Dance the Varati

Duplov, November 23 – The Magat Party (“Justice”) of Jonasz Omlen is projected to win the general elections of Orbaijan by a landslide majority. With approximately 80 percent of the votes counted at noon today, Magat is predicted to occupy 54 of the 99 seats in the national assembly.

International observers have reported many small irregularities at the poll booths. As part of his platform Omlen had threatened to outlaw the popular Varati dance if his party would come to power.

When you read this you cannot help but think that this Omlen guy may be a shady character. It is not that simple.

I have lived in a small town removed a three hours drive from Duplov. The Varati is a staple there, and you cannot imagine it ever going away. As far as folk dances go it is simple enough. Paired men and paired women, and all the hand waving and toe tapping that constitute folk dances around the world.

It has one thing that sets it apart, and that is its fierce competitive aspect. You can win or lose a Varati, and winning a dance is considered an honour. People dance to become champions of the family, the dormitory, the neighbourhood or the region, and most Orbaijani enter that ever ongoing competition zealously.

It takes strength and agility to win a Varati, and since being a champion is so important, the partners don’t hesitate to help each other lose by knocking the other over, making them trip or simply even hitting them. Yes, the Varati is often more like a fight than a dance, even though every Orbaijani you talk to vehemently denies so and stresses its aesthetic and social qualities. It is the one dance in the world that wounds most participants, and it is not hard to see why Magat would want to see it outlawed.

But I think there is another reason.

One of the unwritten rules of the Varati, as a sport, is that the winner takes care of any injuries the loser may have gotten. It is brutal dance, and broken legs or any other disabling injuries are not an exception. It would thus only be fair that an activity that ostensibly is only there to while away the time not lead to disabilities.

The men often send over their wives or daughters to take care of the loser with healthy broths and massages, and honour prescribes that these women take their healing job serious. They often stay nights in a row at the loser’s house.

The last ten years or so, many Orbaijni have been dancing the Varati to lose.

Orbaijan’s traditional social fabric has begun to disintegrate, to be replaced by something as yet undetermined. The Varati is killing marriages and friendships. And I think that is the problem Omlen recognizes and tries to tackle.

Garbage collectors strike 2010

Properly hung parliament

Without an empire to boast about, over the past fifty years Britain seems to have devolved into an impressively large collection of pee and fart jokes against a rustic backdrop. Now don’t get me wrong, I like that sort of thing, but as soon as people start explaining why the UK’s parliament isn’t just well endowed in an ordinary way, but is properly hung, you will have to excuse me if I start to giggle.

(Man-giggle, mind you. Whatever that means. Because real men don’t care.)

The spoils of 2010

Yesterday Queen’s Day. Grunt.

Comics:

  • Tangy & Laverdure, De verdwenen DC-8
  • De Blauwbloezen, De roos van Bantry

Books for the scanner:

  • Herman en Dorothea, Wolfgang von Goethe
  • De doorluchte vatenspoelster, Cervantes
  • Over toneel, Frans Mijnssen

Books for the Branko:

  • Momo, Michael Ende
  • Prodwitt’s Guide to Writing
  • Fotografie, Frans Naeff
  • Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
  • Paddeltje, de scheepsjongen van Michiel de Ruyter, Joh. H. Been
  • Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett
  • Meneer Foppe in zijn blootje, Wim de Bie
  • Een tafel vol vlinders, Tim Krabbé
  • A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
  • Kramer Versus Kramer, Avery Corman
  • Maigret en het lijk aan de kerkdeur, Georges Simenon
  • Twee verhalen van Yury Kazakov

Baarlo

Yesterday I took a long train ride to the South to visit relatives.

On my way back I walked through the village of Baarlo. One of its four (!) castles is Castle d’Erp which was for sale in 1972 for 1 guilder. I know this because at the time, my parents were considering buying it. While the (obviously symbolic) price was low, the snag was that necessary roof repairs were estimated to cost over a million guilders (somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 US dollar at the time, I guess). Since my parents did not have that kind of cash lying around, they tried to move other families to buy it with them, a scheme that ultimately failed. The castle was then bought by the municipality.

