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FIFA officials were “Russia’s people”

Friday, 5 June, 2015 0 Comments

The FIFA scandal is breaking news, as they say, so anything published on 29 May looks decidedly old by now. Still, Putin and the FIFA scandal by Kadri Liik for the European Council on Foreign Relations offers useful background and insight on how corruption has become “a constituent pillar of the system” in FIFA/Russia: “If a free press in the West is a means by which societies can control their elites and rulers, then in Russia corruption is the means by which the Kremlin can control the elites as well as societies. It is used in an almost institutionalized manner.”

And this brings us to Blatter and Putin, two sides of a very bent coin. Snippet:

“This system explains why Putin reacted to the FIFA scandal as he did. It is hard to say whether Russia bribed FIFA; however it is evident that an implicit but very clear mutual understanding was established between Russia’s and FIFA’s leadership. So for the purposes of the situation, FIFA officials were ‘Russia’s people,’ and Western authorities had launched an attack on them. For Putin, that means effectively an attack on Russia — an attempt to impose alien rules if not exactly within Russia’s jurisdictional boundaries, then at least in the sphere where rules established by Russia carry the day.”

The FIFA scandal is much bigger than football. It is now about international relations. Putin was unable to save Sepp Blatter and that sends a chilling message to those who want to believe that America no longer carries a big stick. You know all that Kremlin guff that gushes out of the Russia Today sewer? It sounds far less convincing now.

April 65th and the clocks are striking thirteen

Thursday, 4 June, 2015 0 Comments

As has been pointed out here before, Nineteen Eighty-Four starts with one of the greatest first lines in literature: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell’s dystopian novel is set in Airstrip One (Great Britain), which is governed by a corrupt elite of English Socialists who persecute independent thinking as “thoughtcrime”, as the regime’s invented language, Newspeak, puts it.

In China, contemplating the political significance of today’s date, 4 June, is a thoughtcrime and references are harshly suppressed, as are alternative ways of rendering it, such as April 65th and May 35th. On this day in 1989, Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and the army opened fire on democracy protesters, killing hundreds. Despite threats by the Communist Party, the bloodshed of 4 June 1989 is being commemorated in Hong Kong today. The minimum that the rest of us can do is keep the memory of the date alive and recall the bravery of the Tank Man.

Freedom

Agatha Christie wrote lots of könyvek

Wednesday, 3 June, 2015 0 Comments

This year marks what would have been the 125th birthday of Agatha Christie, who was born on 15 September 1890 and died on 12 January 1976. She wrote six romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she’s best known for the 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections she wrote under her own name, most of which involve the investigations of Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Parker Pyne and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap.

Note: The plural of the Hungarian könyv (book) is könyvek.

Budapest train station

Tim Roth as Blatter! Sam Neill as Havelange!

Tuesday, 2 June, 2015 0 Comments

Oh, the timing! Exquisite. United Passions, a French drama about the history of FIFA, with Tim Roth as the corrupt Sepp Blatter, Sam Neill as the corrupt João Havelange and the corrupt corpulent Gérard Depardieu as the organization’s longest–serving president, Jules Rimet, is making news just as its main character is the news.

This rubbish was 90 percent funded by FIFA, cost an obscene $27 million to make and was directed, to his eternal shame, by Frederic Auburtin. The film was released in Serbia only in June last year and deserved the singular honour, but in light of recent events, the time has come to spread its absurdist message beyond the Balkans.

Paris says no to the love locks

Monday, 1 June, 2015 0 Comments

The municipal authorities in Paris have made it known that from today the Pont des Arts will be closed for one week to allow the removal of all the so-called “love locks” that visitors have attached to the structure over the years. In October, glass panels will be installed permanently on both the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’Achevêché to prevent vandalism of this nature from being attempted again. There was nothing attractive about these clumps of metal, clinging barnacle-like to parts of the urban infrastructure around the world. Good riddance to them.

Love locks

Found poem

Sunday, 31 May, 2015 0 Comments

Given that “This Is Just To Say” was written as though it were a note left on a kitchen table, William Carlos Williams was once asked what makes it a poem. He replied, “In the first place, it’s metrically absolutely regular. So, dogmatically speaking, it has to be a poem because it goes that way, don’t you see!” Critic Marjorie Perloff described it as “typography rather than any kind of phonemic recurrence”. For some scholars, “This Is Just To Say” belongs between the urinals of Marcel Duchamp and the soup tins of Andy Warhol. It’s Pop Art, in other words. In fact, the term “found poetry” was created to help categorize the phenomenon.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams, (1883 – 1963)

The Visual Well Tempered Clavier

Saturday, 30 May, 2015 0 Comments

“In 1722, Johann Sebastian Bach began one of his most ambitious works: a 24-part comprehensive guide to the keyboard, demonstrating the musical qualities of every major and minor key. The first part, C Major, saw Bach create two masterful compositions that explore musical structure in very different ways.” So says Alan Warburton, a designer and director who specializes in 3D animation and CGI. His Well Tempered Clavier video clip takes its inspiration from graphical notation, “an alternative to traditional sheet music notation that evolved in the 1950s and often involves abstract symbols and experimental visual codes.”

