Based on a true story: W.’s performance

30 09 2008

In Talking Politics, University of Chicago anthropological linguist Michael Silverstein compares the presidential communication styles of Abraham Lincoln and George Walker Bush and finds that both styles are squarely within their sociopolitical Zeitgeist. Abe’s “enduring style of substance” (p26), he argues, effectively embodied the voice of “American civic morality” (p30) while Dubya talks like a man who “has moved up from the Texas Rangers and Harken Oil to head the country’s largest diversified corporation, the United States government” (p68).

Amusing as Dubyaspeak may be, this style “communicates concern […] but not expertise; command, as it were, but not control” (p72). It is exactly this indexical property which made and makes Dubya’s political rhetoric work. Indeed, as Dubya has “successfully projected, and successfully continues to project, determination, “really trying”” (p71), he has come to iconicize the earnest CEO who, when given lemons, makes lemonades, as opposed to the bourgeois, can’t-keep-your-pants-on Clinton know-it-all. In such a context, language “reformed for a People Magazine politics” (p115) works and provides enough ammunition to make a promising satire out. Oliver Stone’s W. debuts October 17 stateside and October 30 in Europe.

Swiss precision: Oval Concepts stem cap

30 09 2008

“You can’t beat the Swiss for efficiency and precision.” Or ingenuity for that matter. Oval Concepts has designed a stem cap which ends all clipon issues. Simply bolt a so-called Stem Cap Clip-On System (SCCS) clamp on any Oval Concepts RBT stem and install the clip-on extension of your choice. Dan Empfield has the lowdown.

In defense of fundamental science

29 09 2008

In his inaugural lecture (.pdf, in Dutch), University of Leiden microvariationist Marc Van Oostendorp talks about how linguistics, or many other forms of fundamental research, is not socially relevant. He lists a number of basic answers.

1. The outcomes of fundamental research are difficult to predict (cf. mathematics => computer science => Facebook => B4-4);
2. Acquiring knowledge is a fundamentally human trait and science is a highly (if not the highest) developed form of cultural expression;
3. Researching seemingly irrelevant subjects bears directly on a demand that many hold to be the first step in making sense of this life of ours: know thyself.

Dr. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov by dbking

Dr. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov by dbking

BeNeLux authorities nationalize Fortis

28 09 2008

**UPDATE (11:53): Fortis issues press release,
shares continue slump, Dexia shares plummet**

De Tijd and The Standaard are reporting that the national governments of Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg are set to become 49% minority owners of Fortis banking divisions in the BeNeLux region. The rescue operation will cost the taxpayer 11.2 billion euros. Fortis will sell off ABN AMRO shares to the highest bidder.

Fortis CEO leaks emergency scenarios

28 09 2008

**UPDATE (11:30pm): Belgium, Luxemburg and
The Netherlands to nationalize Fortis (De Tijd)**

In a story that’s getting juicier by the minute, this picture was taken as newly appointed Fortis CEO Filip Dierckx entered the Wetstraat 16 – the Flemish equivalent of 10 Downing Street – for emergency talks about the future of troubled Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance group Fortis. The picture outlines the emergency scenarios currently on the table. An official announcement is expected to be made later tonight.

According to the document, Fortis will sell its nail-in-the-coffin ABN Amro assets, which it had acquired for 24 billion euros, to ING for 10 billion euros. In addition, Belgian and Luxemburgian authorities are to invest 7 billion euros in Fortis. Dutch authorities may also invest. And last but not least, Maurice Lippens is to resign from the Fortis Board of Directors.

Sources used in this blog post: De Standaard, De Tijd

Oh so funky cole medina

28 09 2008

Amid the gloom of the financial crisis, here’s an upbeat remix of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb aka The Bee Gees. Disco chic. Transgender cool. 70s outlandish. All that and then some. Cue LA-based DJ Cole Medina. This ain’t no jive talking, it’s an off-the-hook groovy re-edit of Love you inside out.

The Bee Gees – Love you inside out (The Pinches Re-edit) (unreleased)

Download on Cole Medina’s MySpace while you can. While you’re at it, check out Sunshine Jones’ re-edit. Remix culture. Gotta love it.

