language Log


Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2007 at 8:39 am

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[LINK] The late Norman Cohn

princeofcairo for reporting the sad news that British cultural historian Norman Cohn died this 31 July. As princeofcairo wrote, Cohn was quite good at what he did.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2007 at 8:31 am

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[LINK] Some Friday links

  • Phil Hunt at Amused Cynicism comments on the irony of at least one British Europhobe wanting to bmake the United Kingdom dependent on the Untied States.
  • David Pescovitz at Boing Boing covers an Austrian court case launched with the goal of establishing a chimpanzee as a person with rights.
  • Thanks to More Words, Deeper Hole’s James Nicoll for linking to science fiction writer John W. Campbell’s series on the Solar System, written with the help of what was then the latest science.
  • Over at The Marmot’s Hole, two posts (1, 2) point out a conceived inconsistency in South Korean foreign policy, after Seoul condemned the brutal Butrmese dictatorship while hoping to kickstart relations with a North Korea that’s at least as oppressive. I don’t see much of an inconsistency; a conflictual relationship with North Korea isn’t exactly in South Korean interests.
  • Francis Strand comments on a Danish marriage and its idosyncracies.
  • Norman Geras has two posts up, one referring to Boing Boign’s chimpanzee and the need to create a legal status midway between “thing” and “person,” the other observing that modern consumer electronic devices like cell phones makes the job of the Burmese dictatorship that much harder.
  • feorag at the Pagan Prattle informs readers of the happy news that the British government has decided that the only reason for an accredited school to include creationism in its science curriculum is to explain why creationism isn’t science.
  • At Marginalia, Peteris Cedrins writes about the contested status of Latgalian, a dialect of Latvian spoken in the traditionally Roman Catholic province of Latgale in the otherwise traditionally Lutheran country of Latvia, and the ways in which tensions between Latgale and the rest of Latvia define group identities.
  • In the aftermath of the Maryland Supreme Court’s decision not to recognize same-sex marriage, Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty writes eloquently about the ways in which the law shapes culture.
  • Strange Maps has a map up of Freistaat Flaschenhals, the Free State of Bottleneck, produced inadvertantly after the First World War when planners of the Anglo-French-American occupation of the German Rhineland overlooked a small valley, hence the name.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 28, 2007 at 10:29 pm

[META] Blogroll Update

Boing Boing is now in the blogroll segment of my sidebar, and the long-running South African comic strip Madam & Eve is in the interesting links section.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 28, 2007 at 9:23 pm

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[LINK] Rick Mercer in fab

Canadian political satirist Rick Mercer‘s interview with Toronto biweekly magazine fab is notable mainly for being one of the only interviews, if not the only interview, where he talks about his sexual orientation and his personal life. Still, there does seem to have been some demand for that, likely because of the celebrity culture we all share in as well as not a small amount of the sort of gossip that small and/or conservative communities are famous for, so …

UPDATE (2:51 PM, 27 September) : He’s on the front cover of Xtra, too. If he wasn’t out to the general public before, he is now.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 26, 2007 at 7:25 pm

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[LINK] “English as an Indigenous Pacific Island Language”

Joel at Far Outliers has an extended excerpt describing the history of the English language in the Bonin Islands, a Micronesian archipelago first settled by Anglophones before falling under Japanese sovereignty.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2007 at 11:59 pm

[REVIEW] Gilles Tréhin, Urville

Urville is the creation of Gilles Tréhin, a Belgian-born autistic savant who created the fictional city of Urville from the mid-1980s on, starting with Lego and proceeding onto increasingly detailed sketches. Tréhin’s Urville is located in “Provence insulaire,” a fictional archipelago located off the Provençal coast near Cannes that enjoyed a precocious urbanization under the Phoenicians and developed by the 21st century into the largest city in France and a global centre. The book Urville is a superb collection of Tréhin’s Urville-related drawings and notes, a sketched counterpart to the sort of tourist photo guidebook that one might buy at an airport on arrival and departure, replete with detailed images of Urville’s various districts and notable buildings. The below YouTube-hosted documentary provides more background of Tréhin and Urville.

