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Unlikely to be coming to a cinema near you...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
After something of a hiatus, say hello to the absurdities of the EU's attempts to get into the movies, so to speak:

"Akadimia Platonos, Die Fremde and Illégal were the three films shortlisted on Tuesday for the European Parliament's 2010 LUX film prize, during an event at the Venice International Film Festival. Like past LUX Prize contenders, these films speak to Europeans' hearts and identities, forcing us to ask ourselves about our cultural and family relations, and the rules by which we live....
As with previous winners the 2010 LUX Prize winning film will receive European Parliament financial support for subtitling the film into all the 23 official languages of the European Union (EU), (So it will be inflicted on the Maltese, inter alia.  C) an adaptation of the original version for the visually- or hearing-impaired, and the production of a 35 mm print per EU member state.

And the synopses of the three.  I am *NOT* making these up.


Akadimia Platonos (Plato's Academy)

Every day Stavros raises the metal shutters of his cigarette store, puts out the newspapers in front and then sets out the chairs where he and his friends sit all day, looking out on the dusty intersection and surrounding grey buildings that shelter their businesses. They’re all very proud of the way their dog Patriot, on the opposite pavement, barks at every passing Albanian. Stavros and his friends don’t like these foreigners even though they’re willing to do the jobs the Greeks won’t do, nor do they like the recently arrived Chinese. By the store’s entrance, Stavros’ increasingly senile mother mopes in an armchair, regardless of the affectionate care lavished on her by her devoted son. Then one day she suddenly falls upon an Albanian worker, embracing him and calling him «my son» in Albanian. In fact, what does Stavros really know about his parents? His mother has always told him that after his father died up north, she moved to Athens, when he was but a year old. Now Stavros’ pals start looking askance at him: is he Greek or Albanian? Does he really have the right to sing the racist little ditty: «Albanian, Albanian, you’ll never become a Greek…»?
And there's more...


Die Fremde (When we leave)
What would you sacrifice for your family’s love? Your values? Your freedom? Your independence? German-born Umay flees her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem with her. She is hoping to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions, torn between their love for her and the values of their community. Ultimately they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for her and Cem, but her need for her family’s love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn’t realize is just how deep the wounds have gone and how dangerous her struggle for self- determination has become.




And yet more:

Illégal

Tania and her 14 year-old son Ivan are illegal immigrants from Russia, who have been living in Belgium for 8 years. In a permanent state of alert, Tania lives in constant fear of having her identity checked by the police - until the day she is arrested. Mother and the son are separated. Tania is placed in a holding centre. She does everything in her power to find her son again, in spite of the constant threat of deportation hanging over her head.
Each of the directors has worked out on which side of the bread lies the butter, and seem to have got their Sally Field-type speeches in early

Akadimia Platonos director Filippos Tsitos - "Making small, independent, non-English speaking movies nowadays can be compared to swimming in a wild ocean at night. You constantly feel like you are about to drown. So you are thankful for anything that helps you stay out of the water.”

To which one might rebut that it is a bit selfish to expect the coastguard to shadow one's nocturnal swimming excursions...

Die Fremde director Feo Aladag "We would like to address our very special thanks to the European Parliament for promoting European films in order to make them cross borders and travel around Europe through the LUX Prize, to reach a widespread audience and to promote diversity, solidarity and hope in our societies."

'Widespread', eh Feo?  Don't count on it.


Illégal director Olivier Masset-Depasse: “I hope to create as wide a debate as possible across Europe. The LUX Prize would be an excellent starting point as wide a dissemination of this film as possible.”

Claiming to want to 'start a debate' etc is, I think, invariably a lie.  What it actually means is, 'I want you to agree with me'.

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A bit of a Hansard trawl, with chief's wages, guns and 'objectionable foreigners'

Friday, July 23, 2010
I've been ill-ish, hence silence of late.

Anyway, this from the 'autre temps, autre moeurs, 1910' dept file:

Mr. COURTHOPE asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is yet in a position to provide rifle clubs with ammunition, either free or at cheap rates; and whether he is aware of the provision of ammunition made to rifle clubs by the Governments of Canada and Australia?

