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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Linguistic pet peeves 

Working in a multinational environment in which English is the pre-dominant working language, I have noticed how non-native speakers pick up mistakes from each other. Here are five very common ones, which annoy me every time I hear them, as they are so simple to avoid.

Think out of the box: This actually means the opposite of what (most) people want to say when they use this expression. If something comes in a box, it is all standard packaged, mass-produced, ready to be unpacked and used as it is. Plug-and-play. Out-of-the-box. So to think out of the box is in fact to think conventionally, standard, with no extras or individual input.

What you probably want people to do is to think outside the box! Meaning that you have the box, or probably many boxes, that objects and ideas and ways of thinking are already stowed into, categorised and labelled. And you want new input, original ideas. You want outside-the-box thinking.

Fewer/less: ‘Fewer’ is used for things that can be counted. ‘Less’ for things that cannot. Fewer working hours and less productivity. Fewer coins and less money. Fewer mistakes and less incorrectness. Or, actually, more correctness. Maybe that is the reason why people make the mistake — the word ‘more’ is the antonym both for ‘fewer’ and for ‘less’.

It is exactly the same principle as for ‘many’ and ‘much’, but for some reason much fewer people make that mistake. Many working hours, much productivity, many coins, much money, many mistakes, much correctness.

How it looks like: No, no, no! You can ask or tell how something or someone looks, or what something or someone looks like. But not how it looks like or what it looks. It simply not correct although everybody seems to say it and thus confirm each other in making this mistake.

Eventually: It seems that in all languages apart from English, this refers to something possible, not something definite. Thus a sort of ‘maybe’. But not in English. Here, it means ‘in the end’, and I would go as far as to say that the vast majority of my colleagues use it in the wrong sense. Every time my Director says ‘we will do that iffentually’ (he’s Dutch), I wonder if he means that we will definitely do whatever he is talking about at some point, or if he refers to the possibility of doing it.

A friend showed me recently how the Oxford Dictionary (as opposed to Merriam-Webster) does list the possibility of ‘eventually’ meaning ‘maybe’. In that case, I recommend using a different word as to avoid confusion. 

Encode: This is a frenchism. In French, it refers to writing a computer programme or simply entering (for example) data into a system. Work environments influenced by French native-speakers risk introducing this verb in English when they mean just that. In English, as in most languages, it refers to the opposite of ‘decode’, i.e. to convert something from coded language to uncoded language. To encode is thus to put something into code language. If you want a word for entering data, just use …well, ‘enter’.

If you recognise any of these common mistakes in English, I very much hope that you will state an excellent example by starting to make fewer mistakes, thinking outside the box to eventually show what correct English sounds like, so that there is no need for decoding.

Happy talking :)
©2015 Bjørn Clasen 


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Monday, 8 December 2014

Antabus i plasterform? 


Hvad de dog ikke finder på! En pakke med antidrukpatches!

Sprog er nu en herlig ting.

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Monday, 19 May 2014

Nature, Our Mother 

‘[N]ature is motherly, and [there is] no reason to improve or educate it, as it voluntarily gives everything [you] need.’
Carsten Jensen

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Selve skuespillet i centrum 

»På teatret kan og bør æstetikken kun blive et hjælpemiddel
og iscenesætteren den tjener,
der får et skuespil til at leve på scenen.«

Jens Kistrup, teateranmelder
Weekendavisen 24/11-0

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Monday, 20 January 2014

Onsdag, den 20. januar 2099 

I dag ville min oldefar, Christian, være blevet 226 år. Hvis han levede endnu, ville han hedder “Krajsjan”. Så sent som i 1998, for hundrede år siden, hed jeg Bjørn, nu hedder jeg “Pjen”.

Der var fest blandt de 120-140-årige i eftermiddags. Det er nemlig præcis 75 år siden (2014), at skolerne blev udført. Jajah, nu er der kun 19 dage tilbage til min 126-års fødselsdag. Hvis jeg bliver ved med at få hjernen udskiftet hvert 15. år, undgår jeg at blive senil. Jeg skal have den skiftet ud den 7. marts af professor Stylts robot, XXXMTV66.

