Δευτέρα, Μαρτίου 29

create your own visited countries map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Σάββατο, Μαρτίου 27

If you...

1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
Probably pan-medeterranean - Levantine, Turkish, Italian, Greek... though Cantonese-Shanghainese is a possibility.

2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell?
Antiquarian and Rare books! Also interesting baked items for snacking while browsing the grimoires.

3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be?
P.G. Wodehouse in Byzantium

4. ...ran a school, what would you teach?
Music, literature, Greek, Latin, rhetoric, manners, dance, swordsmanship, archery, hunting, theology. I'd also hire an instructor for Classical Chinese (history, language and literature), Chinese music, Chinese calligraphy and Asian culture.

5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it?
An assortment of Renaissance, Mediaeval, Folk and "world" music.

Τετάρτη, Μαρτίου 24

You have a mysterious kiss. Your partner never
knows what you're going to come up with next;
this creates great excitement and arousal never
knowing what to expect. And it's sure to end
in a kiss as great as your mystery.
What kind of kiss are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Mysterious eh? Hm.

What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Aladdin??? Yeah, gimme a rub and a magic genie pops right out...

In my not so humble opinion, you, of course, belong
in the Picture of Dorian Gray, and do not try
to deny it. You belong in the fashionable
circles of Victorian London where exotic
tastes, a double life, decadence, wit and a
hypocritical belief in moral betterment make
you a home. You belong where the witty
apothegms of Lords, the silly moralities of
matrons, the blinding high of opium, and the
beauty of visual arts mingle to form one
convoluted world.

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla

now THAT is interesting.

Once upon a time there were two Irishmen walking through a forest looking for work. Suddenly one of them saw a sign nailed to an old oak: "Tree fellers wanted". "Pity there's only two of us", said Paddy, as they wandered off.

A Topic of Dispute in Islam: Music - this is quite fascinating. It's only one view, of course, but still disturbing. In contrast, Christianity (with the exception of heretical movements) has always encouraged the arts and been a patron of music - look at all those composers who worked for the Church.

Δευτέρα, Μαρτίου 22

Facts about Dihydrogen Monoxide

Dihydrogen Monoxide - read this, VERY IMPORTANT.

Then, read this.

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 21

Doing up my C.V.

Curriculum Vitae. What does one do when one's vita is so full of stuff it looks unbelievable? Professional ones advise not going over 2 pages, unless one is middle-aged and has held more than one major post. Academic ones on the other hand, are as full of detail as possible. Arts and Music ones are likewise stuffed with detail. I've got a good 6 pages, and it's not like I'm including my Presidency of the Gardening Club in primary school.

Doing a C.V.'s great fun, if a lot of work. I've gotten a much better picture of what I've been doing this last decade, thanks to this systematic (vaguely) listing down of achievements and movements. I've also had mum remind me to include several things I've been doing, things I'd completely forgotten about.

Want a look? Email me and I'll send it over!

A silly friend today described me as a "Beacon of Love".

I suspect "Bacon of Love" would be far closer to the truth right now.

More on Taiwan's Election

So we've got KMT supporters of Lien Chan 連戦 camping all over Taipei, demanding a recount of the votes (KMT lost by a razor-thin margin and there were an unusual number of votes declared spoiled). TV coverage is extensive, and I was amused by a young lady who said that Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁 and Lee Teng-hui 李登輝 must be up to something, calling them both 老贼 or "old crooks".

What's particularly amusing is how nurses at the hospital where Chen was taken after the "shooting" were told earlier in the morning that someone important was going to arrive in the afternoon and that they were to make sure the place was extra clean and presentable.

Anybody smell something fishy?

My, my, I just found that an Armenian friend of mine, who now lives in Persia (Tehran to be exact), has changed his surname because his Armenian surname of Kirakosian is an unspeakable crudity in Persian. I won't elaborate, but imagine an Armenian with the name Pusidikian in America and you've got a vague idea of what it's about.

Corny Joke!

Not too long ago a scientist tried to clone himself. However, his clone was very obnoxious and lewd, while the scientist was well received and respected. Finally fed up with his experiment gone wrong, he threw his clone off the roof of the laboratory; killing the clone. He was arrested by the local police for... making an obscene clone fall.

More Oriental Wisdom

英雄所見略同 - a Chinese proverb, literally "heroes who meet agree", something along the lines of "great minds think alike.

三人寄れば文珠の知恵。 - A Japanese proverb this time! the transliterated Japanese is San nin yoreba monju no chie, which means “three people together have the wisdom of a Buddha”; or as we would say in English, “two heads are better than one”. A related proverb plays on the fact that the Chinese character for kashimashii (“noisy, clamourous”) is made up of three small versions of the character for “woman”:


Or Onna san nin yoreba kashimashii (“where three women gather, there is a noisy clamor”). As Kittredge Cherry points out in her book Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women:

Of all the characters imported from China, [kashimashii] is almost always the first example that springs to mind when linguistic sex discrimination is discussed. Three women add up to a sin worse than noise when the same character is pronounced kan. This spells wickedness or mischief, and it can be stretched into the verb form kansuru, meaning to seduce, assault, or rape. The hidden corollary to the kashimashii character is that a trio of men getting together is nothing remarkable. There is no character composed of three male ideograms. In fact, the male symbol almost never appears as a component of other characters.

Other words reinforce the concept that women can cause a hubbub. In old Japan, the most likely spot for women to gather was beside the well (idobata) where they drew water and washed clothes, so the term “well-side conference” (idobata kaigi) is still used to describe a group of gossiping women. The word for chatterbox (oshaberi), which literally means “honorable talker,” is almost always used to describe—or put down—a woman. Gossip is considered something women do, while there are few similarly derogatory terms for men who babble about trivial topics.

You are the San Damiano Cross: Rich in symbolism,
this cross was first painted in the twelfth
century gathering images from the Gospel of
John. Christ is the central figure and is
surrounded by the angles, the apostles and the
Virgin Mary. The cross became well known
because it was the cross in front of which St.
Francis was praying when he received the call
to rebuild the Church.
What Kind of Cross are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Soundtrack: Kyrie from Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin Desprez. This has to be the most exquisitely beautiful Renaissance polyphonic mass ever written, and based on the haunting Pange Lingua Hymn for Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi. Close runners up are Antoine Brumel's Missa Et Ecce Terrae Motus and Cristóbal De Morales' Missa Mille Regretz.

Ripping my old CDs, which haven't been listened to in years, I find so much music I'd not listened to for so long. The sound of music that filled my life in happier and more carefree years washes over me and I find myself feeling much better than I have in a long time.

I'm currently listening to the Tallis Scholars sing Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin Desprez, and an assortment of memories fill my mind:

The way I was enthralled by this mass at the age of 13 when I first discovered it and how I memorised the Soprano part by ear, hoping to sing it one day.

Finding and buying the score in Sydney while ACS Choir was on tour in Australia, and trying to convince Grace Lo, the then conductor, to let us sing it.

How I finally realised my voice had broken - I could no longer do the melismatic passages in the Credo of the mass smoothly and without my voice cracking.

How I heard this mass performed twice in a day, on Corpus Christi no less- in the Chapel of King's College Cambridge during an Anglican morning Eucharist and then in Westminster Cathedral, London, in the evening during a Sung High Mass (I travelled from Cambridge to London in between).

How I made a friend in a London pub one quiet afternoon by absentmindedly humming an extract from the mass while making my way from the bar counter to my seat and one chap yelled out "MISSA PANGE LINGUA!". Turns out he'd conducted that mass with a choir in San Diego.

How I was thrilled to discover intabulated versions of movements from the mass for lute - by Fuenllana, Valderrabano, Dalza, Narvaez... and how some of them are fiendishly difficult to play on lute, but how I still try.

I STILL want to perform this mass one day.

I've come to the conclusion that keeping a blog's easier than keeping a homepage. This it is, that my website (not updated since 1999) will be redesigned (when I get round to it) to serve as subsidiary links for my blog. I'm playing around with the html for the blog, and it feels just like when I started working on the html for my website back in 1996. I've just added a tagboard for friends who drop in and want to leave a note =)

Dammit Ah-Bian won

Dammit, Chen Shui-bian won the election. By a razor margin. This is not good, Chen's victory is a worst-case scenario for China. He's the man who wishes to seperate the rebel province from China. Lien Chan, the KMT candidate, is calling for a recount here.

an amusing exchange

over dinner one evening sometime this week:

(conversation progresses in a slightly ribald fashion)

Friend: Self-knowledge is a good thing.
Ed: Really, I'm glad you realise. So how often do you know yourself?
Friend: Not as often as one would like.

(and the conversation pauses)

Παρασκευή, Μαρτίου 19

Oh. I forgot to mention. A few weeks ago, when Bruce and I went to Chinablack for a drink, the chaps at the door insisted on checking my photo identification. I happened not to have anything with my age and picture on it (I've not looked 18 for over a decade), and the doormen wouldn't let me in. Uh. I don't look below 18, no amount of wishful thinking will make it so. Oddly, Bruce didn't get checked, and he's just 19!

