Archive for the 'Pseudo-intellectualism' Category

29
Sep
10

What’s Wrong with These Foreigners?! – Part I

So there I was prancing about in the Inter Web, which we all know, is a series of tubes transported by large dump trucks dumping God knows what to God knows where.  Thanks to the late former Senator Stevens, I now know my way around the Web like the backs of my hairy fists.  And here I was I run into something that I found to be extremely disturbing in that 4th dimensional sense.

Did you know that Windows 7 was marketed in Japan using an anthropomorphic Windows 7 character?  I mean what is wrong with these foreigners?!  Here in the good old New World, we like our Windows completely sanitized and devoid of any humanoid depictions of such inhuman product as the Windows Operating System courtesy of the Microsoft Corporation which is definitely not funding this particular article nor contributing anything to my barren pockets.

In fact, this past year when Windows 7 was released in Japan, a “special” Windows 7 was available ONLY IN JAPAN with the addition of themes and sounds of a character named Nanami Madobe.  Apparently, and I only know this because someone told me so, “nana” in Japanese means seven!  And of course, this particular character had a voice to go with it too.  The voice actress behind this abomination was none other than Nana Mizuki, supposedly popular voice actress and an accomplished singer, so I hear.  Did you notice the “nana” in her name too?  I was gasping for air with all this conspiracy whirling about me and by these extremely foreign acts by a bunch of foreigners in their foreign land with their strange foreign customs.

Here is a witness depiction of this abomination.

Nanami Madobe. The cat is probably included in the foreign version of Windows 7.

I was more than relieved when I convinced myself that because almost a year had passed since the abomination’s birth, there would be little to no effect to the rest of the cultured and decent worlds.  UNTIL… I found out about THIS!

Microsoft Corporation’s rival to the Adobe Flash software has a glitzy ring to it, so called Silverlight.  You may have noticed, if you are an owner of a Windows installed computer, that Silverlight loves updating itself almost as much as your outdated antivirus software telling you that you will lose your job and family if you do not renew subscription right now.  In fact the only reason I recognized the name was because it happened to be updating itself as we speak.

Okay, back to the subject.  My rage begins here.  So a bunch of foreigners in Taiwan apparently thought it appropriate to create an anthromorphic Silverlight to market it.  I mean, “what?!”  After finally closing my eyes to the the plights of Windows 7 in Japan I see screams of character marketing in another Asian nation.  The profanity that this implies is devastating.  So, instead of relying on the extremely vague and what appears to me like a deformed mobius strip, Microsoft in Taiwan opted for a 2D depiction of a harlot codenamed Hikaru prostituting herself to the general masses to bring tainted market share from the Adobe Flash users.

Harlot depicted below.

Hikaru. Note: Above depiction was constructed during an extreme rage and thus the placement of the head is unintentional.

So, the question lingers… What’s wrong with these foreigners?!  The answer to which, if I were able to answer it, I feel is best left and perhaps buried in a pile of mud to be preserved as fossilized remains to be dug up by some future denizen a million years from now to learn from our foreigners’ erring ways.

19
Dec
09

Code Geass: Why Code Geass is Educational.

Code Geass: Rebellion of Lelouch

Code Geass (see here), for those of benefactors that may not know, is an animation series from Japan (see here).  Often classified as a mecha-action-drama by some.

However, Code Geass holds a special place for me in my heart.  I believe it should be used in the classrooms in the United States, mainly for social studies classes in high schools.

This may sound bizarre and I assure you my masters, it is.  Code Geass is EDUCATIONAL!

Get edumacated! Author: Yes your highness...

Code Geass is one of those animes that covers a lot of the things that one needs to learn about in the world.

If I were to go into detail this article will take forever and as you know this will take too much work for me, your humble writer.   So, to put it succinctly, here is a list of things that you can learn about or is referenced in the Code Geass series.