Mr. HALDANE The reply to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the second part of the question, I am aware of the grants made to rifle clubs by the Governments of Canada and Australia, but it must be remembered that in Canada members of rifle associations become members of the Militia in case of emergency and that in Australia rifle clubs are portion of the reserve forces and active members of clubs are liable for service.


Yes, it's naked special pleading, but having a few good shots around is not a bad idea.  Come to think of it, maybe allowing folk to own firearms now might be an idea....

Sticking with firearms:

Mr. COURTHOPE  asked the Secretary of State for War what results have been achieved by the prohibition of the use of slings by a soldier firing his musketry course and in the musketry instruction of a recruit; and whether he will remove this prohibition in the interests of the efficiency of the soldier?

Mr. HALDANE The prohibition of the use of slings has resulted in a great improvement in the general efficiency of the soldier under war conditions, and it would not therefore be in the interests of efficiency to reintroduce it.

Erm, lost me there.  I thought muskeys went out with square wheels too.

Away from firearms, and on to the Friendly Giant to the North:

Mr. J. THOMAS asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that Harry Pemberton, a native of Derby, left England on 13th May, with a party of fourteen other persons to start work obtained for him by his sister, who was already in Canada, and, on arrival at Quebec, the whole party was detained and kept in a detention hospital and herded with objectionable foreigners, and eventually sent back to England without being allowed to write to his friends, and, having regard to the fact that his mother, who is a widow, had to bear the whole expense, whether he will take action so as to prevent similar experiences to English immigrants, and give some redress in this case?

Let a thousand swords be drawn from scabbards to avenge this wrong, or...

Colonel SEELY The attention of the Secretary of State has not been called to the particular case mentioned, but, as I stated in reply to a similar question on 12th July, he is prepared to communicate with the Canadian Government. Inquiry shall accordingly be made with regard to this case.

Leaping forward 50 years, we have this winner:

Mr. Brockway asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations, if he will state the names of the Chiefs or Sub-Chiefs in the three High Commission Territories who are receiving salaries from the Governments of their territories for administrative and other services, and the amounts of these salaries.


Mr. Alport The only Chiefs or Sub-Chiefs in the High Commission Territories who receive salaries from Government are the Paramount Chief and the 22 Principal and Ward Chiefs in Basutoland. The Paramount Chief receives an annual salary of£3,600. The names and annual salaries of 21 of the 22 Principal and Ward Chiefs (one Ward Chief has not yet been gazetted) are as follows:...

[Chief Mamohato Bereng was pulling in the top wedge at £1,238, whereas his impecunious (?) brother chief Chief Tumane Matela was getting £130)

The Chairman and the four members of the Standing Committee of the College of Chiefs in Basutoland receive respectively honoraria of £1,000 and £600 each.

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A much bigger Switzerland?

Friday, July 16, 2010
This, from Le Matin, taken in turn from Weltwoche:


The majority of the French, Germans, Austrians and Italians living in regions bordering [Switzerland] would like to be integrated into Switzerland.  Weltwoche questioned 1,791 people living in Savoy / Upper Savoy, Baden-Wurtemburg, Voralberg and Como/Varese....More than half (52%) of the Austrian and Italian neighbors are find the idea of secession appealing. In France and Germany, this proportion is only slightly lower (48%).
Rather annoyingly, I cannot lay hands on a map of European regions to which I could then add dotted lines to for this purpose.

Vorarlberg would add 1000 sq miles and 373,000 people, Baden-Wurttemburg 13,800 sq miles and 10.7 million  people, the two Savoys 4,021 square miles and 1.1 million people and Como Varese 960 square miles and 1.4 million people.

This would more than double the size of Switzerland from 15,940 square miles to 35,721 and its population would climb from 7.8 million to 21 million.

Having been to Geneva, I can vouch for CH being very clean etc, but fun it ain't.

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Factlet o' the day

From a 1960 debate, or rather an orgy of backslapping, on Nigerian independence:

Fenner Brockway "Today we are deciding that half the population in the British Empire shall have the right of self-government and independence. If I had been speaking thirteen years ago, before the right of India to independence was recognised, I would have had to say that there were over 500 million people in the British Empire without the right to self-government and independence. Today that number has been reduced to 70 million, and on this occasion by carrying this Bill we shall be reducing the number to 35 million".
Mildly interesting, no?

