12.31.2004

Resolutions

I usually don't make New Year's resolutions, but I feel like I have to for 2005. So here are some:

1) Study for the Japanese Proficiency Test.
2) Finish the non-fiction book I'm working on.
3) Do the work for the fan sites. (Actually, that's more short-term. I should just shoot for next week.)
4) Find an interesting job.
5) Resume studying German.

Those are all tasks I should do. Of course, there are other resolutions, such as overcoming envy and fear of failure, and there will probably be others added to the list. But those will all keep me busy for a while.

In just over an hour, it will be a Happy New Year for those of us in the Central Time Zone. Hooray!

12.29.2004

That's deep

In an ESL class, I mentioned this quote from Deng Xiaoping: “It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches the mouse" (which I found in this article about the business climate in China).

A student shared a couple of wise Chinese sayings that will encourage people to study:

"The book mountain has its path, and it is diligence."

"Working hard is the boat in the study ocean."

That's deep, n'est-ce-pas?

12.27.2004

Tsunami

When I was in Japan, I often heard the word "tsunami" because, of course, Japanese people speak Japanese. I was surprised to hear it in the U.S., and I still can't figure out how and when it entered the English language. Here's some information about what a tsunami is:

"Tsunami is a Japanese word; 'tsu' meaning harbour and 'nami' meaning wave. Tsunamis are sometimes incorrectly called tidal waves but have nothing to do with tides...A tsunami is different from normal waves on the ocean. Wind-made ocean waves cause the water to move down to about 150 metres at most. In contrast, the passage of a tsunami involves the movement of water all the way to the seafloor."

Also, if you want to read about what's happening in Asia, you can go to The Bangkok Post (news from Thailand), LankaPage (news from Sri Lanka), and The Jakarta Post (news from Indonesia, though the site might still be blank).

12.22.2004

Numa Numa Dance

Stop what you're doing and go to this site for the most hilarious video you'll ever see. Click on "Watch This Movie" and then after it loads, press "Play," then choose "Play Without Subtitles." That's the funniest version. I was laughing so hard, I was crying.

Turn up the volume, and you will hear a song that's in Romanian. The name of the song is Dragostea Din Tei. You can get info about it here. You can also read the lyrics in Romanian and English.

Update I: here's a Hebrew version of the song, and here are the lyrics.

Update II: here's a video of the band, O-Zone, singing live on TV.

Update III: here's the music video of the song.

Update IV: find out how O-Zone's song became a hit in Europe here.

Update V: here are a couple websites from the guy who created and is in the hilarious video. I hope all this publicity lands him an incredible job.

Update VI: the O-Zone site has been translated into English.

Update VII: here's some interesting commentary about the craze.

Update VIII: a paper is calling him a Cyberstar.

Update IX: why he did it: "I was sitting in my room, bored, and I found a random song and I thought it would be funny to show friends."

Update X: he made the New York Times. Who would've thought that a few months ago he'd be featured in the Paper of papers. The reins have been handed over, from the bloggers to the MSM.

Not Deutschlish

Language Hat linked to a New York Times article about Denglish, which is the increasing use of English in Germany.

The article says, "Regarding Denglish, it's not hard to see the appeal of English, its ability to provide a kind of quick verbal punch, compared with the polysyllabic nature of German." Like I've said before, the structure of German makes it seem scary.

Maybe Germans are scared, too: "...for many Germans, it seems a lot simpler and maybe more cheerful to say 'Happy Birthday,' than 'Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag,' which sounds a bit like a streak of Hegelian metaphysics." I can imagine kids crying all over Deutschland at their birthday parties when they're greeted with the latter sentence.

Luckily, my virtual buddy, the same guy (or chap, since he's a Brit) who gave his opinion on Spinal Tap's accent had some things to say about English in Germany, a couple months before the NYTimes article came out:

Some observers would comment that this is part of the reason that most language gets mistranslated in Germany. The German constitution says that the official language is German, but the gradual anglification of German is almost unilateral. In those same government buildings you see signs saying 'Restricted Area', IN ENGLISH... half the new buzzwords don't ever get translated into the country's official language... advertising slogans are English... colloquial German is constantly picking up new words for things, mostly in a colloquial English translation (entspannt=relaxed, Belastung=Stress, Gerechtigkeit=Fairneß, leicht=easy, Körperlotion=body lotion (pron. 'buddy lotion' (!))... the list could fill a quite a funny book. The other side of the coin is, though, that Germany is losing its culture through the laziness of people who should know better. Ask a German what 'marketing' means and they will tell you it means 'Marketing'. The same goes for 'training', 'management', and 'design' to name three more examples. All this when German is a beautiful language with extra exactitude that lends itself well to philosophy and technology, a language that has given English beautiful words like 'Zeitgeist', 'Gestalt', 'Angst'... it's a very unfair situation.

