I told you where; I told you when

But you still couldn’t get it right.

I bought myself a flat-screen TV from Gome yesterday. I had thought that I might be bundled with it into a taxi, but it had to be delivered. I arranged for it to be brought to the school this afternoon at three. I even wrote the address of the school in Chinese, although I slightly muffed one of the characters (and later found that it wasn’t a critical error).

I headed to school just before three and ended up sitting around at the gate for two hours. Glen and Row went to class and came back from class, and still I was waiting. I got June to phone Gome to find out what was happening. Eventually, we found out that he’d taken the TV back to the warehouse. I’d had a phone call from the delivery man this morning, but the line was rubbish and, apparently, because he was confronted by a foreigner, he returned the TV from where he’d got it. I don’t see how this prevents anyone from delivering an item at a specified time and place.

Anyway, he phoned again just before. I said tomorrow at 9am (in Chinese). He seemed satisfied because he terminated the phone call. I’ll just have to hope that everything goes according to plan. Of course, we also had a plan today.

I’m not pleased about wasting a whole afternoon in this way. I expect deliveries may not be on time, but arrangements had been made.

[29.07.14. The TV was a bit of a waste of money. I mainly used it for watching DVDs, but once I bought a portable DVD player, the large models effectively became redundant, as did the TV. From time to time I’d hook them up to the TV and watch DVDs in the bedroom, but first one player and then the other malfunctioned to death, and that was effectively the end of that.

The only other use for the TV is as a monitor for the laptop that’s the grandfather of my present model because the monitor stopped working for the gods alone know what reason. That laptop is also pretty much redundant because it’s prone to overheating, and could not survive long enough to get all the patches for Windows XP even before that OS was finally retired. At the time if writing, I’m not sure how long it is since I last switched that machine on, but it was probably at least two years ago. More likely three.

04.10.14. Since I added the preceding note, I have managed to get the built-in monitor working again, although quite how I achieved such a feat, I don’t really know. It involved removing the battery, the memory, and the HD and putting all of them back. I’m sure I must’ve done something right.]


You can’t park that longship here!

I was thinking about the first report of Vikings in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Part of the entry (this comes from Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer) in the Chronicle for 787 reads

And on his dagum comon ærest þreo scipu; and þa se gerefa þærto rad, and hie wolde drifan to þæs cyninges tune, þy he nyste hwæt hie wæron; and hine man ofslog. Þæt wæron þa ærestan scipu Deniscra manna þe Angelcynnes land gesohton.
(And in his day three ships first came; and then the reeve rode there, and wanted to take them to the king’s estate because he didn’t know what sort of people they were; and he was killed. Those were the first three ships of the Danish people that came to England.)

I can just imagine that the reeve was some officious twerp who turned up demanding beach fees for the longship; then asking if they had an import licence for the weapons and armour; then demanding that they pay duty on the weapons and armour; and finally asking them for their passports (which they’d left in their other chainmail which was at home being darned). At this point, Olaf decided that the annoying official was inhibiting free trade in the North Sea region, and decided to slash border controls. If the reeve had got any further, the Vikings would’ve been made to sit an Englishness test.

Whoops, vicar, there goes the country!

The danger of religion.

A poll reported in today’s Guardian says that 82% of Britons think religion causes more harm than good. Another finding was that non-believers outnumber believers almost two to one.

But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the “impression of secularism in this country is overrated”.

He could be right, but this is wishful thinking as the numbers in the quote below reveal. The alleged importance of the Church of England is derived from tradition rather than from its actual importance in modern society.

I was wondering what effect it might have on an election campaign if the leader of one of the main parties were to declare quite candidly that he was an atheist. Or what would happen if, for example, Prince William were to say that he doesn’t believe. Of course, that’d mean that the next king after Jug Ears would be Harry “Spliff” Windsor. I know that surveys in the States show that atheists seem to be held in the same regard as child molesters, and when I once ran across the website of the American Atheists’ Society (or Association; I forget which), I was astounded that there was such a thing.