===============

SOCIAL SCIENCE

-GOVERNMENT-

  • Forms of government (empire, constitutional monarchy, representative democracy, colony, single multi-state government (some people think U.N. is one))
  • Line of succession (see line of succession)
  • Political assassination and the scary “cides” (Regicide/Fratricide/Genocide (yes, even this too))
  • Rebellion/Insurgency/Terrorism
  • War (strategy vs. tactic) – see The Art of War
  • Electoral process (see representative democracy)
  • Public executions
  • Citizenship (naturalization and by birth)

-ECONOMICS-

  • Poverty
  • Caste system (aristocracy, etc.)
  • Social Darwinism (see social darwinism)
  • Commercialism (shopping malls, cell phones, Pizza Hut.  Having been in the ad business in my previous employment this really fascinates me)
  • Mass media (state-controlled)

-HISTORY-

  • Everything before 1500-ish (because anything mentioned after that is the universe that Code Geass is set in)
  • Geography (accurate world geography with different borders)

-MISC-

  • Religion (the occult, in this case)
  • Racism and reverse-racism
  • High school education (an anime with a high school?!)

===============

HEALTH

-SEX EDUCATION-

  • Homosexuality (both male/male and female/female)
  • Masturbation (female)
  • One-sided love (I’m shocked too, I know)
  • S&M (just look at C.C.’s outfit)
  • Incest (multiple occasions)

-D.A.R.E.-

  • Drug abuse/Drug trafficking (Just say no to Refrain)
  • Deaths (suicides and malicious kinds)

===============

NATURAL SCIENCE

-NATURAL SCIENCE-

  • Psychology (a good anime always cover this topic but…)
  • Futurism (see futurism)
  • Energy crisis (sort of)
  • Pseudo-science (e.g. ESP, etc.)

-COMMERCIAL TECHNOLOGY-

  • Ejection seats, air bags
  • Monorail/public transportation systems
  • Robotics (it’s an anime, it has mecha, nuff said)
  • Cell phones (I know it’s mentioned but I do like the ones featured here.  Can’t beat the ones from Macross Frontier though)

===============

CREATIVE ARTS

-ARTS & CRAFTS-

  • Portraits (royalties, mainly)
  • Architecture (classical and neo-classical… I think)
  • Landscapes (impressionism, I think)
  • Cosplay (yes, I think it’s art)

===============

I believe there are many more things one can learn from this anime.  We should promote a forced viewing of the 2 seasons of Code Geass to everyone in high school.

Despite my utter hatred for Lelouch the Douche, I believe that allowing the youths of America to be exposed to such compendium ofknowledge will ultimately benefit us in the long run.  Long live Emperor Ledouche!

14
Dec
09

Seeing Author People (the intentional fallacy part II)

Editor’s note: the following was received in a repeating signal, broadcast by a digital beacon from the middle of the Bornean Jungle. As of now, Blanka Hsudler’s location is unknown.

***

Previously in this space, I’ve discussed the so-called “fallacy of the author,” which states that an artistic work should be judged on its own merits without preconceptions about authorial intent. Although this has always been a touchstone of my attitude as a reader, it’s caused considerable problems in my approach to writing. Trying to write with a background in literary criticism is like trying to play the lottery while having a basic understanding of math.

The Fallacy, in particular, seems designed to undermine the creative act. After all, the very name of the thing declares that authorship is a lie. How am I supposed to put words on the page when I have no say in the meaning of the finished work?

The dilemma is encapsulated nicely in this scene (linked in part I) from the marginally-entertaining Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Back to School. For a practically-minded man like protagonist Thornton Melon, it makes perfect sense that the ultimate authority on a Kurt Vonnegut novel would be the writer himself. He learns a hard lesson about lit theory when his college professor gives Vonnegut’s paper an F, and moreover declares that its author “doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut.” Of course, poor Kurt learns a harder lesson, one that really tugs at a fellow writer’s heartstrings, when Melon cancels his paycheck. As far as I am concerned, the most important lesson in Back to School is always ask to be paid beforehand, in cash.

***

That authors often don’t understand the “hidden meaning” in their own work is hardly news. But if I can’t tell you what my own book is about, what’s the point of writing at all? Worse, what if I’m writing one thing and it turns out to be just the opposite? Take The Merchant of Venice: critics still can’t decide if poor old William Shakespeare meant Shylock to be a greedy old caricature hilariously bitch-slapped by karma, or an sweet man soured by the bitter pill of society’s salty aspersions.