12.21.2004

Christmas activity

I was walking down Michigan Avenue and heard someone say, "I can't wait until Christmas is over. I'm so sick of this." He must've been experiencing advertising overload, in addition to the rest of the pre-Christmas frenzy. Isn't Christmas supposed to be a one-day holiday?

For those of you who have OD'd on Christmas, here's a little pun, which John Deaver sent me:

A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to leave. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off.  "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

And if you are interested in getting some Christmas-related ESL help, check out this site.

12.20.2004

Word Jazz

It's just past midnight, which means that Word Jazz is on WBEZ. It's the trippy creation of Ken Nordine, whose voice you've probably heard in various commercials, including Tasters Choice ads that appeared a long time ago (forgot how long).

I stumbled upon Word Jazz a decade ago, when I was driving late at night, and I was spooked and confused. "Is this a mistake?" I wondered as I made my way down the yellow-lit Chicago streets. I kept listening, though, and am still sort of baffled.

12.18.2004

I knew it

They waited for the right time.

"Judith Regan, President and Publisher of ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, announced today that a deal has been signed with Amber Frey for a very personal and chilling memoir about her relationship with Scott Peterson, who was tried and convicted for the murders of his pregnant wife and unborn child."

12.17.2004

Capitalization rules for academic degrees

An ESL student asked me what the capitalization rules are for academic degrees. I couldn't find the answer in any of my books, so I looked online, and found a pretty decent answer at the University of Tampa site. Here are a couple of examples:

"He has a bachelor's degree in English, a master's in translation, and a doctorate in comparative literature."
(Note that none of them are capitalized.)

"Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science"
(Note that they are capitalized.)

The site also has some other helpful examples, though keep in mind that it's the standardization they've chosen, which may not be true for other organizations.

12.16.2004

Kraftwerk interview

Well, I finished the transcript of the Kraftwerk interview. You can read it at the Kraftwerk fan site. Even though the interview was in English, I had to decifer a German word that Ralf Hutter used when he was talking about the West German radio station he listened to when he was young. It was Westdeutsche Rundfunk.

12.15.2004

British English spotted

I was at Toby Young's site (whose book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, I'm currently reading), and saw this quote at the top of the page: "Toby was always trying to get me to introduce him to my model friends. It was sad really."

Note the use of "really." An American wouldn't say that, unless he or she spent time in England. So I did a search on the suspected Brit who said that (model Sophie Dahl), and confirmed that yes, she is British.

Another British English mystery solved.

12.13.2004

James Patterson Inc.

A couple of years ago, Fortune magazine had an article about novelists, dead and alive, who use ghostwriters and/or cowriters. James Patterson was featured in that article, and, according to the article, "Patterson--arguably the author of the megabrand phenomenon--is not the sole author of his books."

His publisher doesn't care who writes. "'The crux is, when I receive a manuscript, it's delivered to me by James Patterson,' says Michael Pietsch, his publisher at Little, Brown. 'And whatever the byline is, the quality is the same'." Publishers have, after all, "become addicted to megabrand names...'There's a degree of predictability with brand-name publishing,' says Peter Lampack, Clive Cussler's agent. 'Publishers are banking on this'."

"His piece of the revenue is $50 million. You need that kind of money to grease the machinery that churns out three bestsellers a year and keeps as many as seven books and three movie scripts in production at the same time." Even if you just look at the list of his books, do you think he can churn all of that out by himself?

"How many of his 23 books had handmaidens? Ask people in the publishing business and they say, plenty." However, "Patterson doesn't like discussing the subject." So I wanted to ask him for myself when he was at Borders this past weekend, since he wasn't forthcoming with the Fortune magazine writer. Instead of asking him if it was true, I asked him how he did it, so that I could get more than a "yes" or "no" answer (which I was assuming would be "no").

He didn't let me finish my question, and seemed to be defensive, including sarcastically offering me a job. But I did get an answer: he has "collaborators." Then he talked about how television shows and movies do it, and complained that Americans expect there to be a "lone writer."

The last time I saw a book that said it was written by James Patterson, I assumed it was written by James Patterson. When I see the credits of a television show, there is a list of writers. Note the plural: writers, not writer. I don't assume one writer has written a television show, unless there is only one listed.

Agents don't care. "'If you're stuck thinking of authors as 'writers,' you're never going to [understand branding],' says [Robert] Gottlieb, some of whose clients work with up to six people, including writers, book packagers and a business manager...'TV is a format, film is a format and books are a format'."

I understand branding, Mr. Gottlieb, and I'm sure a lot of other readers do, too. If novels are written by a group, then state it, just like those other fiction formats do. Of course, there are non-fiction books written by co-authors and ghost writers, but it seems a little weird when fiction is produced in the same way.

I don't have a problem with Patterson using co-authors or ghostwriters. But publishers should state that his books are penned by "James Patterson Inc." instead of just "James Patterson."

12.11.2004

12.10.2004

LOTR rules

Lately, they've been showing The Fellowship of the Ring on cable television, and it's as incredible as ever. The Lord of the Rings screams "I'm excellent" every time I watch it. It is a masterpiece, a work of art, and it's made it difficult for me to see any other movie in a theater. Everything about it is quality, which is difficult to find in our crass pop culture.

I didn't see The Fellowship of the Ring when it came out a few years ago because I wasn't interested in fantasy. But a friend of mine convinced me that The Two Towers was great, and after enduring his nagging, I went to the movie theater and saw it, and loved it. Of course, I had to go back and watch the first movie on DVD to understand the context.

After I saw both movies a few times, I read JRR Tolkien's biography, and was really inspired by his brilliance and creativity. He spoke and read several languages, he wrote, he was quirky, he was unapologetically intellectual, a unique thinker.

Peter Jackson has not only made a stellar cultural contribution, but he has even helped his country's economy. How many people have done that, with integrity?

12.08.2004

It jumped the shark

I didn't watch this season's Gilmore Girls until the past couple weeks, and I have to say, that show has really taken a nosedive. The characters are doing things that are unbelievably inconsistent with who they were developed to be. I'm not going to watch that show anymore.

By the way, the phrase "jump the shark" is about 10 years old. According to Jon Hein, the founder of the Jump the Shark site: "the term 'jump the shark' was coined by my college roommate for 4 years, Sean J. Connolly, in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1985…The aforementioned expression refers to the telltale sign of the demise of Happy Days, our favorite example, when Fonzie actually 'jumped the shark'."

What's cool is that he has affected the worldwide culture with that phrase, primarily through the Internet. I have my own phrase, but I'm still doing research to find out if other people use it as well. Maybe one day I will share it here.

12.07.2004

The only genius?

Benjamin Franklin was awesome. The PBS site said:

"He was one of the most extraordinary human beings the world has
ever known. Born into the family of a Boston candle maker, Benjamin
Franklin became the most famous American of his time. He helped
found a new nation and defined the American character. Writer,
inventor, diplomat, businessman, musician, scientist, humorist,
civic leader, international celebrity . . . genius."

I agree. And if you saw the History Channel special on Sunday, you'd probably agree, too. I cannot think of another person who equals his professional achievements and incredible intellectual curiosity that led to amazing discoveries. I can barely put his greatness into words.

His only downfall, it seems, was his disinterest in his wife and daughter. Sometimes I wonder why driven, ambitious, busy guys bother to get married, or even have kids, if they're only going to ignore them.

12.06.2004

the French party

I read an article in the Japanese magazine PHP about French birthday parties, written by Rie Yutenji, a Japanese writer who lives in France.

If you’ve been to a birthday party lately, especially in upper-middle class America, you’ve probably seen a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses attempt at throwing a total blowout that is designed to surpass other birthday parties.

Well, according to Ms. Yutenji, the French aren’t into that. They throw simple, unorganized parties for their kids, where the highpoint is blowing out the candles on the cake.

But what makes the party interesting, and perhaps French (though I’ve never been there), is the after-party for the parents. They drink wine and champagne and eat excellent food.

So I guess if you have kids in France, don’t dread picking them up from their friends’ birthday parties because there will be a nice party waiting for you.

12.03.2004

Lp and La

I was in a Japanese bookstore today, and saw Lonely Planet guides in Japanese. At first I didn't notice them because I was looking for a Chicago guide, and was only thinking, "I don't need one on Italy." But then I did a double-take: a guide on Italy, in Japanese, from LP? Never saw that before.

And yesterday when I was at the Art Institute, I attended a gallery talk about American sculpture. There was one sculpture called "America" and the lecturer said that it is in the form of a woman because abstract concepts are expressed with the feminine definite article in French, as in "la liberte" (sorry, I have no access to accents, so I can't place one over that final "e"). I took French so long ago, and didn't get very far, so I never learned that. I guess you never know where your next language lesson is going to pop up.

11.30.2004

I won



My mind feels like mush. I succeeded in writing 50k of fiction this month. This is the second time I've won--the last time was in 2002. It was a lot more fun this time around, since I took it for what it is: a time to play in the sandbox and pump out lots of words in any way I saw fit.