However, I think the Vicar of Dribbley manages to shoot himself nicely in the foot when he says

“You also have to bear in mind how society has changed. It is more difficult to go to church now than it was. Communities are displaced, people work longer hours – it’s harder to fit it in. It doesn’t alter the fact that the Church of England will get 1 million people in church every Sunday, which is larger than any other gathering in the country.”

This sounds like desperation; and as for 1 million people, that’s a sixtieth of the population. Not exactly an encouraging statistic, vicar. You also have to remember that most surveys show that congregations tend to be composed of the elderly. The church may dwindle away to nothingness because successive generations have even fewer and fewer believers.

Another question that comes to mind is how many younger believers are merely Sunday Christians. That is, they’re thoroughly secular during the week and go to church on Sundays. Of course, that means they’re having to fit into a predominantly secular society in which the role of the church is, in reality, a minor one.

The Right Rev Bishop Dunn, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, added: “The perception that faith is a cause of division can often be because faith is misused for other uses and other agendas.”

I’m inclined to view the excuse that faith is misused as a bunch of nonsense, because the people who are misusing faith (i.e., Muslims – ‘cos that’s who the bishop means) believe that their actions are divinely inspired. From a third-party perspective, Islam is misused; but the beardies don’t think so. Leo III was divinely inspired and the Crusades probably did more damage to relations between Europe and the Middle East than any other event in their history. In other words, Bishop Dunn is merely thinking of the here and now, not the there and then.

I wonder what sort of results such a poll would get in other Western European countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed that, once again, Britain has more in common with its European neighbours than it does with the Fundamentalist People’s Republic of Ameristan, Ayatollah Dubya presiding.

Boethius and the Art of Translation

Ye therefore whereunto, er, what was I talking about?

When I was having lunch with Todd yesterday, I found that he’d never heard of Boethius. I was surprised. He was surprised. What? You haven’t heard of Boethius either?

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus (c. 480 – 524) Roman statesman and philosopher during the rule of the Ostrogothic king, Theodoric. He was both a senator and a consul, and initially enjoyed Theodoric’s favour. He was the victim of slander and accused of treason, being imprisoned and tortured before being brutally executed. His best-known work is de consolatione philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy) which was written while he was in prison. The Consolation was extremely popular in mediaeval Europe. It was translated into Old English by King Alfred; Middle English by Chaucer; and 16th century English by Queen Elizabeth I.
It’s not clear whether Boethius was a Christian or not. If Boethius was a Christian, then it seems strange that the Consolation is not an overtly and thoroughly Christian tract in which the transitory nature of the mortal world is compared unfavourably with the eternal bliss of Heaven. Perhaps Boethius was a philosopher first and a Christian second and, therefore, considered his plight from a philosophical perspective. Christianity might supply an answer, but Boethius may have found that it was too easy and therefore intellectually dissatisfying. Whatever Boethius actually was, he was canonised in 1883.
(For further information, see the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Boethius, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, especially for a critique of The Consolation of Philosophy. Berkeley has a scanned reproduction of a 15th century Catalan translation of The Consolation.)

My reason for mentioning Boethius is not really about The Consolation itself, but rather about translations. One of the good things about the Internet is that it functions as a repository of material to which I lack direct access because I’m here; my books are there. Unless some kind person altruistically posts an original translation in contemporary English of some work in another language, I have to do with translations that are no longer in copyright, which usually means translations made in the 19th or early 20th centuries.

It’s well-known that 18th century verse translations were really paraphrases which diverged to varying degrees from their source. In the 19th century, the theory of translation appears to have been that a translation should be accurate, but that it should convey the tone and tenor of the original by imitating what was regarded as the appropriate style in English. Thus epic was made to sound like the English of the King James Bible. Without studying the whole field of 19th and early 20th century translations, it seems that pseudo-archaism was the order of the day.

More recent translations continue the tradition of accuracy while acknowledging that there is much which gets lost in the process. Modern translators also share something in common with authors rather than being a mere converters of words. A translation of a great work of literature should, apparently, be a great work of literature itself as the translator attempts to convey the flavour of the original in another language without resorting to the tiresome stylistic tricks of a century or more ago.