Very very bizzare. I got in eventually anyway.

Which famous poet are you?

You are Homer! An epic poet circa 800 B.C., Homer
is the expression of the ancient Greek ideal.
His characters embark upon long and wordy
quests and engage in battles of heroic length.
Monsters are slain and cities are razed. Fun
and glory all around!
Which famous poet are you? (pictures and many outcomes)
brought to you by Quizilla

Taiwanese President Still Not Dead

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Hsiu-lien Lu Injured While Campaigning.:

President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Hsiu-lien Lu were shot today at approximately 1:45 p.m. while campaigning in Tainan City. At a Presidential Office press conference, Secretary-General to the President Chiou I-jen said that the president was wounded in the belly and that the vice president was hit in the right knee. The injuries are not life-threatening, and both candidates are fully conscious. They were taken to Tainan's Cimei Hospital for treatment.

In case readers weren't aware, Taiwan's elections are tomorrow. Those of us who know Taiwanese politics will know that Ah-Bian (Chen Shui-bian's nickname) and his Vice President Annette Lu (死臭婊子- pardon the crudity but it's true) is fully capable of staging a stunt like this. Christian charity forbids me to say where exactly I think both of them should received the bullets, and how many more they ought to have received, for their disgraceful efforts to split Taiwan from China. More on Ah-Bian's stunt here and here.


Fnord is evaporated herbal tea without the herbs.

Fnord is that funny feeling you get when you reach for the
Snickers bar and come back holding a slurpee.

Fnord is the 43 1/3rd state, next to Wyoming.
Fnord is this really, really tall mountain.
Fnord is the reason boxes of condoms carry twelve instead of ten.

Fnord is the blue stripes in the road that never get painted.
Fnord is place where those socks vanish off to in the laundry.
Fnord is an arcade game like Pacman without the little dots.
Fnord is a little pufflike cloud you see at 5pm.

Fnord is the tool the dentist uses on unruly patients.
Fnord is the blank paper that cassette labels are printed on.
Fnord is where the buses hide at night.
Fnord is the empty pages at the end of the book.

Fnord is the screw that falls from the car for no reason.
Fnord is why Burger King uses paper instead of foam.
Fnord is the little green pebble in your shoe.
Fnord is the orange print in the yellow pages.

Fnord is a pickle without the bumps. Fnord is why ducks eat trees.
Fnord is toast without bread. Fnord is a venetian blind without the slats.

Fnord is the lint in the navel of the mites that eat
the lint in the navel of the mites that eat
the lint in Fnord's navel.

Fnord is an apostrophe on drugs.
Fnord is the bucket where they keep the unused serifs for H*lvetica.
Fnord is the gunk that sticks to the inside of your car's fenders.
Fnord is the source of all the zero bits in your computer.

Fnord is the echo of silence.
Fnord is the parsley on the plate of life.
Fnord is the sales tax on happiness.
Fnord is the preposition at the end of sixpence.

Fnord is the feeling in your brain when you hold your breath too long.
Fnord is the reason latent homosexuals stay latent.

Fnord is the donut hole.
Fnord is the whole donut.

Fnord is an annoying series of email messages.
Fnord is the color only blind people can see.

Fnord is the serial number on a box of cereal.

Fnord is the Universe with decreasing entropy.
Fnord is a naked woman with herpes simplex 428.
Fnord is the yin without yang.
Fnord is a pyrotumescent retrograde onyx obelisk.

Fnord is why lisp has so many parentheses.
Fnord is the the four-leaf clover with a missing leaf.

Fnord is double-jointed and has a cubic spline.
Fnord never sleeps.
Fnord is the "een" in baleen whale.

Fnord is neither a particle nor a wave.

Fnord is the space in between the pixels on your screen.

Fnord is the guy that writes the Infiniti ads.
Fnord is the nut in peanut butter and jelly.
Fnord is an antebellum flagellum fella.

Fnord is a sentient vacuum cleaner.

Fnord is the smallest number greater than zero.
Fnord lives in the empty space above a decimal point.

Fnord is the odd-colored scale on a dragon's back.
Fnord is the redundant coin slot on arcade games.
Fnord was last seen in Omaha, Nebraska.

Fnord is the founding father of the phrase "founding father".
Fnord is the last bit of sand you can't get out of your shoe.
Fnord is Jesus's speech advisor.
Fnord keeps a spare eyebrow in his pocket.
Fnord invented the green hubcap.
Fnord is why doctors ask you to cough.

Fnord is the "ooo" in varooom of race cars.
Fnord uses two bathtubs at once.

I cannot escape them
No matter how I try
They wait for me everywhere
I cannot pass them by.

Driving down the street
I see "Jesus Is Lord"
And then immediately after
I hear the word "FNORD!"

Innocuous sayings and parables
And on the evening news
I hear the word "FNORD!"
And suddenly I'm confused

I sit alone in my room
And I'm feeling rather bored
I turn on the tube and guess what
I hear the word "FNORD!"

"Don't see the fnords and they won't eat you"
That's what I've heard the wisemen say
But I can't get away from those beasties
There's just no fucking way.

I believe I found these on alt.discordia

Cartoons from The Spectator

‘It’s amazing. I could never slice bread straight before I had this laser treatment on my eyes.’

‘Now let me do the talking.’

‘Oh no, those two always cause a scene.’

I Want A Cloak!

Current object of sartorial lust - a cloak. I want a nice black woolen cloak.

Wool, for use in winter - it'd replace an overcoat. Full-circle, then I can ride and raise my arms and it'd still cover me. Black, because it'd work with black-tie or tailcoat and be elegant enough for night, yet be wearable during the day too. With a silver clasp, not too elaborate, but elaborate enough to look period. With a hood, because a hood is useful - if I get one without a hood, the time will come when I wish I had one - be it for inclement weather or anonymity. Great for period re-enactment stuff too!

There are some other gorgeous cloaks here - dammit, I want them all!

Dad says when he was a child in Borneo (now Sabah), during the War and right after, when everyone was starving, no one thought to eat the plentiful lobsters that lived around the coastline - it was simply not an animal that was eaten in those days. Gosh.

It has been said that there are as many cattle in New Zealand as there are Singaporeans in Singapore. I suspect the cattle are, on the whole, more intelligent than the average Singaporean.

My friend Royston made an amusing post the other day, and I've cleaned up the grammar for you chaps, my own comments on his thoughts follow:

cute boys tend to be stupid. Quite. Look at all the dumb cute jocks in my life.

clever cute boys tend to be sluts. Oh boy, don't get me started. But then plenty of the dumb ones are awflly slutty too.

decent clever cute boys tend to have issues, e.g. depression. Oh yeah. OH YEAH. Brat Prince comes to mind. Together with all the rest of the screwballs in my life. I don't know why, but Rafflesians have always been trouble for me.

decent clever cute boys with no issues don't exist . They live in the land of Prester John, I'm convinced of it.

It's all Latin, friends!

from Rogue Classicism and Dappled Things, I find there is now a proper page for Vatican Radio's The Latin Lover. The show features a weekly chat with Fr Reginald Foster, perhaps one of the best Latinists since the Renaissance and chief Latinist to the Pope of Rome. The most recent offering is a "virtual whistle-stop tour" of Julius Caesar's old stomps, in honor of the Ides of March. They make a tour of the Area Sacra of Rome -- an area of four temples of uncertain dedication. What's interesting is they associate the area with Julius Caesar and identify where Caesar was assassinated, among other things. This radio show is a great way to pick up vignettes of Roman history, Catholic culture, and some handy bits of Latin.

from Dappled Things:

Metrosexuals on the Rise -- 'Metrosexual' men beat girls at grooming:

'Metrosexual' man is on the increase, with men spending more time on personal grooming than women, according to research.

A report by Datamonitor shows that over the past five years, men's grooming time has increased to an average of 3.1 hours a week - compared to the average woman's 2.5 hours.

The report, which examines trends affecting the European market in grooming products, reveals changing attitudes in men towards looking after themselves....

Or, as someone told me the other day, "Well, Father, you know the Lord said to become as little children. Moisturizers and anti-wrinkle serum are my way of doing that." Hard to argue with that.

I don't know about you, but I detest the word Metrosexual - the English language already has enough words for men who spend too much time looking in the mirror.

which edward ii-era historical figure are you?

this quiz was made by Caitlin

That's not very comforting.

Which Art Movement Quiz

Gilded putti, ecstatic saints, marble and gold, grandeur and beauty. I'm baroque.

which art movement are you?
this quiz was made by Caitlin
"Baroque Art emerged in Europe around 1600 as an reaction against the intricate and formulaic Mannerist style which dominated the Late Renaissance." (artcyclopedia.com.) Baroque Art is fairly realistic but is often willing to smudge the realism in favor of theatricality and the emotional pull that is its trademark. You're most likely a creative, talented emotional person who likes attention. Although it could all just be a show.
Famous Baroquers (there are lots): Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, and You.

