The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Month: December, 2013

Simple witty animal comics

I wish there were a simpler way to reblog things from Tumblr on Wordspace, but for now, I’ll just have to manually put pictures and stuff up.

Amongst the comics out there, it is usually the simpler ones that I appreciate the most, usually with a simple line of text. Those that require just a little bit of thinking: the comic artist puts in a little effort, just as the readers do.

A friend shared a Tumblr belonging to Liz Climo, an animator for The Simpsons. But where The Simpsons rely on in-your-face humour, Climo’s Tumblr relies on subtle wit revolving around animals, usually something to do with the physical properties of the animals themselves.

Here are some of my favourites:

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Speaking fake English, or any other fake language

What qualifies the English language to sound “English” enough? Very often, people in the English-speaking world have impressions of what foreign languages sound like. Chinese (excluding stereotypical “ching-chong” variants) sounds like “Xie shi hao ni jing ling ping dao” to many English speakers, replete with its tonality, French has its velar R’s and lots of Z’s and nasalities, “Le beton est un plus morraise il a son telle fusontique des mon,” Italian has its inflections on certain syllables, and so forth.

What about fake English? Were a foreigner to make fun of what English sounds like to them, how would they reconstruct it?

Turns out faking a language at least requires the basic knowledge of morphemic and phonetic structure of that language. Why do people in the least go “ching-chong” when talking about Chinese and rattle their throats and noses trying to speak fake French? It’s because that they know these languages feature these consonant and vowel relationships.

Knowing the phonetic map is only one part of speaking a fake language, the other, to make the fake language sound convincing, is knowing how they fit together to form words.

The video above speaks fake Chinese, and as a Chinese speaker, I find it very far off, simply because he does not understand the tonal system of Chinese, nor can he reproduce certain syllables.

The video below shows a somewhat convincing fake English, as it imagines what English would sound like to foreign person who does not speak the language.

Any English speaker would realise that in that clip, it actually uses a lot of real English words, but for the most part is unintelligible, yet it still sounds distinctively English. I feel that the writers of the script relied too much on real words and simply garbling the rest, when they could have pushed the boundaries further of words they can change up using English phonomorphemic rules to create a convincing and clear fake English conversation.

I wrote previously that we can extract semantic meaning from nonsense words, through parallel sounds and morphemes attached to them. Likewise, for fake English, to sound most convincing, we need to preserve morphemes, because for some reason, English morphemes are very English to any English speaker. So much so that we attach them to foreign words when we attempt to Anglicise them. For example, we can say a person “kamikaze’d” or that perhaps something could be “taco-licious”. What that means exactly, I’m not sure, but we often use English affixes to bring foreign words to make them fit into our language.

Likewise, if we were to create nonsensical, fake English conversation, we must preserve these affixes, for they give words their purposes. For example, we use “-tion” to turn something into a process, such as “crown” to “coronation,” “investigate” to “investigation.” If I used a word like “hakilimation,” chance are, a competent English speaker can probably draw inferences that the root word would be “hakilimate.” If I said a person is “taffing,” the root verb is probably “to taff.”

Here’s my attempt at speaking fake English, using the rules I have highlighted. I think if someone weren’t paying close attention and heard this in the background, it could pass for real English. Also included are fake Chinese and Japanese, that, in my opinion, sound a lot more legit than those without knowledge of how the language is structured.

Here’s an example of a Microsoft ad that uses fake Chinese convincingly. Granted, a lot of the words are slurred, given its more conversational nature, but to those who know the language, some actual Chinese can be teased out from that blur of words.

Three lunar years later

Three lunar years ago, I shot myself into the air, through space, and landed on the other side of the planet. There, three Lunar New Years missed. Will I miss the next one too? With an adventuring spirit, I thrust myself into the unknown.

Having left home, it seems I have cut myself adrift, with very little means to go back. I am still floating, rotating, and have yet to gain enough gravitas and inertia to propel myself anywhere. How can I go back home in this state?

There will be no triumphant return, only stony silence and static white noise.

I have been dreaming dreams of various places back home, it seems almost uncanny; unnerving. I don’t know what to do.

In the mean time, I remain in stasis, as my life support slowly flickers lower.

Space.

Umbrella innovation

Looking at the umbrella, when was the last time any real innovation has been done to it? You open it, and it shields you from the rain; it’s about as innovative as sliced bread. It seems as though it is a product that can be improved no further. But the Japanese has come up with an innovation to make it better:

After using an umbrella, folding it up, one usually has a wet umbrella that might get one’s own bag or pants wet holding it close. Japanese product design firm H Concept has unveiled the: UnBRELLA, an inverted umbrella. Closing the umbrella by inverting it, only the dry part is exposed. The umbrella even stands on its own when not in use!

