- Forests are large collections of trees
- All trees have barks
- Forests are very noisy places
Tag Archives: words
Halfpenny thought no.1- stock markets
Whenever the stock markets slump, the news is always full of expressions like these ones I have collected:
“Apple fails yet again, $123B vanishes.”
“Investors’ billions vanish as NSE returns worst performance in four years.”
“Bad Year for Japan Banks as $95 Billion of Value Vanishes.”
If money vanishes, then the opposite should also be true. Why is it then that when stock markets surge no one ever writes anything like this ?
“$123B materialises overnight.”
“Investors showered by magically appearing billions.”
“$95 Billion of Value suddenly shows up.”
The Poetry of Google Translate
And the long road ahead, I go to bed
And the long road ahead, I go to bed
Google Translate is amazing when it works. Unfortunately, it only works about half of the time. Even more unfortunately, unless you already know the languages you are trying to translate, there is no way of knowing when it is accurate and when it is serving you up something non-sensical, inaccurate or downright offensive.
On the other hand, it is a wonderful machine for playing Chinese Whispers. I have already translated a Turkish menu into English, with what I think are fascinating results. Now, the time has come to see how well Google Translate can generate its own poetry.
Zen and the Art of Taxation
Zen Buddhism has a number of koans, the most famous of which is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Reflect long enough upon riddles like these and you may reach enlightenment, it is suggested.
I would think that the same effect could be attained by meditating on section 509 (a) of the US Tax Code, which reads:
For purposes of paragraph (3), an organization described in paragraph (2) shall be deemed to include an organization described in section 501(c)(4), (5), or (6) which would be described in paragraph (2) if it were an organization described in section 501(c)(3).
If this is the kind of thing they have to think about it is surprising that more tax consultants aren’t Zen monks. Read more…
Signs for Pause
I read a lot and when I don’t have a book, I find it hard to avoid reading any of the signs and labels in my vicinity. Sometimes I come across one which makes me pause.
Here are a few examples
Reciprocating Soup – The Tantalising Cuisine of Google Translate
The last time I went to Istanbul I had supper at Çiya Sofrasi, a restaurant which is by now famous (a long article about it appeared in the New Yorker and it has also been mentioned by the New York Times). It serves traditional food from distant Turkish provinces which is so different from the standard fare of Istanbul that the locals I was with couldn’t figure out what we were eating.
The day before I went I consulted the restaurant’s website, which had a huge list of dishes but, unfortunately, only in Turkish. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to use Google Translate to find out what was being served. What I found instead was that I was transported across a mental ocean into a new world of uncharted cuisine. Read more…
Pop-tarts and Gutisk
One of the most attractive things about Wikipedia is its magmatic nature. Here is Nicholson Baker discussing the vicissitudes of just one of its pages:
The Pop-Tarts page is often aflutter. Pop-Tarts, it says as of today (February 8, 2008), were discontinued in Australia in 2005. Maybe that’s true. Before that it said that Pop-Tarts were discontinued in Korea. Before that Australia. Several days ago it said: “Pop-Tarts is german for Little Iced Pastry O’ Germany.” Other things I learned from earlier versions: More than two trillion Pop-Tarts are sold each year. George Washington invented them. They were developed in the early 1960s in China. Popular flavors are “frosted strawberry, frosted brown sugar cinnamon, and semen.” Pop-Tarts are a “flat Cookie.” No: “Pop-Tarts are a flat Pastry, KEVIN MCCORMICK is a FRIGGIN LOSER notto mention a queer inch.” No: “A Pop-Tart is a flat condom.” Once last fall the whole page was replaced with “NIPPLES AND BROCCOLI!!!!!”
Another reason, among the hundreds there are, why I love Wikipedia is the amazing number of languages it has embraced, including some like Bishnupriya Manipuri বিষ্ণুপ্রিযা় মণিপুরী or Gutisk, which I see as a row of empty boxes. Read more…
The many ways a minaret might be
And the aim of the provision was to make sure no one thought of puncturing the local skies with a minaret. So far, this seems to be just another of the many depressing stories you hear about nowadays. But now comes the interesting part: in the Vorarlberg town of Hohenems there is a small Jewish museum. The director is called Hanno Loewy and in response to the provision he organised not one but two conferences on “How to build a typically local minaret” (September 2008 and June 2009).
Ounce Dice Trice
For some time now New York Review Books has been re-publishing books which have been out of print for a while. This seems to me to be an excellent idea. In fact, it might be good to have a one week moratorium on new books once a year, call it Reprint Week, and dedicate it solely to old books which have been needlessly forgotten.
A while ago they brought out a book I had been waiting for. It is OUNCE DICE TRICE by Alastair Reid and Ben Shahn (first edition 1958). It is a book for children and word-lovers. It is only fifty-seven pages long but the words are meant to be read aloud, one at a time, and they are so unpredictable and interact so well with the drawings that if you belong to one of the two categories above, you will find you go back to it again and again. On the back cover Marianne Moore is quoted as having written when the book first appeared: “Reading Ounce Dice Trice aloud is the best way of separating the bores from
their airs and the squares from their snores.”) Read more…
Thirty-seven ways of looking at a dervish
A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn.