That's odd, because while I love Baroque art, it's not my favourite period. I much prefer Renaissance, Romanesque and Byzantine. Perhaps those options weren't available in the quiz. Either that or I'm just one hell of a drama queen.

Bush Regime Card Deck

Hilarious. The full deck may be found at http://www.reseauvoltaire.net/bushregimedeck.html

The Church of Kosovo

I have a particular love for the Serbian Orthodox Church of Kosovo, because they have a glorious history, beautiful churches, and they've been suffering under the rule of the Albanian terrorists supported by Nato and America.

In case you didn't realise, Kosovo is Serbian holy ground, and the cradle of Serbian civilisation, not Albanian land. The Serbian Christians left there now are being crucified in their native land. Their stunningly beautiful ancient churches are being destroyed, cause for concern to all who value the Faith and to those who love history and art. Here's an article on the art of the monasteries and why the Albanians focus their destructive attempts on religious sites. This is not a random series of bombings - it's systematic destruction.

If would care to see the destruction wreaked upon their churches, have a look here: Destruction of Icons, Destruction of Churches. The images there may disturb sensitive souls, that's why I've not linked them as pictures.

The Cross of Christ is under attack - this should be of concern to every Christian, whatever his jurisdiction or tradition.

Pray for the Church in Kosovo

From Serge:

Anonymous submission
Forwarded from the long-running, well-known Eastern Orthodox ‘Indiana List’ on the sufferings of the Church of Serbia in Kosovo.

Kristallnacht all over again


B92, Belgrade
March 17, 2004

UN administrators flee "Kristallnacht" B92

PRISTINA -- Wednesday - UN administrators have abandoned offices in the
Kosovo towns of Gnjilane, Prizren and Pec, fleeing what one UNMIK official
described to B92 as "Kristallnacht".

"Kristallnacht is under way in Kosovo," the official told B92 on condition of

"What is happening in Kosovo must unfortunately be described as a pogrom
against Serbs: churches are on fire and people are being attacked for no other
reason than their ethnic background," he added.

Serbs and UN officers have been the target of attacks by Kosovo Albanians
during most of the day and night. The most dramatic withdrawal was from Belo
Polje on the outskirts of Pec, where UNMIK officials, retreating with Serb
residents, where forced to shoot Albanian assailants in self-defence.

The Serbian Orthodox seminary in Pec has been razed, and Albanians celebrated
its destruction by setting fire to the local church., said the UN official.

Anonymous submitter: Please ask your ’blog readers for their intercession.

And thus it continues - shame on Nato and America for giving this bit of Christendom santified by the blood of countless martyrs under the crescent of Mahomet over to Albanian Muslim forces. The native Orthodox Church of the region is being persecuted to the ground and the Cross of Christ trodden underfoot - churches and monasteries that survived 600+ years of Turkish Mahometan domination are being destroyed daily by the Albanian terrorists who now rule the region. It is the duty of all Christians to at least say a prayer for the Church of Kosovo, if not go physically to their aid.

Πέμπτη, Μαρτίου 18

Jonathan was reading this bit of my blog a few minutes ago and asked "what does cojones mean?". How does one explain these things... It's Spanish for "testicles".

I just did a Cojones Test, and the result:

How gutsy are you?

Your score = 80

Your score

If there's one thing you've got, it's GUTS! According to your responses to the test questions, nothing scares you...or you are simply able to conquer your fears and take the plunge in most risky situations. In fact, you seem to have a bit of a daredevil streak, and get a thrill out of living on the edge. While being gutsy is certainly a valuable characteristic that can get you far in life, it can also get you into some very sticky predicaments. Make sure you use your head and look before you leap!

80%? Yikes.

Spent last evening with Paul and a few of his friends at Muddy Murphy's, which was celebrating St Patrick's day. Lots of Guinness, Kilkenny's and suchlike, good company - lovely.

Had lunch today with "cousin" Howard, who's looking better every time I see him. 'twas nice seeing him again and catching up. I'm glad he's mentally older than his age of 17 going on 18 this year, and doesn't react badly to my rakish escapades. He's a sweetie. He's done with debates (if that's at all possible) and is back to swimming training, hoping to swim in the Nationals later this year in July. All power to you, Howard!

Picked up a bottle of colgate's tooth whitening formula, let's see how well it works.

I still think I'm turning into an alcoholic, but then if one can't be luscious, one might well attempt to be a lush.

Attempting to put a C.V. together, but it's a bit of a task to include everything without sounding like I do too many things (which I do!).

The Most Holy Church of Rockall - this one's hilarious. If you're not Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican or come from a liturgical tradition, you probably won't find it funny though. Their Liturgy page is a scream - the detail there had me in tears of laughter.

King Tut liked red wine - Ancient Egyptians believed in properly equipping a body for the afterlife, and not just through mummification. A new study reveals that King Tutankhamun eased his arduous journey with a stash of red wine.

Successful Strategic Bombing :

The Popular Party’s error was trying to wage a cabinet war typical of the 18th century under modern conditions. In terms of national interests, Spain had nothing at stake in America’s war with Iraq. Polls indicated that the Spanish people were strongly opposed to sending the tercios to Iraq, by as much as 90%. But the Popular Party’s Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, saw a chance to get his name up in lights. And he did, with frequent invitations to the White House and even President Bush’s Texas ranch. He felt like one of the big boys, and the price seemed small – a few dead Spanish soldiers. Like Bush and Blair, he assumed that war could be a one-way street where only the enemy suffered.

And now he’s out in the cold, his party defeated in an election the polls said it would handily win. The Madrid bombings brought the war home to Spanish soil, which suddenly made Spain’s participation in it issue number one. Why was Spain in Iraq? The government had no answer, because there really was none.

Spain is not the only country whose government is playing the game of cabinet war. Britain’s involvement in Iraq is a cabinet war. So for that matter is America’s; Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was not working with America’s real, Fourth Generation enemies and the United States had no vital national interests at stake. All over Europe, countries are "reforming" their militaries to prepare them for cabinet wars, wars in far-off lands where the key quality is "rapid deployment." Nations such as Norway have troops fighting in places like Afghanistan.

The whole notion that the 21st century can suddenly revert to the 18th and governments can fight wars in which the people and vital national interests are not involved is absurd. That is the real lesson of the Spanish election. War is no longer a "game of princes." The people are involved, and Fourth Generation opponents know how to make sure they are intensely involved, by bringing the war home to them.

From Serge:

Spain's Zapatero Rejects Bush Appeal on Iraq
- "Spain's incoming prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Wednesday rebuffed an appeal from President Bush to stand by the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. 'I will listen to Mr Bush but my position is very clear and very firm,' Zapatero told Onda Cero radio. 'The occupation is a fiasco. There have been almost more deaths after the war than during the war.'" - A leader with cojones!

From Dappled Things:

We locked you up in jail for 25 years and you were innocent all along? That’ll be £80,000 please
- Outrageous article about a British government attempt to make people wrongfully convicted pay three thousand pounds for each year of their "room and board" in prison.

"... On Tuesday, [Home Secretary David] Blunkett will fight in the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the right to charge victims of miscarriages of justice more than £3000 for every year they spent in jail while wrongly convicted. The logic is that the innocent man shouldn’t have been in prison eating free porridge and sleeping for nothing under regulation grey blankets...."

And people wonder why I hate the Labour Party.

From Serge:

www.seeyageorge.com - absolutely hilarious. I'd buy their stuff if I could - my own Californian aunt is one of his supporters. Of course, her being Californian explains a lot.

Look at the stuff they make:

The Bushocchio Hot Air Doll ! Fill with hot-air and enjoy !
Our nose-growing doll will be a hit with all !
Stands 24" high, in his AWOL flight suit.
Weapons of Mass Destruction not included.

Τετάρτη, Μαρτίου 17

Here's a thought:

Chinese chilli-oil - the sort that has thick dried chilli paste in bright orange-red oil, which is favoured by Hongkongers and mainland chinese, is a great base with which to make Aglio e Olio sauce. Just add a bit more olive oil, and heat, and add garlic. Fabulous, as the chilli paste is intense and the oil it comes with highly flavourful to start off with!

http://www.nice-tits.org/types.html - this one's a gem. Thanks Justin!

There MUST Be A Place For The Classics - To the very stupid, the study of Latin or Greek may appear a waste of time. To such people, these languages are "dead" and have no value... Part of the problem is down to the obsession with moving funding to those subjects and those departments which are commercially lucrative. In one sense, that strategy makes sense - where the public sector can work with private industry, it should do so. Certainly, creating tie-ups between the private and public sectors is a sensible move.

But that cannot become a justification for an obsession that each and every academic subject be commercially viable. IBM or Microsoft are never going to seek strategic alliances with classics departments of Scottish universities. But that does not mean that Latin and Greek have no worth. A government that does not see the difference between monetary value and educational worth is not one worthy of being in charge of Scottish education.

