arcana imperii :: the book of j


Quotation of the Week

«i'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.»
~e.e. cummings



Germans are ruder

Are Germans ruder than the British and Americans? Are Britons and Americans more dishonest than Germans? Fortunately, we don't have to rely on blind prejudice for answers. BBC News reports that serious academic research has been performed.

There are Britons in Berlin who get taken aback by the directness of Germans. And there are Germans who get really annoyed when Britons and Americans, in an effort to be friendly, say things they might not really mean. Unsurprisingly, some Germans call this "lying".

So, what do the experts say on the matter?

Professor Juliane House, of the University of Hamburg, has studied groups of people interacting in controlled situations, watching with academic rigour how they behave as human guinea-pigs. She verified that Germans really don't do small talk, those little phrases so familiar to the British about the weather or a person's general well-being. To Germans this is "empty verbiage". In academic language, this is called "phatic" conversation - it's not meant to convey hard information but to perform a social function, such as making people feel good.

The German language doesn't even have an expression for "small talk". It is so alien that in the German translation of A Bear called Paddington - Paddington unser kleiner Baer - it was omitted. So this exchange of small talk occurs in the English original: "'Hallo Mrs Bird,' said Judy. 'It's nice to see you again. How's the rheumatism?' 'Worse than it's ever been' began Mrs. Bird." In the German edition, this passage is simply cut!

Might a German talk about the weather, then? "In a lift or a doctor's waiting room, talk about the weather in German? I don't think so," says Professor House.

So does that mean the British (and Americans) are more polite? Yes. It also means that they're different. So much so that Professor House, a German, describes this politeness as the "etiquette of simulation", asserting that the British feign an interest in someone. They pretend to want to meet again when they don't really. They simulate concern.Saying things like "It's nice to meet you" to her are statements rarely meant the way they are said. "It's just words. It's simulating interest in the other person." Can you believe it? so from a German perspective, this is uncomfortably close to deceit.Professor House adds that
"Some people say that the British and Americans lie when they say things like that.

We all know it's not a lie. It's lubricating social life. It's always nice to say things like that even if you don't mean them.

For Britons it's German directness that most often gives rise to bafflement or even fury. House, who married a Scouser - a native of Liverpool - gives an example from her own experience. She would tell her husband to bring something from another part of the house - without the British lardings of "would you mind...?" or "could you do me a favour...?" He would hear this as an abrupt - and rude - command. Wouldn't we all?

This gap between German directness and British indirectness is the source of much miscommunication, says Professor Derek Bousfield, the head of linguistics at the University of Central Lancashire, and one of the editors of the Journal of Politeness Research.

There are many documented cases where the British understate a very serious problem with phrases like "there seem to be one or two problems here" or "there seems to be a little bit of an issue with this", he says.

A British listener knows there is a gap between what is said and what is meant - and this can be a source of humour, as when the Grim Reaper's arrival at a dinner party in Monty Python's Meaning of Life "casts rather a gloom" over the evening.

Sometimes it's endearing, as when this announcement was made by British Airways pilot Eric Moody in 1982, after flying through a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia:
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress."
To the Germans this is all too confusing. When BMW bought the British car manufacturer, Rover, it took a while for the seriousness of some of the problems at Rover to sink in. All too often, British managers spoke in euphemisms that their German counterparts took at face value.

Both professors reject the idea that one nation's manners are better than the other's. I disagree. They say that each has its own rules of communication, or patterns of behaviour, and neither can be blamed when clashes occur. Absolute nonsense! I blame the Germans. I know, I lived and studied in Germany.

Lastly, What about those sun-loungers - the seats by the pool, which German holidaymakers always attempt to grab at the crack of dawn? Bousfield says that what we got here is a clash of prototypical German efficiency with the prototypical British sense of fair play". House reckons the British do get the sun-loungers in the end, by one means or another.

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Prediction: PP will win Spain's March 2012 elections

It seems that President of the Spanish Government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has "anointed" Vice President Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba as PSOE's candidate for the March 2012 elections. He should have chosen Foreign Affairs Minister Trinidad Jiménez, held primaries or at least a Party Congress. Today's horrid move will insure that opposition leader and insufferable demagogue and wind-bag, Mariano Rajoy of the PP wins in March and in a landslide. I can hardly believe Spaniards are going to do this. They shall regret it and not recognise their own responsibility for the disaster. Bah!

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On this day...

1844 The first telegraphed news dispatch is published in the Baltimore Patriot
1878 Gilbert & Sullivan's opera «HMS Pinafore» premieres in London
1887 Gas lamp at Paris Opera catches fire; 200 die
1895 Oscar Wilde sentenced to 2 years hard labor for being a sodomite
1922 Babe Ruth suspended 1 day & fined $200 for throwing dirt on an umpire
1928 Amelia Earhart (as a passenger) is the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean
1941 5,000 drown in a storm at Ganges Delta region in India
1955 Series of 19 twisters destroy Udall, KS and most of Blackwell, OK
1962 US unions AFL-CIO starts campaign for 35-hour work week
1964 Supreme Court rules closing schools to avoid desegregation unconstitutional
1966 Peru & Argentina soccer fans fight in Lima; 248 die
1985 Cyclone ravages Bangladesh; 11,000 killed
1986 Ferry boat Shamia sinks on Maghna River, Bangladesh; 600 killed


Quotation of the Week

This is quotation quite appropriate when one thinks of the continued erosion of civil liberties in America, even under the Presidency of Barack Obama. Remember, for instance, that the so-called Patriot Act remains in the books rather unchanged and unread.

«Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.»
~Benjamin Franklin in the Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

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Muammar Gaddafi and son are indicted by the ICJ

The International Court of Justice has indicted Muammar Gaddafi and his son for crimes including giving orders to kill opposition members. Now NATO doesn't have to pretend they're not really going after these two murdereres. Then of course, there are oil deals to protect.

Sadly, this is not the case with Syria where great atrocities are being committed against the rebelling population. I reckon the West fears the reaction of Iran if Syria were attacked and the rebelling citizens protected. I also reckon the West fears retaliation against Israel by Syria and Iran. And nobody wants to have Israel dropping bombs on more Arabs than it already does with the sanction of America.

It all makes me sick. The entire world should stand with citizens in the Arab world demanding the end of corruption and autocratic, undemocratic rule.

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Quotation of the Week

«I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.»
~Bertrand Russell



Read somewhere

«American Idol» ousts autistic metal-singing idiot James Durbin and determines Top 3 finalists despite the pollack vote.
Wow. That's some strong feeling...



Quotation of the Week

«We are the ones you should be fearing,
come in the night and take your teeth away.
Now sew up your mouth, and go to sleep, 'cause
we'll be there soon, to break your heart and spite your face.»

~Aesthetic Perfection, The Ones

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Osama bin Laden's whereabouts known to Islamabad since 2004

I always suspected that bin Laden was hiding out in Pakistan and that said country's officials knew exactly where. I also suspected that they wouldn't give up the terrorist due to their religion and that while some in Pakistan's corrupt government support America, others support al-Qaeda. This became rather obvious to the US after intelligence led exactly to bin Laden's doorstep and eventually to a room in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was rightly shot and killed.

The Hindustani Times has reported today that according to a top spy, Afghan intelligence had told Islamabad nearly four years back that the most hunted al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, was hiding in an area near Abbottabad, and that nothing was done about it as the claim was rejected by then president Pervez Musharraf.

Afghanistan's former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh told The Guardian newspaper in Kabul that the National Directorate of Security (NDS) sleuths had come to the conclusion as early as in 2004 that the world's most wanted man must be inside Pakistan and not in semi-autonomous tribal areas.

The former spy master said they believed Osama must be within Pakistan due to thousands of interrogation reports and the logical assumption that Osama, who was a millionaire with "no background of toughness", would not be living in a tent.

Read more here.


Creationism Still Advocated in HS Biology Classes

A new study finds that the majority of high-school biology teachers don't take a solid stance on evolution with their students, mostly to avoid conflicts, and fewer than 30 percent of teachers take an adamant pro-evolutionary stance on the topic. And 13 percent of these teachers advocate creationism in their classrooms.

I find this abominable.

Read more here.

Enhanced interrogations and torture

Do "enhanced methods of questioning" = torture? I couldn't debate the issue without a clear and exact definition of both terms and knowing which methods were used to obtain what intelligence.

Deep down what I ask myself is whether torture is effective in extracting truth. A prosoner can always lie to try to end the pain, especially if they don't know the information being requested of him. If my daughter were buried alive and an uncooperative perpetrator were in custody I would want him tortured for the chance of learning her location and saving her. If he lied and my daughter died I'd like the kidnapper summarily executed. And those monsters that killed Matthew Shepard. And so many others. Yet my instinct is to oppose capital punishment and torture. HTe thought of an innocent person to be put to death is rather unbearable.

This is difficult.

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Let's see the dead terrorist's pictures

There seems to be a debate on whether the US government should release photographs of the dead monster Osama Bin Laden... I would actually like to see the operation video and watch him get shot in the head and chest. There's nothing morbid about this desire. My point is that every single time a victim has fallen to Muslim/Arab/Islamist terrorism the world has seen pictures of Muslims and Arabs and others DANCING in the streets. We may claim we hold a higher moral ground and the like, but showing these cultures what happens when they target our freedom, progress, modernity, civilisation, integrity and way of life and kill civilians and military alike is of utmost importance. People in these culture don't believe what you don't show them.

When I covered the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis as a journalist years ago in Lima, Perú, I learned first-hand what some nations expect when terrorists are eradicated. After Peruvian forces stormed the Embassy compund to free the hostages from the claws of MRTA terrorists, Peruvians DEMANDED they be shown the dead bodies of the terrorists. The media showed President Fujimori walking among the dead bodies right where they perished and nobody said it was wrong or in bad taste. The nation wanted to KNOW the terrorists had really died. And the peopley wanted them dead. Not captured. They didn't want trials. They wanted to END the terrorism which had held their nation hostage for decades claiming countless innocent victims.

Now we have accomplished a similar feat. The head of a snake has been cut off and as far as I'm concerned it should be seen by all interested. We should also continue to show earned and well-deserved celebrations. Yes, it's time for US to dance in the streets.

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Quotation of the Week

«If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.»
~Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

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US President Obama has reported to the world just a bit ago that Al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama Bin Laden has been killed by US forces in Pakistan.

«On nights like this one we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done,» President Obama said in a late-night televised address from the White House this evening

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