Sunday 26 August 2007


I shall be without internet connection until 5th september so I am leaving you with a picture of Belle beholding the Celtic Sea at Trevalga, North Cornwall.

Monday 20 August 2007

Life's a b....

I have verbatim reproduced an article by Michael M.Grynbaum which appeared in the New York Times on 7th August under the title It’s a Female Dog, or Worse. Or Endearing. And Illegal? I find it extremely funny, hilarious even and interesting.
The New York City Council, which drew national headlines when it passed a symbolic citywide ban earlier this year on the use of the so-called n-word, has turned its linguistic (and legislative) lance toward a different slur: bitch.
”The term is hateful and deeply sexist”, said Councilwoman Darlene Mealy of Brooklyn, who has introduced a measure against the word, saying it creates “a paradigm of shame and indignity” for all women.But conversations over the last week indicate that the “b-word” (as it is referred to in the legislation) enjoys a surprisingly strong currency — and even some defenders — among many New Yorkers. And Ms. Mealy admitted that the city’s political ruling class can be guilty of its use. As she circulated her proposal, she said, “even council members are saying that they use it to their wives.”
The measure, which 19 of the 51 council members have signed onto, was prompted in part by the frequent use of the word in hip-hop music. Ten rappers were cited in the legislation, along with an excerpt from an 1811 dictionary that defined the word as “A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman.”
While the bill also bans the slang word “ho,” the b-word appears to have acquired more shades of meaning among various groups, ranging from a term of camaraderie to, in a gerund form, an expression of emphatic approval. Ms. Mealy acknowledged that the measure was unenforceable, but she argued that it would carry symbolic power against the pejorative uses of the word. Even so, a number of New Yorkers said they were taken aback by the idea of prohibiting a term that they not only use, but do so with relish and affection.
“Half my conversation would be gone,” said Michael Musto, the Village Voice columnist, whom a reporter encountered on his bicycle on Sunday night on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Christopher Street. Mr. Musto, widely known for his coverage of celebrity gossip, dismissed the idea as absurd.,“On the downtown club scene,” he said, munching on an apple, the two terms are often used as terms of endearment. “We divest any negative implication from the word and toss it around with love.”.Darris James, 31, an architect from Brooklyn who was outside the Duplex, a piano bar in the West Village, on Sunday night was similarly opposed. “Hell, if I can’t say bitch, I wouldn’t be able to call half my friends.”
They may not have been the kinds of reaction that Ms. Mealy, a Detroit-born former transit worker serving her first term, was expecting. “They buried the n-word, but what about the other words that really affect women, such as ‘b,’ and ‘ho’? That’s a vile attack on our womanhood,” Ms. Mealy said in a telephone interview. “In listening to my other colleagues, that they say that to their wives or their friends, we have gotten really complacent with it.”
The resolution, introduced on July 25, was first reported by The Daily News. It is being considered by the Council’s Civil Rights Committee and is expected to be discussed next month.Many of those interviewed for this article acknowledged that the b-word could be quite vicious — but insisted that context was everything..“I think it’s a description that is used insouciantly in the fashion industry,” said Hamish Bowles, the European editor at large of Vogue, as he ordered a sushi special at the Condé Nast cafeteria last week. “It would only be used in the fashion world with a sense of high irony and camp.”Mr. Bowles, in salmon seersucker and a purple polo, appeared amused by the Council measure. “It’s very ‘Paris Is Burning,’ isn’t it?” he asked, referring to the film that captured the 1980s drag queen scene in New York.
The b-word has been used to refer to female dogs since around 1000 A.D., according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces the term’s derogatory application to women to the 15th century; the entry notes that the term is “not now in decent use.”But there is much evidence that the word — for better or worse — is part of the accepted vernacular of the city. The cover of this week’s New York magazine features the word, and syndicated episodes of “Sex and the City,” the chronicle of high-heeled Manhattan singledom, include it, though some obscenities were bleeped for its run on family-friendly TBS. A feminist journal with the word as its title is widely available in bookstores here, displayed in the front rung at Borders at the Time Warner Center.
Robin Lakoff, a Brooklyn-born linguist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, said that she despised the word, but that enforcing linguistic change through authority “almost never works,” echoing comments from some New Yorkers who believed a ban would only serve to heighten the word’s power..“If what the City Council wants to do is increase civility, it would have to be able to contextualize it,” said Ms. Lakoff, who studies language and gender. “You forbid the uses that drive people apart, but encourage the ones that drive people together. Which is not easy.”
Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr., the Queens Democrat who successfully sponsored a symbolic moratorium on the n-word that was adopted Feb. 28, said he supported Ms. Mealy’s measure, but acknowledged that the term had many uses..“We want to make sure the context that it’s used is not a negative one,” Mr. Comrie said yesterday. Back at the West Village piano bar on Sunday evening, Poppi Kramer had just finished up her cabaret set. She scoffed at the proposal. “I’m a stand-up comic. You may as well just say to me, don’t even use the word ‘the.’ ”.But at least one person with a legitimate reason to use the word saw some merit in cutting down on its use.
“We’d be grandfathered in, I would think,” said David Frei, who has been a host of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York since 1990. The word is a formal canine label that appears on the competition’s official materials. But Mr. Frei said he worried about the word’s impact on some viewers, especially younger ones..