The obvious cognitive development, the likelihood of equipping children with the tools to learn other languages more quickly, and the awakening of some sense of the history of world civilisation are only a few of the points to consider. As important are the development of precise analysis and thought, a rigorous mental discipline and, with Latin particularly, an overwhelming emphasis on logic and deduction. Add to that an appreciation of grammar, and you have an utterly compelling case.

Italian Police Break Into Church to Install Priest- Police in a small Italian town had to break into a church to let a priest take up his new job, thwarting a six-month blockade by parishioners devoted to his predecessor.

The faithful in the mountain town of Trasacco had jammed the church doors shut in protest after the Church transferred their Capuchin monk and sent a non-Capuchin to replace him.

So attached were parishioners to the Capuchins, who had served them for the last 430 years, that they briefly bricked the last friar into the local monastery to try to stop him leaving their town about 60 miles east of Rome. ...


Happy St Patrick's Day according to the thrice-cursed Gregorian Calendar!

*raises a pint of Guinness*


I miss Bruce. He went into the army yesterday, and I miss his bantering.

I was told today I should be cast in Sound of Music - "you have the perfect Mother Superior scowl!". WELL!!

I have just been informed that some former students of mine in ACS Barker are forming a band. They're about 14 and 15 years old. The name of the proposed band? Group Hug. Edepol, even I'm cringing.

Just got through to her - she's ok. Thank goodness.

Τρίτη, Μαρτίου 16

I'm getting really worried. 3 days and no email response from Ana in Madrid. I've a good mind to call her and ask if she's ok.

Lord, save and protect thy servant Ana from every harm.

Cooked lunch for my parents, as they decided to gang up on me and insisted I cook. With whatever I could find around the house. I took the easy way out and made Fusilli with Aglio e Olio. That's spiral pasta with garlic and olive oil. It's one of the easiest sauces to make - one simply lightly fries minced garlic in olive oil (but not till it's brown), then add chopped chillies (I tend to use lots of both), remove from heat, add chopped parsley, salt, then stir through the cooked pasta. Extremely easy (no joke about it matching the cook please), highly flavourful and one can add a dollop of parmesan cheese if one so pleases.

O Apollo, this is so funny. Do you guys remember Rainbow, the English children's show that used to show in the 70s and 80s? With Bungo and Zippy and that gang? Here's a clip from it - a MUST WATCH.

Two quotes from Solzhenitsyn

Two very beautiful and insightful quotes from Solzhenitsyn:

"If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhlemed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil."

Almost Zen-like, I think. Both quotes are from the Gulag Archipelago - if you don't know who Solzhenitsyn is or haven't read the Gulag Archipelago, I'd encourage you to read him. You'll be glad you did. Earlier on, I posted a summary in a blog post of what the Gulag Archipelago's about , that may be found here.

Δευτέρα, Μαρτίου 15

From Angela:

Frozen Lobsters Return to Life - Call it cryonics for crustaceans. A Connecticut company says its frozen lobsters sometimes come back to life when thawed.

From Lew Rockwell:

The Myth of Animal Rights - Tibor R. Machan explains to PETA. Saying that animals don't have rights doesn't mean approving of animal torture or ignoring their pain. "My point was, in essence, that rights are just not the sort of things animals other than people could have. Could animals have guilt, be blamed, feel regret and remorse, or apologize or anything on that order? No, and why so, that was the gist of my thesis: they are not moral agents like us, not even the great apes."

G-Strings and Baggy Pants - Linda Schrock Taylor on the public schools' youth culture. What's particularly amusing is what she says about the baggy pants that seem so popular with youth today, especially those who like rap and hip-hop. "I suspect that if more of our teen boys were told the original meaning behind the baggy pants, the fad would end soon enough. At a teacher in-service on gangs, a specialist who works with such groups informed us that the fad came straight out of the prisons. The speaker explained that in prison those baggy pants are the trademark of a prison prostitute and thus advertise availability. I find it so sad that our boys are unknowingly lured into dressing in such ways, and that those boys lack parents with the wisdom, and the stamina, to say, "Absolutely NOT!""

Anecdote from dad:

On holiday with mum in Brazil in the late 60s, the two of them are at Rio airport waiting for a flight to Buenos Aires. The airport is not airconditioned, and it's a sweltering day. Next to them they notice a fellow in a heavy tweed coat and tie, sweating profusely. Dad suggests he might take his coat off. The reply, "What? Don't be silly! I'm an Englishman!"

Those of my readers who are older or understand classically British culture will understand the humour in this.

News in Ancient Greek and Latin

Akropolis World News - world news in Ancient Greek, would you believe? Text only, but great for keeping one's Ancient Greek in practice, as it's nice to have something other than the ancient texts to read.

Nuntii Latini - a Finnish radio station's weekly broadcast of news in Latin. Excellent, even though the Classical pronuncation with a Finnish accent takes some getting used to. Transcripts available here.

Of course, a problem common to both is the question of modern vocabulary: how can we say in Ancient Greek “Terrorist attempt with hand granades and machine-guns against a minister as he was landing with an airplane Boeing 747”? The only factible solution for words that do not exist in Ancient Greek is to take them from Modern Greek (both from Katharevousa and Demotiki) and to adapt them in form into Ancient, doing the necessary modifications for its framing into the declension or the conjugation that suits best. I mean, what is usually called “neologism”. For Latin, one has the Vatican, which comes up with lists of new words every so often, so at least there's some semblance of a linguistic authority.

Beware the Ides of March

It being the 15th of March, I couldn't resist that title. =p

Why the Ides of March? Look here. And in case you didn't know about the Roman system of dating the days in the month, here's a link explaining the complicated system of Ides, Kalends and Nones within a month.

Bright fresh and early in the morning, I sent text messages (that's SMS for you Singaporeans) to many people in my mobile phone list. The message read "Beware the Ides of March". A shocking number replied with "HUH???". Some got it and smiled. A few got the reference and replied in attempted Elizabethan english, which was nice. One guy, Marcus, replied with "He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass." - Caesar's next line in the play, and hence the correct response (which I wasn't really expecting). Considering Marcus is awfully handsome, has a great body and is extremely flirty, and that I used to have a crush on him... the crush might just come back now. After all, how many guys out there can reply with the succeeding line almost immediately?

I'm busy ripping my CDs into mp3 form. A recent discussion in PC Magazine sneers at those extremist audiophiles who might want encoding rates higher than 96Kbps, which seems to say that this rate is good enough for any ordinary person. Problem is, I'm not one of those ordinary persons - when one listens to Jazz and Classical, or when one is a trained musician with sensitive ears, things ripped at 96kbps sound terrible. I tried the Gloria from Mozart's Great Mass in C minor K427 - first ripped at 96kbps, and the louder sections were unbearably "shimmery", the strings were a bit shrill, and the woodwinds sounded, well, like plastic. Ripping at 64kbps was unbearable - with a clear "underwater" or warbling effect. I settled for 128kbps finally, and even that is lossy and nowhere as good as CD-quality.

Why do those silly tech journalists insist that mp3 is cd-quality then? I believe there are four reasons for this:

* Hype: People want MP3 to work miracles, and they’re accustomed to Digital Technology as working miracles. Overstating the quality of MP3 recordings is par for the course.

* Ignorance: Many people really don’t know what stereophonic music should sound like, and I suspect quite a few tech journalists fall into that crowd. If you’ve never heard anything better than a boom box, you’ve never heard what a CD should sound like.

* Equipment problems: This is a variation on "ignorance," in one sense. If your equipment doesn’t offer decent reproduction, the loss of quality may not be audible. I used an inexpensive set of speakers for this test—much better than a boombox or a typical carry-along player, but nowhere near as good as a "mid-fi" stereo system. If you can’t hear the difference between a song played on FM radio and CD, you may not be bothered by MP3 sound. If you don’t care about the difference between AM radio, a cheap cassette player, and CD, then you certainly won’t mind MP3 sound.

* Hearing problems: One supposes that those accustomed to listening to heavy metal, rock or electronic music wouldn't notice because they don't really know what real instruments sound like. However if you're accustomed to listening out for tiny nuances in performance, know what real accoustic instruments should sound like and can appreciate the tiny differences in tone quality between instruments made by different makers (say, lutes by Tieffenbrucker and Sellas, or violins by Stradivarius and Amati), then clearly one should rip mp3s at as high a rate as one can manage. A lot of people—particularly a lot of adult men—have significant hearing loss, and many of them really don’t care. Once again: if you can’t hear the difference, you won’t care about the difference.

More on Passion!

from Gen X Revert:

Total as of March 12th, 2004: $264,041,000

Those who are "boycotting" the movie are doing some real damage eh?

