Thursday 2 May 2024

trench coat words (11. 528)

Via tmn, we really enjoyed this reflection and appreciation of the beautifully dissociative nature of the Japanese language and the noble attempt to articulate how the diglossia, digraphia of the written and spoken word, though a series of historical accidents, has created a unique and somewhat untranslatable perspective on the world. Beyond the embarrassment of choices that Japanese speakers have for writing (see previously) and those poetic terms with no equivalence—nonetheless important—the expatriate author a decade on explores how shoehorning the written word imported from China into a wholly oral tradition necessitates not only a pronunciation guide but context cues for orthography, adding an extra dimension to communication from the mechanics of morphology. Much more at ร†ther Mug at the link above including distinctive etymological class of compound words whose components are said the same but are disguised with a new kanji.

synchronoptica

one year ago: assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: another MST3K classic plus a pivotal moment in the Falklands War

three years ago: record stamps, the debut album from Kate Bush, Peter and the Wolf, more links to enjoy plus an alternate Oktoberfest

four years ago: ambient sounds of New York City

five years ago: the Queen Elizabeth 2,  more on the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, possible etymologies of OK, geese in the city at night plus more acoustic visualisations

Tuesday 16 April 2024

hearts and minds (11. 494)

An 1959 early spring testimony before an American senate subcommittee on the effects of “Red China Communes on the United States” by an Asian correspondent for the Miami News intent on self-promotion and advancing a misinformed pet theory firmly solidified the neologism of brainwashing (with derivative terms) as common political parlance. The deposition by the reporter turned propagandist (alleged a covert CIA agent) against the spread of Communism convinced the public and policy-makers that the Chinese (and others) had devised a scientific method for turning people’s love and allegiances, allegedly uncovering the method of “mind-attack” and their word for, “brain-washing.” The original term xวnวŽo (ๆด—่…ฆ, “wash brain”) was employed to describe the coercive persuasion used by the Maoist to integrate more reactionary members of society and was a popular pun, not an official policy or approach, on the Taoist custom of xวxฤซn (ๆด—ๅฟƒ , “cleaning the heart and mind”) with both understood to be something more akin to enlightenment, disabusing and not the reprogramming or deprogramming that captured the American public, with the help of the journalist’s tract, other reporting and films and television as well as the Zeitgeist of the Red Scare and sinophobia, fears that loyalties were susceptible to nefarious and scientifically compelling influences that caused collaboration and defection. For all the pseudoscience and propagandising, brainwashing did fill a linguist and psychological lacuna, a gap that was packed with the attendant moral panic and supposed countermeasures with psychological warfare and the rise of home-grown, domestic cults that subsumed what they purported to prevent. More from MIT Technology Review at the link up top. Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?

Friday 23 February 2024

london breed (11. 372)

With a population exceeding twenty precent of residents of Chinese descent, San Franciscan politicians have a long-standing practise of adopting a Sino-English campaign (whatever their heritage) including Chinese name, with what some critics characterise as at worst cultural appropriation and at least aggrandisement that has little to do with their actual names. The former policy of allowing, for instance a local magistrate running for re-election with a rather pedestrian name with the characters ็ฑณ้ซ˜็พฉ connoting “high” and “justice,” has been displaced by a cadre of translators commissioned by the city to come up with more phonetic translations, though not universally embraced as an improvement as some figures are closely associated with flowery and bombastic nicknames, hoping to preserve the label to avoid confusion, and the transliteration can be awkward and still convey unintentional entendre. More from Language Log at the link above, including in the abundant commentary how the US Food and Drug Administration (and most other competent authorities) prohibit trade names suggestive of efficacy, hence Pfizer’s vehement denial of any derivation for Viagra® and the Sanskrit เคต्เคฏाเค˜्เคฐः (vyฤghraแธฅ), tiger.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

9x9 (11.348)

unwanted legacy: Russia puts Estonian prime minister on wanted list for dismantling monuments to Soviet soldiers 

banned book rainbow: LeVar Burton hosts a very special episode on books banned by adults who don’t want kids to learn, grow or change—via Kottke  

clothesline, skyline: a look at Shanghai’s ubiquitous outdoors drying racks  

blinkerwall: ten-thousand year old megastructure in the Baltic could be Europe’s oldest  

everynoise: layoffs and downsizing at Spotify spell the end of the serendipitous musical encyclopaedia—see previously  

essentially cenobitical: one year in the life of a part time hermit—via the new Shelton wet/dry 

running amoc: the trajectory of the climate catastrophe blows past a calamitous tipping-point  

clearing the docket: upcoming inflection points in the criminal cases against Trump  

portal kombat: French authorities uncover a vast Russian disinformation network designed to overwhelm fact checkers