Two modern interpretations of the character:
Laurence Olivier

Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock, 1973

Al Pacino

Al Pacino as Shylock, 2004

This, of course, ignores the obvious answer that Shylock is supposed to be an ambiguous figure. For the sake of this analysis I’ll pretend that shades of gray weren’t invented till Impressionism.

***

Another example from the Bard: I’m pretty sure “to thine own self be true,” the words said by Polonius to his son in Hamlet, wasn’t meant as sound advice. Until he’s accidentally stabbed while hiding behind some curtains (in a scene that I find hilarious — is that so wrong?), Polonius is presented as a senile, lecture-happy dotard, a sort of medieval Larry King who hails from Denmark instead of Mesopotamia. I’m pretty sure it’s no coincidence that his advice sounds like the title of a bad self-help book or an even worse memoir (an Amazon search turns up a painfully comprehensive list of both).

An astute reader might point out that Shakespeare isn’t the best source to use when discussing authorial intent, since we’re not actually sure the guy wrote his own plays. Or existed. But whether a non-entity can truly intend anything is a question I’ll leave to the philosophers (or Tom Huxter).

The point is, it can seem impossible to get a message across when all readers have to go on is the written word. Even when the message is right there in the text, someone is likely to come along who gets it completely backwards. Worst of all, everything being relative, perhaps it’s the author himself who’s misunderstood the whole thing. So, why write at all? It’s certainly enough of a dilemma to make one tear one’s hair out.

Shakespeare, BEFORE and AFTER

Shakespeare, too, was distressed to learn about the Fallacy of the Author.

***

Next time: Some foolproof ideas about how to write, in spite of the Fallacy. Or at least, some foolish ideas.

13
Nov
09

To Tea or Not to Tea, That is a Chrysanthemum.

Once in many moons, I find something so intriguing that I must share it with the only ones that care for me, that’s you my dear readers and masters.

To cut to the chase, here is what I have to share.  I found this folded up tea instruction thingy in a bag of dried Chrysanthemum used for tea.  I do not know how the bag of tea came about.  Perhaps, it “folded” here during a trans-dimensional shift that happened to occur precisely at the time when the earth’s moon aligned with a certain polarity pole that I grafted into the middle of a tachyon-rich field here in marshy Floridian paradise.  Or perhaps, it got here by a custom order made by a certain individual desiring to read something really funny because there was just not enough Engrish in this world.

The so-called instruction manual were printed in four languages: Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese (PRC, I think,) respectively.

To Tea or Not To Tea

To introduce this lame yet sincere posting, I start with a perfectly transcribed version below.  Here it goes:

———-

The methods of tea drinking

1. 10 circle degree(for 5 persons) is put in numerous work.

2. Over 100 temperature of hot water and wait for about 1 minute.

3. When the yellow colour comes out, and a flower blooms, I drink by a mug.

* For 5-6 times to drink The fragrance cuts it and goes out.

* Take the one flower and put in into the cup or tea caddy and can see a flower blooms

* The cool place where air connects well may be kept in a freezer.

———-

[Addendum Maximum]

Here is a poem I wrote based on the text of the instructions on how to brew tea:

Title: “I drank by a mug”

By: {possibly google translate or babblefish}

Ten circles.

Degree for five persons

I’s put in numerous work over hundred.

Of hot water and wait.

For about one minute

When the yellow colour comes out

A flower blooms,

I drank by a mug.

For five to six times

To drink the fragrance

Cuts it, and goes out.

Take the one flower

And put in…

Into the cup

Or tea caddy and can see.

A flower blooms.

The cool place where air connects well.

May be kept in a freezer.

07
Oct
09

You killed my author, prepare to die

I’d only intended to stay a day or two while I recovered from exhaustion, but by now it seems that the abandoned camp has become my temporary home.  The trees are less dense here, so the place has the feel of a vaulted cathedral compared to the shadowy netherworld just a few yards away; at night, the dim glow of the Google logo on my laptop gives the clearing the subtle sheen of a polished stone.  If I really squint, I can even pretend that the clusters of beady, hungry eyes out beyond the edge of the clearing are candles twinkling serenely at the end of some neglected alcove.

