kaigou: (1 Izumi)
I've finally put a finger on what has me so entranced when watching media (shows, animation, etc) that's in a different language. At first, I thought: this is a kind of astonishment. Then I censored myself immediately, because wow, that sounds offensive -- if you twist it to the side, it could be saying: "wow, people have entirely different languages and they still communicate such complex ideas" which is not at all what I mean.

I've probably told some of you this story before, but when I lived in France, I recall spending the afternoon with a teacher's two children. Aged, hm, three and five, maybe? They had a globe, and one of them asked where I lived, so I put a finger on their hometown, and another on mine. There was a lot of blue-colored map between the two places, and the kids were suitably impressed.

However, somehow this raised the question of why (in their opinion) I couldn't speak French as well as the other adults they knew. Maybe, they appeared to be reasoning, it was because Americans were bad at talking. I said no, in America, we speak English.

Long pause. Skeptical looks.

"No, you speak French," they said. "Everyone speaks French."

"Not in the United States," I replied. "There, we don't speak French. We speak English."

Skeptical looks turned to absolute disdain, because now they were quite certain I was putting them on. There went all my credibility.

Later I asked their mom, who said that it's a developmental stage, related to the size of the kid's world, and the fact that they assume what they see around them is an example of everything, everywhere. It takes time and experience before we start to realize the world is a much bigger place than our little corner of it.

Watching foreign shows, or trying to read a manga in Taiwanese (or, ugh, Cantonese), makes me feel like my world has gotten even bigger. Or maybe it's that it makes me feel just that many times smaller. Like: these people are talking, and there's a whole way of writing, of conjugating verbs, of expressing the self, and I understand none of it. Chances are, I will never understand more than maybe "please" and "thank you" and "yes" and "no" and how to say "hello" on the phone. If that much. But people express ideas and emotions and my corner -- the English corner -- has no impact, no value, in this conversation.

It's a kind of reminder of humility. )


18 Jan 2012 06:13 pm
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
If taking someone else's work without paying for it and/or translating it and/or distributing it is piracy, does that mean that those who practice the same but in a transformative way might be considered to have letters of marque?
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
Last week (after we got back), I was bored enough and hadn't read a book in awhile, felt like, so thought I'd check out what new ebooks were on offer from the publishers I like (read: who seem to be somewhat consistent in decent quality). One area I almost always check out is "multicultural", but this time I noticed something and I'm not sure whether it's me, or if it's not me.

When I say "multicultural", I mean as in: where the two (or more) main characters come from a variety of cultures. Kinda culture-clash, even if on a superficial level the characters may have a lot in common, visually. Someone from Australia and someone from Britain might look like they have distant-distant-distant kin, possibly, but culturally they're going to have some differences. The lack of a language barrier meaning the differences may be less than, say, Australia and Peru, but still, culturally it's still not quite exactly the same. Still, that's what I'd consider a watered-down multiculturalism, because between language, ethnicity, and culture (on a very broad scale), there's still a lot in common between the two characters, more than there's difference.

When I say, multicultural, I mean, lots of cultures, coming and going and complex and textured. )

If it seems like it's an odd request, it's because I've realized that we can extend that meme about "if you don't like panels with only white guys, as a white guy, don't agree to be on panels with only white guys". If I don't like books with only white characters, stop agreeing to read/purchase books with only white characters -- and to be honest, settings in which the white culture dominates quietly, in the background, as an unquestioned assumption, is part of that refusal.

I'm thinking it's time to paraphrase the Dalai Lama: read the change you want to see in the world. I'm ready to read. Throw some titles at me!
kaigou: (5 flowers on brick)
One of my biggest issues with application development is when any driver in the development (whether programmers, designers, or the corporate decision-makers) declare that "users can just get used to this". I end up arguing the opposite, every single time. Like arguing that users do need a halfway button that says "save and continue" on a really long form, or that we can't drop the red asterisk for colorblind users who won't see the red outline on a text-box, or that a series of steps aren't obvious or intuitive. I don't believe you can force users -- or that you even should -- into changing their own perceptions and patterns just because you think it's easier to not include that second button, or because you believe asterisks will "mess up" your pretty styles.

Since an application's purpose is to help someone work more efficiently (whether at a new task or just redoing an old task in a new format, like in-browser), making the users slow down to learn a new pattern-language seems counterproductive. You have to fit the application to the users, and any changes must be slow and subtle. We're all old dogs, really, when it comes to how we interact with patterns.

