Thursday, 29 November 2007

Victory on all fronts – ?

I'd been reluctant to make this claim up till now.  John Howard's defeat in his own electorate of Bennelong at the hands of charming ex-telejournalist Maxine McKew has not quite been officially confirmed yet.  More importantly,  his party looks like it will retain control of the upper house of Parliament until July 2008,  with an uncomfortable trio of minor parties holding the balance of power after that.

However:  since their defeat,  power within Howard's  (right-of-centre)  Liberal party has shifted dramatically towards the party's progressive,  truly liberal wing  (or as Australians say,  the  "small-l liberal"  wing),  and away from Howard's own far-right wing of the party  (appropriately known as  "the uglies").  Senior Liberal figures have been jettisoning core Howard policies with almost unseemly haste.  Suddenly we're hearing statements like this:  "you can see that Kyoto and the apology to indigenous people are obstacles that were peculiar to Howard.  He's gone,  story over."  Senior Liberals are even in favour of getting rid of Howard's cherished  (and deeply unpopular)  industrial relations reforms.  Could this be the fastest political revolution this country has ever seen??  It looks like the numbers in the upper house will be no hindrance to Labor's programme at all.

Ironically,  new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spent much of the past year moving the Labor party to the right,  trying to project an image of dependable stability to match Howard's own.  Now some Liberals are adopting positions more progressive than those of the new Blairite-style Labor.  For example,  Malcolm Turnbull,  now the second most powerful Liberal politician,  is an ardent republican.  Rudd,  on the other hand,  has ruled out a referendum on the republic issue any time soon.

Hopefully the Rudd camp will redress the situation soon.  Otherwise right will be left,  left will be right,  and the result will be embarrassment,  confusion,  and chaos on the nation's roads.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Islamic Revolutionary Guards CORR!!!

Some go on about the US Marines.  Others enthuse about the SAS.  But when it comes to elite fighting units,  Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps would have to be,  without a doubt,  the hottest.

The uniforms!  Those firm,  steady gazes!  Those big,  big guns!
And oh,  above all,  the carefully tended stubble,  the closely trimmed beards!!  The Americans can keep their Marines,  with their ruthlessly cleanshaven chins - I've got an itch and it needs SCRATCHIN'!!

One look into those dark smouldering eyes and I'll bet the enemy just surrenders straight away!  I know I sure would!!

The IRGC - putting the "war" back into PHWARR!!!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

French Word of the Day

... for today is:


meaning  "incredible,  fantastical,  over-the-top".  As in:  "Richard Curtis,  un élu du Parti républicain à la Chambre des représentants [..],  a présenté sa démission après un rocambolesque feuilleton impliquant un prostitué" (from Têtu).

What an absolutely brilliant word!  And it gets better:  the word is derived from "rocambole":

roc·am·bole –noun
a European plant,  Allium scorodoprasum,  of the amaryllis family,  used like garlic.
Also called giant garlic.
(From the Random House Unabridged Dictionary,  via

Isn't that lovely?  But what is so incredibly fantastical about a big shallot,  I hear you ask?  It can't be so big as to inspire dumbfoundment and disbelief,  surely?

Well,  no.  The name of the leek-like vege was used as the name of the title character in a series of bestselling stories in the mid-nineteenth century by one Ponson du Terrail.  The stories were,  indeed,  rocambolesque.  More here

The vicomte Ponson du Terrail  (whose own name is quite a gem in itself)  seems to have chosen this name for his character because the word was already being used in a figurative sense.  The nineteenth-century Littré dictionary (available online here) quotes two meanings,  "ce qu'il y a de plus piquant dans quelque chose" and "populairement:  et toute la rocambole,  et tout le reste",  both of which probably contributed to the vicomte's choice.

There.  Isn't language fun?