And because this is too good not to include:

Sir Kenneth Pickthorn  (Carlton) I never eat breakfast, so I hope that I shall not speak for long, but I make no kind of promise....I speak here, not that I think that I can raise the scale of the occasion. Indeed, it is extremely difficult—it is like swimming in a swimming-bath with only half an inch of water left in it—to speak at this stage on a Friday debate, and especially at a quarter-past one, when one has not eaten anything since half-past eight the night before.

Thanks for keeping us posted on your dietary habits, Ken.  There's a photo of him at the NPG's site, looking reasonably well fed, if a little awkward, here.

All mockery aside, he makes some very worthwhile points further on:

"And I am not at all so sure about "human rights." I do not know enough about Nigeria and the Nigerian Constitution to know its special case, but I did not want it to be thought that silence meant that every one here present is sure that declarations of human rights are great things. I suppose that human rights have been better defined and better protected in the history of the world, so far as any of us know, by the two great legal systems; by the Roman law and common law. They did not—and much less did the common law even than Roman law—go in for definitions of human rights. On this occasion it may be a very good thing, but I would not have it thought that we all of us assume that declarations of human rights are always a very good thing.

Naturally, I do not feel so sure about planned economy as some hon. Members opposite; but not altogether for the reasons which they might suppose. As a kind of West Indian, when I think of the benefits conferred on West Africa by the planned taking of cocoa there, I can remember what happened to Grenada, too, at the other end. Even at the West African end, there have been cocoa growers who have thought that the planned economy enabled the Government to squeeze out of them what ought to have been their profits to an extent to which private enterprise has never squeezed any agricultural producers. They may have been right or wrong, but certainly a great many cocoa producers felt that."

Maybe a 1910 trawl later.  We'll see.

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A little light showing off

Thursday, July 15, 2010
I have discovered a web app which analyses one's prose style and then matches it to a noted writer.

Therefore, I am delighted to declare that when I tried out my hospital post on it, the app was perspicacious enough to recognise that I write like Charles Dickens.

Have a go here, and feel free to post any amusing results in the comments.

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What are the British afraid of this week? I have the answers

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I have before me Eurobarometer research on attitudes to electromagnetic fields,  and the extended data set asks about things that might affect one's health, and number one - with a bullet - is 'chemicals', with some 83% deeming them a threat to health.   Well, indeed, I would not want to be inhaling deeply near a vat of battery acid, but it does seem a rather vague thing to be anxious about.  At the other end of the scale, some 41% are concerned about household electrical equipment.  Over-exposure to certain journalists on the Today programme hoiks my blood pressure and I've tripped over power leads before, but I cannot say I lay awake fearing the Rise of the Machines.

Anyway, the full UK findings:


Meanwhile, there is a rather good Woody Allen sketch on misbehaving electricals:


(No visuals, alas, but it doesn't need them)

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Yet another reason to use Firefox

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Or Chrome, or Opera etc etc, as demonstrated here.

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Waiting for Godot. Ish.

Friday, July 09, 2010
A couple of months back I blogged about my fun and games with NHS waiting lists, and noted mt scepticism about my 8/7 apppointment being kept.

Well, credit where it is due etc etc, the appointment stood, and I had my minor surgical procedure yesterday.  I have a certain hostility to the medical business and tend towards hair-trigger sensitivity to being patronised, treated as a mouth-breather or whatever, for which the GPs of my youth have a lot to answer for (in my reckoning at least...).  Anyway, the registrars, surgeons etc looked me in the eye, treated me as a sentient adult etc etc and if the story had ended post-operation, all would have been cool and groovy.  Plus the registrar admired my yellow socks - clearly a woman of taste and discernment. 

However, having been cut up, patched up and discharged, I had 'paperwork' to wait for.  I was left swinging in the wind for 45 mins while the registrar's notes and a form letter were collated.  I would have been quite happy to have had this sent by post, but I don't suppose it occured to the support staff that folk have better things to do than sit in a waiting room and wait.... 

