25 May 2007

Present and past tenses and towels

Today is Towel Day. It could be an oblique reference to the Irish election results, as in “throwing in the towel” (to admit defeat or failure, it seems) or using an old towel to mop up the remains of some party or other, but it isn’t.

It is a day for geeks and linguists, a day to celebrate Douglas Adams and the many uses of a towel in intergalactic travel. It is thus in the spirit of discourse analysis that I quote this important section from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which gives us a glimpse into the crucial problems encountered by grammar in time travelling circles, notably in the case of the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional (the last tense usually consulted by readers of The Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations; it seems that students subsequently give up on tenses, and the above grammar book is blank after the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional entry. Sad, but true.)

It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own father or mother. (Adams, 1980, p.80)

And the Future Perfect was or will be abandoned because “it was discovered not to be”.


17 May 2007

A Party Political Contest

Enda Kenny and Simon Cowell... How much cooler can you get?

15 May 2007

Blogs, books and blooks

In the Guardian today, two articles of interest: First, a feature on the 2007 winner of the Blooker prize.

The Lulu Blooker Prize is the world's first literary prize devoted to "blooks"-books based on blogs or other websites, including webcomics. (from the Blooker prize website)

The prize went to an ex-soldier, a American machine-gunner who wrote his blog while serving in Mosul in 2004. Interestingly, the Guardian points out, this award comes the week when the US army banned a list of sites, including blogs.

The second article is by Zoe Margolis, blogger turned published author, who claims that publishers are now trawling through blogs in an effort to find new authors. Several famous bloggers have of course received book deals from publishers, even though Dooce ended up in court over it. In the UK, Tom Reynolds recently published Blood, Sweat and Tea, and Petite Anglaise, who was famously dooced last year and recently won a court case brought by her ex-employer, has also received a six-figure book deal. In Ireland, Twenty Major also signed for two books with Hodder Headline Ireland.

The only paper “blook” I’ve read so far is Salaam Pax’s The Bahdad Blog, which really was only a printed version of his blog, and as such a little disappointing, in the line of other books which are collections of blog entries from various authors. Blogs don’t make very good books, they lose too much in “translation”, but I certainly hope bloggers will write good books and keep their blogs running as well.

14 May 2007

Male/female writing

Courtesy of Jess, a nice little procrastinating tool will calculate your degree of maleness or femaleness in blogging terms. Jess, it seems, is male (in blogging terms only); I turned out male as well, but persevered, and it turns out that sometimes I'm male...

and sometimes female...



I remember trying the same tool on non-fiction writing; essays and chapter excerpts were male, and my diary was female. Do we always conform to male norms when we write professionally, and only unleash our female side when writing fiction or diaries? Or is the algorithm flawed, as an article in the Guardian at first suggested?

11 May 2007

Sing a sad, sad song

Leonard CohenHallelujah

This is one of my favourite songs, and it also happens to be one of the 25 Most Exquisitely Sad Songs in the Whole World, although in the Jeff Buckley version, which The Big Brother thinks is, like, totally superior to the original.

09 May 2007

Politics and the net

The French presidential election over, bloggers reflect or move on. Their impact on the campaign, and that of the internet in general, through official sites and very unofficial ones is now the subject of a documentary. It can be accessed, free, for one week on the Arte site. The filmmakers followed the webmasters and some bloggers, from the first steps to the results. The first steps are the use of internet as a new power by Bayrou, the use of the Web 2.0 by Royal, with the opening of the site to users, which resulted in a "book of hope", record of ordinary web users' comments, reflections and requests. The French political bloggers enthusiastically talked of a 5th power, and yet an academic pointed out that the perceived democracy of the medium should be balanced by the social background of the political blogosphere and their readers - young, urban, and university graduates.

07 May 2007

Sarko and the bees

Maybe I am just tired, maybe my bi-cultural status is causing multiple personality disorder, but I really thought this article in the Irish Times was a joke. Was the journalist just having a field day about bees, or did yesterday's news from France warp my tired mind?