De fleste af de 21.697.889.608 mennesker, som lever på jorden nu, regner med at få et evigt liv, da der kun er én ting, som man kan dø af, nemlig sygdommen antikata (man er gået væk fra de latinske betegnelser, og alle taler ét og samme sprog).

De sagde i dag i telebølgeavisen, at man havde vedtaget at droppe grænserne i hele verden. De sagde også, at man skulle tilat oprette et ferieparadis på ydre planet nr. 12 i solsystem 6, galakse 9.

(fra “Bjørns Samlede Værker, Bind V af Bjørn Clasen — © 1984-85 Bjørneforlaget)

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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Cher Monsieur Caccioppoli 

Cette carte a été faite à la main par des aveugles au Bangladesh. Ce sont des braves êtres humains qui, malgré des difficultés inimaginables pour nous, font un effort admirable pour survivre et cela même en gardant leur dignité.

La dignité, c’est exactement à quoi je m’attendais comme principe de base quand je vous ai confié de construire mon nouveau chez-moi il y a maintenant dix ans. J’ai alors fait l’expérience que cette attente n’a pas été honorée de votre part.

C’est donc avec cette carte que j’espère vous transmettre un message concernant le respect des personnes qui vous font confiance, et ceci en investissant beaucoup plus que leur modeste fortune. Mon espoir est de vous faire comprendre ce message.

J’espère aussi que votre foi, quelle qu’elle soit, vous pardonnera et vous donnera la force pour connaître la dignité et le respect, et les faire croître à un point qui vous permettra de développer la capacité d’ en montrer aux autres.

Et j’espère aussi que les montants importants que je vous ai versés, à part ma confiance de laquelle vous avez si grièvement abusée, vont au moins servir à financer des beaux cadeaux pour vos enfants, mais que vous leur apprenez aussi que les plus beaux cadeaux ne sont pas ceux qui coûtent de l’argent, et surtout pas de l’argent sale.

Les aveugles au Bangladesh qui ont mis tous leurs efforts à faire cette carte que je vous offre, eux le savent.


Pour une année de prospérité et de croissance personnelle.

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Friday, 29 November 2013

Looking for an answer… 


On the last day of the European HIV Testing Week, someone very dear to me who is also an amazing journalist and a remarkable human being, asked me to post this…

It is just another normal working day, trying to give a voice to those who have something to say about things and problems that bother humanity, or at least, my modest little surrounding humanity

I go towards the Infectious Clinic, the only clinic that can perform HIV tests The only place where people may find out whether they carry the deadly virus or not.

The doctor is already waiting for me, to talk about AIDS and patients suffering from AIDS. The way he puts it, is just another disease, contagious, hazardous, deadly, but human They all need to be treated with respect and affection, despite the poison in their blood.

While he tells stories about people having died without even knowing they died because of AIDS, I feel surprised at the low level of self-awareness, and when he mentions the death of a seven years old girl who remained undiagnosed until her death, this low level of self-awareness scares me It could happen to anyone, at any moment, in any circumstance, because of a careless action, because of a stupid addiction, because of ignorance or because the maliciousness of rotten human souls who think that by infecting others, they will get a piece of revenge from the harm that was done to them. It is strange how wicked the human psyche can sometimes be

I wrap it up, after a detailed explanation of the disease, the incubation period of the virus, the first onset of AIDS, chances of life for an infected person, ways of transmitting the virus, data on the national database of people who are infected, breaking it down to female and male subjects, global death toll since 1981

Another moment comes. The moment when you want to show to others how the test is carried out. Nobody is willing to do it. Nobody is willing to show in front of the camera how the procedure is, that short procedure that lasts 10-15 minutes which will decide the future

I take the initiative of taking this test, first asking how it is performed.