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The long overdue round up of recent odd French surveys

Tuesday, July 06, 2010
First up, who do they blame for their, ahem, World Cup debacle:

Among the French overall, the finger is pointed at the players - 35%, then the manager (32%) and then the equivalent of the FA (24%).  Nine per cent either knew not or cared not.  Among those claiming interest in le foot, the figures were 30%, 37%, 28% and 5%.

That French surveys routinely include a detailed demographic breakdown is again making me glad to be alive, as those most likely to blame the players are extreme left voters, at 42%.  Shome mishtake, shurely? What with the players being the toiling masses in this instance....  Also amusing is that Frontistes are the least likely to blame the players - 23% - nothwithstanding J-MLeP making odious comments about non-white players a few years back.  Liberals are the most likely to blame the manager.  In all of these instances, the numbers are low, not that I was ever going to let that stop me.

Geographically, easterners take most against the players, Mediterraneans against the manager and south westerners against the FFF.  The survey also asked what the Plain People of France thought of the various players, and Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka saw a majority wanting them to play no further role for Les Bleus.  Running true to form, Frontistes were the most anti the black players and Greens were the most likely to not know / not care.

And there's more.  Closer's French edition (which should be called 'Plus Proche', or better still, 'Fermeur') has been asking some spectacularly impertinent questions:

'Which star's body would you most like to have?'.  And among female celebs it is Angélina Jolie ahead of Scarlett Johannson.  Our own dear Ms Moss and Ms Cole / Tweedy appear in the lower reaches.  For the chaps it is Yoann Gourcuff, a footballer who appears to have a penchant for taking his shirt off, followed by Brad Pitt (who is older than me.  Hope springs etc).

It gets seedier:  'Who among the following would you dream to have as your lover?'. 

Yannick Noah (28%) leads from Ashton Kutcher (24%).  Both these chaps are married, so I imagine amorous French women would have to contend with Isabelle Camus and Demi Moore respectively.  Also in the list of 13 are Jerome Kerviel (France's Nick Leeson equivalent) at 7% and the following politicians - Dominique de Villepin (9%), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (3%), Olivier Besancenot (3%) and Sarko himself at 2%.    Rather unkindly, an equivalent list of female celebs was no polled.  Tant pis.

The least believed love stories are Sarko / Bruni (40%) and Cruise / Holmes (24%).  Paris Hilton is the least liked on the list of female celebs, as well as being deemed a hypocrite.  The male equivalent is Mickael Vandetta.  He would seem to be a reality TV star, and his motto, apparently,  is "I'm Brad Pitt for the body, Napoleon for the ambition, Columbus for the conquest!".  Uh-huh. 

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Hansard quote o' the day, and a bonus vintage factlet

Monday, July 05, 2010
This, from 1910, in a discussion on regency arrangements were George V to die before his progeny were of age:

Sir John Brunner (Lib) "At eighteen years of age the ordinary individual begins his university life. If the Sovereign has to have a university training at all, that is the age at which he will begin, it. Eighteen years of age is too soon for a boy to begin reading dry documents and to sign his name all the morning, and to lay foundation-stones all the afternoon. I am not a Court physician, but I maintain that those of Royal blood do not mature any earlier than ordinary human beings.

Some fairly half-hearted googling suggests that even in 1922 only some 10,000 were receiving degrees each year, so that's a pretty odd definition of an 'ordinary individual'. Brunner would appear not to have been a graduate, so that makes it odder still.  

And the bonus ball:

    Mr. SHERWELL asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he can state on what basis the estimated amount of beer consumed per head of the population in England, Scotland, and Ireland, respectively, in the year ended 31st March, 1910, namely, .79, .27, and .63 barrels, respectively, is calculated?

    Mr. HOBHOUSE The estimated amount of home-made beer consumed per head of the population in the year 1909–10 is calculated on the net receipt of revenue from such beer in that year, adjusted to give the estimated true contribution of each country. This adjustment is made on the basis of statistics of transit of beer in the three Kingdoms in the year 1903–4 (see Annual Return of Revenue and Expenditure (England, Scotland, and Ireland)).

Makes you proud, doesn't it?

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Lost in translation and the like

The more astute of any of my remaining readers will be able to work out where I've been from these....


And what about this for a uniquely appealing attraction?:


And the way to greet certain Islamic rulers should they find themselves in Yorkshire:

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