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!


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?



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).


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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."


I'm Bobby?

You are Bobby!
You are Bobby!

(naive, but creative and

brought to you by Quizilla


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.