I’m only joking about the eyes, of course.  Death here comes without the luxury of a warning.

But I won’t let it worry me.

***

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately.  This is, clearly, no substitute for the real thing.

I’ve been reminded, though, of an essay I read in one of the first classes I took on literary theory.  I can’t remember the title or the author (clearly, it made quite an impression), but it dealt with the Fallacy of the Author (also known as the Intentional Fallacy, or, more whimsically, the Death of the Author), an idea which has informed my reading process ever since.

The concept states, basically, that when we read we shouldn’t worry about the author’s intentions.  The words, once written, speak for themselves and we should look to them if we want to find out what a work means.

Music provides some illumination into how this should work.  Beethoven’s Ode to Joy has lyrics by Frederick Schiller – lyrics so majestically overblown that they practically float away like a German airship.

No ticket.

But even without its lyrics, perhaps more so without the distracting verbal flourishes, the chords and melody exude joy.  We don’t need to know what, precisely, inspired joy in Beethoven in order to understand  the piece’s meaning.  In fact, this one is best left alone, because I’m pretty sure he’d just won a bunch of money betting on a slapping contest.  Perhaps Joy was the name of the winning competitor.

***

SIDEBAR: Speaking of Beethoven, what if the radioactive goo that simultaneously blinded and empowered Daredevil had gone into his ears instead of his eyes?  We might have ended up with a deaf but eagle-eyed avenger, spotting danger before it appears.  Tough to get his attention, though, if he’s not looking at you.

Ludwig van Murdock

Hey Daredevil, help me light my barbecue? Daredevil? DAREDEVIL? ...Ah, I'll just do it myself.

But I digress.

***

Ode to Joy is just that – a celebration of human emotion.  Things get more complex when we deal with popular music, in which lyrics play a central role.  What do we make of something like Layla by Derek and the Dominos?  The song’s narrator begs the eponymous Layla to leave her neglectful husband and be with him instead.

I tried to give you consolation/When your old man had let you down/Like a fool, I fell in love with you/You turned my whole world upside down. (Eric Clapton could have been incredibly emo if he’d been born 30 years later.)

Rock fans know that Clapton wrote Layla about Beatle George Harrison’s wife, whom Clapton would later marry.  The song is grounded in fact, which lends it an extra dose of poignancy.

Layla provides a nice illustration of the limits of the Intentional Fallacy.  If we ignore Clapton and look at the song on its own, we can still understand the narrator’s woe.  The listener may even be able to see its sentiments reflected in his own life.  Clearly, though, the feelings expressed were intensely personal ones for Clapton, and ignoring this aspect of the song excises a whole layer of meaning.

***

The Fallacy of the Author comes in handy when parsing more opaque songs like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.  It’s only natural to want to find meaning in a song that is one of the few things people remember from the ‘70s, and Stairway’s words clearly have a lot going on.

Then again, If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow/Don’t be alarmed now/It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen just sounds a lot like Robert Plant forgot the lyrics mid-session and decided to ad lib.  The thing makes little enough sense that it’s not surprising some listeners thought the whole point of the song was as cover for a backmasked salute to Satan.

Much has been made of the song’s symbolism, its reference to Celtic mythology, etc., etc., etc.  But without asking the songwriter himself, any conjectures are just that.  For all we know, a drug-addled, Tolkien-loving Plant may have thought he was writing a sequel to The Lord of the Rings.

No Stairway? Denied.

No Stairway? Denied.

In the end, it is probably best not to worry about what was intended here.  Authorial intent, as in the case of Layla, can sometimes make things work on another level, but mostly, listeners trying to unscramble the contorted brainwaves of an earlier decade in search of illumination are just going to do themselves an injury.  Some see Stairway as a parable about materialism, some hear a call to arms for the grand tradition of western mythology, and of course, there’s always the Satanists-with-a-sound-engineer theory.

Myself, I find it’s easiest, and most accurate, to say what I always say when someone asks “what’s this song about?”

Uh, heroin?

***

Next time on Uncomma: what the Fallacy means to writers – or Why Kurt Vonnegut totally deserved that F.