Alan Warburton’s video was commissioned by Sinfini, which encourages people to develop a passion for classical music.

Because it’s there

Friday, 29 May, 2015 0 Comments

On this day in 1953, New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made the first confirmed ascent of Mount Everest. They spent 15 minutes on the summit, with Norgay leaving chocolates in the snow and Hillary leaving a cross. Together, they had climbed the world’s greatest mountain.

290515handt

“Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” is the question asked of George Leigh Mallory by a New York Times reporter in March 1923. “Because it’s there,” was his reply. Mallory made his third and final attempts to climb Ever­est in 1924 and was last seen on the way to the summit along with his companion Andrew Irvine. Mallory’s frozen body was found by climbers on the mountain’s north ridge in 1999.

Note: More than 9,000 people were killed and 21,000 injured in the 25 April earthquake that struck Nepal. Among the dead were 22 Mount Everest climbers. One of the many charities active in Nepal is Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, which is sending medical staff and supplies to the Himalayan region.

The magical words of Mary Meeker

Thursday, 28 May, 2015 0 Comments

The famous Mary Meeker, formerly an internet stock analyst at Morgan Stanley and now a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, yesterday delivered her 20th annual “State of the Internet” presentation. The venue was the Code Conference in California. Seven highlights:

  • Population usage of mobile phones grew from 1 percent globally in 1995 to 73 percent in 2014.
  • Consumer drone shipments jumped 167 percent in 2014, to 4.3 million units.
  • Smartphone adoption is slowing: 23 percent growth in 2014 compared to 27 percent in 2013.
  • Twitch has 100 million monthly active users for its live streaming, up 122 percent.
  • Video constituted 64 percent of internet traffic and 55 percent of mobile traffic in 2014.
  • India was the top country in internet user additions last year: up 63 million.
  • WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Kakao and Snapchat will evolve into multipurpose content hubs.

Approaching the end of her presentation, Meeker said that the most magical words you can hear are: “That’s really interesting, I had never thought of it that way before.”

Click bait

Wednesday, 27 May, 2015 0 Comments

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has added 1,700 words to its corpus and it’s expanded existing entries “by more than 700 new senses.” In a blog post, Emily Brewster writes: “We’ve added 3,200 examples that provide contextual information, and another 200 entries for some of the words people most frequently look up have been updated and enhanced.” Among the additions are emoji, jegging, photobomb, slendro and click bait:

Click bait

The one caveat we have about the the Merriam-Webster announcement is that the selected words are presented as PNG images. This is a major no-no when it comes to web accessibility. First of all, text downloads in a fraction of the time that it takes images to download and it’s also much easier to edit plain text content. Secondly, and critically for users who need to enlarge content to see it clearly, text scales without loss of clarity when enlarged (using Ctrl + in Windows browsers, or Apple + in Mac browsers). And images of text do not enlarge at all in some browsers or they become pixilated and difficult to read as they get larger. Finally, Merriam-Webster fails to offer alternate text on these informative images. That’s another serious offence against accessibility.

Dracula Therapy

Tuesday, 26 May, 2015 0 Comments

Dracula On this day in 1897, Dracula, a novel by the Irish author Bram Stoker, was published at a price of six shillings. It had a print run of 3,000 copies and the book was bound in plain yellow cloth with the one-word title in simple red lettering. In time, Dracula would become the supreme example of horror fiction. The critic Maurice Richardson described it as “a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. What’s not to like?

“Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer — nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited — waited with beating heart.” — Bram Stoker, Dracula

In his longing for eternity, Dracula developed an insatiable demand for blood and it’s not surprising that one of the hottest treatments in the anti-ageing business right now is the vampirish “Dracula Therapy.” Officially titled Stimulated Self Serum skin therapy, it involves having your face injected with your own blood and it was developed by the London-based French cosmetic specialist, Dr Daniel Sister. A variant of the treatment is popularly called the “vampire facial” and recipients include Kim Kardashian.

A modification of the therapy, called “Rejuvula”, promises the same tightening effect — but not for the face. Irishwoman Claudia McGloin claims that she is the only female medical professional offering the treatment “for Vagina Rejuvenation in Europe.”

“The blood is the life!” — Bram Stoker, Dracula