“Here today. Where tomorrow?” Fortis takeover imminent reports De Standaard

27 09 2008

**UPDATE (5:20pm): Nationalization a likely option
for Fortis (De Tijd, De Standaard)**

**UPDATE (4:29pm): Future of fortis
to be decided by Sunday 10pm (De Tijd)**

Breaking news: according to a report in De Standaard (in Dutch), Fortis, the Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance group, will be taken over by either BNP Paribas or ING. Negotiations are expected to resume Sunday morning. Fortis is the brainchild of Count Maurice Lippens, the éminence grise of Belgian industry, and the most prominent member of the BEL-20 index. Whatever agreement is reached by Monday morning will send shock waves through the markets. A Fortis bank run is the last thing the Belgian government needs right now. And I’m going out on a limb here, but Fortis may want to shelve its latest advertising campaign.

The 2009 Wilier Cunego Cento 1

27 09 2008

My previous Wilier post received 1,077 hits. Let’s see if a 2009 model can top that number. Introducing the 2009 Wilier Cento 1 (Damiano Cunego edition). The “world’s most resilient” carbon monocoque design comes with an integrated seat post and drop-outs, an oversized bottom bracket, asymmetric rear arms and a predisposition towards grand larceny. MSRP €8,499. The frameset alone costs a diarrhea-inducing €3,599.

Desperately seeking confidence: Fortis

26 09 2008

ResearchBlogging.orgIn response to continuing market rumors about its solvency, Belgian bank Fortis has issued a remarkable – and poorly written – press release (.pdf, reprinted verbatim in De Tijd) underlining “the solid position of the bank” and confirming speculation that the bank is preparing to put a “wider range of activities of assets” up for sale.

**UPDATE: Fortis nominates new CEO**

The tone of the press release is remarkably affirmative and confident. Usually, economic press releases make a sport out of hedging truth claims (see McLaren-Hankin 2008, Smart 2006) in an attempt to limit company liability if the unexpected happens (i.e.  if the company’s expectations do not materialize). Not here though: phrases like “customer moves have remained limited”, “concrete interest of potential buyers is indicated” and “Preparations are made to fully integrate the ABN AMRO Private Banking activities” are clearly targeted at “boost[ing] predictions in the face of apparent contradiction or doubt on the part of others” (Donohue 2006: 204).

Alas, investors were not convinced: Fortis again bled red ink as shares prices continued to fall. Here’s my prediction: this storm will not be weathered anytime soon. Expect more Fortis drama.

  • Donohue, James P. (2006). How to support a one-handed economist: The role of modalisation in economic forecasting. English for Specific Purposes 25 (2): 200-216. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2005.02.009
  • Y. McLaren-Hankin (2008). `We expect to report on significant progress in our product pipeline in the coming year’: hedging forward-looking statements in corporate press releases Discourse Studies, 10 (5), 635-654 DOI: 10.1177/1461445608094216
  • Smart, Graham (2006). Writing the Economy: Activity, Genre, and Technology in the World of Banking. London: Equinox Publishing.

I’ll have the MSc special. With fries.

25 09 2008

The 1999 Bologna Declaration reformed European higher education in at least two fundamental ways: the introduction of Bachelor-Master curricula and the promotion of teacher and student mobility. Flanders responded by implementing a two-tier system of higher education with professional and academic degree programs governed by 5 awarding bodies, i.e. inter-institutional associations between universities and university colleges.

At present, there are five such associations in Flanders (.pdf, p19):
• the K.U. Leuven Association
• the Ghent University Association
• the Antwerp University Association
• Brussels University Association
• the Universiteit – Hogescholen Limburg Association.

All associations are secular, bar Leuven, which honors a Roman Catholic denomination. The K.U. Leuven Association is also the largest, with 13 institutions of higher learning. As of 2012, the K.U. Leuven Association will adopt a ‘multicampus’ model (in Dutch); spread over 13 cities, no fewer than 21 campuses will be able to award KU Leuven university degrees. Send me an email if you want one, too.

In a response to an opinion piece (both in Dutch), K.U. Leuven Association Dean André Oosterlinck argues that this move will benefit the research quality (and thus output) of university colleges. In the words of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard: nigga, please. University college personnel is understaffed and overworked. When are they supposed to conduct research? Apply for research grants? Publish?