Archive | Interests RSS feed for this section

Lorum Ipsum Rocks!

6 Aug

There is a saying: quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur. “Anything said in Latin sounds profound.” Certainly it grabs my attention–even nonsense Latin, like lorum ipsum which is used as space filler. What is it about a dead language that draws you in?

My first exposure to Latin was in choir–there’s a LOT of sacred music that is only sung in “Church” Latin, since until Vatican II, that was how all Catholic services were done. As a singer, Latin is a lot easier to sing than in English. English is a Germanic language and has a lot of “sh” and “th” and hard “c’s” and your tongue has to work around that. Latin is the Romance language, and just like French, Spanish, and Italian, softer vowels are easier to sing.

Take this example — this is St. Louis Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. It looks like an office building in the middle of downtown, but it is covered in Latin phrases on the outside. It grabs your attention. I only noticed the diocese coat of arms 15 seconds after I tried translating the two phrases. The lower one is easy “Ecce Tabernaculum Dei” – Behold the tabernacle of God. The one above the door I had to run through a translator – “All nations will bow before thee, O Lord” – I could only catch “Omnes,” “Corum,” and “Domine.” Not bad for someone whose knowledge of Latin only comes from translations of choir music. 🙂

However, maybe it’s not just Latin? In the movie, the Matrix, the Merovingian says, “I love French… [rattles off some nonsense words], it’s like wiping your ass with silk, I love it.” German generally sounds aggressive. Personally, I love the sound of Dutch – I guess it’s because it’s German with softer vowels… LOTS of softer vowels. You never run into more double “a’s.”

It could just be an American thing — I know bits and pieces of ten different languages, but can only barely speak anything but my own. We don’t use multiple languages in regular daily conversation. (Unless you count Spanish signs.) So maybe the unknown is the appeal. I don’t know what the heck the words above me say… but I -want- to know. I wanted to know what Lorum Ipsum meant and was disappointed to find out they were just nonsense words.

What do you think? Is it just the sense of the unknown? Is it the formality of a dead language that you can’t hear that makes it sound profound? Let me know in the comments below!

Abbreviation Nation

5 Aug

If I say “USS Badger” or “HMS Richmond,” you know exactly what those abbreviations mean. I love ship prefixes, I use them extensively in all my scifi stories, but as I’ve learned over the years, most non-English-speaking countries don’t use them. So… naval intelligence puts some prefixes on anyway!

Take the Wufeng Shan, which is a type 072 landing ship run by the (Chinese) People’s Liberation Army Navy. They have no ship prefixes–that’s probably a symbol of imperialist oppresion. So without an official one, you can go with the more prosaic CNS – Chinese Naval Ship – or my favorite, the PLANS – People’s Liberation Army Navy Ship. There is something so wonderfully bizarre about the term “Army Navy.”

This is not just a foreign thing — sometimes the US military takes the abbreviation too far. Take the ship pictured above: USAV SSGT Robert T. Kuroda (LSV-7). First off, this is an Army ship; that’s right, the US Army has its own ships. Unfortunately, the Army decided, we can’t just use the standard prefix. We go with “United States Army Vessel” and then add the frickin’ rank of the man we’re honoring! The hell?

Or you can go with the NOAAS Okeanos Explorer, which is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ship. They’re one of the civilian federal uniformed services of the US (didn’t know that, did ya?) along with the National Health Service. The hospital ships, though, are run by the US Navy but are given the civilian designation USNS Mercy – United States Naval Ship.

When you have to translate it into other languages, that’s where prefixes get fun. Take the picture above – Hr.Ms Van Amstel (F831). That’s Harer Majesteits or His Netherlands Majesty’s Ship which works a lot better than the English equivalent: HNLMS. Sometimes even English abbreviations can get cumbersome, such as HMNZS Te Kaha (New Zealand naval ship) or the CCGS Cap Aupaluk (Canadian coast guard ship), which at least dropped “Her Majesty’s” ship from the title.