Although Urville works wonderfully as a sampler of an alternative reality, but it fails to pass the litmus test of uchronical plausibility for purists: How could such a major Mediterranean metropolis be founded nearly two and a half millennia ago and have so little impact on world history? Almost certainly there wouldn’t be a Fifth French Republic founded by De Gaulle, or al-Qaeda suicide attacks in New York City on 11 September 2001. I’d suggest that the existence of a Provençal metropolis just as influential as Paris would have significant effects on French history. Look at Spain, where the national capital of Madrid in Castile is rivalled by a rich Mediterranean Barcelona that’s the centre of a vibrant Catalan culture and the historic nucleus of the non-Castilian kingdom of Aragon. In a world where Urville did exist, I’d be inclined to bet on the existence of, if not a broader Occitania, then at least an autonomous Provence. This significant point aside, I’d still recommend Urville to fans of alternate history, on the sole condition that they don’t get too excited about the background implausibilities of Urville–it’s a well-executed book with an interesting that deserves a readership.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2007 at 11:57 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] Meeting an excess of lust

Via Boingboing, I came across an article from the English-language news site Asharq Alawsat that claimed that Saudi religious police attacked by two of the women they preyed upon.

Head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Eastern province Dr. Mohamed bin Marshood al-Marshood, told Asharq Al Awsat that two of the Commission’s employees were verbally insulted and attacked by two inappropriately-dressed females, in the old market in Prince Bandar street, an area usually crowded with shoppers during the month of Ramadan.

According to Dr. Al-Marshood, the two commission members approached the girls in order to “politely” advise and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing.

Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them.

The Eastern Province’s head of the commission also revealed that with the help of the police his two employees were able to control the situation.

The two females were then escorted to the police station where they apologized for the attack, were cautioned and then released.

As commenters at Boing Boing pointed out, given the Commission’s past record–back in 2002, for instance, it allowed fifteen girls and young women to burn to death in their school because they weren’t properly covered–the word “politely” is possibly a euphemism. It’s probably also a good thing that the cell phone video hasn’t gotten very broad circulation in the Anglophone world, or that one of the girls didn’t have a taser–if nothing else, they do seem to have been released in short measure.

This whole sadly funny episode reminds me of Margriet de Moor’s April Sign and Sight observation about the what the sort of misogynistic gender relations favoured by regimes like the Saudi actually means.

How sex-obsessed is a culture that teaches a woman that she is basically a walking, sitting or reclining set of genitals? How over-aroused is a society in which men are expected to have no qualms about throwing themselves on any woman who happens to walk by, unless a powerful signal, in the form of a divinely ordained dress code, forbids them to do so? Our obsession may look different to theirs, but in fact they are just two sides of the same coin.

Isn’t it sad how it’s so easy for fanatics to project their own flawed internal dynamics onto other unsuspecting people?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2007 at 9:11 pm

[LINK] “How Federal is Star Trek’s Federation?”

Ilya Somin’s Volokh Conspiracy post “How Federal is Star Trek’s Federation?” is an interesting attempt at exploring the political structure of the United Federation of Planets. While this is admittedly a flawed project simply because of the very limited view of Federation society that Star Trek viewers receive thanks to the shows’ focus on Starfleet, it’s definitely good enough to show up the inadvertant contradictions in Federation political economy created by decades of writers. Is the 24th century Federation classifiable at all by 21st century political science standards, and what role if any do oney and property play on Earth, possibly as opposed to Vulcan and other worlds? I don’t buy Somin’s suggestion that the Federation is an updated version of the Delian League, Earth playing the role of Athens, if only because Earth doesn’t seem that aggressive a planet, but who knows, perhaps human colonies play that role.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 24, 2007 at 11:59 pm

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[REVIEW] Fullmetal Alchemist

For a few months earlier this year, I watched the anime Fullmetal Alchemist with a group of friends. Overall, I was quite impressed by the anime–I even liked the J-rock season themes. What most impressed me abnout the anime was its rapid yet seamless evolution from a kids’ adventure serial to a much darker and profoundly compelling epic.

Spoilers! Critical spoilers!

Written by Randy McDonald

September 24, 2007 at 11:56 pm