Quite A “Sane” Ending

Having recorded it on Thursday evening (when it was shown here in Britain), last night I finally watched the series finale of Mad Men.

Screen capture of IMDB.
Screen capture of IMDB.

I had been studiously avoiding “spoilers” online – something not easy to do when it seemed half of America was tweeting about it when it was broadcast there on May 17. Somehow, I managed it.

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The Duke

No, not *that* “Duke”. Sorry. I mean this one:

"Wellington," by Richard Holmes. [Photo by me, 2015.]
“Wellington,” by Richard Holmes. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I’ve had it since Christmas. I thought I’d finally give it a read. Uh, it’s not War and Remembrance, of course. (Thank God!)

To French followers, please do not be offended. I have already read lots about Napoleon. ;-)

Hope you’re having a good weekend, wherever you are in the world. :-)

UK General Election 2015: No One Saw This Coming

Well, if this holds this is a HUGE surprise. And it looks like it will. BBC News:

After weeks of chatter about an election too close to call, it wasn’t that close at all.

David Cameron will be continuing as our prime minister.

A few points that non-British might be interested to read. As you know, this is not a politics blog. However, given what it is about, naturally a bit of the political is inescapable now and then; and a general election result like this one would perhaps reasonably constitute a “now and then.”

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Lunchtime Impromptu Book Club

I’ve gotten into War and Remembrance a bit now. It being lunchtime (and after I’d spent much of the morning with “Mark” and “James” and struggling with two – that’s right, two – pages), as I eat my sandwich here at my desk I thought I’d share some initial thoughts on Herman Wouk’s incredible tome.

War and Remembrance, sitting on my desk. [Photo by me, 2015.]
War and Remembrance, sitting on my desk. [Photo by me, 2015.]

Allowing for its age (it’s worth always bearing in mind it’s 40 to 50 year old writing), it’s an excellent book overall so far. However, aspects of Remembrance are not anything I would want to emulate. Even more so than with The Winds of War, I’m seeing certain things style-wise in Remembrance that no novelist should really want even accidentally to replicate.

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Politically Speaking…. Let’s Not

As you may know, there will be a British general (meaning United Kingdom wide) election on May 7. We will shortly find out if Prime Minister David Cameron (who heads a coalition government led by his Conservatives allied with a smaller “centrist” party called the Liberal Democrats), will run the British government for another five years, or if there will be a new prime minister (who would most likely be Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband). Currently, polls seem to indicate that it’s “too close to call.”

View of the Wiltshire countryside, taken next to the Westbury White Horse last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2015]
View of the Wiltshire countryside, taken next to the Westbury White Horse last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2015]

I don’t vote here in the United Kingdom, although I hope to someday after I become a British citizen. However, as a taxpayer, I feel I’ve got a right at least to a modest opinion. But I’m not sharing that here, and you probably don’t want to hear it anyway.

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Benediction (Hot Natured Cover)

I know I’m breaking my no post before Tuesday, long weekend, rest pledge. But there’s a very good reason for that. This won’t take long, and I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to post this.

On Saturday night, we were directed to this on YouTube by our overnight guests. This wonderful singer – Amy Syed – is our friend’s niece. Her aunt (one of those guests) is massively proud of her…. and rightfully so. Enjoy!:

What one can sometimes learn unexpectedly, eh? This being social media, if you like her singing by all means do please share it.

I’m returning now to my UK Bank Holiday weekend. ;-)

Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Slurring Language

Black British screenwriter and director Amma Asante jumped in on CNN yesterday in defense of actor Benedict Cumberbatch. He’d used the word “colo(u)red” on a U.S. TV talk show. She feels the anger directed at him for saying it is missing the point:

Opinion: Cumberbatch misspoke — now let’s get over it and fight real prejudice

Two countries separated by a common language. To understand Cumberbatch’s employing it requires first remembering that he’s not an American. It is now a decidedly “old-fashioned” word here in Britain, yes; but it is not unheard of coming very occasionally from younger whites (like Cumberbatch), although it’s far more likely to be uttered by one born before “1945.”

An older person I know had straight-faced congratulated me this way upon Obama’s election in 2008: “You have a coloured president now. America’s so much more open-minded. It’s wonderful.” Based on the contexts, as I’ve heard it, it is used as synonymous with “black.” Although it could certainly be tossed out as a slur or a put down, that’s not how I’ve (mostly) heard it said.

But how we internalize others’ descriptions of our race or ethnic background is intensely personal of course. I am not black and I would not presume to speak for anyone else as to how they interpret any description leveled at themselves. That said, the language issue raised there led me to recall a vivid, personal experience.