Revisionism takes on ‘The Passion’ - "Hundreds of movies about Jesus are rerun every Easter. Why would this new one bring out the critics? The reason is the Jesus depicted in the movie “The Passion of The Christ” is not the Jesus of the 21st century... The Passion is a visual depiction of the Jesus of the New Testament. This Jesus is not acceptable these days. I saw the movie the other night. Now I understand why the critics have labeled it as controversial. They do not want a suffering Jesus; they want a Hollywood Jesus. Mel Gibson is taking heat in the Hollywood community because he produced a movie about the wrong Jesus, a Jesus who willingly chose to undergo suffering and to go to the cross. What is the movie about? Simple stated, the movie is about the cross. Our society wants to deconstruct the image of the cross. The cross becomes a hip piece of jewelry for Madonna wannabes. It becomes a symbol of group identification. Contemporary theologians have deconstructed the cross as a symbol of political correctness. The cross is a symbol for love and tolerance for all views. It is a symbol of liberation from capitalism. The Passion confronts these reinterpretations of the cross and places the crucifixion as a horrendous event experienced by Jesus. Today’s church also is in danger of deconstructing Jesus in its own image."

Insightful, but that's what Protestantism has been doing since the 16th Century!

From Ut Unum Sint:

Gulf News: "Passionate portrayal of historical fact"

In the UAE Gulf News, Dr. Ezzedin Ibrahim comments on "The Passion of the Christ." He wonders what the Jews want--it seems to him to be clearly Biblical, and he quotes the pope as approving it.

Or are the Jews asking Christians to clear them, in past and present, of responsibility for Jesus' innocent blood and to solely hold the Romans guilty for his death? The fact is, Pilate, the representative of a cruel imperial power, was reluctant to crucify Jesus and finally washed his hands in front of the crowd to declare his innocence of Jesus' blood.

Anyway, the Jews attempted this in 1965, when Pope John XXV in his well-known Nostra Aetate, cleared the Jews of today from the guilt of killing Jesus, demanding that Christians treat them well.

Being a significant step to stop persecution against Jews, especially following the Nazi period, this noble attitude by the Pope was widely understood by people everywhere, although with reservation by some churches. Among those was the Coptic Church of Egypt whose Pope, Shenouda III, was a historian before being a theologian and knew the historical facts fully well.

He argued that if the forgiveness was meant for the Jews of the past, then Jesus himself had forgiven them. If the aim of the forgiveness was to ignore what had happened, then this would amount to twisting history and censoring facts.

He also said that forgiveness should be preceded by the acceptance of guilt, so had the Jews repudiated the crimes against Jesus to deserve this forgiveness? ...

Gibson is a member of a Catholic community that doesn't approve forgiving Jews for their killing of Jesus. This may be the reason behind his recent effort to keep this past event a living memory. This is surely an unpleasant memory.

...the Romans wanted to satisfy the Jews, and convince them not to demand Jesus' killing.

However, even this bloody effort didn't pay because the Romans hadn't comprehended the Jewish philosophy of crucifixion. Jews believe that the "crucified are damned by God," so the priests insisted on the crucifixion of Jesus to demonstrate his damnation before their people....

Some critics say The Passion of the Christ contradicts the Nostra Aetate. But that argument is baseless because the Catholic Church has forgiven the Jews and not cleared them of the guilt....

Jews will attack the movie relentlessly, just as they have been lobbying for a long time against any American or European researcher who defies their version of historical events.

Dr. Ezzeddin Ibrahim is the Cultural Adviser to the Presidential Court of the United Arab Emirates--a "moderate Arab state."

"Mel Gibson's Pieta"

Traditionalist Seattle Catholic reviews "The Passion."

...[T]he novus ordo culture produced Jesus of Nazareth. A staunch traditionalist gave the world The Passion of the Christ.

Mr. Gibson's willingness and ability to make this movie arose from the two things for which he is now attacked—first, his voluntary withdrawal, not from the Church, but from the novus ordo culture, and second, his staunch adherence to traditional Catholicism and all that it represents.

I'M 73.5% X-rated. HOW HORNY ARE YOU?


I'm 91% fanatical about IM. HOW SICK ARE YOU? - I think this applies to MSN and ICQ as well as AIM (I happen to be on all three). I'm refusing to get Yahoo Messenger because that's my last line of defence wrt why I'm NOT an IM freak.

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 14

Live broadcast of Sunday Liturgy (requires Realplayer) from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Stunningly beautiful, this cathedral was built to commemorate the victory over Napoleon, blown up by Stalin in the 1930s, and rebuilt in the 1990s. The singing is excellent and the services elaborate. Broadcast usually on Sunday afternoon Singapore time from 3-5 p.m. or so, and on feastdays.

A-crusading We Shall Go?

We're all Crusaders now.

Reuters: Al Qaeda Letter claims Spain bombings.

Thursday's letter, a copy of which was faxed by al Quds newspaper to Reuters, said: "We have succeeded in infiltrating the heart of crusader Europe and struck one of the bases of the crusader alliance."

We don't know for sure if the letter's real, but my take is - the Crusades have never ended. The fight between Christendom and the armies of Mahometanism is merely temporarily suspended. Let no Christian ever forget that the Crusades were not a land-grabbing exercise against harmless Mahometans - it was a fighting-back and an attempt to regain for Christendom what had been forcibly stolen from us by invaders. For a bit of background, look here and here (video link). Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The crusades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West's belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world.

Once again, let no one harbour the illusion that the Crusades were an offensive war against peaceful Mahometans. Contrary to current myths, the Crusades were not a simple bloody campaign by Christian knights against the peaceful Mahometans of the Middle East. The truth is always more complex than the one-sentence explanation.

The Mahometans attacked first, unprovoked. I think Belloc put it something like this - "The Arab soldier found in the South of France cannot justly claim to be a peaceful farmer first disturbed in his vegetable garden outside Mecca".

Problem with calling a Crusade these days is, there's no truly Christian state anymore. The West has not been "Christendom" for many centuries. All we have left is the Vatican, which doesn't exactly have the greatest army. One may recall that when someone mentioned the Pope in Rome and warned Staling against open conflict with the Catholic Church, said "How may divisions does the Pope have?", but look whose empire fell in the end.

Let's not forget that the founder of the Mahometan religion was a violent man who would be a war-criminal wer he alive today.

The position that the modern decadent West is morally preferable to the Islamic world is dubious at best. Is the trash that is modern Europe, and America for that matter, really worth saving? Food for thought. But then what I want to save is not what it is now, but rather what it has been, and can be, is the point. Its Christian (note I don't add "Judaeo") roots are the source of both the good it has done and can do again.

Living under the shadow of Mahometanism (Islam) is a terrible thing. Ever heard of the concept of Dhimmitude? All non-Mahometans are second-class citizens under Islamic law, so I can't imagine why any Chinese in Malaysia would vote for the Islamic PAS party, for example. Here's a bit of a sensible rant from my buddy Chenseong who's malaysian, on that very topic.

from Ut Unum Sint:

Anti-religious psychological torture at Guantanamo ...

Jamal al-Harith, one of the Britons released from Guantanamo this week, is interviewed in the Mirror.

Jamal's most shocking disclosure centred on the use of vice girls to torment the most religiously devout detainees.

Prisoners who had never seen an 'unveiled' woman before would be forced to watch as the hookers touched their own naked bodies.

The men would return distraught. One said an American girl had smeared menstrual blood across his face in an act of humiliation.

Jamal said: 'I knew of this happening about 10 times. It always seemed to be those who were very young or known to be particularly religious who would be taken away.

'I would joke with the other British lads, 'Bring them to us - we'll have them'. It made us laugh. But the Americans obviously knew we wouldn't be shocked by seeing Western women, so they didn't bother.

'It was a profoundly disturbing experience for these men. They would refuse to speak about what had happened. It would take perhaps four weeks for them to tell a friend - and we would shout it out around the whole block.'

If this is true ... one can understand why American Muslim soldiers would be sympathetic toward the prisoners. If this is true ... it is an outrage against all religions. If this is true, and the other charges of torture ... I daresay we have lost whatever moral legitimacy we may once have been able to claim. More importantly, we have lost the war itself--if the war is seen as fundamentally a war of ideas and principles. This demands an immediate investigation.

We all know what happened in Madrid. I'm worried sick for my friend Ana, who lives and works in Madrid. Ana I met when we both worked as volunteer cathedral guides last summer in Florence. I sent an email to her asking if she was alright as soon as I heard about it. Niccolo from Florence also sent one the next day. We've not heard from her yet. I'll give her till the end of the weekend before I call her phone to check on her.

O Lord, save and protect Thy servant Ana from every harm!

Today's picks from Lew Rockwell:

Napalm That Village - A tale of federal aggression in Vietnam, and good soldiers who wouldn't obey orders. Frightening, the evil that humans are capable of.

The Conservatives' Religion - Joseph Sobran on war.

Thank You, China! - Pay no attention to the anti-China lobby, says Stephen Roach.

Africans Enslaving Europeans - White Slavery in the Mediterranean, by Robert Davis. One detail I found curious was "Ruling pashas, entitled to an eighth of all captured Christians, housed them in overcrowded baths known as baños and used them for public works such as building harbours and cutting trees." "baños" (pronounced ban-yos) sounds awfully like the Russian word for bath-house - "Banya". I'm guessing the Russians got their word from the Mahometans!

