Star Wars Lego Girls


My 8-year old son is, like myself at that age, a big Star Wars fan. But his road to the stories has been more complicated than mine. Much of what he knows about them comes from a computer game version where everything is for some reason visualised as built out of legos. So he asks me a lot of confused questions that I can’t always answer.

Just now we had such a conversation where I learned that he had gotten all three main female characters mixed up: Luke Skywalker’s grandma, mother and sister were the same person to him. When I teased him about this he just replied, philosophically, “It’s kind of hard to tell when they’re made of legos”.

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Mongolian Cuisine and Cursing

Dining with polyglot friends (he’s a Sinologist who also works with Georgian and Basque and speaks a bewildering variety of Asian languages, she interprets Mongolian and speaks the most exquisite Swedish), my wife and I learned something about Mongolian cuisine and cursing.

Mongolia has kind of a heavy-metal reputation. I mean, leave them to their own devices and they’ll conquer Eurasia. But as it turns out, these people cook really bland food and use extremely low-key expletives.

Salt is the only spice in regular use. A typical meal may consist of a pound of boiled goat and a bowl of yoghurt. Put pepper or garlic in the food and grown men will complain of your fiery ways in the kitchen.

As for cursing, when a Mongolian hits his thumb while hammering nails, he is likely to blurt “Carrion!”. More commonly, an angry Mongolian snarls a short word meaning “used tea leaves”, cf. our “dregs”. Young people sometimes use the Russian equivalent of “cunt” as an expletive, but they pronounce it in such a way that no Russian takes offence.

This is how Genghis Khan must have done it. He conserved his strength. No swearing at recalcitrant horses, no foul-mouthed outbursts after an evening of kumis and overtone singing. He just went out and conquered. And if occasionally a campaign didn’t quite go his way, he would frown and be heard to mumble, “Used tea leaves”.

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Subway Beggar Retaliation

For the last couple of years, a new kind of beggar has operated in the Stockholm subway. These people walk through the carriage handing out little photocopied notes, and then they move back, collecting the notes and whatever spare change people are willing to give. The notes say things like “I am an unemployed Bulgarian violinist rendered incapable of playing by carpal tunnel syndrome. I have three children to feed. Please help.” Harmless enough, I guess, but a bit of a nuisance in a culture unused to beggary.

A friend of mine got really tired of the note beggars on his daily commute. He made the observation that many of them didn’t seem to be able to read their own notes as they were written in Swedish. So he pocketed a few beggar notes, went home and produced variations on them with the same typography. The next time a subway beggar gave him a note, he exchanged it for one of his own, and then the beggar moved on and presumably gave the doctored note to another subway traveller.

Here’s what one of my friend’s notes said.
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