I find this endlessly fascinating. So much so that I like reusing old ones – my current story project is set in the Terran Confederation, so the ships have a Confederate State Ship, such as the CSS Community of Harmonious States.

Am I the only one? Do you like ship prefixes? What are some of your favorites? What would you name your ships? Tell me in the comments below!

Change Your Name, Change Your Life

31 Jul

There’s a saying among the expatriate community in Korea: “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Kim, a Lee, or a Park.” So you would think there’s a lack of last names in Asia. The real reason is far more interesting.

I happened to pass a TV that was showing the LPGA tour. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. However, it showed the leader board and it showed the name of Jeongeun Lee #6… which having never watched ladies’ golf before struck me as rather bizarre, but not that unexpected. Turns out that even those she’s is the only Jeongeun Lee in the LPGA, in the Korean league, she was the 6th one, and established her brand as #6.

Twenty years ago, my first real job out of college was at Taejon Christian International School, an international boarding school in South Korea. It was actually a very nice place and I’ve gotten the impression that it has been getting nicer since I left. At the time, they hadn’t built the new dorm and school buildings, and there was a small woods (with houses) nearby in the land between it and the Hannam University.

This is where I ran into the fundamental problem of a lack of Korean names. I believe JeongEun means “grace,” which considering the massive Christian presence, doesn’t surprise me. I’ve run into several “Graces;” the habit among most international Korean students is that their family named their kids something that could be translated into English as well as Korean and mean precisely the same thing.

I love this statue in Daejeon – outside the soccer stadium.

As mentioned above, there’s mainly three last names, so to have six women named exactly the same in a pro sports league is not that surprising. This was not always the case. You can look back through Korean history and find all manner of last names.

Why the change? Because after being occupied by the Japanese for fifty years, the newly freed Koreans in 1945 had burned the official records. There was no paper trail to prove that you were who you said you were. So people started giving themselves royal names. Kim, Park, and Lee all dated back to the families of kings of a free and independent Korea. These peasants wanted to improve their life, so they changed their name. The only problem was that EVERYONE figured this out and did it roughly at the same time.

This is not that unusual. Many of the new Zionist settlers to Israel changed their name to something more Hebrew sounding to start a new life. I knew one friend whose ancestor moved to Yorktown, Virginia and took his wife’s name to forget his past. I knew one guy in college who changed his last name to Angel because… it sounded cool. (Angel was also a popular show on TV at that moment.)

Does changing your name really make that much of a difference in your life? Have you met people who did this? Ladies, did taking your husband’s last name (or not) lead to a change in how people perceived you? Let me know in the comments below?

Hate the Length, Not the Writer

29 Jul

As I’m releasing my short stories on my author’s page, it occurs to me–I really don’t like short stories. I’ve written very few, as compared to the tons of first chapters in my folders that never got anywhere. It occurred to me that the reason was very, very simple.

You simply get no chance to be invested in the story. It takes a while to setup the universe, the characters, to get into the rhythm of the story. Then… it’s suddenly over. Your entire job is to convey one cute concept or rough idea or something you want to discuss. The characters and the universe are irrelevant in a short story. It’s a plot, straight and simple. Take one of my favorite short stories, “The Rule of Names” by Ursula K. Le Guin. Great concept, but apart from the dragon, do you know any of the characters? No… it’s not important. You build up this universe just to abandon it on the side of the road. Maybe the universe couldn’t hold up a whole novel (as has happened to me).

I find this annoying in other forms of entertainment as well. It’s why I prefer TV series over movies. If you’re gonna spend time with characters you care about, you want them be around for a while. That’s why having a universe where main’/supporting characters die is so effective!

But there are exceptions to this. Memes, for example, are easily digestible, bite-sized nuggets of wisdom. Whether they match your wisdom is another question entirely–they’re there to get a point across and leave. They’re also easily shared and travel fast. You don’t have time to make a connection. Blogs are also great for this, because although they’re short, you know the author and make a connection with them instead.