So yesterday I popped down to the pharmacy to see if I could find some antihistamines that I'm actually not allergic to. I've been having hives for nearly a month, and was prescribed prednisolone to control the itching. The docs neglected to tell me the side effects: rapid weight gain, mood swings, increased appetite and skin breakouts. No wonder I've been a grumpy spotty whale lately.

Had lunch with Kenley Kwan, Teh Zhiyu and Justin Lee (ώ καλλιστός νεάνιας). First time I'm actually meeting Justin, friendly enough chap. Had a bite to eat with Paul afterwards too. Oink, I say.

Soundtrack: "O Lord, save Thy people" - the Troparion of the Holy Cross sung by Slavyanka.

Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, 0 Master,
and Thy Holy Resurrection, we glorify

(Hymn of Veneration before the Cross).

It's the Third Sunday of Great Lent today, when we of the Byzantine Tradition commemorate the Holy Cross. Here's the Troparion Hymn to the Holy Cross:

Σώσον Κύριε τόν λαόν σου καί ευλόγησον τήν κληρονομίαν σου, νίκας τοίς Βασιλεύσι κατά βαρβάρων δωρούμενος καί τό σόν φυλάττων διά τού Σταυρού σου πολίτευμα.

O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance, grant victory to the Emperors over the barbarians and protect thy commonwealth by Thy Cross.

This was an unofficial anthem of the Byzantine empire. What's it sound like? Click here for it in Greek. Here's a midi of it in the Russian version. If that sounds familiar, that may be because it was used by Tchaikovsky in his 1812 overture to represent the Russian army.

Here are some pictures of the Orthodox veneration of the Holy Cross that happens on the Feast of the Holy Cross:

The Cross, on a tray, surrounded by flowers.

A Bishop, clergy and faithful make prostrations to the Cross.

The faithful venerate the Cross with a kiss.

Σάββατο, Μαρτίου 13

Sountrack: "Gloria" by Queldryk, from "The Old Hall Manuscript", performed by the Hilliard Ensemble. A stunning piece of late mediaeval/early renaissance english polyphony.

I sit here with my hair full of blue dye, waiting for the dye to set. My hair's been pretty much blue since last December, but it's fading into a sort of strange purple-brown, so I'm refreshing the colour as it were. I'm having lunch with some friends later.

Nun Faces Jail for Drunk Tractor Driving - that's quite amusing.

From Lew Rockwell:

What the Ukrainians Suffered - One of the great state crimes of all time is forgotten, even dismissed. What really annoys me about the Jews today is their need to make their WW2 Holocaust a unique thing, as if no one else suffered. I don't see the Ukrainians crowing about their victimhood and making the Famine a defining factor of their identity and existence.

Repair the Coliseum - A Roman architect's plans. (And note the insouciance with which the state's massacre of Christians is treated.)

Πέμπτη, Μαρτίου 11

From Extreme Catholic and Dhimmi Watch:

Islam 'will be dominant UK religion'

Quoting the Gulf Daily News:

Islam will be the most widely practised religion in the UK by 2020, according to British and Muslim magazine editor Sarah Joseph.

She says mosque attendance is expected to outstrip church attendance over the next 16 years.

Estimates suggest that anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people a year convert to Islam in the UK, which is currently home to approximately 1.8 million Muslims.

Robert Spencer has some great comments on how Islam is being presented to Muslim youth in the U.K.

I want to add some points of hope:

* Freed from oppresive Muslim governments, many Muslims in the US stop practicing the faith, or as I pray, convert to the Catholic faith. The Catholic faith being the "purest of Christianity" in the Muslim worldview.
* Through mixing in with non-Muslim children, the Muslim children are learning tolerance and a less-biased version of history
* Through intermarriage the Muslim faith may not always be passed down to the next generation.

A few fears:

* Many Muslim communities are being undermined or being taken over by Wahhabists funded by Saudis.
* Many Muslim schools preach intolerance and a distorted history to children.
* With political skills and common appeal to the ACLU absolutists sin the suppression of Christianity, Muslims are able to get special rights as religious minority in school and in public life that would trigger a lawsuit if they were obtained by Christians.

This is still worrying. Eastern Christians have lived under the shadow of fierce warlike Mahometanism (Islam) for over a thousand years - it is NOT a religion of peace.

from Dappled Things:

Speaking of our conquest of the world, this insightful site explains the whole bit of the Pope kissing the Koran: it is the way of making Islam part of the Catholic Church and turning the Koran into canon law as part of Pope John Paul's scheme to turn the entire world into a Papal State. From the main page, you can also learn more about the danger of reading the "satanic author" J.R.R. Tolkien, who was a "friend of the dog, C.S. Lewis." We're talking some hard-core Bible-believin' here.

from Rogue Classicism:

Caught in the daily scan is a piece on the history of insults, which includes the following:

Like many good English words, "insult" started out as a good Latin word. "Insultare" means to spring on, or leap upon. An insult was originally an attack. It still is, only now, the attack is verbal.

The day of the snappy retort is not over. We just need to use our imagination to creatively "tell someone off." Unfortunately, the classic zinger is quickly becoming a lost art. It is easy to call a spade a spade, but to do it with style and grace takes practice. We seem to be content, however, to simply yell at each other, use racial epitaphs, or vulgar language.

Such was not always the case. In fact, an ancient Roman poet practiced the fine art of the acid tongue when he wrote, "I could do without your face, and your neck, and your hands, and your limbs, and your bosom, and other of your charms. Indeed, not to fatigue myself with enumerating each of them, I could do without you, Chloe, altogether."

The unnamed Roman poet, of course, was Martial and this is Epigram 3.53. Here's the Latin (via the Latin Library):

Et uoltu poteram tuo carere
et collo manibusque cruribusque
et mammis natibusque clunibusque,
et, ne singula persequi laborem,
tota te poteram, Chloe, carere.

from Lew Rockwell's Blog:

A plea for modesty

Anne Karpf finds herself wondering if some of the old virtues were dismissed too quickly [thanks Ladies Against Feminism]. My favourite line: "...modesty is now almost invariably preceded by the word "false". It's seen as a defect, a sign of insufficient self-belief, marking you down as in dire need of a makeover to bring out your inner peacock."

Mel's Sweet Revenge

HollywoodReporter.com recently estimated very conservatively that Mel Gibson stands to personally pocket over $100 million from The Passion's U.S. sales alone. It's not out of the question that he could double that after international distribution.

How sweet Mel's revenge must be with regard to all those Catholic-hating Hollywood bigshots who refused to do business with him on this film. Frank Rich must have ground his teeth down to a nub over this news by now!

You Don't Watch TV!?

Great article, Karen and Brad, I had somehow missed it the first time. After reading some of it out to my wife, she mentioned that when she is substitute teaching at gov't schools she makes a point to tell the students that we do not get broadcast TV at home. The students' eyes get big and they look shocked and confused. They say things like, "You don't watch any TV? What do you do in the evening?" They really cannot imagine life without television. My wife patiently explains to them that we read books, we play games, we talk to each other, we attend lectures together and engage in many other activities that do not revolve around the TV. They blink and look uncomprehendingly at her as she says these things. My wife points out that this implies that these elementary, junior high and high school children are not being talked to, played with or read to. Very sad.

I'm Joey Tribbiani from Friends!

Take the Friends Quiz here.

created by stomps.

Women? Uh, run that by me again?

"Passion" and the culture wars -
If the Gospels are true – and I believe they are – then no matter what the state does to Christians or anyone else, in the end it really has no power at all, except what God chooses to give it at any appointed time. The ultimate foolishness of conservative Christians is not belief in Christ, as the intellectuals and political classes would have us believe. No, the ultimate foolishness is the belief by too many who should know better that voting in enough "good people" or grabbing the reins of the courts and the law is the ultimate victory, one that will enable them to "win" the "Culture War." Christ rejected all of those things, yet reigns and will come again to judge the world.

Passion and the Neocons.

Τετάρτη, Μαρτίου 10

Nutty Tibetans on Passion - "But now I see that it is not only Buddhas who reincarnate. It is also devils. The Romans in that film, the way they treated my friend, and all the Jews, I realized that the Communist Chinese of today are reincarnates of those Romans. The same tactics, the same policies.

"Jesus was in trouble from the moment someone called him king of the Jews, for there could be only one king of the Jews, Caesar. So it is for Tibet. The Dalai Lama is no longer recognized as head of state as had been the case for many centuries because there can be only one head of state, and now it must be Chinese. Just as the Romans did with Jesus, the Chinese torture and kill our brave monks and nuns who continue to seek Buddhahood. The message is the same, stay in line, do as we say, and perhaps all will be fine."

Oh, a fig to these nutty Tibetan secessionists. Tibet is part of China and long may it remain so!

Protesting Gibson's Passion Lacks Moral Legitimacy - Also a fig to those perfidious Jews who protest the film. May their memory be blotted out forever.

