Quotulatiousness

April 26, 2015

QotD: Teaching French in school

Filed under: Britain,Europe,Humour,Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Lest, in spite of all, the British schoolboy should obtain, even from the like of Ahn, some glimmering of French, the British educational method further handicaps him by bestowing upon him the assistance of, what is termed in the prospectus, “A native gentleman.” This native French gentleman, who, by-the-by, is generally a Belgian, is no doubt a most worthy person, and can, it is true, understand and speak his own language with tolerable fluency. There his qualifications cease. Invariably he is a man with a quite remarkable inability to teach anybody anything. Indeed, he would seem to be chosen not so much as an instructor as an amuser of youth. He is always a comic figure. No Frenchman of a dignified appearance would be engaged for any English school. If he possess by nature a few harmless peculiarities, calculated to cause merriment, so much the more is he esteemed by his employers. The class naturally regards him as an animated joke. The two to four hours a week that are deliberately wasted on this ancient farce, are looked forward to by the boys as a merry interlude in an otherwise monotonous existence. And then, when the proud parent takes his son and heir to Dieppe merely to discover that the lad does not know enough to call a cab, he abuses not the system, but its innocent victim.

I confine my remarks to French, because that is the only language we attempt to teach our youth. An English boy who could speak German would be looked down upon as unpatriotic. Why we waste time in teaching even French according to this method I have never been able to understand. A perfect unacquaintance with a language is respectable. But putting aside comic journalists and lady novelists, for whom it is a business necessity, this smattering of French which we are so proud to possess only serves to render us ridiculous.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.

April 19, 2015

QotD: Learning languages

Filed under: Britain,Europe,Humour,Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… they have a way of teaching languages in Germany that is not our way, and the consequence is that when the German youth or maiden leaves the gymnasium or high school at fifteen, “it” (as in Germany one conveniently may say) can understand and speak the tongue it has been learning. In England we have a method that for obtaining the least possible result at the greatest possible expenditure of time and money is perhaps unequalled. An English boy who has been through a good middle-class school in England can talk to a Frenchman, slowly and with difficulty, about female gardeners and aunts; conversation which, to a man possessed perhaps of neither, is liable to pall. Possibly, if he be a bright exception, he may be able to tell the time, or make a few guarded observations concerning the weather. No doubt he could repeat a goodly number of irregular verbs by heart; only, as a matter of fact, few foreigners care to listen to their own irregular verbs, recited by young Englishmen. Likewise he might be able to remember a choice selection of grotesquely involved French idioms, such as no modern Frenchman has ever heard or understands when he does hear.

The explanation is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has learnt French from an Ahn’s First-Course. The history of this famous work is remarkable and instructive. The book was originally written for a joke, by a witty Frenchman who had resided for some years in England. He intended it as a satire upon the conversational powers of British society. From this point of view it was distinctly good. He submitted it to a London publishing firm. The manager was a shrewd man. He read the book through. Then he sent for the author.

“This book of yours,” said he to the author, “is very clever. I have laughed over it myself till the tears came.”

“I am delighted to hear you say so,” replied the pleased Frenchman. “I tried to be truthful without being unnecessarily offensive.”

“It is most amusing,” concurred the manager; “and yet published as a harmless joke, I feel it would fail.”

The author’s face fell.

“Its humour,” proceeded the manager, “would be denounced as forced and extravagant. It would amuse the thoughtful and intelligent, but from a business point of view that portion of the public are never worth considering. But I have an idea,” continued the manager. He glanced round the room to be sure they were alone, and leaning forward sunk his voice to a whisper. “My notion is to publish it as a serious work for the use of schools!”

The author stared, speechless.

“I know the English schoolman,” said the manager; “this book will appeal to him. It will exactly fit in with his method. Nothing sillier, nothing more useless for the purpose will he ever discover. He will smack his lips over the book, as a puppy licks up blacking.”

The author, sacrificing art to greed, consented. They altered the title and added a vocabulary, but left the book otherwise as it was.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.

April 14, 2015

QotD: Blaming France for causing the First World War

Filed under: Europe,History,Military,Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To begin with, any attempt to shift blame for World War I from Germany onto the French-Russian alliance has to deal with Germany’s responsibility for creating that alliance in the first place. If France wanted Alsace and Lorraine back, it was only because it had lost the territories in a war engineered by Germany. Karl Marx, in a moment of rare foresight, predicted that Germany’s decision to annex Alsace and Lorraine would end “by forcing France into the arms of Russia.” Similarly, it was Germany’s decision not to renew its alliance with Russia that led to increasing enmity between Russia and Austria, and to the creation of an anti-German alliance between Russia and France. And the German decision to rebuff British overtures in favor of a naval arms race (not to mention provoking the Agadir Crisis) pushed yet another potential ally into the enemy camp. Germany’s ability to lose friends and alienate people would continue during World War I itself, with such brilliant diplomatic maneuvers as the Zimmerman telegraph, unrestricted submarine warfare, and the decision to let Lenin back into Russia.

