Sunday, May 31, 2009

Entry: Scientology

The Wik' has found itself in news headlines once again, after deciding to ban the IP addresses of both the Church of Scientology and some of its more biased and outspoken Wiki-critics for engaging in editing wars. I'm going out on a limb here and linking to a non-Wiki news article about the incident from

Hush now, Church of Scientology; dry your eyes. I know what you're going through. I remember the fateful day at a former job where I tried to edit an article's grammar only to find that the IP I was using had been banned because someone else had been making inappropriate edits to the Dragonball Z article. I felt frustrated and sad and totally confused, because I don't think any of my coworkers could have even told you what Dragonball Z is, let alone find a reason to edit the Wiki article. And, of course, I think you guys are a complete scam and the fact that you use the legal system to bully your critics is disgusting, so while I don't feel sorry for you in the least, I can relate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Entry: Splayd

I think it's an adolescent rite of passage to go through an obsession with sporks. At least, my high school friends and I did. I still have a gold-painted spork on my wall that my best friend Jess made for me, I believe as part of a birthday present. They have a funny name, an unusual shape, and your lame-wad parents don't keep them in the lame-wad utensil drawer. No, you have to go to the mall food court to get your spork. Anything can happen at the mall food court.

But then observant reader Jeff sent me a link to the splayd, a combination of all three basic utensils. The splayd has a spoon-like bowl, four tines, and sharp sides for cutting. And it's metal. And they come in an attractive box. Don't even get me started on spifes. (Spifes? Spives? Spiven?)

Sporks, I think you've been bested. My golden memories of childhood seem a bit dimmer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Entry: Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den

Thanks to SeeaSea for sending me a link to this article!

"Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den," on top of being an awesome title in a variety of circumstances, is a classical Mandarin poem written by Yuen Ren Chao, a contemporary Chinese linguist.

In a stunning feet of tonal language acrobatics, the poem is 92 syllables, all of which are "shi." In Hanyu Pinyin, a method of Romanticizing Mandarin, it looks like this:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

The English translation:

In a stone den was a poet Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.

Yes, fellow Westerners, in classical Mandarin, "shi" means all those things. Since it's a tonal language, the distinction comes from how each syllable is said (if your voice goes up at the end, for instance).

The poem isn't profound (unless there's an extended metaphor in there that went completely over my Western head), but still a really impressive example of constrained writing. I can't even crank out a decent villanelle.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Entry: Eurovision Song Contest/ Eurovision Song Contest 2009

My European readers and the more worldly among the non-European readers are probably going to find this post repetitive and boring. My apologies.

Last night, my friends introduced me to Eurovision, an annual music competition among the members of the European Broadcasting Union that has been going on for over fifty years. Each country enters a musical artist (or artists, up to six) performing a previously unreleased song; citizens of the participating nations vote for their favorite songs (excluding the entry from their own country).

We watched every entry on YouTube; admittedly, we couldn't sit through most of them the whole way.

"But if these songs are supposed to represent the best the country has to offer, why couldn't you listen to them?"

Because these songs are designed to be palatable to as many people as possible, they end up being (for the most part) the blandest, most inoffensive, middle-of-the-road easy listening pop imaginable*. Take, for instance, Britain's entry. Remember now, this is the country that gave us the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Clash... I'm going to stop before I depress myself.

Listening to that song, all the corporate executives and government officials and marketing consultants and endless focus groups are practically a section of the orchestra. And Ms. Ewen came in 5th.

Some of the entries were pretty good. I quite liked Estonia's Urban Symphony:

My friend Ziggy was a fan of the Armenian entry, "Jan Jan" by Inga and Arnush:

There was also, the Romani rapper/superhero representing the Czech Republic:

Anyway, I was Wiki'ing furiously during this smorgasbord of mediocrity, and oh man I learned so much about Eurovision! Bullet points away!

- The song that Georgia entered, "We Don't Wanna Put In" by Stefane & 3G, was withdrawn from the contest due to the political content of the lyrics (specifically, a criticism of Vladimir Putin).
- Even more controversial: Spain had to preempt their live feed by about an hour, and had to rely on a jury to cast their votes, instead of public voting.
- Entries are allowed to be sung in any language. "This linguistic freedom led to the Belgian entry in 2003, 'Sanomi,' being sung in an entirely fictional language. In 2006 the Dutch entry, 'Amambanda,' was sung partly in English and partly in an artificial language. In 2007, Romanian participants Todomondo sang 'Liubi, Liubi, I Love You' in six different languages and in 2008, again a Belgian entry, 'O Julissi' was made in an imaginary language."
- "The most notable winning Eurovision artist whose career was directly launched into the spotlight following their win was ABBA, who won the Contest for Sweden in 1974 with their song 'Waterloo.' ABBA went on to be one of the most successful bands of their time." See, told you not all the entries are awful. Yes, I like ABBA. No, I am not a middle-aged gay man.
- "The Contest has long been perceived as politically influenced, where judges —and now televoters— allocate points based on their nation's relationship to the other countries, rather than on the musical merits of the songs. According to one study of Eurovision voting patterns, certain countries do tend to form 'clusters' or 'cliques' by frequently voting in the same way. Defenders of the Contest argue that the reason certain countries allocate disproportionately high points to others is because the people of those countries share similar musical tastes and cultures and speak similar languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate each other's music... Another influential factor is the high proportion of expatriates living in certain countries, often due to recent political upheaval. Since residents of a country cannot vote for their own entry, countries where a large minority of the population are ethnically tied to a neighbouring country and votes for their entrant can distort the vote considerably... Following these criticisms, it was announced that juries would return to the Contest in 2009. Two systems will work together, with 50 per cent of the vote decided by the jurors and the other 50 via televoting."
- "The 'Big 4' countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain) as they are the 4 largest economic contributors to the contest, and are rewarded with automatic spots in the final." Aw c'mon you guys, that's not fair!
- "No restriction on the nationality of the performers exists, which has resulted in countries being represented by artists who are not nationals of that country. One of the most well-known winning artists, Canadian Céline Dion represented Switzerland in 1988 (It seems to be a Swiss tactic, as their 2005 performance was by Estonian group Vanilla Ninja and their 2006 performance is by the multinational group six4one with performers coming from Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden, Malta and Portugal as well as from Switzerland)." Switzerland! Where's your national pride? You make delicious chocolate and useful pocketknives, surely you can come up with some talented musicians.
- "As of 2009, the country which has entered the longest with no wins to their name is Portugal. They started entering in 1964, and are still awaiting their first win." Now that is a shame. I thought the 2009 Portuguese entry was really good.

