Not Saussure

June 12, 2007

President Bush’s missing watch

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 9:11 pm

Now here’s an oddity. According to Reuters,

Reports that U.S. President George W. Bush had his wristwatch stolen while shaking hands with Albanians on his weekend visit are false, Albanian police and the U.S. embassy said on Tuesday.”The story is untrue and the president did not lose his watch,” a spokesman for the embassy in Tirana said.

Some newspapers, television stations and websites carried reports that Bush’s watch vanished on Sunday when he was greeted by ecstatic crowds in Fushe Kruje, outside the capital Tirana.

“It is not true,” said Albania’s police director, Ahmet Prenci.

Photographs showed Bush, surrounded by five bodyguards, putting his hands behind his back so one of the bodyguards could remove his watch.

Well, Boing Boing provides a link to a Dutch TV station whose video certainly appears to show a watch on President Bush’s wrist when his arm disappears into a crowd of Albanian well-wishers and no watch thereon when his arm reappears a few seconds later — take a look at the video here, and see what you think (the article’s in Dutch, but the video speaks for itself).

I can see it’s a bit embarrassing for everyone that his watch was pinched — rather spoils the initial impression given by his rapturous reception, and doesn’t really reflect well on the Albanians, tending, as it does, to confirm various Mail and Express stereotypes.

However, I’m not sure that the alternative explanation — that President Bush took one look at the crowd and hissed to his security men, ‘For God’s sake, take this watch off my wrist or the buggers’ll steal it, as sure as eggs is eggs’ — sounds much better.

Update: This seems to be rather contentious, and the plot appears to be thickening. Bruce Schneier has a link to a clip, shot from a different angle, which appears — though this disputed by several people commenting at Mr Schneier’s blog — to show President Bush removing his watch himself, presumably because people have been trying to steal it from his wrist. But other links in Mr Schneier’s blog have accounts of how the President’s watch apparently fell to the ground and was then retrieved by security staff.

I’d be convinced by the film of the President removing his watch himself if weren’t for the initial stories having him putting his hands behind his back so his bodyguards could remove the watch for him — seems a convoluted way of doing it, and you’d have thought that, ‘No, the President took his own watch off’ would have been a far better thing to have said, particularly if it were true. Unless it’s somehow against professional etiquette for White House Press Officers to tell the whole, unvarnished truth in any circumstances, no matter how trivial, since that could set a dangerous precedent.

Anyway, I’m not up to arguing about such matters, so if anyone does wish to explain what they think happened, please do it at Bruce Schneier’s place rather than here.

Meanwhile, James Higham quite sensible demands to know,

Are we going to stand for this? Are we just going to sit back while thieves and conjurers hijack the airwaves and hold us all to ransome [Arthur]? I say we act:


Second Update: The BBC has an interview (plus video) with a street magician explaining how magicians (and pickpockets) can snaffle your watch without you noticing — keeping it on a vecro strap is apparently a recommended precaution, because of the noise it makes when he tries to undo the strap, though it probably isn’t much use when you’re dealing with an adulatory mob of yelling Albanians, as happens to me all the time.


April 13, 2007

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 5:45 pm

The coincidence of this to my note about kits for Victorian vampire-hunters wasn’t planned; let me explain how it came about.

I was led from a piece at Chicken Yoghurt about truly underground and oppositional music from places like Iran, Belarus and Turkey (no point in asking me about this rock music the young people seem to like so much, but Justin seems to rate the pieces he discusses) to the Freemuse website, which hosts much of it. Justin describes this as

a dispiritingly thorough record of just how much trouble just picking up a guitar can get you into in a depressingly large part of the world. We might think we live in an Orwellian nightmare in the UK but I imagine returning from a fortnight in, say, Turkmenistan, would be like coming home to one of Caligula’s parties.

Skimming down their ‘latest news’ section, I saw stories with the sort of headlines one might expect:

Switzerland? I thought,

Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

And now they’re producing satanic Eurovision songs? Well, it seems that

At first an evangelical group asked Swiss Television and DJ Bobo to withdraw or re-write the Swiss entry song to the Eurovision Song Contest because the lyrics may encourage suicidal tendencies or occult practices. Then one Christian political party handed in a 49,000-signature petition asking that the song be withdrawnChristian fundamentalists want Switzerland’s entry song to the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Vampires Are Alive’, to be banned because of its allegedly satanic content.