Now I’ve actually sold short stories, and they’re great for anthologies, but those have the same problem for me. Unless you’re following the same characters, I really couldn’t care. Even anthologies from a shared universe are… iffy. For example, Changer of Worlds is set in the Honorverse, which is a series I’ve followed religiously written by David Weber. Three of the four stories are referenced (but not essential) to the plot of other books; three of the four are also written by the author himself, so one wonders why he bothered. Even then, it still took a while for me to read them… even after I bought the book! In this case, I was simply getting backstory… and although that was enjoyable, it wasn’t desirable.

Novellas are the worst of both worlds. I should know, I’ve written two of them. They’re just long enough to convey the story, universe, and characters, but not enough to continue. About 20K words–that was my comfortable spot for many years. I couldn’t write more than that until NaNoWriMo and Grad School taught me how to crank words out. There was one novella I wrote specifically for a contest, so it had to be that long, but it didn’t win… so… poopy.

So when I seek out new reading, I hope for series, I hope for long epic stories, and characters that are worth following. Am I alone here? Do you feel the same or do you crave the nice bite-size morsels of a short story? Or even the single sitting meal of a movie? Let me know in the comments below!

Why are Mormon Women So Attractive? (Part II)

28 Jul

Continuing on my strange topic, you may be wondering, “Why am I blogging about this?” Because of my Hamilton fix, the online performing group Working with Lemons did an amazing job of taking the musical and putting it “in real life” (off stage). They’re also from Utah, and no surprise, Mormon. They also have incredibly hot women performing in it. No surprise either; the acting profession tends to be self-selecting, because beautiful women tend to be more successful. However, that’s what got me thinking about this–and check out their channel!

Self-Selecting Immigration

When the LDS made their first foreign missions, they hit England, right as the Industrial Revolution hit. Brigham Young himself immigrated from England. However, part of the reason there was a push to polygamy was because they converted a LARGE number of English women (who were probably working in cloth factories in terrible conditions), and ended up with more women than men.

In early 19th Century thinking, you can’t leave a large group of single women around unprotected. So all these women get scooped up. Following waves of converts from other parts of Europe generally are folks who a) believed and b) felt an opportunity in Utah. These people tend to be the folks who think they can get ahead and those folks tend to be more attractive.

Is this sexist? Sure–but how many ugly salesmen and saleswomen have you met? Go ahead–I doubt you can count them on more than one hand.

Modest is Hottest

Let’s face it, a woman in a bikini is pretty amazing, but it’s not like they’re hiding much. The same woman in a concealing blouse and skirt… wouldn’t you like to know more? On a similar vein, let’s try…

Happy is the New Sexy

Mormon women tend to be happier. And let’s face it, a happier girl is a sexier one; she brightens up a room. Could it be good living, frontier politeness, and avoiding drugs and alcohol? A greater emphasis on family and friendship? Doing things together and for others? Perhaps. It doesn’t work for everyone in the church–trust me, I’ve met several ex-Mormons–but generally all the LDS folks I’ve worked and hung out with are great, interesting, and happy people.

What do you think? Am I an asshole to bring this up? Do I just need to visit Utah to have my perception change? Or am I right on the money? Let me know in the comments below.

Why are Mormon Women So Attractive? (Part I)

27 Jul

Your mileage may vary, but this something that has puzzled me for quite some time – why are Mormon women so attractive? Is the water? Self-selecting immigration? Or is there some Sisterhood class that I’m not aware of? (Why would I be?) Let me throw out some wild speculation, put in some quotes, and see where this takes me?

Not Everyone Agrees

This was not considered “gospel” a hundred years ago. Mark Twain wrote about them in Roughing It: “My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically ‘homely’ creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, ‘No – the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure – and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.'”