The doctor looks at me with surprise. ‘This is not a game’ he might think

Well, it is not a game for me either. He then says ‘I don’t think you must appear in front of the camera. People will not understand it. People will judge you when they see this documentary Be anonymous’ I refuse to take his word for it. ‘If I am not able to show my face while taking this test, when I am calling on others for awareness on this deadly disease, what rights do I have to address them while I back off?’ In a way, I want to feel what a person living in the doubt of HIV feels, I want to show to the audience how easy it is to go through a little puncture with many drops of blood being taken from your finger And so I do But trust me, it is not that easy It is not that easy at all...

The test is just like the pregnancy test. But different from one another, when one is positive, you give life, you bear life, you have reasons for life. When the other one is positive, oh the world tumbles on your feet and everything around you crumbles to pieces and fragments of joyful moments you have had, terrible moments you will have

You have one stripe and you are negativeYou are HIV negative You are marked with life

You have two stripes and you are positive You are HIV positive You are marked with death Perhaps not sudden death, not painful death, not even death until it comes naturally, but you bear the seal of DEATH You may give death to others, those dear to you, those strange to you

And so, while the light of the camera is on my face, and I am pale as always, I feel the shivers in my body, and my skin turns cold, cold to freezing in the quivers of impatience.

I know there is nothing wrong with me. I simply perfectly know it,  but the moment itself is scary, perhaps horrifying... It is the reading of those thin lines in your test that determines the way you are going to see life from now and on

Ten minutes pass, under the camera lights, while it is filming, recording on tape my voice trembling while speaking about the test, while trying to formulate my appeal, while the doctor explains softly what it is, what we are seeing, how the reagents work My ears go deaf for a minute or so, my eyes focus only on one spot the single stripe on my tests both tests There is no second stripe, there is no shadow of doubt about the certainties that I already had This experiment upon myself costed me I now know better how to appreciate the moment, maybe life itself. For a moment there, I was scared It was a long moment from where I sat Now it is gone My heartbeat is backMy breath is back

I take the test from the table, show it to the camera and softly, slowly and calmly I say: ‘That was it. It only takes a few moments to save your life, to save other peoples lives Do the test

I am still silent, but I need to share this

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

La connaissance de soi-même de l’administration communale… 


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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Honey, there is a man in my egg! 


A funny breakfast surprise!


 Both Eggman photos are of course copyrighted and may be used only by written permission.

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Unintentionally amusing advert? 

This woman does look happy…


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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Life’s Three Phases So Far 

A beer, a dark one
Not very tasty, not very sophisticated
I let its fading foam foam on my tongue
And think about its fake complexity

It’s the opposite of my muse
Who is a puzzle, and a hard one too
Every time you think you’re almost done
A new piece shows up
Or the ones you have put together
Disassemble

What can I do to lighten her darkness
What can I do to sweeten her taste
Make her creativity erupt
Her words pour out
Again

I move on to youth with a cup of green tea

Fruit liqueur, apricot
I smell it, I sip it, I taste it
Immersing my mouth, blending with saliva
Wondering if I like it or not

Subtle or simple? Not sure
OK for a start, nauseating when it stays
It’s like overwhelming feelings
Except not worth it
Is it in, is it out, where is it all?
What is it all, how does it make me feel?
If at all —

— tell me, muse
How to taste it the right way
How to enjoy it for real
Or at least decide if I like it or not
This faky-fruity thing full of a flavour and a colour
That it should not have
Tell me
I might listen, I might even understand
Once

I let my youth be, swallowing it with some water

Then I grew up
And tasted the brandy
A special one, a rare one
A mature one, hidden away, only waiting
For me to taste and maybe savour

I waited for it, I hesitated
I put the glass back without trying
And went on with things
Thinking I could postpone maturity

I did so a few times
Taking the glass, putting it down
When I finally tried the brandy
It was strangely neutral
I was strangely numb
And perhaps mature
So I poured it out
After a sip or two
And went on with water
Went back to the source
Found myself
Found a place for my muse
And for myself