From Spoon & Tamago,

“It’s been nearly 10 years in the making since I originally conceived the idea,” revealed Hiroshi Kajimoto, the industrial designer who spent roughly a decade improving the umbrella. “I’ve finally created the UnBRELLA – an upside down umbrella truly required upside down thinking.”

The question is, will people be willing to pay for innovation? The new umbrella – slated to go on sale February 2014 – costs 9450 yen (about $95).

The question is: will it withstand the crazy winds of New York City? If the winds blow hard enough and it inverts, is it considered broken?

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Stage of Mind

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Artist Lee Jee Young builds stunningly detailed dream-scapes that seem out of this world, yet they are all painstakingly built by hand, without any computer trickery.

From boredpanda.com,

Jee Young Lee works with such precision that the creation of a set often takes weeks or even months of work. As soon as the otherworldly sets are done, the artist incorporates herself in them in various different ways and takes these stunning self-portraits.

According to the artist herself, all of the photography sets and her specific roles in them tell a particular story about her personal life experiences or resurrect traditional Korean fables or other cultural heritage from around the world. Her work is a deep self-reflection for the artist and a means to explore her psychological identity.

Jee Young’s amazing work will be on display at the OPIOM Gallery in Opio France from Feb. 7 to March 7, 2014.

Touching story, beautiful journalism

nytimesprojPhoto credits New York Times, from the Invisible Child

It is not very often that a piece of journalism moves me, and I can say that the Invisible Child, a project that follows the lives of Dasani, her parents, and seven other siblings, as they struggle with poverty and the trap that is shelter housing. Immediately, Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc comes to mind, where she took over 10 years to follow the story of two women as they struggle with love, drugs, and prison.

However, Invisible Child is no mere tear-jerker, even as its tales are raw and moving in its simplicity, and the attention to detail makes the scenes real to the reader. Invisible Child expertly weaves together some of the very complex ills that plagues New York City into one coherent story, namely:

  1. The bad the homeless situation in NYC is. With 22,000 children homeless in the city, this is the highest it has been since the Great Depression. It also talked about how mayor Bloomberg exacerbated the situation with his policies when he took office.
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    Infographics credit to New York Times

    Income inequality, neighbourhood inequality, and the encroaching gentrification that hems the poor in, as they squeeze them out.

  3. The ongoing tensions between public schools and charter schools, as the latter are often better equipped with computers and equipment, attracting richer students, even as they share the same grounds with the public school. This leads to worries of segregation and discrimination of the poorer-off public school students.
  4. The helplessness of the poorer trapped in their poverty, as they are beholden to drug habits, stuck in their social immobility due to a lack of skills, lack of financial responsibility education such as knowing the importance of saving, etc.
  5. The injustice and deplorable conditions shelter residents have to put up with, from those who are supposed to help them. Shelters subject their residents to unsanitary and downright unsafe conditions (story talks of a baby who died because there was no air-conditioning), as well as the constant fear of sexual assault that goes on in these places.
  6. The resilience of the human spirit we see in the protagonist, Dasani. Even as the story paints her a fighter, it also shows her clinging on to her childhood as she is forced to grow up to take care of her seven younger siblings, and at times, her parents.

I would highly recommend anyone to read this piece of amazing journalism, and it has truly made me proud to have embarked on this journey. Even though my path to journalism has yet to take off, it is shining pieces like these that pull me through, in hopes that one day I too may make a difference by telling stories like these.

I would also recommend people read the author’s notes, as they are highly informative and show how the stories is pieced together, especially given the multitude of statistics in the story.

Musical notation, as described by cats

This amuses probably more than it should, but music geekery and cats? I think we have found a winning combination here. Reblogging from Trumpet Angst.

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Wolfram-dex

wolframalpha-pikachu-2013-10-18_1729Wolfram Alpha, computational search engine, has always been known to be able to draw Pokemon curves, but now, with the iPhone’s Siri integration, one can truly use the Siri as a Pokedex.

pokedex-siri[1]You could use it to find out not only useful things about the game itself, but also very important numerical facts, such as “How many Bidoofs would it take to reach the moon?”

bidoof-height[1]Would sure be more useful than any current use of Siri, in my opinion.