Soundtrack: DJ Sasha's "Airdrawndagger" album. Very ambient, not what one might expect from the dance master, but an intensely beautiful album nonetheless. It'd be great for parties and chilling out to.

I've gone and started up a second Friendster profile because I've hit 500 with the first one and that's the upper limit. I got called a Friendster slut by one friend, and another chipped in "why bring in Friendster?"

Was in the elevator today with a malay fellow whose phone ringtone was a recording of his young daughter saying "daddy, telephone call" in Malay. How very cute - "Bapak, talipon!"

Had my teeth scaled and polished today - they're white and luverly once again, hurrah!

To read or not to read - New Shakespeare translations are the question. Can you believe some American students actually require translations of Shakespeare? Here's an example:

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones."

--- Act 3, Scene 2.

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, give me your attention. I have come here to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do is remembered after their deaths, but the good is often buried with them."

--- Same scene, "No Fear Shakespeare" translation.

Even our schoolchildren in Singapore, with many for whom English is not a first language, don't work with a crib of this sort. Disgraceful.

There, students volunteered to read aloud. Some cheered and booed the characters.

But they're excited about learning! Doesn't that make up for the fact that they're no longer learning anything?

At Sandy Creek, Kollias teaches students who are on track to attend college but have poor reading skills.

How can someone who has poor reading skills be "on track to attend college?" What happens when they get to college and can't do the work because their teacher didn't teach them how to read?

The story is so suspenseful, [another student] said she would have read it in the original text.

"But this means I don't have to think so hard about what the words mean and I can just relax and enjoy the story more," she said. ". . .And I am having a lot more fun reading it."

Well, that's what's important. Who needs to think in school, when you can have fun instead? God forbid you ever have to get a job some day and work for a living.

From Dappled Things:

New York Anti-Smoking Nazis Try To Ban Arab Waterpipes: have these nutty left-wingers nothing better to do?

from Serge:

Coca-Cola’s Dasani bottled water actually comes from tap - In the USA, where it apparently also comes from municipal sources, Coca-Cola sold 1.3 billion litres of the stuff last year. Now, I don't like indulging in national stereotypes, but can my American friends possibly see where the gullible Yank lampoon comes from?

From Lew Rockwell:

‘Passion’ Proves Gospels Still Matter - Many nonbelievers no doubt couldn’t care less about the movie, one way or another. But the guardians of our secular culture reacted in such a hostile way that it reminded Christians of the relevance of the crucifixion and resurrection. In this culture, one can probably find elite defenders of anything short of a snuff film. But a serious, biblically accurate account of Jesus Christ’s last hours on Earth is beyond the pale. I can’t recall any similar effort to shut down a movie, to destroy the reputation of a producer or to associate a project with the vilest half-truths and innuendoes. Why? Because the Gospel story still matters. It still offends. It still causes haters of the message to want to crucify, albeit figuratively, the messenger.

Τρίτη, Μαρτίου 9

from Jonathan:

What Tolkien Officially Said About Elf Sex - highly amusing. "Although Tolkien never said that the elves DID have hot gay sex, he also never said that they DIDN’T. And I know what I make of that.". Also, in case you're wondering how to say "you sexy thing" in Quenya, you might want to try narlyë nat vanya - which literally translates to "you beautiful thing", but in context please!

Libertarian Purity Test - I scored 80 on this, which makes me a "medium-core libertarian, probably self-consciously so. Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much." - My own father thinks I'm a nut politically :)

Δευτέρα, Μαρτίου 8

ok, so i cheated on those extracts back there...

i still can't figure out how on earth to get a combination of diacrits on a single character - i can get a vowels with breath marks OR accents: ἁ ἀ ά ὰ ᾶ but not both together. ὦ - i want THAT but i had to cut and paste that from elsewhere. It's strange, the layout that the keyboard mapper uses: in any sensible layout, Θθ would be at Q, but here it's at U; Ξξ would be at C, but here it's at J; Ψψ should be at Y, but it's at C; Ωω should be at W, but it's at V. Very annoying.

ὦ πένθος οὐ μετρητὸν οὐδ' οἷόν τ' ἰδεῖν,
φόνον ταλαίναις χερσὶν ἐξειργασμένων.
καλὸν τὸ θῦμα καταβαλοῦσα δαίμοσιν
ἐπὶ δαῖτα Θήβας τάσδε κἀμὲ παρακαλεῖς.
οἴμοι κακῶν μὲν πρῶτα σῶν, ἔπειτ' ἐμῶν:
ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς ἐνδίκως μέν, ἀλλ' ἄγαν,
Βρόμιος ἄναξ ἀπώλεσ' οἰκεῖος γεγώς.

- Cadmus' lament from Euripides' Bacchae

I'm just testing out my typing here, so bear with me, typing in Ancient Greek in Unicode is a pain, Chinese is much easier, and to think my Greek's far better than my Chinese...

hurrah! now that we've learned how to do Greek and Chinese... next comes the Cyrillic alphabet for all those lovely Slavic languages... not quite sure I want to do that within the next few years though...

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ' ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προί̈αψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ' ἐτελείετο βουλή,
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρεί̈δης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.

- the opening of Homer's Iliad

let's see if that shows up fine...

Am currently trying to figure out how on earth to enter polytonic Greek in Unicode. 'tis trickier than I thought.

Damn Microsoft only has monotonic Greek characters, catering only for Modern Greek which uses one accent - the acute: άέίόήώύ

On the other hand, Classical Greek requires several accents and rough breathings: Ο θεὸς, ὁ θεὸς μου, πρόσχες μοι, ἱνατί ἐγκατέλιπές με; μακρὰν ἀπὸ τῆς σωτηρίας μου οἱ λόγοι τῶν παραπτωμάτων μου.

That wasn't easy to type, because the character mapping is annoying and counter-intuitive.

*shakes fist at Microsoft*

Alas, the woes of Classical scholars.

"Finding the common potential for reverence is what enables us to see each other as human." - an excellent interview!

Remember this, when you Lay waste to the land of Troy:
Be reverent to the gods. Nothing matters more, as Zeus the father knows. Reverence is not subject to the deaths of men; They live, they die, but reverence shall not perish.

~Heracles, speaking to leaders of the Greeks, in Sophocles' Philoctetes (lines 1439-44)

Jews, Romans, and Arabs in the First Century

From Dappled Things:

The Washington Times
had a very interesting article recently on ethnic and linguistic groups in first-century Palestine. Everyone knows how the Jews and Romans clashed in the Holy Land, but where were the Arabs during all this?

You think you've seen nutty? Here's a site that believes the Catholic Church and the Jesuits were behind the New York attack in 2002. Vatican Assasins?

Have you ever heard of the Darwin Awards? It's awarded to those who best improve our human gene pool... by removing themselves from it - i.e. those who accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways.

Remember The Exorcist? Here it is in 30 seconds, performed by bunnies!

Beer for Jesus

For your devotional reading today, here is a little pious quote from St. Brigid of Ireland:

I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us. I would like an abundance of peace. I would like full vessels of charity. I would like rich treasures of mercy. I would like cheerfulness to preside over all. I would like Jesus to be present. I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us. I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts. I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me. I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity.

Now that sounds like a pleasant thing to do!

First gay Episcopal bishop to take reins in N.H. today

Robinson upbeat despite unrest within church

"..."I am having so much fun - it is such an honor and privilege I can't believe I'm getting to do this, and it so feels like me," Robinson said. "After you feel the call, there is always a measure of doubt in your mind - is God really calling me to this or am I just making mischief with my own mind - and this just feels so right, as hard as it is."

Robinson makes no apologies for his sexuality, or his decision to seek election as bishop. He declares that he is eager to marry his male partner, and will do so if such marriages ever become legal in New Hampshire. He allowed a camera crew from "60 Minutes" to film him talking about the church inside a New York City gay bar. He plans to bring his partner to a meeting of Episcopal bishops and their spouses. And next Saturday, he will attend the 11th annual Men's Event of Boston's Fenway Community Health Center -- a fund-raiser that is one of the biggest events on Boston's gay male social calendar -- to accept the Congressman Gerry E. Studds Visibility Award...."

I can't see ANY Christian symbols on his regalia, which is perhaps appropriate. I wish it were just a joke, and a sick joke at that. But it's not - it's for real. Glad to hear that he is having fun while his Church collapses. You would think that a Christian would be concerned of the pain his actions have caused.

Ancient Chinese Music

I've recently developed a taste for a particular genre of ancient Chinese music that's called 南管 (Nanguan in pinyin romanisation) - the Hokkiens/Fukienese call it Namkwan or Lamkwan (depending on which bit of the province they're from). It's also sometimes called 南音 Nanyin.

An interesting article on it: Ancient Music Applies For World Intangible Heritage.