But leave all that aside. It’s certainly true that France wanted to get Alsace and Lorraine back from Germany, and that France knew the only hope it had of beating Germany in a war was with Russia as an ally. But this had been true for decades prior to 1914. Had France and Russian really wanted to start a war with the central powers, they had plenty of opportunities. But they didn’t. Clark himself concedes this, noting that “at no point did the French or the Russian strategists involved plan to launch a war of aggression against the central powers.”

What’s more, far from being an instigator, France was disengaged during much of the July Crisis. Attention in France during July 1914 was focused on a particularly lurid murder trial involving the wife of a prominent politician. During the key period of the Austrian ultimatum, both the French president and prime minister were stuck on a boat returning from St. Petersburg. And when leaders did finally arrive in Paris, their moves were not aggressive. The French prime minister cabled Russia on July 30 that it “should not immediately proceed to any measure which might offer Germany a pretext for a total or partial mobilization of her forces” and the French army itself was pulled back six miles from the German frontier.

Josiah Neeley, “Historical Revisionism Update: Yes, Germany (Mostly) Started World War I”, The Federalist, 2014-01-06

March 19, 2015

Getting to know the “the cocaine of Chardonnay”

Filed under: Europe,Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Wine Folly, Morgan Harris talks about the original home of Chardonnay:

For winemakers, white Burgundy may just be the Helen of Troy of Chardonnay because nearly everyone who’s ever made Chardonnay has looked towards white Burgundy as the golden standard. All in all, white Burgundy is just Chardonnay, but the region is also the origin place of the variety, which is by the way, the world’s most planted white grape. In Burgundy, the combination of climate, land and tradition produce a wine that is coveted by many and never precisely replicated anywhere else.

Once you’re hooked on white Burgundy, there’s no going back. White Burgundy is the crack cocaine of Chardonnay. Sommeliers and retailers who sell white Burgundy sound like drug dealers: “Just try some, you’ll love it…”

Now that you’ve had a proper introduction, let’s get started exploring the region and the wine. While people have dedicated their lives to understanding the region, anyone can be learn how buy and appreciate white Burgundy.

Broadly, white Burgundy can be found in four production areas within Burgundy. Each area has a different terroirs and characteristics and thus, different flavor profiles:

  1. Bourgogne Blanc ($$$): unoaked simple wines with mineral and apple notes
  2. Chablis ($$$$): unoaked wines that are zippy and lean with lime-like mineral flavors
  3. Mâconnais ($$$): usually unoaked wines with melon and starfruit notes
  4. Côte de Beaune ($$$$$): typically oak-aged wines with rich fleshy melon and starfruit flavors and undertones of truffle and hazelnut

($) $5–10; ($$) $10–15; ($$$) $15–20; ($$$$) $20–30; ($$$$$) $30+;

NOTE: There are a few wines from outlier regions within Burgundy not included in this guide.

Click to see full-sized map

Click to see full-sized map

I’m a fan of oaked chardonnay … I don’t particularly like unoaked chardonnay, but add that hit of oak and it’s a wonderful experience. The best white Burgundy I’ve ever had was a Chassagne-Montrachet, but I rarely risk buying French wines these days due to the sometimes chancy relationship between the price at the LCBO and the actual quality of the wine.

March 13, 2015

The Battle of Neuve-Chapelle I THE GREAT WAR Week 33

Filed under: Britain,Europe,History,Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 12 Mar 2015

The British Expeditionary Forces are starting their first major offensive since the beginning of trench warfare. Near Neuve-Chapelle they attack the Germans and try to “bite and hold” their position. This battle will be the blueprints for future British offensives. On the Balkan, Serbia is facing a different enemy: Typhus. The catastrophic sanitary conditions enable the disease to spread across the whole country.

March 8, 2015

Playing With Fire – The First Flame Thrower I THE GREAT WAR Week 32

Filed under: Europe,History,Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Mar 2015

Modern war already took place in the sky and under water but the waring nations also wanted to gain an advantage in the trenches. So this week, we see the first use of another merciless invention on the battlefield: the flame thrower. The battles on the Western Front, in the Carpathian’s and near the Dardanelles continued nonetheless.

February 27, 2015

Prelude to Gallipoli – Naval Bombardement of the Dardanelles I THE GREAT WAR Week 31

Filed under: Europe,History,Middle East,Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 26 Feb 2015

To break up the stalemate and get a decisive advantage, France and Great Britain open up yet another theatre of war in the Dardanelles. The plan is to seize the strait and open eventually open up the Bosporus in order to ship supplies to the Eastern and Balkan front. And so begins the naval bombardment of ottoman forts as prelude to a big offensive which will we know to today as Gallipoli.