Eidgenössisch-Demokratische Union (the Federal Democratic Union) in Schwitzerland handed in a 49,082-signature petition to the Swiss government on 27 March 2007 condemning DJ Bobo’s entry song for the Eurovision Song Contest. The song was said to be an affront to people’s religious convictions.

Well, it’s certainly an affront to something and, indeed, a demonstration of why some people might come to regret picking up a guitar; as the article explains,

According to Swissinfo, a number of Swiss-German radio stations are refusing to play ‘Vampires Are Alive’ – not because of the religious proclamations but simply because they think it is “rubbish”. Yet the song entered the Swiss charts at number three on 19 March 2007.

Vampires are supposed to be all sorts of things — sinister, sexy, tragic… but cheesy? Lordi have got a lot to answer for, is all I can say; perhaps someone should explain to DJ Bobo and the Swiss that the costumes and horror theme aren’t all that it takes.
The Count told the unfortunate Jonathan Harker

We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin game them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, aye, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the werewolves themselves had come…. Ah, young sir, the Szekelys, and the Dracula as their heart’s blood, their brains, and their swords, can boast a record that mushroom growths like the Hapsburgs and the Romanoffs can never reach. The warlike days are over. Blood is too precious a thing in these days of dishonourable peace, and the glories of the great races are as a tale that is told.

If I were Swiss, I’d certainly be investing in anti-vampire kits, for fear of what he’ll do to avenge this insult.

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April 11, 2007

A cruel practical joke

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 9:45 pm

I’m not normally a fan of practical jokes, but this, from what I take to be a Japanese equivalent of Beadle’s About, is so OTT and has such a surreal nightmarish quality — you can just imagine ‘This cannot possibly be happening while I’m awake’ going through the victims’ minds — I was, somewhat guiltily, impressed.

It’s in Japanese, but this should not present any problems of understanding other than how on earth they persuaded their victims not to sue them and, instead, got them to agree to it being shown on TV.

Via The Art of the Prank

April 10, 2007

An incredibly important announcement

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 1:45 pm

I have been asked to bring to people’s attention an ‘earth-shatteringly important blog,’ With One Bound. Its creator is apparently

English, incredibly handsome, extraordinarily intelligent and disarmingly charming. He lives in France. And that is all you need to know for now.

He’s also got an engagingly direct way of asking people for links and wants people to know about a ‘fabulously important article’ he wrote some time ago concerning the inability of his fellow ex-pats to learn French.

I’ve never seen any reason why this should be a problem, myself; I was taught at school that if even the bloody Frogs can manage to do something then there’s no excuse for a Brit not making a decent stab at it, and that this applies to speaking French as much as to anything else.

March 25, 2007

Divided by a common language

Filed under: Bloody Yanks, Foreigners, Opinion polls — notsaussure @ 1:18 pm

While I don’t, for the moment, want to discuss the substantive point about the EU, I think Tim Worstall rather misses the point here. A propos a remark by Will Hutton that ‘The varied languages hide just how very similar we all are’, Tim writes,

Given that we share roughly the same language and have even more in common (things like the basics of the legal system and so on) with those in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the US and so on, this argument means that we should means that they are even less foreigners than the French or Swedes are.

I take this in a rather different way; to my mind, the fact that Americans — I’m not talking about Commonwealth countries here — speak English with a funny accent tends to make us forget they’re foreigners, and thus likely to be dissimilar to us in many ways — while we’re constantly reminded by the fact they speak a different language that the French, Swedes and whoever else have failed to draw first prize in life’s lottery.

If, for example, a survey of young men’s attitudes to women’s dress and modesty — a self-selecting survey, to be sure,and one conducted among a particular, though very sizeable, religious group — were made in Britain or any other EU country, and elicited replies such as (more…)

March 7, 2007

They do things differently in America

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 11:03 pm

Via Andrew Sullivan

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A Southern Baptist leader said Tuesday that evangelical voters might tolerate a divorced presidential candidate, but they have deep doubts about GOP hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who has been married three times.Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Associated Press that evangelicals believe the former New York City mayor showed a lack of character during his divorce from his second wife, television personality Donna Hanover.

“I mean, this is divorce on steroids,” Land said. “To publicly humiliate your wife in that way, and your children. That’s rough. I think that’s going to be an awfully hard sell, even if he weren’t pro-choice and pro-gun control.”