©2013

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Monday, 11 March 2013

‘It's good to be me
 who else would I be.’
Bjørn Clasen

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Kritzelart 

Mein Beitrag zur „Kritzelei der Woche“ in Die Zeit


Entstanden ist diese Kritzelei bei einem internationalen Workshop in Berlin zum Thema EU-Recht, -Wirtschaft und -Politikwissenschaften. Nicht dass ich mich langweilte, aber diese Themen sind so gradlinig, dass ich Angst hatte, meine Gehirnzellen würden sich in parallelen Reihen ordnen, und um dies zu vermeiden, habe ich dann kreuz und quer gekritzelt, allerlei kleine Bildchen und Symbole, die mir eingefallen sind. Während einer Pause hat eine Mitstudentin aus Kosovo — ich selbst bin ein luxemburgischer Däne, was man sicher auch aus meinen grammatischen Fehler sehen kann — das Blatt geklaut und einige ihrer eigenen Kritzeleien zugefügt. Deshalb sind einige Details am Rande des Werks viel künstlerischer als der Rest.

 ©2013

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Astral Bigamist 

…that’s right! That is what the successful, slightly alcoholic, or at least thought-to-be delusive writer Charles Condomine is called in famous British playwright Noël Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit.

Luxembourg’s English-speaking theatre troupe BGT will perform the comedy at the Mierscher Kulturhaus in Mersch from 27 February through 2 March.


Read more about the hilarious story, and how to order your tickets for the show, in this article from Luxemburger Wort.

Looking forward to seeing you there — and hope you will enjoy it. We will!

Charles Condomine
slightly drunk and delusive author?
and Astral Bigamist

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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Dystopia on the big screen — How man closes his own circle 


So… I have signed up for this online course at the University of Edinburgh, on eLearning and digital cultures. It is the second Internet-based academic course I am attending, although this one at Edinburgh is rather different from the first one, a master degree in European Union studies, which is more like a classic academic course, just using the Internet as the main communication means.

Already after reading the course description and all the ‘how to’ stuff, checking a few of the fora, and watching the first of four videos that constitute the core of the first course week, I see chaos installing itself. Students who are lost in the microcosmic cyberspace of the course website and all the subsites and websites it refers to.

What strikes me as well is that whereas the language used by the course managers (I am not allowed to quote from it, so I won’t) is very abstract and what I call ‘unnecessarily over-academised’, the instructions are pretty straight-foward, perhaps even too simplified to be comprehensible. Er, I mean understandable.

The clear question we, the (six-digit number of) students have been asked in the first week, is to think of an example of utopian and dystopian stories about technology told in popular films, and describe or share it, for example on one’s blog. Well, I have thought. And now I will share. And describe. A little.

In fact, two of my favourite films come to mind, and they both tell rather dystopian stories.

Pink Floyd The Wall has sequences of how mankind is becoming so inhuman that everything we love about being human is destroyed. Any artistic creativity, any feeling is not only taboo but also forbidden. A quote from one of the final scenes (and thus songs, as Pink Floyd The Wall is in a way one long music video) is:
The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature
This will not do!
Alien — The 8th Passenger needs little further presentation. It is a little more ambiguous than Pink Floyd The Wall in its dystopian message, but one thing that I would like to point out is how The Company — which in this first part of what is by now a pentalogy, if one counts the recently released prequel Prometheus in, is not known by any other name than simply The Company — has powers that seem to reach beyond that of a nation state as we know it today. As The Company wants to capture the alien lifeform in order to use and possibly develop it for its weapons division, a creature of nature actually becomes, or is intended to become, technology.

Last but not least, a recommendation for those who like to watch something alternative: Try to get hold of the Belgian film Thomas Est Amoureux. The whole film is seen through the eyes of a man who lives his life through his computer screen. In other words, we only see the screen. While this may sound unbearably boring, the film is actually a fantastic attempt to show how human can become a slave of its own creation: the machine. Watch it! (pun intended)

Oh, I almost forgot: Of the four videos that we students are supposed to watch this first week, I rather liked this one. Watch it too…



#edcmooc

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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Stop smoking in Luxembourg bars 

Actually, it should not be necessary to still discuss this in 2013 in a Western European Country. But apparently it is: The issue of smoking, and of passive smoking. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has yet to manage to pass legislation in order to protect its tax payers and visitors from the effects of passive smoking.