So many questions asked, no answer provided

Singapore bus death triggers riot

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Photo credit AFP, taken from BBC News

Most people who have a connection to Singapore would probably have known that on the 9th December, 2013, a riot broke out. Initial reporting from Singapore media Channel News Asia reported on the incidence plus with an advisory to stay away from the scene, stating the number of participants (about 400) and whether there were casualties or not.

That is all very well, but I think as with any credible news medium, not only is reporting what happened sufficient, but some sort of investigative journalism as to why the riot happened is required, isn’t it? Even as things have died down, there is scarcely any definitive work as to the cause of the unrest. Soon, alternative news sources began filling in the gaps where state media had failed to furnish what the people wanted to know.

People on Reddit provided a time breakdown of the chain of events, as did some blogs, although their sources referenced each other. Of course, vitriol against the prevailing ruling party started pouring in on these threads, drowning out possible discussion as to why the riot started.

The Real Singapore, another alternative news source, started editorialising, which in itself isn’t too bad, but TRS having a streak of being anti-PAP, their contribution was a rehash of a populist anti-immigrant stance that disenfranchised Singaporeans had with the PAP’s lax immigration policies. I quote:

On the surface, this could easily be put down to the foreign workers being more rowdy and less law-abiding than Singaporeans but in reality everyone has a boiling point and people are not naturally very violent or blood-thirsty.

The big difference might be that we are taught from young to be fearful of the government and listen to authority.
When foreign workers come to Singapore, they do not have the same “training” and can become more rowdy more easily.
This is particularly a problem when the government brings these FTs (FT: “Foreign Talent”/i.e. immigrant workers) here in large numbers and they bring with them their values and cultures and do not learn from Singaporeans how they should act here.
Last night, this was clearly a problem with a large, rowdy riot breaking out.
Many netizens commented that the photos and videos looked like they were not taken in Singapore and further raised concerns that if this is happening, it is not a far stretch to say that other problems such as higher crime rates and more occurrences of rape might be happening soon too.

Effectively turning the discussion into a “These foreigners are not as well-trained/subservient (double jab at 0our over-policing AND at lacking discipline standards of those overseas?) us, and hence are prone to violence and lustful acts.” The author further adds:

These people must have been stressed out and otherwise frustrated with their lives to so eagerly break out in a huge riot.
This could be due to work-related factors such as long work hours, low pay, no welfare and other forms of exploitation from their bosses. Singapore has many reported cases of foreign worker exploitation so this is really not an unrealistic possibility.
Singapore has no effective workers’ unions and so workers’ complaints and concerns are very rarely heard.
When people are oppressed in such a way with no way to vent their frustration or get recourse, they will eventually boil over. All their frustration and stress is like fuel awaiting a spark to ignite the flame. Perhaps this is what happened yesterday evening.

That still does not shed any more light as to how whatever transpired that night, merely speculation that unfair work conditions and pent-up frustration formed the powder; how, then, was the accident the spark that ignited the riot?

Rather than we all just sit here twiddling thumbs, throwing blind guess, why isn’t anyone interviewing the rioters? Surely the rioters would know best why they were rioting? Without any actual word from those involved, all these theories require a leap of logic from “overworked, unpaid, labourers” to “bus accident killing a fellow national leads to a riot.”

Someone should be asking these questions, to the rioters and by-standers:

  • Did you witness the accident?
  • If yes, what did you witness? How did the accident happen?
  • Did the deceased seem intoxicated? Was the bus driver driving recklessly?
  • Who was the first person who discovered the accident?
  • How did the crowd of Indian nationals gather at scene? Did someone call upon them?
  • Did anyone else other than the Indian nationals gather at the scene?
  • If he called upon the others to gather, why did he do that?
  • Who called for the ambulance/police?
  • What happened while people were waiting for the ambulance/police? Was there a crowd by the time they arrived?
  • How did the police handle the situation? What words were exchanged? Did they physically move people around?
  • Who started the fire? Why did he start it? At what juncture did the smashing and torching start?
  • What were being yelled during the riot?

I’m sure there are a lot more questions that can be asked, all of which would answer a lot more questions than the “coverage” we’ve received so far.

BOJIO

bojioAnother in Singapore would be familiar with the vernacular “Bojio,” derived from the Hokkien dialect word 没招. It’s used to signify when one does something and fails to invite his or her friend along, whereby the friend goes, “Eh! Bojio!”

The above character is completely fictional, of course. Chinese orthography cannot represent two words with a single character, but it quite funny. Taken from somewhere on Twitter.