What passion?

Let me describe a scenario that I think will never happen.

Let's say one of the blockbuster authors, such as John Grisham, decided to get rid of his agent, and was looking for another. So he submits a query letter or a story idea to some agents. Do you think he would get a form letter that said, "I'm just not passionate about this." I think when it comes to beaucoup bucks, the passion of agents and editors changes.

11.28.2004

Reading-chu

If you've studied Japanese, you probably know the phrase "denwa-chu" which means "in the middle of a phone call." Like, if you want to contact someone, but that person is on the phone, that person is "denwa-chu." So I've attached that "chu" concept to reading, because I've been reading The Right Nation. It's really good, and it's for everyone, regardless of their political views.

11.25.2004

Arthur's accent

I just heard an interview with Metrofiction guest Arthur Chrenkoff online. He has a strong Australian accent instead of the mixture of Polish and Australian accents I thought he'd have.

The reason why I thought the Polish accent would be more pronounced is because he immigrated when he was a teenager, and usually people don't drop their "native" accents at that age. Perhaps the only hint of the Polish accent was the occasional soft "d" pronunciation for the "th" sound, and he sometimes pronounced his "i" like "ee". These two sounds tend to baffle non-native English speakers, no matter where they're from.

So now you know--Arthur sounds like an Aussie.

They didn't eat turkey?

According to a primary source, it doesn't sound like the Pilgrims ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving feast. Here's what Edward Winslow wrote in 1621:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

A Thanksgiving site says that "Tough, resourceful, able to fly and hard to catch, turkeys were not the first choice of either Native Americans or early colonial hunters."

I wonder if other Americans know that.

11.22.2004

German is scary

Guillaume du Gardier had a link to an article about public relations in his blog, and posted an excerpt, “For those who are not scared by an article in German."

I thought, "I'm not scared. It's not as scary as memorizing a bunch of Japanese kanji." At first, it was glorious; the sentence structure was simple - subject, verb, object, like elementary school:

"Blogger berichten über Parteitage. Blogger kontrollieren Journalisten. Sportler durften nicht bloggen – zumindest während der Olympischen Spiele. Manager bloggen. Es heißt, Blogger können ihre Firma in Gefahr bringen. Es heißt aber auch, Blogging sei „die“ Chance für PR. Was also bedeutet Blogging für die Public Relations? Eine Revolution? Ein kleines zusätzliches Tool? Einige meinen, Blogging sei das Ende von Public Relations. Andere sehen darin den Anfang."

It even had a structure and tone like English. I was psyched. So I decided to go to the original article, and was intimidated by the following sentence:

"Gerade wenn journalistische Medien ihrem Informationsauftrag nur mangelhaft nachkommen (können), werden Weblogs zu komplementären Angeboten – allerdings ohne sich notwendigerweise an journalistische Standards zu halten – schon die große Bandbreite der Blogger legt dies nahe."

It's too long and complicated. It requires too much dissecting. This isn't fair. So to further demonstrate how German can infect itself, check out this random sentence from Der Spiegel:

"Damit widersprach Müller der Aussage Daschners, dass es nur die Möglichkeit gegeben habe, durch 'Androhung unmittelbaren Zwangs auf den Tatverdächtigen einzuwirken', damit dieser den Aufenthaltsort des elfjährigen Bankierssohns Jakob von Metzler preisgebe."

German reminds me of that Star Trek Voyager episode where an alien had a weapon that changed time. This is how it worked: he would shoot the weapon at a planet, then time would change, but then the universe would get wrinkled in the wrong way.

German is like that: you think you know a case, a vocabulary word, and you're happy. But then a case like dative or accusative comes along (or others), and you start to worry. It gets especially scary when you have to figure out who's doing what to whom, or another what, and if it's moving then you better reconstruct it, and you better split your verbs correctly, or not at all. And don't forget about word order. Or the way they jam words together to create words that have like 50 letters.

Okay, the comparison with a forgotten Star Trek episode is obscure. But the point is this: sometimes German is kind, and sometimes it's scary.

And look at what German has done: it's even made this post really long.

11.19.2004

Weird English

Jordan at Macvaysia posted, what he said, “is one of the best examples of wacky English.” Read the post entitled "Ah yes, the square method." If you look at the example, you'll probably agree. It's hilarious and weird.

I might win

I haven't said this before, but I'm doing Nanowrimo. I started quite late, but I figured that I can cross the finish line if I write a few thousand words a day.