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Take a closer look

Winchester Whisperer in her comment in the previous post wondered if the shepherds would have worn smocks. In this picture taken in 1876 at the First International sheepdog trials at Alexandra Palace in London, you can see that the attire was not very different from 1973 or today for that matter. The hats have been replaced by flat hats/caps it would seem.
The picture is a bit small. Click on it to enlarge it slightly.

Monday 13 August 2007

Sheepdog trials

It is almost certain that there were sheepdogtrials held in Britain as long as there have been agricultural shows, but the "earliest recorded" sheepdog trials, and the ones considered most important because they spawned the first glimmering of an idea of an International Sheep Dog Society, were the trials held on October 9, 1873 in Bala, Wales. Arising out of these trials and the ones that followed was the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), formed in 1906, its purpose to "improve the breed of the collie with a view to the better management of stock". Sometime after World War I, incidentally, the term "Border Collie" was coined to distinguish it from the show collie.
The ISDS is still the only registry of working sheepdogs in Britain and Ireland. Each year it puts on four prestigious National Sheep Dog Trials (the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh), which determine the four teams that will compete in the International Sheep Dog Trials. Only the winners of the National trials for each country, the crème de la crème in dogs and handlers can take part in the International Sheep Dog Trials. People flock from all over Britain and indeed the world to see this trial.
The picture was taken on the occasion of the Centenary Trial in 1973 organised by the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) at Bala in Wales to commemorate the "first recorded sheepdog trials in Britain", held on the very same spot 100 years before.

Saturday 11 August 2007

Great honour

Flowerpotdays awarded me the Inspirational Blogger Award. I thank her very much for this great honour.
It is my turn to nominate five others. I read them every day without fail and they are:
Sicily Scene/Welshcake Limoncello
Nobody Important/jmb
Winchester Whisperer
Violets Vintage

Thursday 9 August 2007

Der Untergang

A discovery of hundreds of Hitler’s gramophone records in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence officer who died earlier this summer sheds new light on the Nazi leader’s musical tastes. His favourite records and most scratched from frequent playing were: Beethoven Piano Sonatas Opus 78 and 90, Wagner’s Ouverture to the Flying Dutchman, Mussorgsky Boris Godunov, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Mozart Piano Sonata n°8. It is astonishing to find Russian music in his collection. He dismissed Russians as “Untermenschen” and was contemptuous of their contribution to world culture. Most astonishing is the presence of Jewish performers. This is rather perverse. There he was listening to music performed by relatives and blood-brothers of the Jews whom he was daily sending to their deaths. The evidence that he was a music connoisseur does not make him a less hateful person. This brings me to the story of his beloved dog, Blondie, a German Shepherd. Shortly before her death, Traudl Junge, his private secretary revealed Hitler’s pride and affection for Blondie. Hitler bragged on the tricks she could perform and kept her by his side most of the time. She even slept in his bedroom in the Berlin bunker. Then, as the Russians closed in, Hitler fed Blondie cyanide. He killed her not to spare her from any of the ravages which might follow defeat, not to spare her from hunger or deprivation or disease. Rather, he had begun to suspect that the cyanide Himmler had supplied for his own suicide might be fake. So the Führer killed his dog to make sure that his supply of suicide tablets would work when the time came. Traudl Junge claims that Eva Braun was jealous of Blondie. She hated her and sometimes kicked her.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Let the dogs out!

France's national rail company announced yesterday it had taken several sleeper carriages out of service to deal with an infestation of bedbugs. "Some passengers told us they were bitten " an SNCF official announced, adding that the parasites had been found on a night train from Nice to Metz last week.
SNCF is obviously unaware that dogs can be trained to detect bedbugs as I reported in my post of 20th June. Here is the link should you wish to read it again:

Wednesday 1 August 2007

In memoriam Phil Drabble

While driving through Yorkshire in the 1970’s, a BBC producer noticed two men rounding up sheep with a dog. It gave him the idea that perhaps this activity could be brought to television. He approached the renowned country gentleman, Phil Drabble, telling him about his plans to devise a programme about sheepdog trials and suggested he should host the show. Drabble was not impressed. “I told him not to be so daft. I said the viewers would fall off their perches with boredom” and “It’s boring watching dogs chase stroppy sheep”. One Man and his Dog was launched as a series in 1976 and was exported to European countries and the United States. The urban audience was not initially convinced by the show. Some viewers were so astounded at the skill with which the sheep were commanded that they suspected the sheep of being clandestinely trained. The unlikely audience was soon won over. The programme appealed to many city dwellers’ idyllic conception of the countryside: a pastoral idyll of bright summer mornings and brisk walks across rural England with wellies, walking stick and dog. At its peak, it was watched by eight million BBC2 viewers and Phil Drabble became the face of this surprisingly popular show for 17 years. In the programme, three shepherds, each with their own sheepdog, would whistle and “come by” their way through the show. The dogs and the shepherds faced a series of obstacles, such as guiding sheep through a gate, into a ring and then into a pen. Drabble would provide the commentary, telling the viewers: “It’s going to be a close-run thing” or “The dog’s getting a little excited”. Although the programme lacked drama, it hit the right spot. It was set in beautiful rural surroundings and it was presented by the comfortable commanding Drabble who for many viewers was the quintessence of the rugged rustic, clad in Wellington boots, tweed jacket and cap. His background was very different from this image. He spent the first half of his life in a factory in West Bromwich. Drabble was appointed OBE in 1993 and died on 29th July aged 93.