Tuesday 6 February 2024

8x8 (11. 328)

the scholar & his cat: a resonant ninth century reflection by Pangur Bรกn 

bring your own beach owl: mimicry and semi-automated genre fiction—via Kottke  

riverwalk: a one kilometre-long museum that undulates with the reservoir it crosses in Shandong province

steelmaster: a 1966 office furniture catalogue  

television stone: the unique optical properties of the mineral ulexite 

๐Ÿ›‹️: the Eames Archive open to the public—see previously 

vesuvius challenge: a trio of researchers share the honorarium for deciphering charred scrolls from Herculaneum with the help of AI  

ombre: Alexander Pope’s card game

synchronoptica

one year ago: Facebook’s social engineering experiments plus a ska version of the Tetris theme

two years ago: multiple zoom maps, Computerwelt, Sesame Street light jazz plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: quotation marks, Zardoz (1974), more links to enjoy, the founding of Liberia, I Ching in melting snow plus barbarian tongues

four years ago: Deciminisation Days, Trump acquitted, classical architecture plus photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

five years ago: Anguilla independence, the Irish border, dress uniforms plus Orson Welles on creeping intolerance

Sunday 7 January 2024

nine times nine to dispel the cold (11. 252)

In northern parts of China, where the winter months can seem particularly long and bleak, a folk-reckoning of the time until spring’s arrival emerged in ancient times called “Counting the Nine” (shujiu, ๆ•ธไน) and is still observed. Beginning on the solstice, the season is divided into nine intervals of nine days each, this form of almanac or Advent calendar (the number nine chosen as a seasonally accurate number and concept of renewal or reset as it the last digit before leaping to a new exponent) was not only important to farmers and herders for anticipating the planting season and return of growth, they also were a welcome distraction (eighty-one days is a long time) that taught numeracy and literacy—families devising activity posters, like with plum blossoms, mnemonics or other early indicators in the environment, to countdown the days.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

splendid china (11. 237)

The thirty-hectare property in Four Corners Florida now host to the Margaritaville Resort, it was a originally developed as a miniature park in 1993 featuring scenery and monuments of the mainland was first conceived by a former educator from Taiwan after the successful prototype in Shenzhen outside of Hong Kong. That same year the attraction was taken over by the travel and tourism branch of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, eventually ousting the founders and was accused of becoming an instrument of propaganda, with protests ensuing over the new exhibitions on Tibet, Mongolia and Eastern Turkistan and a ban on school field trips to the site in the proximity of Disney World. The miniatures were looted after its closure a decade after its founding. More at Weird Universe at the link above, including a video tour of the grounds from 1996.

Saturday 30 December 2023

mcmxcvi (11. 227)

Due to the periodic nature of the Gregorian calendar, 2024 corresponds precisely to the year 1996, twenty-eight years ago. We can speculate further what historic events from that year might resonate with the coming one, like in January, with the re-election of Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority, the February peaceful transition of power in Haiti and a ceasefire in Sarajevo, March’s intimidating military exercises conducted by China along the coast of Taiwan, April’s Hutu genocide in Burundi, the arrest of the Unabomber, Israeli’s Operation Grapes of Wrath as retaliation for terrorist attacks perpetrated by Lebanon, May’s Port Arthur massacre which prompts Australia to introduce a nationwide ban on gun-ownership, the truce in Chechnya or the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, July’s cloning of Dolly the Sheep, the re-election of Boris Yeltsin or the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta Georgia, August’s first three-parent human baby, November’s re-election of US president Clinton. We also have the choice of recycling the calendars from 1968 or 1940.

Thursday 7 December 2023

9x9 (11. 169)

sub-space: the potential problems of communications with relativistic spacecraft, traveling at a fraction the speed of light with solar-sails  

new quality productivity: Chinese buzz-words of the year, including a coinage by President Xi 

ailex: artist Alicia Framis announces her marriage to a hologram  

der nussknacker: the Fรผchtner family who made the first traditional nutcracker is still in the business  

wallsynth: Love Hultรฉn’s custom, one-of-a-kind musical creations have a Mid-Century Modern aesthetic  

the day of the animals: a 1977 nature rampage film from William Girdler  

network effects: building a better, unbundled Craigslist turned out like the trajectory of Twitter 

american dream: Investopedia’s most searched economic terms of the year reveal a lot about how people feel about their financial situation 

 in space, no one can hear you kern: when lost in the inner Solar System, typography can come in handy

synchronoptica

one year ago: Blue Marble (1972), Sovereign Citizens plus using AI to invent a language

two years ago: galaxies outside our own plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: birdsong in December, more links to enjoy, non-conterminious territory plus more words of the year

four years ago: the Guzman Prize awarded (1969), Scientology HQ plus a lunar cruise

five years ago: the etymology of chauvinism, Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, circular economies, more movie typography plus juxtaposing photography