It's fun to write whatever I want, without checking the story to see if there's sufficient conflict, a decent plot, or "useful" characters. I usually edit a lot, but in order to finish in time, I can't look back.

I "won" in 2002, and I might win this year.

11.16.2004

Kristan's accent

I was watching Design on a Dime, and was trying to figure out Kristan Cunningham's accent. My guess was that she's a southerner whose accent has morphed because she lives in California.

I was right. She's originally from West Virginia. I don't know what the "true" accent is down there, but I'm guessing that it's more pronounced than her current accent.

I've met southerners whose accents have naturally changed because they've lived in the north for a while, and others who purposely changed their accent to avoid scorn. One time I met someone at a party, and when she told me she that was from Tennessee, I was surprised because she didn't have a southern accent. She said that she'd trained herself to get rid of it because she didn't want people to think she was dumb.

Conversely, I've met northerners who've taken on a southern drawl after living down there for a while. I wonder if accent-snob northerners are as horrified as the ones who've made the Tennessee woman feel like a lesser person, because she dared to speak her true identity.

Update: it seems that Kristan's accent has changed--it seems to have become more "flat." I wonder if she saw this post ;)

11.15.2004

German and French for Japanese

I was looking for information about writing emails, and came upon this site, which teaches Japanese people how to write emails in German. I've attempted German and Japanese via English, so to see them together, sans English, is just totally cool.

I have a bilingual French/Japanese book that helps Japanese people talk about Japan in French. Its French title is "Cent questions sur le Japon" and the Japanese title is "Furansujin ga nihonjin ni yoku kiku 100 no shitsumon." It's interesting to see how non-native English speakers learn other languages. Actually, "interesting" is an understatement.

11.11.2004

American culture tips

I just posted five things to know about American culture. If you're from the U.S. or a culture that is similar, you'll think the advice is obvious, but it's not so obvious for people from high-context cultures.

There are, of course, more things to know about the U.S., but I'm going to provide that information a little at a time.

11.10.2004

Agents' words

Karin Gillespie had a link in her blog about the words that agents use. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"Like all professionals, literary agents are often reluctant to express their true feelings about a manuscript, and freight their rejection letters with euphemisms. And for good reason. Who needs an argument with an author you're never going to work with? The following glossary, offered with tongue in cheek, might help literary hopefuls decipher messages received from agents in response to their work:

"Interesting - Boring

Has potential - Amateurish

Moving - Show it to Mom

Needs work - Hopeless

Mid-list - Won't sell

Intelligent - See 'interesting'

Ambitious - Too long

Spare - Too short

Poetic - Insomniacs only

Plot-driven - Superficial

Excellent - Possible, with a rewrite

Cinematic - Unreadable

Marketable - People will buy anything

Challenging - See 'poetic'

At this time (as in, we can't use it at this time) - Never

Experimental - In your dreams

Character-driven - No story

Novel of ideas - No one will read it

Talented - How did you get in here?"

11.08.2004

So long Seattle

I was shocked to see that the Seattle's Best at Chicago and Wabash was closed yesterday. The lights were on, but the place looked empty, so my husband approached the door to see what was going on. At that moment, the manager put up a handwritten sign on the door that said, "Closed for business. Goodbye."

I already knew that they were thinking of closing, but the manager had said in the past that it could take up to a year. And now it's gone. I'm sure other people are not happy about the store's fate. I spent a lot of time there, especially last summer, when I talked about writing and academic life with a professor friend of mine. I read most of the first draft of her novel there. I also did a lot of work there before and after I moved to this area. The manager was talkative and friendly, which made the place even more interesting.

I read a while ago that Seattle's Best will be moving to hundreds of Borders stores throughout the country. Here's a slick announcement that I saw:

"With the conversion to SBC cafes, Borders is improving on what is already a compelling distinction in our stores. Seattle's Best Coffee brings tremendous specialty coffee expertise and a strong brand to complement what we do best, which is deliver a superior shopping experience for book, music and movie lovers."

Seattle's Best certainly has better drinks than what's served at Borders right now, but it won't be the same.

11.04.2004

Brazil is warm

If you've never been to Brazil, you should. Or at least talk to a Brazilian person if you get a chance. They're friendly people, and I found an example of their warmth at a Kraftwerk fan site, of all places.

Kraftwerk is going to have a few concerts in Brazil this weekend. To celebrate the band's arrival, the guys at the Kraftwerk fan site have made a cute welcome message. It's incredible how their warmth manages to break through the technology.

10.31.2004

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

I've read many articles and blogs full of desperation and discouragement by fiction writers. Why are they in so much despair, even if they've been published? I don't see the same attitude in businesspeople who write non-fiction books.