Head unaware of feet,
and feet head. Neither cares.
They keep turning.
As everybody knows, the Mevlevi are an order of dervishes founded in Konya in the 12th Century by the followers of the great mystical poet Rumi and who are best known for their practice of whirling as a form of “dhikr” (remembrance of God).
If you go to Turkey, people at home, before you leave, might say that you ought to see dervishes and that if you were to see dervishes you ought to take a picture. Perhaps you don’t give this much thought in the beginning, you don’t really keep an eye out for dervishes. But then one day you realise that time is running out and that you must see dervishes and you ask someone where you can see them. Read more…
How to say “extinction” in Chumyl: “The Linguists”, a film.
If you are interested in language and languages you might like to see the film “The Linguists”.
The film, presented as “a very foreign language film”, is about David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, two researchers who travel the world to document vanishing languages. Most of the action takes place in Siberia, India and Bolivia and focuses on the Chulym, Sora and Kallawaya languages. In one of the first scenes one of the linguists says that one reason to study language is to “figure out the possible ways the human mind can make sense of the world around it”. Read more…
The Whole Country Dances – The North Korean Music Scene
(This article was first posted in February 2008. I think it is time for people to be reminded of North Korean music. Nordkorea.info.de doesn’t seem to provide songs any longer, which is a great pity, but there is a good selection here. In particular, I would recommend Heroic Workers’ Factory, which has an English translation. It is a song you can try out at work yourselves. See if increases your output.)
I was leafing through the Rough Guide to World Music one day, looking up countries I had visited in order to find out which melodies I had missed and remembered (but how could one forget) that one of the countries I have been to is North Korea. The book has a box on the musical scene in North Korea with a list of titles including the following:
Song of Bean Paste
My Country Full of Happiness
We Shall Hold Bayonets More Firmly
Our Life Is Precisely A Song
Song of Snipers
The Joy Of Bumper Harvest Overflows Amidst The Song of Mechanisation
Farming In This Year Is Great Bumper Crop
My Country Is Nice To Live In
Music Of Mass Rhythmic Gymnastics
I Like Both Morning And Evening
The Shoes My Brother Gave Me Fit Me Tight
The World Envies Us
These titles brought back many of the feelings one had while one was in North Korea. I was going to leave it at that, but I wanted to find a clearer picture for the cover of Korean Juvenile Music (reproduced above) and in this search I stumbled across an excellent site which proclaimed
Herzlich willkommen auf Nordkorea-Info.de
and which has a substantial collection of North Korean CD’s for sale. You can even listen to some of the tracks in their entirety. My favourite is My Country is the Best. We’ve Taken Grenades in Our Hands (also in the Korean Juvenile Music series) is excellent too, Glory to General Kim Jong Il is obviously excellent as well even though the Bavarian influence is a little strong for my tastes. But the real discovery was the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble who play with unequalled confidence and flair. If I had a record company I would not hesitate to sign them up. I think there is definitely a niche market which would go overboard for them. In fact, I have a feeling they would be particularly good at the Superbowl – the style is very similar. I watched a number of their videos, I think I counted eight keyboard players but there may be more. Here is an example of their multi-layered approach:
Someone has implied that the Mansudae Art Troupe are even better, but I can’t say I have been convinced, even though that is only on the strength of one track.
As I said, Herzlich willkommen auf Nordkorea-Info.de allows you to listen to a number of tracks in their entirety. It is a pity therefore that some of the more intriguing titles have no audio clip associated with them. I would really have liked to have heard O Persimmon Trees at a Coastal Guard Outpost. In any case, I have decided to put down here some of what I feel are the most memorable titles. I have found that arranging them in pairs conjures up a pretty accurate picture of the atmosphere one perceives in North Korea.
We Shall Live Forever to Defend Our Seas
Taehongdan Potato Good for Longevity
Oh, What Is a Party Member?
He Doesn’t Know Maybe
Fresh and Green Edible Aster on Mt. Ryongak
It Will Radiate with the General Sunshine
I Am a Blossom of the Fatherly General
I Also Raise Chickens.
We Are Honourable Infantrymen
Coming to Remove Weeds from the Sky
We’ve Taken Grenades in Our Hands
What Has Happened to the Thaebaeksan Hospital?
Let’s Sing of Paternal Affection
My Youngest Daughter, Pok Sun, Became a AA-machine gunner
Sea of Potato Blossoms in Taehongdan
Pleasant Snack Time
Nightingales Sing in Our Factory Compound
Song of Blood Transfusion
My Mind Remains Unchanged
I Like Rifle
and to end a couple of threesomes
I Always See Them
Deep in Thought, the Nurse Ponders
Our Satellite Sings
Song of Automation Full of Happiness
The Whole Country Dances
Yes, now I remember