Best Foot Forward

Whenever LDS missionaries come over, I always invite them in. As a student of Mormon History (but not a member of their church), I find them interesting to talk to and love to go back and forth on the BoM. 9 times out of 10, Saints on a mission are generally young – between 19 and 24 – so it could be that we’re just seeing them at the right time. Certainly, there’s plenty of beautiful women on Arizona State’s campus… although they have an LDS training center on campus… wait a minute…

When I was 25, I went on a road trip and landed in Independence, Missouri. Because I like Mormon history, I decided to check out the temple site… and pulled into the wrong parking lot. Turns out there’s three different denominations claiming different parts of the Temple Site and the mainline denomination has a visitor’s center right next to the Community of Christ’s big temple. So I’m walking into the visitor’s center and five of the most beautiful women I have ever seen are working there as tour guides. I had to admit, it was a great conversion tool: “Seduce your way to Christ!” 🙂

Wow! This article is getting too long – I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow. But am I full of it? Am I right on the nose? Let me know in the comments below.

What Conan the Barbarian Teaches Us About Fatherhood

23 Jul

When did saying “I Love You, Son” stop being taboo? As guys, I get it, we don’t talk about our feelings that much – makes us seem “unmanly,” but there was a change in my generation in which it started to be okay to tell our sons that we love them. What was the disconnect? Was the taboo always there or did it evolve with our concept of manliness? Of course, we turn to cheesy action movies for our answer.

How did this thought come about? Well, I was watching Conan the Barbarian, the 2011 version with Jason Momoa, and in that version, Conan is raised by a single dad until he’s 12. His mom dies in childbirth in the middle of a battlefield. Badass. Of course, when your dad is played by Ron Perlman, you’re guaranteed to become a badass. But Conan’s dad was a very harsh father, and it’s only later when he inevitably is about to die, it’s only then that he says, “I love you, son.” Then pours a giant ingot of boiling metal on himself.

A very powerful scene and one I really enjoyed, but why did Conan’s dad have to be a dick to him his whole childhood? He was trying to toughen him up? Okay, you’re a barbarian, it’s a harsh world, I get it. But it’s not going to cost you anything to hug your boy every once in a while.

Compare this to the 1982 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conan’s dad is still tough, badass, and still has a heart-to-heart with his young son. This speech is one of my favorites in all of movie history…

Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky, but Crom is your god. Crom, and he lives in the Earth. Once giants lived in the Earth, Conan, and in the darkness of chaos they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered, and the Earth shook, and fire and wind struck down these giants, and threw their bodies into the waters. But in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel, and left it on the battlefield.

We, who found it, are just men: not gods, not giants, just men. And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan, you must learn its discipline. For no one, no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts… This you can trust.

The way William Smith plays him is great. Now this actor is a Korean war vet, gave up finishing his doctorate, and became a B-movie villain. (Funny how life takes you strange places.) Notice that second paragraph, though, as he talks to the eight or nine year old Conan with compassion, but seriousness. He’s also holding five pounds of broadsword as he talks. He obviously cares at the same time he’s telling his son, “You gotta be tough.”

Interesting enough, the tone of the movie also continues into the main plot. The difference between the main villain, Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) and Khalar Zym (played by Stephen Lang) are also obvious. Both have that sad look towards their work. Doom has been personally learning the mystery of power. Zym’s a single dad who is trying to bring his evil wizard wife back from the dead. When facing Conan father’s killer, Doom is blase: “Really?” Zym takes a moment, but remembers Conan.

In the Schwarzenegger version, it’s the love of his family that was lost is reflected in the blandness of the evil that took it away. In the Momoa version, it’s the toughness he learned as a kid that is reflected in the passion of the evil. Maybe that’s the key – my father certainly wasn’t an affectionate man, my stepfather was more affectionate, but we weren’t a family of huggers. When I went to college and I met my first Italian friend, suddenly embracing someone you love was wonderful! I love hugging people! That contact is essential for feeling good and giving you strength later on.

Naturally, when I raise my own son, I don’t hold back my love and affection for him… at the same time, I try to prepare him for the world he’s going to live in. Compassion should be balanced with toughness, a man can be manly and still not an impassive dick to those he loves. You can cry at movies and be stoic in the face of pain or weakness. There is a balance that one needs to live… and that’s the lesson we need to pass on to our sons.