After much thought, this is what I've concluded: fiction writers want to do it for a living so they're incredibly disheartened when they can't achieve that, but businesspeople see their book as just one aspect of their professional life. A savvy non-fiction writer enters the process knowing that the book is their calling card more than their gravy train, but fiction writers see it as a step to a fully creative life. And what makes it worse is that non-fiction is easier to write and there are plenty of opportunities to publish it, but fiction is difficult to write and even more difficult to get published.

The goals are different: a fiction writer wants to be what he or she creates, but a non-fiction writer is more than what he or she creates.

10.27.2004

NZ in NYC

I just came across A Superficial Guide to New York written by a New Zealander. He warns that his advice is "Based on one visit, this is not to be taken seriously."

What's interesting about it is not only the differences between American and New Zealand(er?--don't know the adjective) English, but also his impressions of New York. Here's some good advice that would never occur to American English speakers:

"You may not be understood if you have a good Niu Zilnd accent. You are in good company; by my reckoning, every third local speaks English as a second language. Speak slowly, loudly, say your Rs. You may be worried about faking an American accent being perceived as taking the piss - in fact, it's an effective way to communicate."

10.26.2004

Busy no more

I've been busy lately, adding a guest spot to the Metrofiction site, and it's finally done. Our first guest is Arthur Chrenkoff.

I've also just finished translating a history of Kraftwerk from Portuguese into English. That Portuguese link is to a cool online grammar test. The Kraftwerk translation is going to be posted at a Kraftwerk fan site early next month (hopefully). The guys who run the site seem really friendly.

Lately, I've been interested in studying French. I can read it okay, but my writing is lame, so I've been checking out this French site for help.

10.21.2004

Macao is more Portuguese with China

I read an interesting article in the New York Times about the popularity of studying Portuguese in Macao.

"Five years ago, when Portugal surrendered this 10-square-mile enclave to China, most people predicted that its language would disappear here in a blink of an eye. The Portuguese had done little to promote their language here since their merchants first stepped ashore around 1553. By the time they left, only about 2 percent of Macao's 450,000 people spoke the language of Lisbon, with the other 98 percent speaking Cantonese and other languages.

But in a surprising turnaround, enrollments for private Portuguese classes have tripled, to 1,000, since 2002. That prompted public schools here to offer Portuguese this fall, drawing more than 5,000 students."

To promote tourism, Macao has been rehabbing the island. "Far from shrinking from Macao's colonial past, city leaders have restored and illuminated such colonial landmarks as churches, forts, hospitals, theaters, museums, an observatory and the governor's palace. Rare for a modern Asian city, the historic preservation has been so extensive that Macao is expected to win recognition next year from Unesco as a world heritage site."

China wants to also open business to Brazil and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. Manuel F. Moreira de Almeida, who runs a bookstore there, said, "Portuguese has gone from a colonial hangover to a business opportunity."

So if you want to study Portuguese in China, Macao is the place to do it.

10.19.2004

Chinese

Someone just sent me a link to a Chinese learning site where there's lots of helpful information for people who are struggling through Chinese.

It made me think about a couple of similarities between Japanese and Chinese. One similarity is that they both use counters. For instance, in English we would just use numbers that precede an item. But in Chinese and Japanese, they use counters, such as "ge" (Chinese) and "hon" (Japanese) and a whole lot of other counters that baffle non-native speakers.

Another similarity is the word that comes at the end of questions. Chinese uses "ma" and Japanese uses "ka." I'm sure Korean is similar as well, but I've never studied it. However, I know that Korean has a similar structure as Japanese.

My problem right now is that my reading ability in Japanese is pretty lame, and both my spoken and reading ability of Chinese is non-existent. And if I ever go to Taiwan, I may not be able to get around by speaking, just by winging the reading of the Chinese characters.

10.18.2004

British English Spotted

I was reading a post at a Rush message board, and the British English shone through.

"Not often do I have something truly new to say on the subject of this favourite rock band of mine, but here goes. It was marvellous, and far from wishing to spoil anyone's fun and tell you which songs they played..."

And then later, he used "ye."

I guess sometimes there's no need to hear the British accent, just read the words.

Martha Stewart Wants to Write a Prison Book

This is interesting: New York magazine has reported that Martha is pitching a book that she would write about her prison life.

In a previous column, the magazine said that “Stewart could easily receive over $5 million for the tome.”

Which confirms publishing reality: you need a marketable book.

10.15.2004

Hating Shatner?

I read an editorial in the Chicago Tribune by Mark Sidel, who teaches law at the University of Iowa, about a hoax that William Shatner played on a small Iowa town called Riverside. Riverside has declared itself the "hometown" of Capt. Kirk, because he's "from" Iowa.