The translation of The Consolation of Philosophy which is most widely available online is that by W.V. Cooper published in 1902 by J.M. Dent. Cooper decided that a mock archaic style was best suited to his translation, but would this have been how Boethius’ contemporaries read the work? I assume that Boethius would have been well-schooled in Classical Latin style, but by his time that would no doubt have sounded rather archaic and probably rather stilted. But Cooper’s translation is only pseudo-archaic at best, being larded with the usual ye this and therefrom that, which belong to the school of 19th century pseudo-archaism and not to some imitation of, say, 17th century English. Cooper’s translation is, to modern readers, irritating, and can only be described as “quaint” in a sarcastic tone of voice.

Harry Potter and the Title of the Last Volume

Let the frenzy of speculation begin.

The title of the last Harry Potter book has been announced: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It seems that Rowling has come up with yet another title containing unexpected content. Is a Deathly Hallow a place or person? Remember that “hallow” as a noun (obsolete) is derived from Old English halga “saint” and is related to hālig “holy” (from which “holy” descends). I’m wondering whether the meaning of “hallow” might’ve been extended to the sense of “spirit”.

Highlights of the last volume? Hermione and Ron end up having a drunken shag, and she gets pregnant.

“How could you, Hermione?” said Professor McGonagall looking disappointed.
“We’re British teenagers,” said Hermione shrugging her shoulders. “You have to admit that if all the sex education we get here is to watch a couple of hippogryphs at it, then it’s small wonder that most of the girls in the 6th form are pregnant.”
“They’re pregnant?! Ah well,” said Professor McGonagall philosophically, “I suppose being a lesbian has its advantages in this case.”

Harry has his final encounter with Voldemort.

Suddenly, out of the gloom, Voldemort appeared, but did not appear to have seen Harry. In his hand was a leash and at the other end was Snape in a posing pouch.
“Professor?” Harry blurted out in surprise.
“Hello, Harry,” hissed Voldemort. “So now you know the truth. Now you know why you never fancied Hermione, and why you rejected Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Because, Potter,” sneered Snape, “being a wizard is gay.”
“But what about my parents? What about Ron and Hermione?”
“There are always a few heteros in every generation,” said Voldemort. “Did you never wonder why none of the teachers at Hogwarts were married?”
“Crippling shyness?” Harry glanced at Snape again.
“That’s right, Harry. Snape was always my bitch.”

So Father Christmas isn’t real.

But the Tooth Fairy is, isn’t she?

There’s a story in today’s Guardian about a junior school being forced to apologise after one of its teachers revealed the awful truth – Father Christmas is mythological and letters to him are dealt with by the Royal Mail.

Dear Father Christmas,
I’d like a Playstation 3 for Christmas.
Thank you.
Dear Revolting Child,
Playstation 3 is currently out of stock. Please accept this Hello Kitty pencil case with a broken zip with our insincere apologies.
Yours &c.
Father Christmas (Ms.)

Are children these days so feeble-minded that when they finally find out that the man in the red suit doesn’t actually exist they’re traumatised by the discovery? I think Father Christmas added to the magic, but I can’t recall any time when I was not aware of his non-existence. However, Sally Jones, 32, said that she “[didn’t] think any harm had been done.” In fact, her view seems to be that Father Christmas is a convenient scapegoat for the non-delivery of certain items.

“I wanted a Playstation 3!”
“Well, dear, Father Christmas was convicted of petty larceny that time.”

Ipswich murders

Former Special Constable arrested.
According to The Guardian, the police have arrested a former special constable, Tom Stephens, on suspicion of the murders of the five women in Ipswich. It was said early on that the perpetrator appeared to be aware of police procedures because he was minimising the availability of forensic evidence by leaving them naked; and I wonder whether the police quickly narrowed down the range of suspects since Stephens seems to have been known among prostitutes working in Ipswich.

A second suspect.
I’ve just been over to The Guardian (c. 11.30pm) and found a new report saying that a second suspect has been arrested. He’s 48, but we’re not being given a name. Odd. The article also said that it wasn’t being disclosed where the suspects are being held. I guess it might be to stop irate mobs turning up.

