These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 3, 2006.
Monday, 3 April 2006
Hands up if you know what this means. You don’t?
I found out only recently, and feel rather self-conscious about using it. I tried it on a traffic warden but got a dusty answer. He said I was being unduly sesquipedalian. Not in so many syllables, of course.
Here, thanks to Hugh Fitzgerald, is the definition of a polypragmon, from Archaic and Classical Greece edited by Michael Crawford and David Whitehead.
"a polypragmon -- whether an individual (as in Aristoph. Ach. 833) or a whole polis -- must always be active, interfering in the affairs of others, neither keeping quiet themselves nor allowing others to be quiet...Athenians....were temperamentally, polypragmones whose dynamic imperialism disrupted everyone else’s lives”
Polypragmones are to be found all over Blair’s Britain. This wretched Government is full of them, continually passing laws regulating every aspect of our lives. Not content with banning smoking just about everywhere except prisons, they are now, in Scotland, banning actors from portraying smokers. Soon they will ban all references to Churchill. Saving us from Fascism pales into insignificance beside his smoking and drinking.
Polypragmonic behaviour takes three main forms in the UK, which I will deal with in ascending order of unpleasantness.
The first is the think tank. A think tank may be defined, admittedly by Wikipedia, as:
a group of individuals dedicated to high-level synergistic research on a variety of subjects, usually in military laboratories, corporations, or other institutions. Usually this term refers specifically to organisations which support theorists and intellectuals who endeavour to produce analysis or policy recommendations.
Think tanks are not always bad. Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, deserves an honourable mention. But is it possible to look without suspicion on a think tank like Demos, which has described itself as a “greenhouse for new ideas”?
"Demos is the think tank for everyday democracy. We believe everyone should be able to make personal choices in their daily lives that contribute to the common good."
Its latest pamphlet, Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy: Why culture needs a democratic mandate, is rightly abused by Stephen Pollard in The Times. But you don’t even need to know what the pamphlet says to know that it is bound to be nonsense.
A think tank is not as bad as a quango. This may sound like a wild and dangerous Australian dog, but is in fact a dull and dangerous British committee, specifically a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation.
The UK government's definition of a quango is:
"A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm's length from Ministers."
There are hundreds, possibly thousands of quangos in the UK, which, according to a report by Dan Lewis, are "financed with billions of pounds of taxpayers' cash – (and) are useless or duplicate each other's efforts". The people who serve on these committees are not elected and many have much more power to influence government thinking and policy than democratically elected backbench MPs. A typical example is Investors in People. Just about every organisation that has an Investors in People award is inefficient to deal with and intolerable to work for.
My third example of polypragmonics – if that is the right word – is the bastard child of the other two: the initiative. Whenever an organisation, be it Government or business, comes up with a “new initiative” my heart sinks. “Initiative” here invariably means its exact opposite, namely a new set of stultifying rules, designed to curb initiative, individuality and creativity. Employee surveys, together with surveys on the surveys – was this survey helpful to you? Strongly agree/agree/neutral/disagree/strongly disagree – fall into this category, as they often lead to dismal directives on such matters as “abuse” of post-it stickers. (This happened, by the way.) The management consultancy industry is awash with initiatives, usually involving delivering innovative solutions or a new mission statement.
Finally, it must be said that the polypragmonic are a joyless bunch. You can’t even make jokes about them. How many polypragmones does it take to change a light bulb? See what I mean.
Posted on 04/03/2006 6:10 AM by Mary Jackson
Monday, 3 April 2006
Chocolates? No - Maltesers
I found this on Malta Today. It's not today, it's from last week but I liked it.
I have a lot of friends who are Maltese, or part Maltese. The stone age monuments of Tarxien and Hagar Qim are as old as Stonehenge, if not older, and equally as impressive as anything on Salisbury PLain, in my opinion.
The Carthaginians founded a colony and left temples and palaces which remains can still be seen. Where else can you see remnants of that particular ancient people?
The Island was visited by St Paul whe he was shipwrecked there while being taken to Rome to stand trial.
"The rough islanders treated uswith uncommon kindness: because it was cold and had started to rain, they lit a bonfire and made us all welcome" Acts 28:2
The island was under Arab control from 870 AD until 1090. The remaining Arabs were expelled in 1222. Their influence remains strong on the language, place names (Mdina the silent city) and the national costume. The presence of the Order of St John is well known, as is the beautiful Maltese Cross, it's eight points representing the beatitudes.
It's a beautiful island, one I am looking forward to visiting again. I better not leave it too long, they need me.
Government had been warned of the departure of major tour operators over ten months ago, but despite the timely warning, the Malta Tourism Authority is now desperately trying to clinch a deal with First Choice to avoid an exodus of tour operators from Malta who might follow suit.
