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Jan 31, 2012

Language lives

Erin McKean invited submissions of neologisms in her last column in the IHT. We reply:

Dear Erin,

in your IHT column, you invited the submission of neologisms. Here's a list I *thought* to have come up with during the last two years:

Trump House (play on White House)
to birther (raising the issue of Obama's birth)
public parts (opposite of "private parts")
de-seat (getting up, in analogy to de-plane)
kay (as in: 100k)
rational exuberance
period porn
beltway addicts
palin' around
to unanswer (a question)


Now, before I wrote (composed, haha) this email, I checked the originality of my inventions via Google, and found out that all --- except for the last two ("palin' around" is of course a play on Sarah Palin's expression "[Obama] pallin around with terrorists") --- had already been invented elsewhere before. But still.

One last remark: the prefix negation "un" is getting a lot of mileage recently. To unanswer here is meant to duck a question in a fuzzy way, like in: "The way Barack un-answers things."

Kind Regards, Michael M.

Jan 17, 2012

Italian for beginners

The washed-up scriptwriter sends this clip, and asks the question ""fact or fiction?":

And here's the transcript:

—De Falco: "This is De Falco speaking from Livorno. Am I speaking with the commander?"
—Schettino: "Yes. Good evening, Cmdr. De Falco."
—De Falco: "Please tell me your name."
—Schettino: "I'm Cmdr. Schettino, commander"
—De Falco: "Schettino? Listen Schettino. There are people trapped on board. Now you go with your boat under the prow on the starboard side. There is a pilot ladder. You will climb that ladder and go on board. You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear? I'm recording this conversation, Cmdr. Schettino..."
—Schettino: "Commander, let me tell you one thing..."
—De Falco: "Speak up! Put your hand in front of the microphone and speak more loudly, is that clear?"
—Schettino: "In this moment, the boat is tipping..."
—De Falco: "I understand that, listen, there are people that are coming down the pilot ladder of the prow. You go up that pilot ladder, get on that ship and tell me how many people are still on board. And what they need. Is that clear? You need to tell me if there are children, women or people in need of assistance. And tell me the exact number of each of these categories. Is that clear? Listen Schettino, that you saved yourself from the sea, but I am going to...really do something bad to you...I am going to make you pay for this. Go on board, (expletive)!"
—Schettino: "Commander, please..."
—De Falco: "No, please. You now get up and go on board. They are telling me that on board there are still..."
—Schettino: "I am here with the rescue boats, I am here, I am not going anywhere, I am here..."
—De Falco: "What are you doing, commander?"
—Schettino: "I am here to coordinate the rescue..."
—De Falco: "What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from aboard the ship. Are you refusing?"
—Schettino: "No, I am not refusing."
—De Falco: "Are you refusing to go aboard commander? Can you tell me the reason why you are not going?"
—Schettino: "I am not going because the other lifeboat is stopped."
—De Falco: "You go aboard. It is an order. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared 'abandon ship.' Now I am in charge. You go on board! Is that clear? Do you hear me? Go, and call me when you are aboard. My air rescue crew is there."
—Schettino: "Where are your rescuers?"
—De Falco: "My air rescue is on the prow. Go. There are already bodies, Schettino."
—Schettino: "How many bodies are there?"
—De Falco: "I don't know. I have heard of one. You are the one who has to tell me how many there are. Christ."
—Schettino: "But do you realize it is dark and here we can't see anything..."
—De Falco: "And so what? You want go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!"
—Schettino: "...I am with my second in command."
—De Falco: "So both of you go up then ... You and your second go on board now. Is that clear?"
—Schettino: "Commander, I want to go on board, but it is simply that the other boat here ... there are other rescuers. It has stopped and is waiting..."
—De Falco: "It has been an hour that you have been telling me the same thing. Now, go on board. Go on board! And then tell me immediately how many people there are there."
—Schettino: "OK, commander"
—De Falco: "Go, immediately!"

Update (Telegraph):

In a pre-planned stunt advertised on Facebook, captain of The Concordia, Francesco Schettino, sailed perilously close to the coast of Giglio so that the ship's head waiter could salute his family on land.

Minutes before the cruise ship hit the rocks, the waiter's sister Patrizia Tievoli had posted on Facebook that: 'In a short period of time the Concordia ship will pass very close. A big greeting to my brother who finally get to have a holiday on landing in Savona.'

Jan 14, 2012

Pure speculation, or Troops of Truth (2) (reposted)

Remember our not-so-prescient words from a recent post:

"And the press of the Free World is eating this up as if it were Yorkshire pudding."

Our words, or something else, triggered Arthur Brisbane, public editor of the NYT, to wonder publicly whether the press should try to sort out the truth, for a change.

And he gives an example:
On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.
As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?
If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:
“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”
Yes man, great. Politics went off the cliff because politicians could be sure that the press would eat their Yorkshire pudding all the time, reporting anything with hands-off  neutrality, then seeking middle ground somewhere between facts and absurdity. This should stop. Yes, press of the Free World, this should stop, so stop this and join the depleted ranks of the Troops of Truth, of which this blog is a shining example (spell checker still does not know the word "blog"). And whenever Romney and his ilk say something, check first whether there is some factual basis to it. Like in: "I want to be your President because I know how to strap my dog to the roof of my car when I go on family vacation to Canada, and the dog's name is/was Blondi." This statement is well-anchored in facts, and it can pass your editorial muster without any additional comments, even if he got the name wrong, since the real name of his dog was Seamus, there is no need for editorial commenting, since the dog's name is auxiliary to the fact of dog-strapping (flatus vocis)...

...even though it was the name of Hitler's dog. Halt, hold on, which government agency did I intend to shut down, no, that wasn't Romney (Romney didn't even get it for a slpit second, as he was suggesting, helpfully: "The EPA?"), we get confused here, perhaps ... Anyhow, this post is already too long, so we stop now.

PS: 80% of the Republican attacks on Obama are just insinuations. "Obama want to bring the US under UN goverment," "Obama wants to introduce European-style socialism," (no socialism here, by the way) etc. Did you realize that? Just insinuations. Perry, where are you when we need you?

Jan 10, 2012

Pure speculation (Swiss for beginners)

Philipp Hildebrand, the CEO of the Swiss National Bank,  had traded on the foreign exchange markets a few days before his bank had forced a peg of the Swiss Frank with the EUR that would guarantee an enormous profit to himself personally. No, wrong. It turns out, it was only his wife Kashya  --- nice name, boobs, attractive, a former model perhaps, no, just a former foreign exchange (FOREX) trader, running an art gallery now, Kashya, who knew nothing of her husband's plans to peg the Swiss Frank to the EUR at 1.20, and who, by exchanging enormous amounts of Swiss Franc at the right time, would make an enormous trading profit. Note that we don't use the word "speculation", the word "speculation" has been defenestrated, even here in France it's "trading" now (imagine the French pronunciation), since "speculation" triggers the wrong instincts --- instincts that were already abrogated by Queen Victoria, her of the Victorian age, the woman who famously informed her cabinet that a "wife knows everything her husband knows." So it was only Kashya, and it was only a matter of convenience that she did use her husband's account since the poor thing did not have a trading account in her own name, but it's clear that it was her, and not Hildebrand, who did the trade, since she, as a FOREX trader, knows the future.

Kashya and Philipp Hildebrand, note the plant in the background
And the press of the Free World is eating this up as if it were Yorkshire pudding.

Imagine you're writing a movie script. What's next?

A missing email perchance, that one particular email mysteriously absent from the records that the Swiss National Bank supplied to some thorough investigator who had been instituted to go to the bottom of this and who went there, and could not see anything wrong since the missing email was missing? Or was it somebody else, a highly-payed person (he/she) from a worldwide accountant firm with an interminable name? Like PriceWaterhouseCoopers? Yes, that's it, PwC. PwC, which failed to spot an accounting error of 54.5 billion EUR in the accounts of the Deutsche Hypobank only 6 weeks ago?  The largest accounting error in the history of the planet? That's the ticket if we need somebody to go Santorum.

And now what? Somebody's dropping a glass, it shatters, and Colombo has a heureka moment? Somebody's whispering in the dark? Somebody's impersonating the dog that didn't bark in the dark?

We don't know. What we do know, however, is that the missing email resurfaces, reappears as mysteriously as the account of Hildebrand's trading account itself had resurfaced (which it should not have, since there's the Swiss banking secret, and furthermore, it was sheer coincidence that Hildebrand's wife did trade in her favor on the FOREX market etc etc, it's so unfair).

Queen Victoria
Now, it is now that the script writer reaches the delicate point where he has to go into the finer points of the matter, for which he has the internet here.

You get the gist. Everything is OK. Hildebrand's story is consistent. There's just one minor problem. There was another email, or phone call, or whatever, from Hildebrand, to his bank, to the effect that the last trade was OK (it will never happen again, but the last trade was OK), and that it was OK to "augment" this trade (so as to enlarge the position that led to the profit).

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, some wit once observed, but that's the best we can do. Hildebrand stepped down yesterday. Life's unfair.

 Relax. Here's a picture from a better Swiss scene:

View of the Valais (Wallis) valley, Switzerland, 2012

Jan 8, 2012

Don't ask, don't tell

We already commented about this on the NYT site for Dowd's column today. Let's post anyhow, since it concerns a baffling problem, at least baffling for us. Rick Santorum styles himself as a principled opponent of gay sex everywhere, and in particular in the military. And promises a return to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that Obama dropped last year.

Huh? Don't Ask Don't Tell? That's a policy Bill Clinton introduced upon taking office in 1992, a foul compromise with the Chiefs of Staff who were vigorously opposed to the new president's promise to discontinue discrimination against gays in the military. Before 1992, homosexuality was outlawed there, and offenders were dishonorably discharged.

So you are a principled opponent of gay sex, and you're branding yourself as a principled social conservative, and then, what? Don't ask don't tell. Why not going back to better times when homosexuality was simply illegal? Why not? What makes you taking a muddled compromise position?

If this were a classical column, we would possibly have an answer, but this isn't a classical column, and we don't.

PS: In the good old days (early 80's), I had a gay lover who served in the USAF. On his personal statistics, one could get laid by ca 25% of the same sex service personnel. And that was before DADT.

Jan 6, 2012

Ronald Searle died

Circus cat, secretly rehearsing Hamlet

Update: He lived nearby, actually, in Draguignan (north of St. Tropez), where the headquarters of the French Artillery are located, the final stop of the local choochoo-train that also stops in Le Trayas