The lyrics are Tang Dynasty poems, over a thousand years old, and the music itself is only found in China's Fukien province and Taiwan, and among literati Hokkiens/Fukienese in the diaspora. It's very old art music, and was only ever played in the houses and courts of the intellectuals and highly cultured, so if you're Hokkien and you've never heard of it, you're probably not of exalted enough descent. The music itself is very curious, the style is very different from what we usually think of as Chinese Classical music - it's for voices, pipa-lute (琵琶) played horizontally like a lute/guitar (the way Tang musicians are depicted in paintings and how the Japanese still play their Biwa) instead of the modern vertical position, hsiao/xiao vertical flute (箫) and a few more plucked instruments.

The stuff that one hears in modern Chinese orchestras is heavily bastardised, with Mongol and Manchu influences - let's not even bring in the matter of cellos in them. This stuff sounds and feels very old - it's supposed to be as pure as we can get in a line of descent from the music that was once played in the Tang dynasty courts and before. A brief introduction to the music may be found here.

From a page on other stuff, a short intro to Nanguan:

Nanguan literally called “Southern Pipes.” It is a regional musical genre originated in the Quanzhou and Amoy areas in southern part of Fujian province in southeastern coastal China. It is an instrumental and vocal ensemble traditionally performed by the literati class. Nanguan musicians form clubs, such clubs are often associated with temples, which provide them with a place for rehearsal in exchange for their services during temple festivals. The occasions of Nanguan performances include regular rehearsals, the spring and autumn ritual commemorating the patron god and deceased master teachers, the religious celebration at temple festivals, the rite of passage of fellow members of the clubs.

The repertory of Nanguan consists of three categories: 1. The sixteen instrumental suites ( known as Pu, 普), 2. The 48 song suites (zhi, 纸),3. the numerous individual songs (qu, 曲). Most of the instrumental suites have programmatic titles, depicting flowers, animals, or scenery. The song suites and the individual songs have narrative or lyrical song texts which are based on historical stories that have been popular in the southern Fujian province for centuries. A song suite consists of two to seven songs which, in most cases, share the same story.

A Nanguan ensemble usually consists of five instruments. The pipa 琵琶, a four stringed plucked lute, plays the melody (known as gu, 骨 the bone) as given in the notation and functions as the conductor of the whole ensemble. The sanxian 三线, a three-stringed plucked lute, supports the pipa by doubling the pipa melody one octave below, although in rare cases it may add some ornamentations. The xiao 箫, a vertical end-blown flute, elaborates the pipa melody by adding ornamentation (known as rou 肉, the meat). The erxian 二线, a two-stringed bowed lute, also adds ornamentation, in its own idiomatic way, to the pipa melody and is considered subsidiary to the flute. Finally, the paiban 拍板, the five-slab wooden clapper, punctuates the meter. When singing is involved, the singer plays the clapper and sings the ornamented melody in a manner similar to that of the flute and the bowed lute.”

Κυριακή, Μαρτίου 7

From Something Positive:


From the Spectator:

Dear Mary...

Q. I find that I can’t remember somebody’s name for longer than 30 seconds after I have been introduced to them. It is worse at a party where I recognise people’s faces and suspect I know them well, but cannot remember who they are. Recently, at a fashion party, there was a typical worst-case scenario when I saw an old friend from university who now moves in fashion circles, and his name completely eclipsed [sic] me. Can you recommend a foolproof procedure that will work every time to prevent me from having these problems? I do not want to have to go on a five-day memory improvement course.
S.G., London W8

A. In junior circles such as your own the mobile telephone provides an instant solution to this problem. Have it to hand as you go round parties, then, when you see a beaming stranger approaching, you are poised to present him with the device crying, ‘I’m glad I’ve seen you while I’ve got this in my hand. Would you mind entering your new details?’ In the pretence of admiring his dexterity, stand over him as he keys in his name.


Next, also from the Spectator:


Stephen Pettitt says that rock musicians who compose classical music are out of their depth

A couple of weeks ago a press release arrived in my electronic in-tray. It was from Naxos, the record company much admired for its bargain recordings of a repertoire ranging wide and free over the thousand years or so of what we on my side of the business like to call Western art music. Naxos makes them cheap and turns in a profit by taking a chance on artists who might not have reached glamour status. Thus the company feeds on a thirst for repertoire, not on the cult of celebrity.

Or at least that has been the case until now. The email I received angled for me to provide gushing coverage of a new, prestigious release, a recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, no less, of a newly composed orchestral suite. What could be wrong with that? The championing of contemporary music by such a label — and it has already done good work in this department, not least by commissioning a whole series of string quartets from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies — is surely something very noble and desirable. The problem was that the composer of this suite, which is called Seven on the basis that it consists of seven movements, is one Tony Banks. Not the affable Labour MP, but, the bumf tells me, ‘keyboard player and composer for the progressive rock group Genesis’.

Alarm-bells rang, and I’m ashamed to say that I responded to the email with a thoroughly prejudiced and uncharacteristically rude ‘Oh, God’ even before I’d heard a note of the work. When the product arrived, however, all my prejudices proved justified. Seven is nothing more than musical doodling. While it has some sweet ideas, its language is severely restricted. It doesn’t challenge, move, or inspire. It’s rather like the work of someone who has taken early retirement from a boring office job and has taken instead to painting naff watercolours of idyllic lakeside scenes and pretty thatched cottages. Therapy for the creator, maybe, but dull for any reasonably intelligent beholder.

What’s more, as is common in such enterprises, in order to realise the piece for orchestra, Banks was obliged to engage the services of an orchestrator, one Simon Hale. Hale has achieved what any orchestrator should achieve: a professional if unremarkable job. But these days orchestration is an integral part of the creative process, not something slapped on to the music afterwards. It’s as if Banks had left the colouring-in of his naff watercolours to someone else.

Of course, anyone — even the odd critic — is perfectly entitled to compose music if he or she feels so moved. My objection is not that Banks has done so but that we are being sold the line that his reputation as a famous rock musician is enough to guarantee that he can be a classical composer of interest and ability. It’s not true of Banks. It was not true, either, of McCartney with his Liverpool Oratorio (likewise orchestrated by another hand). It’s not true even of the more sophisticated Elvis Costello, whose offerings with the Brodsky Quartet I have always found insipid and pretentious. I’m not sure what Banks’s business arrangement with Naxos is, but he was able to use the LPO, even engaging them for a second set of sessions (who paid?) because, unused to the way orchestras work in the studio and on his own admission, he was inadequately prepared for the first.

Everything about this product suggests that Naxos is not as idealistic an enterprise as we first thought. It’s not alone. Projects like EMI Classics’s dreadful Queen Symphony, a tiresome sequence of cheap Hollywood-style epic climaxes, or more recently Sanctuary Classics’s bland crossover effort, Patrick Hawes’s Blue in Blue, betray a willingness to compromise standards for profit that goes far beyond the populist ethos of Your Hundred Best Tunes. At least they were all good tunes.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the rock-musician-turned-classical-composer phenomenon is that it underlines the tendency nowadays to ignore the vast skills gap that exists between classical and pop/rock musicians, whether composers or players. I am not suggesting that people like Eric Clapton or Elton John are unskilled. Clearly they are not. But where many a classical musician could ape their achievements, is the reverse also true? Can John play the Hammerklavier? Would Clapton get his fingers around a Bach lute suite? For the record companies, however, the rule seems to be that if you are famous enough then you are good enough.

For a would-be composer desiring to cross the great divide, the chasm between the two art forms is perhaps even wider. Consider what the genre of the pop song generally demands of its creator. At best it can approach the outwardly simple lyric subtlety of Schubert. But mostly as music it is pretty crude. No organic exploration (Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner), collisions of musical types (Monteverdi, Messiaen), or complex layerings (Bruckner, Stravinsky, Carter). No dynamic shading, since everything is loud. No subtle instrumentation. An insistent tribal drum thud. Limited harmonies. Normally, a rigid four beats to a bar, and an equally rigid tempo, defined in bpms (beats per minute). It’s most often a music about pulse and power. Even in progressive rock, the spirit of musical adventure is severely restricted. Which is right, for its language suits its purpose.

Given a rooting in a craft so formulaic, is it any wonder that a rock musician wanting to compose something more substantial, more classical, should find himself at sea? A quantum leap is demanded of him. Yet the message we are being given is that we must laud him, that we must accept that his music can hold its own alongside the wonders of Monteverdi, Beethoven, Sibelius, Birtwistle. It’s just snobbishness if we do not.

Well, if snobbishness it is, a snob I will have to remain, for I find presumptuous this staking a claim on the territory of art music. Few rock stars know much about the commitment and skills that it takes to be a real musician, about the tedious hours spent practising each day, about the requirement to stand back and ruthlessly self-criticise, about the demands of getting inside a piece of real music. Few would tolerate the insecurity of an orchestral musician’s working environment, or know just how much courage it takes to mount the stage night after night and do the physically impossible. Few can contemplate the agonies that a composer puts himself or herself through in order to find the inner voice, the language, the form, the right sound for the moment. By all means allow the rock stars their indulgences, particularly if one consequence is that some of their wealth finds its way into real musicians’ pockets. But please do not try to sell it as something that it is not. Not to me, anyway.