February 23, 2015

QotD: Why did people join the First Crusade?

Filed under: Europe,History,Middle East,Quotations,Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Q: Why did people join the First Crusade?

A: The most common answer in Crusade scholarship — and you can tell I’m not going to accept it — is that the goal was penance and the opportunity to have sins forgiven. That’s not quite enough for me, because whenever we’re able to get as close as we can to knowing medieval warriors it looks like they’re not nearly as concerned with sin and penance and forgiveness as we would expect them to be. The king of France at the time of the Crusade was actually excommunicated because he was in a bigamist marriage. The pope excommunicated him, and he didn’t seem to care.

What I tried to emphasize in my book was that there was a real sense of prophetic mission among a lot of people who answered this call for Crusade. You can’t have a normal war for Jerusalem. That seems to me as true today as it would have been in the 11th century. Jerusalem, from the medieval Christian perspective, was both a city on earth and a city of heaven, and these two places were linked. The idea that the Jerusalem on earth was being dominated by an unbelieving, infidel — in their terminology “pagan” — group was unacceptable. The rhetoric that was associated with the people holding Jerusalem is pretty shocking: Christian men are being circumcised in baptismal fonts, and the blood is being collected! They’re yanking people’s innards out by their belly buttons! This is not normal talk. Hatreds and passions were stirred up. The heart of it, and why it was so successful, was that the call to Jerusalem was felt so strongly.

Virginia Postrel talking to Jay Rubenstein, “Why the Crusades Still Matter”, Bloomberg View, 2015-02-10.

February 18, 2015

A tour of the French ballistic missile submarine Le Redoutable

Filed under: Europe,Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Gerard Vanderleun posted a link to this set of photos of the retired French submarine Le Redoutable:

Fascinating and worthwhile for the blend of megadeath and French lifestyles: A tour of the ballistic missile submarine Redoutable (photos) the largest submarine you can tour without security clearance, and one of the only ballistic missile subs fully accessible to the general public. The French nuclear submarine Redoutable spent the ’70s and ’80s at sea and was home to 135 sailors for months at a time. The missile boat-turned-museum resides in the French seaside town of Cherbourg after extensive refurbishment.

It's pretty much impossible to get a full shot of the sub, given where it rests. Let's just say, it's big.

It’s pretty much impossible to get a full shot of the sub, given where it rests. Let’s just say, it’s big.

Man, this looks like a nuclear power station control room. Oh, wait, it is. Along with all the other moving and dangerous parts of the "drivetrain."

Man, this looks like a nuclear power station control room.
Oh, wait, it is. Along with all the other moving and dangerous parts of the “drivetrain.”

The 16 missile hatches, with the lovely Cherbourg harbor in the background.

The 16 missile hatches, with the lovely Cherbourg harbor in the background.

February 15, 2015

They call it “Great” Britain, after all

Filed under: Britain,Europe,Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Great-Britain

H/T to Think Defence for the image.

Let’s make no mistake, Great Britain is great, the clue is in the name after all.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is obviously uneducated, or French.

And not only that …

Without Great Britain the world would be a poorer place in every regard.

Lets just remind ourselves why…

We gave the world democracy, common law, the Bailey Bridge, tanks, gravity, the worlds most common second language, Led Zeppelin, fair play, queuing, the backhoe loader, metal bridges, modern economics, the industrial revolution and Hollywood villains.

The Beatles, Morris Dancing, penicillin, HP sauce, Top Gear, the World Wide Web (your welcome), One Direction, Carry On and Simon Cowell.

Tea drinking, chicken tikka masala, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, battered Mars Bars, the BBC, the mini (car, roundabout and skirt), the Spice Girls, Darwin, football, Marmite, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, ping pong, pubs, tea, sharp suits, Spitfires and the fact there are homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals in the armed forces and no one gives two shits.

With our friends and allies stood against the Nazis, invented the railway, sarcasm, MRI scanners, the screw propellor and a proper breakfast, been on the right side of the Napoleonic, First, Second and Cold War and gave the world steam power, the Mexeflote, Wallace and Gromit, roast beef dinners, the Dyson, Doctor Who, television, telephones, text messaging, GMT, electric motors, lawn movers, spotted dick, sewage systems, the thermos flask, the jet engine, carbon fibre, the flushing toilet and polyester (just for the RAF), pencils, radar and the Bank of France (ha ha ha).