A pregnant friend of mine has finally had it. (We used to work together, me being in charge of ideas and she of the action…) She has taken the initiative of launching a petition to finally get rid of tobacco smoke in bars. And it looks promising, as her initiative immediately made it to national news! When I signed yesterday evening, I was number 10 or 11, and now the petition has over a 1000 supporters!

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Friday, 28 December 2012

Crazy Crazy 

I was already crazy
But you, you drive me crazy crazy
With your ups, your downs, your lefts and rights
It’s never just spot on

It’s a rollercoaster ride
One second flying high
The next everything stands still
But you’re always ready for the kill

It drives me crazy crazy
It makes me bounce around
Wanna send you to outer space
And I, I wanna stay on the ground

You are crazy crazy crazy
And I’m just crazy crazy
I used to be a one, you make me a two
Whenever you’re around
It doubles up, I’m getting like you
It doubles up from straight away crazy
To double crazy: crazy crazy
You drive me crazy crazy
You drive me crazy crazy crazy
Crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy…

Copyrighted. Use only by written permission.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The (digital) right to pretend 

‘Let’s throw some sand into the cogs of the machine-readable life and just pretend now and then. Life without creative friction is an ideal of economists, but not a reflection of what makes us well-rounded, curious humans. You have the right to be silly or silent, the right to be inventive, the right to say no to algorithms, and most importantly, the right to be left alone, to have space to think about who matters to you and what not to share.’

from ‘Fake It! — Your Right To Digital Self-Defense

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Monday, 17 December 2012

The Erasmus Experience — 25 portraits from 25 years of success 

This autumn, I was commissioned by the association ANEFORE, via Luxembourg’s coolest publishing house Maison Moderne, to interview 25 former Erasmus students (well, including a current one and a professor) and write up a short portrait of each of them telling tales of their individual experiences.

Here is the resultdownloadable, free of charge! I hope you will enjoy it …and do contact me if you have writing or editing tasks for me!

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Friday, 7 December 2012

Culinary Adventure: Spinach à la Cosovare 

This dish is colourful and healthy — and takes only little time to prepare.

serves 2-3 persons
1 onion
4 normal-sized mushrooms
½ kg of fresh spinach (or frozen spinach cubes)
1 medium-sized carrot
1 cup of sweet corn
1 cup of dark rice
2 portions of processed cheese (that soft one that comes in triangles)
2 eggs
150-200 ml of yogurt
Vegeta
olive oil
½ ℓ of water

Finely slice the onion and the mushrooms. Fry them in olive oil for a couple of minutes, until the mushrooms look nicely fried.
Meanwhile, slice the carrot. Add it, along with spinach, corn, and rice. Then add water and Vegeta, according to your taste. Let it all boil at medium heat.
Add the cheese for it to melt in the mixture. When the rice has boiled enough (it is recommended to let it boil more than normal rice in order to give density to the dish), take the dish off the the fire (this whole process will have taken you about 20 minutes).
Finally, mix the eggs and the yoghurt well in a bowl. Add it to the mixture while stirring well and fast enough to avoid the egg-mix forming white clots but blending perfectly with the whole dish.
It is now ready to serve — provided it has a rather dense consistency rather than being too liquid.
Enjoy!

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Monday, 3 December 2012

Erasmus As A Gateway To The World 

Georges Lemmer, one of the 25 interviewees for the book I was contracted to write — ‘The Erasmus Experience’, presented ten days ago — has put the resulting portrait of himself on his blog and spiced it up with some really nice and artistic photos from his personal Erasmus experience. Have a look!