You should know better at your age

Bit early for a mid-life crisis, isn’t it?
I logged out of Hotmail before and was scanning through the MSN UK page when I spotted a link which made no sense to me. I clicked on it out of curiosity and found that it was a story about the oddly named Lib Dem MP, Lembit Opik, 41, who was formerly involved with the ITV weather presenter, Sian Lloyd, 48, but is now going out with one Gabriela Irimia, 24, of Cheeky Girls, who are twin sisters from Romania. Their claim to fame seems to be being skinny and wearing not so much shorts as the suggestion of shorts. (Not unlike many Chinese girls.)
I wonder how they hooked up.
Lembit: Hi, Lembit Opik.
Gabriela: What do you do?
Lembit: I’m a politician.
Gabriela: You’re a dork. And you’re old.
Lembit: I’m a very important politician. I’ve been on the telly.
Gabriela: You are sexy. You can touch my bum.
Wait till she finds out just where the Lib Dems are in the pecking order.
Lembit does seem to be having his mid-life crisis a little early. I don’t see this ending happily. What’s the boy doing swapping an intelligent woman for a mantelpiece trophy? I also note that it’d appear our nigh-on incorporeal Romanians are somewhat passé. The Cheeky Girls site above seems to have no information later than mid 2003.

The Guardian catches up – again.
(19.12.06) Now The Guardian gets in on the act with a report of their first date – to the Science Muesum no less. Lembit knows how to get a girl all hot and tingly. "Hey, babe, check out my particle accelerator!" You can stop touching my bum now, sad boy. Just wait till he starts going on about fiscal policy and Lib Dem plans to reform the education system. Gabriela’s going to be all over him. (In the other sense.)

Life on the mainland.
I went over to the mainland yesterday to buy some DVDs. The shop’s still there, but the former entrance is now some sort of clothes or shoe shop (can’t have too many of those in China) and the new (well, old/secondary) entrance is next to that. I got a copy of the 7th series of The West Wing and I see the 6th series of The Sopranos was out, although I couldn’t remember whether I had it or not. The last series I saw ended with Adriana being whacked for talking to the Feds. ("No! No!" she screamed. "Don’t make me one of the stars of Joey!")
One of the films I found – yet another in a succession of recent films I’ve never heard of – was The Libertine starring Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who lived fast, died young, and allegedly repented on his deathbed (quite possibly of the dying young part). Actually, I think he died at the same age as Marilyn Monroe (who would’ve been 80 this year). Just to annoy the hysterical reactionaries, here’s a link to the infamous Satire on Charles II.
I should also buy the complete Seinfeld. Don’t worry; I’ll fast forward through the parts with Michael Richards as my protest against his racist antics.
I then went round to the Fuzhou Education Bookshop, which I’d seen on the way to Jintai Lu, to check it out, but it had nothing worth mentioning. Seemed to be little more than another sub-branch of the Xinhua chain.

Never mind the little people

I have a car!

I was woken at about 8am by His Majesty of the 4WD departing. As you can see from the picture below, there are some tight corners to negotiate if you want to get out of Green Bamboo Mansions. Instead of being bloody, bold, and resolute, our man wimpers out at the corner. Either his 4WD is underpowered, or he drives it like a pregnant, anaemic school girl with weak wrists. I rather think the latter. I watched him a few days ago and wondered whether his right-hand rear wheel was going to slip into the Slough of Despair. It was the screeching of his wheels at that point which roused me this morning.

Then he sounded his horn so that Gate Woman would know that his Imperious Majesty wanted her to open the gates. The response was in­suf­ficiently swift so he sounded he horn again and again and again. By this time I’m muttering, “Why don’t you open the gates yourself?”, when I hear Row yell out the window, “Shut up!” ^_^

He could’ve opened the gates himself. As you can see from the picture, if you can open a door, these should be easy enough. But that would’ve meant taking the initiative. Damn’d counter-revolutionary practice! Worse still, it would’ve been a gross social faux pas. His Majesty of the 4WD does not stoop to opening gates. That’s why God invented Gate Woman.

Mr Bamboo is sorely tempted to write 注意文明 (zhùyì wénmíng) “Be civil” in large characters on the wall next to the door to his balcony if only because he doesn’t know the grammatical Chinese for “Open the gate yourself, you lazy bastard!”