 

Tuesday 29 August 2023

7x7 (10. 970)

pagerank: Google has lost the quarter-century battle over overindexing versus useful search results—via Waxy  

1 346 000/km²: a tour of what was once the most densely populated area in the world, a largely ungoverned Chinese exclave within the territory of Hong Kong—see previously here and here  

corner suite: a visit to a unique corporate headquarters in Czechia with an office in an elevator—see previously 

lunar codex: an archive and time capsule of human creativity launched to the Moon—see also  

motor overflow: sticking out our tongues during complicated manual tasks reveal truths about our brains’ connections—via Damn Interesting  

gone to pasture: an abandoned luxury development in China overtaken by farmers and livestock—via Messy Nessy Chic

cryogenics: Wordpress offers to archive one’s digital estate for a century

synchronoptica

one year ago: another MST3K classic plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the chemical element meitnerium, the founding of Greenland, white-winged doves and saguaro cactuses plus introducing Nirvana (1991) 

three years ago: mystic Manly Palmer Hall, Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn, inventor Otis Frank Boykin, liturgical cheese plus Netflix (1997)

five years ago: Trump lashes out against perceived social media bias against him plus Keith Houston on the history of emoji

Tuesday 1 August 2023

7x7 (10. 919)

istj: while gladly gone the way of Harry Potter House in many circles, Chinese placement agencies are obsessing with Myers-Briggs personality types  

hapsburg ai: generative chat programmes trained on derivative synthetic output becomes recursive and untenable—via Kottke  

pittura infamante: the Florentine legal tradition of the rogues’ gallery—via Miss Cellania 

 ๐•: flashing sign with new logo dismantled in San Francisco’s Twitter headquarters after neighbours complain 

:a font family inspired by an Ancient Roman typeface continues a centuries’ long dialogue of the printed word  

watermark: to distinguish generative writing from human, we could possible assign it its own Unicode alphabets—via Language Log  

the belt and road initiative: Italy is vocal with its regrets over signing on to China’s foreign policy push and infrastructure development programme

Monday 10 July 2023

7x7 (10. 871)

terracotta army: new excavations in Shaanxi reveal the site contains more than the familiar infantry unit—see previously  

mizhuvkhamy: a group of Ukrainians documenting the graffiti left by Russian occupiers for future research on the invasion 

jazz kissas: the ambient sounds of Japan’s listening cafรฉs—see also 

i never thought i’d be cheering for zuckerberg: in response to the runaway success of Instagram’s Twitter mode, Elon Musk threatens to sue, resorts to name-calling  

adequacy decision: EU rules that Big Data has sufficient controls in place, with the US to monitor compliance, to allow transfer to US servers  

vilnius: developments to watch during this week’s NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital  

dromolaxia vizatzia: Bronze Age tombs of unknown rulers discovered in Cyprus

Sunday 11 June 2023

6x6 (10. 800)

reagan candy: the Taiwanese term for jelly babies  

treuhand: the privatisation of East Germany and the long reach of its consequences—via Maps Mania

mexico filter: the cinematic colour scheme applied to movie set in the “Global South” evokes corruption and pollution is the tinge of New York City (previously) now—plus lots more from Hyperalleric’s Required Reading—see also  

tag yourself: what your favourite classic rock band says about you—from Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links  

ekd: hundreds of parishioners attend a Lutheran service in Fรผrth delivered by an AI—see previously—via Slashdot 

lu xun: the memes telegraphing generational disillusionment in China—see also

Tuesday 30 May 2023

7x7 (10. 778)

omnes vanitas: the puzzling thanatopsis of the paintings of David Bailly 

hbo in space: music made for television—see previously here and here  

journey to the west: in the Hall of the Monkey King 

trompe-l’ล“il: the hyper realistic paintings of John Frederick, see previously—via Messy Nessy Chic  

outside the frame: using LLM and AI to hear the rest of the story–not that we needed to 

velvet goldmine: the art collection of David Bowie—see previously here and here  

memento mori: an elaborate lie-detection apparatus from the 1920s

Monday 27 February 2023

sixth tone (10. 577)

Via ibฤซdem and translated by our friend Victor Mair, we are introduced to the tongue-twister, short narrative verse in Classical Chinese of the “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den” (ๆ–ฝๆฐ้ฃŸ็…ๅฒ, the title romanised in pinyin as Shฤซ-shรฌ shรญ shฤซ shว) with the corpus of the following ninety-four syllables, characters pronounced as shi with the tonal qualities varying throughout. Authored in 1930 by the linguist Yuen Ren Chao (่ตตๅ…ƒไปป) as a demonstration of homophones and coherency of the ancient grammar (see also) and as a criticism of simple, phonetic transliteration.

Sunday 12 February 2023

ๅ†…ๅท (10. 544)

Via Clive Thompson’s latest Linkfest (much more to see there), we are directed to an essay by rรซลŸt รดf wลrld contributor Yi-Ling Liu on the Chinese terms for burnout and the relentless push to get ahead—or just barely tread water with an assortment of phrases, some familiar and some novel—and how some of those buzzwords have inverted and signal despair rather than aspiration. We’d add the corollary shร ng ร n (making it ashore—getting a stable government position) to “jumping into the sea” and we’ve heard of the minor revolts of lying flat or letting it rot (with their analogues in the West quiet quitting, work-to-rule, Sciopero Bianco or generally a slowdown action) but the title term neijuan or “involution” was new to us as well. A loanword from an outdated treatise—which may have been a bit of political sublimation and apologetic for colonialism—that conjectures that agrarian societies, pointedly rice-growing ones, fail in achieving technological or political change because of intensive farming and increased pressures, externally and internally, to maintain this high yield with class structures meant to re-enforce that quota. Its original sense has been incrementally extended as a critique of income disparity—number two in the number of billionaires but also home to six hundred million others who subsist off less than $150 per month and of an exhaustive and overly-competitive work culture. The pictured, harried student of Tsing Hua University balancing his laptop on the handle bars of his bicycle has been adopted by the ‘Involuted Generation’ as their king.

Sunday 5 February 2023

spy in the sky (10. 524)

Hitting a bit like the Evergreen saga with geopolitical consequence being reduced to, incapsulated in a few albeit funny memes, the US has shot down a Chinese surveillance dirigible, scrambling a pair of F-22 fighter jets and downing the balloon over Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The high-altitude craft was detected in American and Canadian airspace—which was characterised by the Chinese as a meteorological station blown off course, just on the eve of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s diplomatic mission to China, one months in planning and would represent the first constructive contact between the two nations in three years and was subsequently called off due to this blatant provocation. A second balloon was detected over Central America. President Biden, even before rabid hysterics by Republican accusing him of dereliction of duty and urging patriots to take matters into their own hands and shoot rifles at the balloon some fifteen kilometres in the sky and the size of a sports stadium, issued orders for its destruction when it was safe to do so. Having already jammed its ability to relay telemetry back to its operators and neutralised it as a threat, Biden probably, exasperated, had it brought down to placate mobs irresponsibly encouraged to fire bullets in the air and presenting more of a danger to the public with their return trajectories. The Department of Defence casually adds that there were three known incidents of similar violations of US airspace during the Trump administration, with nothing done about it.

Tuesday 31 January 2023

7x7 (10. 513)

nothing, forever: an endless AI generated episode of Seinfeld, livestreamed—via Waxy 

construction spree: an annual survey of China’s Ugliest Buildings  


fictive flyover: still photographs of the Red Planet captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter transformed into a stunning video  

word of the day: eleemosynary—that which is supported by charity—and gives us the derived term alms  

he gets us: the billion dollar rebranding of Jesus—mostly financed through dark money, via Super Punch  

35f no pmh, p/w cp: OpenAI gives a correct diagnosis but can’t show its work, fabricating a fake citation for its conclusion—via the new shelton wet/dry  

yeldard: a forgotten British television oddity rediscovered in Paul Bradley

Thursday 26 January 2023

6x6 (10. 498)

trattoria: the invention of Fettuccine Alfredo—a labour of love  

masstransiscope: a zoetrope to be enjoyed at speed by NYC subway passengers—see also  

chucoํ—sol: the need for new weather words to reflect living through the climate catastrophe  

break five: a comprehensive guide to celebrating the Lunar New Year on mainland China—via tmn  

boogaloo in apartment 41: the musical stylings of Ozzie Torrens and his Exciting Orchestra  

melts in your mouth: M&Ms spokescandies finally forced into retreat by conservative pundits

Monday 23 January 2023

6x6 (10. 492)

zhengyue 2: the second day of the Lunar New Year is considered the birthday of all dogs 

only took the m’f’er fifteen tries: Randy Rainbow lampoons Kevin McCartney with a parody of ‘Master of the House’ from Les Misรฉrables 

i shot the serif: US Department of State drops the typeface Times New Roman in favour of the more legible Calibri font  

yellow magic orchestra: watch performances by the Japanese group that created some of the most innovative and influential acts in electronic music  

odonymy: more open etymological street maps—see also  

tet: a short, hand-drawn game about cooking and serving a Vietnamese holiday meal—via Waxy