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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

« Merci et au revoir. »  

Courriel envoyé à la chaîne luxembourgeoise de supermarchés Alima (info@alima.lu)

Madame, Monsieur,

Hier, à 16h13 selon le ticket de caisse, j’ai fait mes achats dans votre magasin près de la Bourse comme je le fais régulièrement. Je suis passé à la caisse 5 (de nouveau selon le ticket de caisse; sur celui-ci aucun nom d’employé n’apparaît). La dame à la caisse ne m’a même pas regardé — pourtant on me dit que je suis pas mal pour mon âge ; mais bon, cela dépend du goût personnel — ni salué. Elle a ignoré mon « bonjour ». Les seules mot qu’elle a prononcés étaient « onze trente », ce qui était le prix total de mes achats (si modeste parce que vos ampoules électriques sont très chères en comparaison avec d’autres magasins). Ce « onze trente » n’était pas accompagné d’un « s’il vous plaît » ; la réception de mon paiement pas suivi d’un « merci » ; et mes organes auditives n’ont pas détecté de « bonne journée » ou même de « au revoir ». Bref, Madame Caisse 5 m’a adressé que le montant.

Si un tel comportement — ou manque de comportement — se reproduit je me réserve le droit de choisir entre deux scénarios : ou bien attendre à la caisse sans payer, sans rien faire, jusqu’à ce que l’employé en question arrive à prononcer les mots si difficiles ; ou alors simplement laisser mes achats (d’habitude beaucoup plus nombreux et encombrants que les « onze trente ») et partir. Après, je vous enverrai bien sûr ma facture pour avoir gaspillé mon temps dans votre magasin.

Comme Alima n’est pas connu pour la politesse de ses employés, je vous suggère de mettre un panneau à chaque caisse, dans les cinq langues du pays, soulignant que vous chargez un supplément de politesse de base de 20 % (minimum 5 €) ; pour une politesse normale de 30 % (minimum 10 €) ; et pour le niveau VIP de 50 % (minimum 25 €). Cela vous permettrait aussi de mesurer si vos clients qui sont, après tout, le gagne-pain des employés aux niveaux inférieures ainsi que supérieures de la hiérarchie, se considèrent comme des VIP ou non.

Pour moi, chaque client devrait l’être.

Pour votre information, cette lettre est aussi publiée sur mon blog public.

Sur ceci, comme dit le ticket de caisse : « Merci et au revoir. » (le nombre de mots et 200 % du nombre de mots de Madame Caisse 5).

Réponse reçue le 22 novembre :
Monsieur,

Nous avons bien pris note de vos remarques et nous nous excusons pour le comportement de la caissière.

Notre souci est de servir nos clients aux mieux dans tous les rayons. Et particulièrement le dernier contact à la caisse qui est très important.

En espérant pouvoir vous servir bientôt dans notre magasin.

Meilleures salutations

Romy Hansen
Gérante

alima 

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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Highly recommended even if you don’t usually read poetry 


A brand new release of an, in publishing terms, debuting young author:

Katie Hall — ‘Scribbling’


Katie Hall’s poems are of the rare kind that pierce right into your soul, leaving a tingling feeling under your skin, matched only by the speechless silence enveloping the roaring storms in your mind. In other words: They touch you. Not as soapy pathos — on contrary, they touch your deepest, poorly-lit spots because they are so real and relevant. No matter if you have lived situations similar to what the poems get into, you feel that you are right there, right in it. You empathise not with ‘the author’ or ‘a narrator’ …but with yourself. What makes Katie Hall’s poetry lie so close to our own struggles and doubts are their way of spinning around the swirl formed by the eternal dilemma between needing and resisting, between shame and desire. Ultimately, between honesty and pretence. To be read one by one, reflected upon, and then re-read. If you are up to it. ‘Cause you will discover sides of yourself that you had forgotten about or stowed away. Now, with Katie Hall, it is time to find it back.

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Worth a shot 



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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Looking for, er, people 

This classified-ad page is from 1968 and was published in the Observer and Gazette.

Notice how distinctly employers advertised for women or men, depending on the nature of the position to be filled. Today this would not only be unthinkable but also illegal. The Kodak advert even clearly lists which vacancies are for women, and which ones are for men.

(Click on the picture to see it in a larger and more readable version.)


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