If you have kids, how do you balance toughness with kindness? Allowing independance versus keeping them safe? Put your hints in the comments below. In the words of Red Green, “Hang in there, we’re all in this together.”

What The Hell Did I Just Watch?

21 Jul

I happened to see Zardoz (1974) was available on Hulu. All I knew is that it was terrible and was one of those films I’m sure Sean Connery wish he never did (including Highlander II). But then one of my friends convinced me, “Oh, no – it’s really good. Watch it!” Okay – and I descended into movie-watching hell.

I’m not going to put a spoiler warning here because this movie is already spoiled. There is no way to describe this film–even the official description makes absolutely no sense after the first fifteen minutes. It starts off with a floating head explaining sophomoric philosophy, followed by a killing spree and a (different) giant floating head while Beethoven plays in the background.

You follow the floating head for the credits, which should have told me to run away right there. I already had the “pretentious” flag from the intro, the killing spree by men in scanty clothing, the Beethoven… but then, the “written, produced, and directed by” warning right there? I should have stopped right there!

Now if you love this film, then you and I expect different things out of movies. I expect a story. I don’t expect a visual representation of the pointlessness of existence or the ennui of being really… really old. The story should be the plot. You can have a message, you can have a really obvious message, but there needs to be a story. This has no story – it is “look at this cool universe” and “this is the message” kind of movie. The first could be forgiven – the second screams “art film.”

It’s not just that this is 70’s sci-fi. I love Logan’s Run. I love Soylent Green. But I was reading a review of this film that encapsulated it all. Will Thomas said, “A fascinating reminder of what cinematic science fiction used to be like before Star Wars, this risible hodge-podge of literary allusions, highbrow porn, sci-fi staples, half baked intellectualism and a real desire to do something revelatory misses the mark by a hundred miles.”

There is a lot of boobies. A lot of “Show me more of this human thing called sex.” I now understand the “Big Giant Head” joke from 3rd Rock from the Sun. I feel asleep twice during this film… and only felt the need to rewind once. I skipped past a five minute montage of teaching Zed… with lots of boobies. There were two redeeming points in the movie – and I’m giving nothing away here – one is where Zed learns to read, the other was the Apathetics licking Sean Connery.

And then it ends, as you knew it was going to end, with a denouement which would have been nice if it hadn’t been so creepy. It reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Most of the film is slow-motion shots of “Look how cool these effects are!” set to the Blue Danube Waltz, fifteen minutes of “That’s a neat story,” and an artsy ending.

I’m gonna give this a 8/10 on the WTF meter. The only movie I’ve ever seen that rating higher (9/10) was Motorama (1991); I figure a 10/10 would destroy the fabric of the universe. I am also going to punish my friend for telling me to watch this film. My retribution will be swift.

How would you punish my friend? What piece of garbage would you make him watch? Write your answer in the comments below.

P.S. Shaktimaan (the TV show) is not an option. That’s just cruel and unusual punishment.

Prayer Reimbursement

20 Jul

Prayer really is the first social media; everyone has access to it, some people “post” more than others, and some have more “followers.” You run into the same problems as other social media. You don’t like somebody’s prayer, you’ll mute them. You might “unfollow” someone after they do or say something you find offensive. And yet, it still one of the most effective forms of mass communication on the planet!

Let me approach this idea in a non-judgmental way. I happened to come across the term “payer management” on someone’s site and misread it – I thought it would be a catchy title. But the more I think about it, social media is a good metaphor for prayer. You start off following one god because one of their followers invited you to join them. You go along and start following other followers in the group, because you like what they have to say, or they bring the funny, or make good music.

If only your worship team was this cool.

Many people stop there. Others will start following other followers to see what they think, or to get a different insight into their prayer life. Some with try out other traditions – or follow those from other traditions – to read more posts. Some people actively cultivate followers. Some post really radical things that you may or may not be in agreement with. Even if they don’t, there’s a wide variance of prayer out there, even in the same religion. The difference between a Charismatic Catholic and an Irish Catholic church is just as vast as an Orthodox synagogue and a Reform synagogue. You might recognize some of the same words and songs… but that’s it.