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More fun from the Home Office

Filed under: Foreigners, Law, Spin — notsaussure @ 7:25 pm

Via Mr Eugenides, who really is in top form at the moment, the strange news that John Reid has announced that

People visiting Britain on visas are to be sent text messages warning them that their “time is running out” as part of John Reid’s get-tough policy towards illegal immigrants.

Mr E spots a little flaw in this plan.

Dr Reid is clearly in a pugnacious sort of mood, apparently because he’s under impression an illegal immigrant has pinched his giro (don’t ask me… he reckons they ‘come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits,’ thus clearly differentiating himself from crude demagogues who say they come here to steal our jobs) also apparently proposes to review

how the driver licensing system can be used to identify and combat illegal immigration. This will include identifying those illegal immigrants applying for licences fraudulently, will be denied a licence and targeted for enforcement action

This puzzles me. It’s already illegal, of course, to use a fake passport to apply for a driving licence, and I can’t see how, other than by seconding pretty specialised immigration department staff to the DVLA, you’re going to spot more fake passports (or ones that have been tampered with) than you do at the moment; unless it’s a very crude forgery, even the Immigration Service staff have to submit documents to a special department who can recognise forged overseas passports or well-faked UK entry permission stamps. And, short of requiring everyone who applies for a driving licence to attend a face-to-face interview, I don’t quite see how you’ll catch people who just submits someone else’s documentation (in the event they can find someone who’s entitled to a licence but doesn’t want one and who’s prepared to go along with the fraud).

Furthermore, such measures will, I fear, do little to catch the chap who simply doesn’t bother with a driving licence in the first place. And, since he doesn’t mind staying here illegally (and stealing Dr Reid’s benefits) I wouldn’t put it past him.

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March 6, 2007

And not before time

Filed under: Blogroll, Foreigners — notsaussure @ 8:57 pm

I am delighted to learn, courtesy of The Thunderdragon, that this blog’s influence in political and diplomatic circles has yet again been demonstrated.

The Chinese have apparently now — rather belatedly — banned Mr Eugenides as part of their campaign to ‘purify the internet environment’.  The unfortunate Chinese will have to make do with Cllr Terry Kelly, who remains unbanned at the time of writing, and long may he remain so.

I hope that, though, that before this hole in the Great Firewall was plugged, the Chinese had a chance to read Mr E’s post yesterday on the Smoking ban, which is a cracker.

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The intrepid vampire hunters

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 4:37 pm

It’s a common enough joke about some politicians that, when they finally go, their successors will lay in crosses, garlic and sharpened stakes to make sure they don’t return.   Normally it’s used figuratively, of their retirement or resignation (and, after the ministerial careers of Mssrs Mandelson and Blunkett, one can quite see the point), and even the Recess Monkey claims, in semi-mitigation for his little mistake yesterday, that

I was more keen than is polite – that’s how i got spoofed – No I don’t care, I spent an entire two minutes trying to work out how to write the “news” without mentioning the word “stake”.

Clearly, though, they take these things more literally in the former Yugoslavia; El Reg reports:

Serbian vampire hunters have acted to prevent the very remote possibility that former dictator Slobodan Milosevic might stage a come-back – by driving a three-foot stake through his heart.

According to Ananova, the politically-motivated Van Helsings, led by Miroslav Milosevic (no relation), gave themselves up to cops after attacking the deceased despot in his grave in the eastern town of Pozarevac. Milosevic popped his clogs back in 2006, while on trial in a UN war crimes tribunal for various unsavoury activities connected with the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

Miroslav Milosevic said “he and his fellow vampire hunters acted to stop the former dictator returning from the dead to haunt the country”. His team explained that the wooden stake had been “driven into the ground and through the late president’s heart”.

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March 4, 2007

Was it something I said?

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 2:22 am

Apparently this blog is blocked in China, though I’m not sure if it’s me personally or they don’t like.

Via Matt M, whose Insomniac is also blocked. I’m not sure there’s rhyme or reason to this, since they’ve blocked Devil’s Kitchen, Rachel and Queen Minx, but not Mr Eugenides (at least not of ten minutes ago). Cllr Kelly remains similarly unblocked. If I were Mr Eugenides, I’d sue.

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