Teeth

The dentist’s chair was occupied by a fairy. “You don’t see that often,” the dentist said. “Any special kind of fairy?” He rather suspected something.

“Mmmmm,” the fairy said. She found it hard to articulate with a metal hook and a blood vacuum in her mouth.

“Spit,” the dentist said.

The fairy spat the neatest stream you ever saw into the small basin.

“Excellent set of teeth,” the dentist said after she had got up, “but I refuse to believe in tooth fairies.”

The fairy said nothing, but in reply stuck a hand in her apron. A fist came out, and, held in the air, started to release a steady trickle of teeth. The trickle became a stream, the stream a torrent.

“My my,” the dentist said.

“Oh boy.”

The teeth kept coming. At first they were just many, then you could hardly see the linoleum any more, and before you knew it you were standing ankle deep in them. There must have been millions of teeth! The dentist started to get nervous.

“That is quite enough,” he said.

And then: “Whoa, stop!”

But the fairy did not respond, and suddenly the teeth reached his waist. The dentist tried to wade to the door but slipped on something and fell into the sea of teeth, and almost drowned.

This is what his assistant saw when she entered the room, an old man lying in the dust, gasping for air.

Iceland’s revenge

It appears Iceland have gone full circle now that the ash cloud has penetrated the banking system. That is to say I have already heard reports about how people claim not to be able to pay their bills because of Eyjafjallajökull.

From what I understand in days of yore North Americans would blame El Niño for everything, as attested by Plume Latraverse:

Little Fuzzy to get ‘reboot’

H. Piper Beam’s science fiction novel Little Fuzzy has been ‘rebooted’ by John Scalzi (see here and here). Scalzi is still shopping for a publisher for Fuzzy Nation, as his novel is called. It is not entirely clear what the difference is between a reboot and a re-imagination.

I read Little Fuzzy a couple of years ago and wasn’t much impressed. The novel does seem to be a favourite for a lot of science fiction fans. Its story revolves largely about an arcane legal point, namely “When does a species qualify as sapient enough to not have its planet colonized?”

For me this news is interesting because it shows the sort of creativity that we could see a lot more of if current copyright laws weren’t so insanely long lasting and far reaching. Piper Beam committed suicide in 1964, and never got around to renewing copyrights on a number of his works, including the original Little Fuzzy novel.

Although Scalzi did not have to do so, he still asked permission to publish his book from ‘the Piper estate’ (presumable publisher Ace). Tim Wu once discussed reasons one might have for such a strategy. Scalzi himself says: “Being able to say «no, there are no possible legal land mines around this novel» is worth being able to say to an interested publisher.”

See also at Teleread:

Runway

One of the greatest words in the English language is ‘runaway.’ Because I always read it as ‘runway.’ And it always makes sort of sense that way, even though at the same time I also always sense a slight disturbance in the linguistic force. Because the word ‘runaway’ is always used by the sort of people who would come up with colourful ‘runway’ analogies to mask whatever colourful writing flaws they need masked.

And then realisation sinks in: run-a-way. And suddenly the world is normal again. (Wor-l-d, not wor-d.)

Rules that have been basic tenets of society for centuries

So there I was at the 24-hour grocery story getting whatever sketchy garbage it is that I eat, and only one checkout was open. So there was kind of a line, and as I’m on deck to pay for my stuff I notice there is this woman just pleading with the cashier. She is trying to get a refund for something, it is late, and she is desperate, but she is heroically polite about it. And the cashier is just giving her nothing, just turned away mumbling some bullshit quasi-excuse about how she can’t, how she has to serve the people in line first.

When I read this comic last week, at first I merely thought Winston Rowntree was back on the ball after a run of weaker (while sappy) strips. This one was good.

But when I came back to read the comments to this really rather simple set-up (a cashier, a woman trying to return a product, and the next shopper in line), I realized that this strip is not merely good, Rowntree has hit the ball out of the park.

Go brave his wall of text! Highly recommended!