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Bluntly Tweeting

Singer James Blunt has been in the “non-musical” news here in Britain in recent days. He got into a dust up with a Labour MP over that politician’s assertion that artists from elite educational backgrounds disproportionately dominate the U.K. entertainment scene. Many onlookers have sided with Blunt.

One of Blunt’s statements in his very public reply published in The Guardian:

….I got signed in America, where they don’t give a stuff about, or even understand what you mean by me and “my ilk”, you prejudiced wazzock, and I worked my arse off. What you teach is the politics of jealousy. Rather than celebrating success and figuring out how we can all exploit it further as the Americans do, you instead talk about how we can hobble that success and “level the playing field”….

The politician came back at him immediately and condescendingly….

Stop being so blooming precious….

Thus perhaps another difference been the U.S. and U.K. In America, I believe a politician would have instead at that point sought to “tone it down” and “make nice.” Advisors would have been nervously at him, warning, “Don’t alienate his fans! They’re potential voters!”

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Strolling By The Royal Crescent

I know, I know. [Hangs head contritely.] Sorry. I went all “academic” yesterday.

You may know I used to teach “Politics of Western Europe.” That guy on Fox just reminded me of a few students I’d known. Aside from the “French and perfect” finish, ;-) I realize now it was rather too heavy a post.

So today it’s back down off my soapbox. Hey, how about some Bath photos? Georgian English splendo(u)r.

First, a close up of a portion of one of those big, fold out walking maps:

Map of Royal Crescent corner area, Bath. [Photo of map by me, 2015.]
Map of Royal Crescent corner area, Bath. [Photo of map by me, 2015.]
I took these yesterday afternoon. We’re probably moving (yet again) in a few months, and were out apartment [flat] hunting:

Upper Church Street, next to the Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Upper Church Street, next to the Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Royal Crescent. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View of part of the Royal Crescent, looking over a corner of Royal Victoria Park. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View of part of the Royal Crescent, looking over a corner of Royal Victoria Park. [Photo by me, 2015.]
The Royal Crescent homes were built starting in 1767. They are probably the quintessential “symbol” of Bath. So I decided to go all “tourist” myself and grab a few photographs.

It’s a shame it wasn’t sunnier. It had been. But by the time I took those it was approaching 4 pm, and the sun was fading for the day.

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

No Hugging, Please, We’re French

It has become the hug cringed at around the world. The Lebanese news site Naharnet has a nice summation of what went, uh, wrong:

….The towering John Kerry was meters from Hollande, striding fast, when he first opened his arms.

In turn, the French leader stretched out his, clasping Kerry’s hands. Kerry pulled him into a brief hug to his right, at which time Hollande appeared to go back in for “la bise”. [The kisses to cheeks.]

Kerry caught up, accepted the kiss on his right cheek, before they clasped hands again, awkwardly placing their arms around each other as they walked side by side up the stairs into the Elysee Palace.

Half-hug, half-bise, it was a moving clash of cultures….

It’s a surprise Kerry didn’t realize Hollande would be baffled. But the Secretary of State had signaled beforehand that he was going to go all “American” in terms of sympathy and give Paris “a hug.” Yet the French president obviously didn’t get what Kerry meant, or didn’t think it would be demonstrated, umm, “literally,” and so was clearly unprepared for an American-style, “Come here, pal.”

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My feeling is former president (2007-2012) Nicolas Sarkozy, who reputedly has a solid sense of “Americanisms,” might have handled it better.

One can imagine the fun media and bloggers around the world might be having now had Ségolène Royal been standing there as president instead. Then again I don’t believe that had she been that Kerry would have tried to hug her that way. Kerry was doing an “American guy thing” with Hollande – and Hollande didn’t understand it.

Younger French of both sexes – especially those who’ve been to the U.S. for any substantive length of time beyond a vacation – are more attuned to Americans’ “curious” behaviors. But middle-aged and older French men on meeting even in emotional circumstances, such as offering condolences, as a rule don’t open by hugging each other like that. French men don’t do American-style “bromance.”

Compared to Americans, the French on the whole are simply far less into demonstrative displays of physical closeness between acquaintances, even friends. But they are not alone in that. Other Europeans, including the British (of course), are similar.

Still, it was a lighthearted moment after a week and a half of at times incredible ugliness and sadness. We all needed it. It provided a badly needed chuckle.

A Danish close friend of ours, and her English husband of two years, are coming for a stay-over visit with us tonight.

We’ve known her for ages. I get kisses to both cheeks, and she lets me hug her. She even hugs me back.

However, if I ever moved to hug him, he’d probably think I’d lost my mind. Or I was going all “American” on him. A firm handshake between us men is all that’s needed. ;-)

Have a good weekend, wherever you are in the world. :-)