January 30, 2015

All Or Nothing – Winter Offensive In The Carpathians I THE GREAT WAR Week 27

Filed under: Britain,History,Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 29 Jan 2015

Konrad von Hötzendorf has to prevent the Russian army from entering the Hungarian plains. So, he starts a huge offensive in the Carpathian Mountains — in mid winter. He also wants to demonstrate his power to Italy and Romania who are considering entering the war for the Entente. Meanwhile, in the Northern Sea the first Battle of Dogger Bank takes place which leads to the sinking of the German ship SMS Blücher.

January 23, 2015

Zeppelins Over England – New Inventions For The Modern War I THE GREAT WAR Week 26

Filed under: Europe,History,Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 22 Jan 2015

For a decisive advantage on the Western Front, the military commanders of both sides are trying to use technological advances. And so this week, German Zeppelins are flying their first air raids on English towns. Winston Churchill is outlining his ideas for what would later become the tank. Meanwhile at the Western Front, the soldier Adolf Hitler is thinking about how this war is going to continue.

January 20, 2015

Recap: The First Six Months I THE GREAT WAR

Filed under: Europe,History,Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 19 Jan 2015

World War 1 broke out in summer 1914, a little over 100 years ago. Our channel is following the historic events week by week. For everyone who recently joined this channel: this recap is specially for you! Catch up with the last six months, hence the first six months of the war. Between the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Battle of the Marne and the Christmas Truce, hundreds of thousands of soldiers had to die. This is modern war.

January 19, 2015

Jewish life in Europe

Filed under: Europe,Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Back in 2012, Mark Steyn wrote about the plight of individual Jews in Europe, as the various national governments seemed unable to prevent violent attacks on Jewish businesses, schools, synagogues and individual Jews. He’s reposted the original column, as it’s even more relevant today than it was then:

If the flow of information is really controlled by Jews, as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright assured his students at the Chicago Theological Seminary a year or two back, you’d think they’d be a little better at making their media minions aware of one of the bleakest stories of the early 21st century: the extinguishing of what’s left of Jewish life in Europe. It would seem to me that the first reaction, upon hearing of a Jewish school shooting, would be to put it in the context of the other targeted schools, synagogues, community centers, and cemeteries. And yet liberal American Jews seem barely aware of this grim roll call. Even if you put to one side the public school in Denmark that says it can no longer take Jewish children because of the security situation, and the five children of the chief rabbi of Amsterdam who’ve decided to emigrate, and the Swedish Jews fleeing the most famously tolerant nation in Europe because of its pervasive anti-Semitism; even if you put all that to the side and consider only the situation in France… No, wait, forget the Villiers-le-Bel schoolgirl brutally beaten by a gang jeering, “Jews must die”; and the Paris disc-jockey who had his throat slit, his eyes gouged out, and his face ripped off by a neighbor who crowed, “I have killed my Jew”; and the young Frenchman tortured to death over three weeks, while his family listened via phone to his howls of agony as his captors chanted from the Koran… No, put all that to one side, too, and consider only the city of Toulouse. In recent years, in this one city, a synagogue has been firebombed, another set alight when two burning cars were driven into it, a third burgled and “Dirty Jews” scrawled on the ark housing the Torah, a kosher butcher’s strafed with gunfire, a Jewish sports association attacked with Molotov cocktails…

Here’s Toulouse rabbi Jonathan Guez speaking to the Jewish news agency JTA in 2009: “Guez said Jews would now be ‘more discreet’ about displaying their religion publicly and careful about avoiding troubled neighborhoods. … The synagogue will be heavily secured with cameras and patrol units for the first time.”

This is what it means to be a Jew living in one of the most beautiful parts of France in the 21st century.

Well, you say, why are those Jewish kids going to a Jewish school? Why don’t they go to the regular French school like normal French kids? Because, as the education ministry’s admirably straightforward 2004 Obin Report explained, “En France les enfants juifs — et ils sont les seuls dans ce cas — ne peuvent plus de nos jours être scolarisés dans n’importe quel établissement“: “In France, Jewish children, uniquely, cannot nowadays be provided with an education at any institution.” At some schools, they’re separated from the rest of the class. At others, only the principal is informed of their Jewishness, and he assures parents he will be discreet and vigilant. But, as the report’s authors note, “le patronyme des élèves ne le permet pas toujours“: “The pupil’s surname does not always allow” for such “discretion.”

January 16, 2015

Onwards! – The Western Front Of Early 1915 – THE GREAT WAR Week 25

Filed under: History,Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 15 Jan 2015

French general Joseph Joffre is stuck in a dilemma: the Champagne offensive has been going on for weeks now — without any expected results. Should he dig in and tolerate the enemy on French soil? Or should his soldiers continue to run up against the impenetrable German defences? Meanwhile, South African troops attack German South West Africa and in London, Winston Churchill’s plan for an invasion of the Dardanelles has been approved.

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