On Monday an emergency meeting was held between the Malta Tourism Authority, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association and representatives of tour operator First Choice, which is seriously considering pulling out of the Maltese market....
Another major hotelier, Anglu Xuereb, said he has little problems in getting business people to Malta, but the situation as regards tourists brought by tour operators is very bad. “When it comes to mass tourism we compete with destinations like Tunisia whose labour costs are very low and where a number of hotels only open in summer.”......Added to that is a risk of Malta becoming a seasonal destination in which hotels open from April to October with staff being recruited on a seven-month basis. Currently hotels make up for the loss-making winter months by profits made during the summer. But since Malta is losing its competitive edge in summer, the situation could become unsustainable.....
According to Xuereb the way forward for tourism is to attract more high quality tourists because competing with destinations like Tunisia is virtually impossible. “When we compete for mass tourism we compete with countries like Tunisia where many hotels close in winter, employ students and rely on cheap labour. They have enough beaches.”
The major mistake according to Xuereb is that Malta lacks the facilities to accommodate these tourists. He also laments the lack of promotion of Malta’s history and culture. Xuereb argues that indirect promotion through documentaries, films and books on Malta’s heritage can be more effective than direct marketing.
“We just need more creativity to move forward. Just imagine the impact of a blockbuster film on the Great Siege of Malta,” Xuereb says, but it might take more than the magic of the Lord of the Rings, which made New Zealand a popular destination, to restore Malta’s fortunes.
Tunisia is only 80 miles south of Malta. Maltese beaches are beautiful small coves and bays, a treat for the discerning seaside lover, but not enough acres for wall to wall sunloungers. The great strengths are the 5000 years of history, and the art treasures of the interiors.
But I think Mr Xuereb has hit upon a brilliant idea with his blockbuster film of the Great Siege of Malta. This is the first siege of July-September 1565 when The Ottomans laid seige with 181 ships and 30,000 fighting men against a defence force of 600/700 Knights and 8,000/9,000 men. They were repulsed after a long summer of battles. This, and the battle of Lepanto 6 years later blocked Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean, which was a GOOD THING. There was a rather good, but low key film of the second siege of Malta in 1942, The Malta Story with Sir Alec Guiness.
But a decent telling of The Great Siege would be a welcome change to the likes of Kingdom of Heaven. And if I sound like an advert for the Maltese tourist board....I DON'T CARE ! Malta was our staunch ally in time of need. My friends still have family there. They are not happy about too much Libyan and North African influence.
Visit soon! And don't forget Gozo.
Posted on 04/03/2006 1:34 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Monday, 3 April 2006
A family of Welsh sheep - the new stars of al-Jazeera.
IT IS the Arabic broadcaster accused of being a mouthpiece for terrorists. But now al-Jazeera promises to bring harmony to the Middle East after signing a family of opera-singing Welsh sheep.
The wife of the Emir of Qatar, al-Jazeera’s founder, has fallen in love with The Baaas, a Welsh-language children’s series screened by S4C.
Criticised in the West for screening tapes of Osama bin Laden, al-Jazeera is softening its image with a new children’s channel, designed to educate and entertain the region’s young.
The new station is managed by Sheikha Mozah, the Emir’s wife. Its first stars will be The Baaas
, an extended family of mixed-breed sheep that rap and sing opera while promoting recycling and racial tolerance.
Al-Jazeera has bought all 52 episodes of The Baaas from S4C for immediate screening. They have been revoiced in Arabic and the scripts cleared after being checked for antiIslamic subtexts.
The Baaas met the approval of al-Jazeera because its depiction of an extended family, with older aunts and uncles part of the unit, reflects living arrangements in the Muslim world.
Clearly taken with Welsh-language children’s television, al-Jazeera has bought a second S4C show, Sali Mali, an animated series based on a series of books written in the 1960s by Mary Vaughan Jones.
The BBC animated character Fireman Sam will also be dubbed into Arabic for al-Jazeera’s children’s channel. Sheikha Mozah said: “I hope this channel is a bridge for communication between Arab children and children around the world.”
I don't know the Baas but I suspect a plot. Firemen Sam is also Welsh. But Station Office Steel, Sam and Elvis would never let a religious policeman stop them in their task.
My only, small, experience of Arabic television is of a Sabbath afternoon in a hotel room in Jerusalem which my husband and I spent TV channel hopping. The reception of Jordanian TV was quite good and so we watched The Chart Show, featuring Mr (or Meesta) Blobby, with Arabic subtitles.
Blobby, blobby, blobby. The Baas can only be an improvement.
The Baaas. The Pontypandy Fire Crew.
Posted on 04/03/2006 4:55 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax