Weird writing

I'm attempting to write something for Jon Konrath's crazy/weird-themed zine, based on situations I've seen both fictionally and realistically. I posted a comment that's related to the theme I'm writing about at someone's journal, and thought there'd be no reponse. But then much later, they *did* respond, saying that I was "weird", so I figured, hey, since someone said such a thought showed weirdness, it's a kind of confirmation, so I might as well try to write something I've been thinking about for a while. It's yet another "what if" that has led me to other fiction writing (that has yet to see the light of day). I've written part of it and plan on finishing it soon because I want plenty of time for the potential rejection or editing request (hope it's the latter).

Sounds vague, and there's a lot I'd like to write about it, but I can't.


Vitamin C

I was talking to a fluent English-speaking German about Vitamin B (the German phrase that people use to describe good connections), and he suggested that English speakers say "Vitamin C" because C stands for "connections" (while of course the B in German represents Beziehungen). I have yet to hear English speakers use that phrase, however. But it's a good idea.



Sometimes I watch home design and clothing design shows (the kind that give people advice on what to wear) and I often hear the designers and commentators say "pop" as in, "This pillow makes the red in the couch POP." And the way they say it, it's as if they've never said the word before and want to experience the excitement of it. Why? Is it because it's a trendy design word, and those people want to be fashionable in words as well as things? Or is it because of the sound of it, which lends itself to its emphasis?

"The scarf makes the color of your eyes POP."
"The curtains make the blue in your carpet POP."
"My head is going to POP from saying POP so much."


Guessed wrong

I met someone today who didn't sound like they were from Chicago or even the midwest, so I assumed they were from Philadelphia or at least Pennsylvania, since the way they were pronouncing their r's and other consonants was different. Plus, their words didn't sound as "relaxed" as other parts of the country.

Well, I was wrong. They were from New Jersey, and I was disappointed I hadn't guessed their accent, especially because I know people from New Jersey and have heard the accent often. Then I realized that perhaps because they were originally from New Jersey but had been living in Chicago for a while, that perhaps their accent had become softened and not remained as "severe."

I used to be pretty good at guessing accents, and still think I'm okay at it, but maybe because I don't meet as many people as I used to, it's affected my accent-detecting skill level. Oh well.


Vitamin B

I've resumed corresponding with Nev recently (a German-speaking Brit I've mentioned before) and was telling him about situations where people are given certain jobs just because they know someone (ie, they're incompetent but are given the job anyway), and he said that having contacts is called Vitamin B in German:

Vitamin B (VEET-ah-meen BAY) is good connections (gute Beziehungen) to influential people, an expression that came out of World War II and food rationing. Vitamin B2 (BAY-tsvye) is even better connections.

I also found some interesting historical information about it as well:

East Germany had a command economy, in which virtually all decisions were made by the governing communist party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The system of planning was inflexible and eventually caused ruinous economic conditions. Power, influence, and personal connections (Beziehungen, or “vitamin B”) drove economic decisions, and all groups, including trade unions, were expected to collaborate to achieve the SED's economic objectives.

I need more Vitamin B, for sure.


Speech accent archive

Here's something so extensive, only a strongly supported academic could put it together: The Speech Accent Archive:

The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed...This website allows users to compare the demographic and linguistic backgrounds of the speakers in order to determine which variables are key predictors of each accent. The speech accent archive demonstrates that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech.

There are many accents in there from well-known and more obscure language backgrounds. You can spend a lot of time there listening to all those variations.


I miss German

I've been studying Japanese consistently, but at one point I studied German too, and I haven't studied it in a while. My work schedule does not allow me to take a German class, and I don't want to study it privately because I want to be in a class with other students. I did study it privately for several months or a year (I forgot how long), and if so much of my work time wasn't solitary, then maybe I'd consider taking private lessons again.

The bottom line is that I miss studying it. Sure, I can look at my textbooks and read German stuff online, but it's not the same as doing homework, going to class, and having an overall structure, which is easier than trying to find the discipline to study on my own. There are already other things that require discipline to do on my own, such as writing fiction and finishing the query letters that have to be sent out for the inevitable rejections I will receive.

Maybe my work schedule will normalize enough to squeeze in a German class, but for now, I just have to deal with missing it and try to be disciplined enough to look through texts from past classes and other German sources.


Double English

I finally saw Das Boot. It's a great film, though not really my type of movie because I'm not interested in war movies or thrillers or plots that are overwhelming suspenseful with disturbing scenes--there's enough stress in life without the need to get lost in a movie that is relentless. It clearly shows how awful war is and how humans can suffer and inflict suffering and express degradation and debauchery in difficult situations.

I was fortunate to see the director's cut which I guess has lots more scenes in it than the original. I recommend that version, though I have nothing to compare it to, but the director said that this version allowed him to show what he wanted without the constraints of time and content that international distribution required back in the early 80's. It was a big-time hit back then, and I was actually old enough to be able to tolerate it when it came out, though I doubt I would've appreciated the subtleties and artistically presented scenes.

One cool feature of the director's cut is that you can play it in dubbed English (the original is in German, of course), and you can watch it with subtitles in French, Spanish, or English. But what's really a weird experience is watching it in dubbed English with English subtitles--they don't match up! The idioms are different and so are the phrases. So if you're really into the variations of English, you can be exposed to both at the same time.

I am looking forward to seeing the extra features: The Making of/Behind the Scenes and Director's Commentary, which I'll probably watch later this week.

What's weird is that it wasn't made in Germany, but WEST Germany, ie, when there was Free Germany and Commie Germany. Which reminds me of the awesome German movie I recently saw about East Germany.


Funny conspiracy

A while ago, I saw the Voyager Conspiracy, and took it quite seriously as I followed Seven of Nine's explanations of her theories of sabotage aboard the ship. Then I found out that it was all a result of information overload and her resulting paranoia.

Well the episode is on right now, and I'm just cracking up because I know what the outcome is, and I see Janeway and Chakotay distrusting each other, while Seven is even accusing a girl of taking sides in supposed looming destruction. Too much information in her cortical implant. Which reminds me of conspiracy folks I've met who even doubt the validity of the landing on the moon.


Danish language

I saw this funny video at Languagehat (aka, The Great One). I wonder if the subtitles are really Danish, and what Danish folks think about it. I should ask Lily :)


Japanese comfort

When I hear people speaking Japanese, I like to practice my listening skills by eavesdropping on them. Sorry, but I'm going to be rude about it and not respect people's privacy because I've put way too many hours into studying Japanese to not do it.

Last week I was in a cafe, watching the rain and taking a break from writing, when two Japanese people sat down at a table near mine and started talking about different stuff. Even though I had work to do (well, "work" that may never see the light of day because it's a pipe dream), I managed to catch the gist of what they were saying.

If I eavesdrop on Spanish conversations or another language I've studied, I have to concentrate more to figure out what they're saying, even to understand where the words separate into comprehensible units. But with Japanese, I can relax. Sure, I don't know all the words, but because I lived there and have continued to study it, I feel comfortable, so my mind can settle on the sounds of the language. Even if I'm watching a movie where Japanese is spoken and I don't totally understand what they're saying, I still feel "at home" with it. I still have a long way to go until I'm awesome in that language, but at least it doesn't scare me.


Text to speech

Arrogant Polyglot found a nifty text-to-speech application for the following languages:


And each language has different voices to choose from. It's an incredibly cool application that is also practical: someone today asked me what the pronunciation of Aegean was, and I used the application to verify it. It's also fun to try out the different voices and English words in different accents if you choose a non-English language to voice them.


Japan in DC

Someone sent me this really cool picture of cherry blossoms in Washington DC from the cherry blossom festival. I lived in Japan, so I often saw cherry blossoms every spring, but I've never seen them in the US. The cherry blossom trees were a gift from Tokyo in 1912, and more were added throughout the years.


Eccentric endangerment

Rose (whose blog I unfortunately discovered too late because she's not blogging as much anymore) had a post with a quote from John Stuart Mill:

Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.

Well, I don't think a lack of eccentricity is a "chief danger," but then again, he wrote that before a lot of horrible stuff happened even as societies became more "civilized" and industrialized and modern. But I do see how a lack of individuality creates group think and apathy.


Crazy schedule

I was going to do a more lengthy post tonight, but I just got home, and I have to wake up in a few hours. So I'm going to do a post tomorrow. I'm just letting folks know because I usually post more often, but I've had a very long day which started when I woke up at 4 AM. So I have to manage to get at least a few hours sleep instead of thinking a lot for a decent post.