This is probably the longest TILfW entry ever, and there is so much more to say. What were your favorite Eurovision entries for 2009?

Oh, and for those of you who missed it and can't stand the suspense, this year's winner was Norway's Alexander Rybak, performing "Fairytale:"

* And I am aware that my own country is responsible for more than its fair share of bland, inoffensive pop. I shudder to think what the American entry would sound like; it would probably make Kelly Clarkson sound like Kate Bush.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Entry: Dyatlov Pass Incident

I know, I'm remiss in my postings. You know that thing where you aren't on your computer, and engage in situations that don't happen on the Internet? The name escapes me... anyway, I was dealing with that.

Today's article was sent to me by Ms. Tatertot. In 1959, ten Soviet men and women went on a recreational skiing hike. Nine of them died, under very mysterious and creepy circumstances.

From the article:

"The mysterious circumstances and subsequent investigations of the hikers' deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigations of the deaths suggest that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow; while the corpses show no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. According to sources, the victims' clothing contained high levels of radiation - though this was likely added at a later date, since no reference is made to it in contemporary documentation and only in later documents. Soviet investigators determined only that 'a compelling unknown force' had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter. The causes of the accident remain unclear."

The rest of the article is similarly hair-raising, and since I'm now terrified of irradiated communist ski-zombies, I'm going to go hide under my bedcovers.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Entry: Natalie Tran

Sometimes when I really like someone or something or somewhere (somehow), I check the Wik' to make sure the object of my affections has an article, because I am a deeply insecure person who needs to know that other people likes what she likes. I like. Yes. Anyway.

I was very pleased to see that vlogger Natalie Tran (communitychannel) has a healthy article. Kind of silly of me, considering that she has thousands of subscribers, but like I said, deeply insecure. She's been vlogging for a few years, but I only started watching her videos about a month ago, and I have the biggest hetero-crush on her. (I know it's a bro-mance when it's two guys, but what is it with a girl and a girl? Ho-mance? Axe commercial? Doesn't require a name because women are expected to be more open to feelings of affection?) She's smart and funny and prolific and cute as a button, and Australian accents are like a +5 in my book. If Hitler had an Australian accent, I'd probably be all, "Well, he was evil incarnate, but he pronounces his r's so cute! Maybe I'll just sweep the Lambeth Walk thing under the rug and blog about puppies." Okay, probably not.

Anyway, Natalie Tran is awesome (and curses a little bit. Beware, office slackers):

(Disregard that last bit, though. My mother is a saint. And doesn't go on YouTube, like, ever.)

I was shocked, though, to see that the two photos in the article are going to be deleted:


(Additionally: you like my MSPaint job? That's how I roll: using a track pad and sprawling on the couch.)

I can only take solace in the fact that after May 14, 2009, my hastily constructed jpeg will stand as a monument to the article as it once was. Goodnight, sweet prince.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Entry: Hamlet

I'm not feeling terribly witty today ("But Regina," you say, "when has that stopped you from posting before?"), but luckily my good friend Greg from Art History, LOL also peruses the Wiki, and has some thoughts on Hamlet. And considering that he played Guildenstern-- oh yes he did-- he is an expert on the subject.

"It's 4:30 on a Tuesday, so I am surfing the Wik. And I've looked at the origins of Hamlet before, but today I just really, really read it. I noticed a few things of interest!

1. The names are WAY better. Gertrude is Gerutha. Claudius is Feng. Old Hamlet? Horvendill! Other notables? Former King RORIK SLENGEBORRE! (I guess he's the Fortinbras analog...)

2. The first half sounds pretty close to the play: king is slain by jealous brother, jealous brother marries queen, pissed off son concocts a plan of faked madness, and is shipped off to England before coming back and killing people. But, then there's this whole part that, uh, I don't quite remember. Amleth/Hamlet marries the English princess, kills the ENTIRE court of Denmark by getting them drunk and pinning them down with a burning tapestry, demands the people make him king, goes back to England for his wife, kills HER father, hops up to Scotland to win the heart of the Scottish queen, takes them both back to Denmark, and dies in battle with the young Fortinbras analog.

Um. Is this the plot of Hamlet 2? I didn't see it."

[Ed. note: No. The plot of Hamlet 2 involves Jesus, a time machine, and a gay men's chorus, wrapped up in a package of gratuitous nudity and satire of the Inspirational White Teacher Helps Urban Minority Teens trope. In other words, it's better than anything Shakespeare ever wrote or thought about writing. Although I admit it could have benefited from a burning tapestry.]

"3. The article contains the phrase: '[he] sent Amleth as proxy wooer for the hand of a terrible Scottish queen Hermuthruda, who had put all former wooers to death'. Proxy wooer? It doesn't get much better than that."

I am changing every username I have to proxy_wooer.