Sidel said that Shatner "should not have capitalized upon his favorite-son status and manipulated a small town to make a profit from a hoax."

I found another article that contained a negative comment:

"They don’t understand that we opened our hearts to them," said angry resident Barb Simon. "Already on the news I hear them laughing. We’re the ones that will show up on TV."

So now I'm wondering if they all hate Shatner now, and if Shatner cares.

10.13.2004

Nihongo Noryoku Shiken

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is fast approaching, and once again, I've wimped out on taking it. I passed level three a long time ago, but level two seems much more difficult--there's a huge jump between them. I've even studied for level two and have books and other study materials to help me study for it, but I'm so afraid of not passing it.

Or maybe I'm just lazy. Right now I'm enjoying reading and speaking Japanese twice a week in my classes, and I walk away satisfied and very happy. So I accept that as progress. It's too late to start intensively training for the December test date, but I should set a goal, finally, to take the test next year. I think I'll do that, and make this blog part of my accountability plan.

If you're one of those folks who's taking the test, check out The Kanji Site to keep you from going crazy from all those characters.

Updates: There's a helpful study guide for the test.

Popjisyo and Rikai help with online reading, kanji, and vocabulary.

Also see info about bilingual books about Japan to assist with your reading skills.

The ALC site has an online Japanese dictionary and publishes helpful books, including 500 Essential Japanese Expressions.

Yookoso has grammar and kanji lists that can be emailed to you every day.

See lists of Words from Japanese Newspapers in kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

Also check out the vocabulary lists for the test.

Read manga, listen to audio files, and read examples at an excellent Giongo and Gitaigo site.

Get online Kanji flashcards.

Other sites: Katango and JLPT Kanji Project (thanks to Kikoubun).

10.07.2004

Love for Shatner

I'm not a Captain Kirk fan nor much of a Star Trek fan (except for Voyager), but I've been reading Get A Life by William Shatner to find out what those fan conventions are like. While I'm not crazy about the writing style (it reads like a speech rather than the written word), it's interesting.

I especially found the description of the fans' response to his appearance on stage rather moving:

"Though I've been through this drill literally hundreds of times now, with every convention entrance, I'm floored all over again. There's booming applause, and a guaranteed standing ovation, but I've actually gotten used to that. What I've never gotten used to, and what I've never come close to experiencing outside of a Star Trek convention, is the palpable wave of love that invariably roars forward from these audiences...A convention ovation is unmatched, and probably best described as a loud, long percussive 'I love you'."

I can't imagine doing something that so many people appreciate that much. It's probably pretty much non-existent in most jobs.

10.02.2004

Dawna's accent

I was watching The Life Laundry and was listening to Dawna Walter's accent. It sounded like she was American, but part of her sentences, especially the end of them, sounded British.

So I tried to figure it out: perhaps she was raised in the US, particularly New York because her accent sounds New York-y, but her parents were British. Or maybe she was a Brit who spent a lot of time living in the US. Or she could be an American living in England, and has picked up a bit of that accent. Well, the answer is the last one: she's lived in England for more than a decade.

9.30.2004

Spinal Tap gets high marks

This past spring, I rented the special edition DVD of the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap because my book is about a guy who's obsessed with a band. I watched the DVD with and without the commentary five or six times, because it was totally hilarious!

And then, I wondered: what do Brits think of the American actors' accents? So I did some research online at UK sites, and found these assesments.

The Guardian says:

“When Spinal Tap fans meet [Christopher] Guest, especially in Britain, they are often amazed to hear him talking in an American accent because Tufnel's rock star mockney is so pitch-perfect."

From a review:

“The all-American cast grunt and preen their way through the proceedings in a word perfect English accent (a rare thing indeed)...”

And a review in DVD Times says:

“Guest, McKean and Shearer all hold down an English accent brilliantly...”

And finally, I emailed a virtual buddy of mine, a Brit who's living in Germany (and is fluent in German, by the way, which I totally envy) to ask for his opinion. He said:
"The accents in This Is Spinal Tap are absolutely faultless...But I'm often blown away by the phonetic skill of some of your best American actors/actresses. Look at Renee Zellweger (if you will...) I was amazed to find out she's a Texan. When she did Bridget Jones I was convinced she was British."

So there you have it, it's been confirmed by various sources. Congrats Spinal Tap. And Rene Zellweger.



9.29.2004

It wouldn't sell

Someone recommended a novel by Henry James called Washington Square, and I can barely get through the 19th century English (it was written in 1881).