But let’s get back to the title – reimbursement – what do “pray-ers” get out of it? Same things as social media; a sense of community, of connecting with something more, and sometimes, getting something they want. Your goal in prayer may be to connect with the infinite, but it also may be something more concrete. You may want to heal a sick friend or to get a better job. That’s why marketing on social media (and religion) is such a big industry – there is a goal in mind. You may want to save souls or pitch the Sleep Bible app on Cable TV.

Whether you “speak it into existence” or you get a direct benefit as a “follower,” prayer has a direct impact in people’s lives, and has for thousands of years. Okay – have I butchered this metaphor enough? Am I way out of line? Tell me in the comment section below!

Peace, Power, Righteousness

16 Jul

Let me be pretentious a moment. Reading about the Haudenosaunee Kaienerekowa (Iroquois Constitution) made me realize two things. One, the US Constitution was NOT based on it; and two, it’s a really good system! The ideals of power, peace, and righteousness are a great way to think about fixing democracy today.

Now why am I studying this? When your wife is a religious scholar, the strangest books appear in your house, and she moved into colonialism and its aftereffects. Normally this would give me a giant yawn — “Oh Lord, not another hippie dippie political tract.” But the missus insisted that I might like this one book called Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors by Gerald Alfred. (He goes by his Mohawk name now, and is a lot more activisty, but this was his dissertation at Cornell.) It’s short, so I decided to try it. Suddenly, I’m now reading about the political conflict of First Nations with the Canadian government and the nature of the Iroquois Constitution. This scratched me where I itched because history and politics are my bailiwick.

Since he’s explaining the rise of Mohawk nationalism on this particular reserve south of Montreal, he has to summarize the Iroquois Constitution (and forgive me if I’m missing the salient points), which was designed to balance all the political factions, more specifically, the tribes and gender. They ensured that each tribe and clan had representation, women exclusively voted for their representatives, which were exclusively men. Now here’s the point I found interesting. They did not try to achieve majority… they tried to reach consensus.

They used oratory to convince the different chiefs of their opinion. I’m guessing this might have taken a lot longer, but hell, I don’t see majority rule being any shorter. They had to achieve consensus before they made their move. This is why they stayed neutral during the French and Indian Wars, and when the Mohawk decided to attack the French on their own, they got cut off from Iroquois support.

Now it doesn’t sound perfect, but to quote James Madison, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” The idea of reaching consensus, of forcing compromise between two diametrically opposed points of view, would give power to the moderates, and things would actually get done in government! That’s a really exciting idea.

So how do you implement it? As Mohawk activists are quick to point out, you don’t get peace and righteousness without power. If you don’t have the idea to enforce consensus (like the joke about fascist libertarianism, “You WILL be free!”), then you go nowhere. So the first step in changing the culture is having politicians willing to make compromise. There’s a reason why they don’t, but if you’re in a safe district, you don’t have to risk your job to try.

And would that be worse than what we got? What you do think? Put your comments below!

Muslim Life

Everything about Islam

SUPER MODE

Discovering myself

how her life changed...

My journey of becoming a better version of myself

iridescentrica

...it's never too late for words.

poetry from another perspective

welcome, welcome, welcome to the world of my perspective.

Fashion on A Budget

MAKE GORGEOUS, LOOK GLAMOROUS AND IMPROVE YOUR INNER FASHIONISTA .

From Papers to Posts

Adding ink to thoughts

Bibliophile

Lost in a world that doesn't exist

The Lexicon

Supermassive black hole poetry.

opendiaries.com

Welcome to a Glimpse of Different Hearts♥

Struggle:build:experience

INDOMITABLE & VERIDICAL SOUL IN COGNITION

Stormy NooK

Reach the next level.

MyWorldMum

Artist

OHgeeleelee

Book reviews