Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Move over, WWW: here comes Web 2.0

Well, to all you nerds out there (if any?), Web 2.0 is of course nothing new. The term is used to refer to a growing number of popular websites where ordinary users contribute content, including Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, LiveJournal, del.icio.us, and so on. Not surprising, then, is the fact that quite a few of these Web 2.0 sites made it into Time Magazine's recent list of "50 coolest websites".

Ginger refuge

Of the 'Britcoms' which were introduced to students in Namur last year, The Catherine Tate Show was one that went down particularly well. Here's a series of excerpts not included in the only DVD available to date (Series Two is due to come out in October though) which are both funny and thought-provoking...

Judge not lest ye be judged

Just one more bit of Fry and Laurie to convince those unhappy few who were not yet convinced of their genius: an outrageously absurd and wildly funny court scene in which an innocent, virtuous witness is depicted as a monstrous "lesbite" and the judge is addressed as "Milove" rather than "Milord". There really is too much going on here to mention: from "private acts of lesboid love" over "I long to nestle between Your Lordship's thighs" to "Certainly mother": how ever did they think these things up?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Is everybody happy?

The expected answer to the above question, especially when asked by performers onstage to the audience in front of them, is of course an "enormous yes". But if we are being honest presumably the answer may from time to time be more nuanced, or even, unfortunately, negative. The BBC recently broadcast a series trying to unravel the 'happiness formula'. The series has ended, but from its website you can still read a number of articles and watch several videos analysing the causes of happiness and unhappiness. Well worth a virtual stop!

The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax

One of many popular myths about language is that according to which Eskimoan languages have maybe 50 or even 100 or more words to refer to different kinds of snow. As Geoff Pullum explains in his excellent entry on the highly recommended Language Log, there are in fact not that many roots for different kinds of snow; probably about the same amount as in English (snow, slush, blizzard, drift,...). What is special about Eskimoan languages is their enormous capacity for suffixation, allowing one to create an infinite number of word forms on the basis of one and the same root. Language Log offers many demystifications of this kind, as well as many thought-provoking observations about and analyses of everyday language use. The recent book Far from the madding gerund and other dispatches from language log (available from Amazon) collects some of the best entries to date.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Arrogant, unfriendly and unfunny: thus are the Brits?

According to a recent survey by VisitBritain.com, foreign tourists find the British people, and in particular the English, arrogant, unfriendly, lacking a sense of humour. On the plus side, Britain is valued highly both for its contemporary culture and for its rich cultural heritage (its Royal family, its ancient traditions and its historic buildings). One may wonder, of course, how representative or trustworthy surveys of this kind are -- one striking finding, for instance, is that Italians, of all people, ranked the UK eighth in the category of being honestly governed despite Italy's own rather shaky reputation in this regard...

Machine politics

One often cited cause for some people to turn their backs to politics and politicians is that politicians are mainly concerned about their own careers, their status within their party, coalitions and other alliances which they might form with others, and so on. In the Flemish press this type of inward-looking politics is often referred to pejoratively as "politique politicienne". In the recent reports on last week's upheaval surrounding Tony Blair's departure date as Prime Minister, the term used was machine politics, a term which, according to Wikipedia, has a somewhat more specific content and a rich history in the US.