Here's a sample from Chapter 1, in what seems to be an emotional moment:

"He walked under the weight of this very private censure for the rest of his days, and bore forever the scars of a castigation to which the strongest hand he knew had treated him on the night that followed his wife's death."

Chapter 23 isn't any more exciting:

"During this period she was less considerate; she had an idea - a rather vague one, but it was agreeable to her sense of injury - that now she was absolved from penance, and might do what she chose."

Wow, how I feel the emotion (not). This book reads more like a technical manual than a novel. It would never sell today.

9.28.2004

Language Hat

Wow, I thought I was into languages, but this guy is into them big time. His blog reads like an academic journal--and language is just his hobby!

Oh well, all of us language enthusiasts operate at different levels. My interest is the equivalent of eye candy to these more serious-minded linguistic folks.

Stargate

Today was Stargate Monday, and I watched all of the episodes instead of taping them for another day. It took me a while to get into that show, but apparently they have a world-wide audience.

I think I know why it's so popular: it deals with universal issues, such as good vs. evil, oppression, willing ignorance, greed, struggle, and other aspects of human nature. Whoever works on that show is lucky.

9.23.2004

Online English quizzes

Here is an excellent site that has various kinds of online English quizzes. It is very useful for anyone who wants to practice his or her English.

Another site has English and bilingual quizzes, which will be helpful to me as well, since I'm a native English speaker language addict.

On a totally unrelated note: high rise spiders. A friend told me about them last week when he saw one outside my window. And now I've gotten a report from my husband, who's on the top floor of the Wrigley Building. He just spotted some high rise spiders over there, too.

9.18.2004

Writing

Sometimes I read fiction writers' blogs, and I find them irritating because they write a lot without saying much. Plus, they don't stick to the blog style, which is brief and conversational.

Today I didn't work on the book, but I was online a lot, looking for information I needed. I found an interesting article about fan clubs because my first novel is about a music fan. If you click on the link to see the article, it may take you to E!Online's shopping page instead. I don't know why they've rigged their site like that.

I also found information about William Shatner's book about his exposure to Star Trek fans. I think I'm going to read it.

9.14.2004

Camera in Thailand

Some people know that I'm writing novels, and have started the process of submitting the first one I wrote to the "outside world". Part of the story takes place in Thailand, and a few years ago I used to go to this website to get a taste of that country because I don't live there, and haven't been there in a while.

There's a chat going on there, though it's in Thai. But I think they understand English. Right now it's night in Chicago, but afternoon in Thailand.


9.10.2004

Yesterday

I said yesterday that I didn't want to miss my Japanese class because I love to study languages. But a big reason why I like that class is the teacher--she's great. I had to leave halfway through the class to go to Woodfield, but I didn't really want to leave because the class was so enjoyable.

The other day, someone told me about Spanish classes at Instituto Cervantes, which is in my neighborhood. They even have classes at 6:45 am. That's the first time I've heard of such early classes.

I think Spanish is the most beautiful language and have studied it before, but have never been to a Spanish-speaking country.

9.09.2004

Can't avoid it

I was going to skip my Japanese class to meet with the Metrofiction group, but I decided to do both, because I love studying languages--I study Japanese twice a week, and could do it more often, if I had the time. Lately I've been too busy to do extra studying or finish the translations I'm working on, and I feel like something is missing. I have to be sure to make time for my favorite activity.

Someone in my Japanese class told me about a great website
that translates Japanese, Korean, and Chinese into English and visa-versa. I've only checked out the Japanese part, but it's totally cool.

8.28.2004

Oh Canada

I just got back from Toronto, a city that I highly recommend. It is quite different from any city in the U.S., though it reminds me of parts of several American cities I've visited, such as New York's Lower East Side, Chicago's Wicker Park, and Los Angeles' Santa Monica. But it's a lot more than that.

Canada has two official languages: English and French. But Toronto isn't a French-oriented city.



8.17.2004

What it's about

Language is incredibly interesting and I'll probably study it for the rest of my life. Right now I'm studying Chinese and Japanese, though my Japanese is a whole lot better (my Chinese is practically non-existent).

People assume that they are similar, but the sounds are not--Chinese has tones and Japanese doesn't. Even their writing systems are no longer similar--mainland China simplified their characters in the mid-20th century.

The bottom line is this: Chinese is both totally oral and totally written, because the written language isn't phonetic, which means a whole lot of memorizing has to go on.

The book I'm using is Beginner's Chinese by Yong Ho. This guy certainly is a linguist who's created a user-friendly and intelligent book.

I don't use a Japanese book--I just read articles in my class. Right now I'm working on a translation for a Rush fan site. At least I'm not studying in a vacuum.