I see the same argument in fiction, where users (readers) argue for things like "pronounceable names" or dislike settings or conflicts that don't mesh with their expectations. Things like female characters who are androgynous enough that an unfamiliar character might, at first, not be sure of the female character's sex/gender. Or hierarchies that don't work in the same way as those the reader knows. Or even just value systems that aren't in-culture for the reader: different priorities, like setting one's family/parents above one's personal ambitions. Those kinds of stories are the opposite of the application-design style above, because they don't bend to the user's conventions, but expect the reader to bend to mesh with the story.

[paragraph above is badly-phrased, see comments for discussion/elaboration]

Maybe such unfamiliar-named, unfamiliar-setting stories might reach a wider audience if they worked more to meet with reader non/familiarity? Like taking a non-English name and anglicizing it a little differently to make its pronunciation more obvious, more understandable to English-familiar readers? (I am suddenly thinking of Korean names, which seem to be anglicized in any of a variety of ways, and frequently have vowel-combinations that would be one way based on English rules, but are pronounced quite differently.) Another is cultural, where the protagonist notes things that would be taken for granted in the protag's own culture (ie, family over individual or vice versa), but are distinctly different from the reader's culture, and thus are tagged or lampshaded solely for the reader's benefit. (Characters who note the side of the road driven is a huge, if rare, example: who the hell ever stops to think about what side of the road they drive on, if they grew up with that understanding/assumption?)

I recall someone on my dwircle was discussing/reviewing a book set in Japan, I think it was, where the main character noted such cross-culture differences. Those familiar with Japanese culture found it off-putting, it seemed, because these seemed like things a Japanese person would never think to randomly compare. I mean, how often do you go around your native/home culture and say, "I'm getting cucumbers and okra, but you'd never see these in a Russian supermarket"? Those who not quite familiar with Japanese culture seemed to be more forgiving, maybe because they were glad of being given some handle on the differences. It can be hard to assess what's "strange" for a character when the entire setting is strange to you, as the reader.

Bend to the user/reader, or expect the reader/user to bend to the story? What do you think?
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (5 bookstack)
Watching Jin and there's talk of a cholera epidemic four years before the show (a time-travelling history work) takes place -- that would be the massive cholera outbreak of 1858, apparently. In the show, there's word that cholera has returned and naturally the population of Edo (and the few doctors, especially those trained in Western/Dutch medicine) are panicked about it.

Naturally this prompted another foray into wiki and beyond, into pdfs and google-books history analyses and texts, because hell if I know jack about cholera. It's just not an illness I've run into, or that has ever been a threat, in the part of the world where I live (though it does continue to be a threat in many other parts of the world). I had thought it was a virus, but it's not; it's a bacterium.

Doesn't that mean that if you were exposed to cholera and managed to be one of the one-in-two to one-in-twenty who survived (honestly, a 50% death rate is just unfathomable)... that your body would have developed the antibodies? Wouldn't that mean that epidemics would be separated by generations, because it'd take time before a large enough percentage of the population existed that had not been exposed? So you might have an outbreak four years later, but wouldn't it be substantially smaller due to a large part of the (surviving) population having developed antibodies -- in other words, city-newcomers and young children would be struck, but anyone who'd been around four years earlier might not be affected?

Or do bacteria mutate, such that a return of cholera could actually be a different strain? I know viruses mutate (and that's why they're so difficult to treat and/or inoculate, something to do with having to inoculate against the specific virus and if you're exposed to a different strain, the inoculation does little to nothing)... but I thought the life-cycle of bacteria changes was much slower, comparatively. At least, that's my uneducated reasoning, given how long it's taken bacteria to develop antibiotic-resistance. (I thought viruses develop a resistance much faster, because they change/mutate faster.)

Just curious; hoping someone might know because I'm failing at the google to find any article that answers that specific question.

Incidentally, wiki also notes that in terms of treatment: "Rice-based solutions are preferred to glucose-based ones due to greater efficiency." I wonder who first realized that, and was able to compare the two. I presume someone in Asia, since I doubt a rice-based anything would've been first on the list in Europe, rice not being a major staple of diet for most of European history. At least, that's my guess. Hell if I know, really.

Man, watching historical dramas (from any country) always ends up with me running to wiki to look stuff up, even moreso when it's not my own country's history. Get into time-travel stories and it's even worse, because characters will know or reference something and I'm lost. Although this time, at least, I got that one reference -- when the from-the-now doctor asks a young woman of Edo, "what year is it?" She replies, "the second year of Buncho" (something like that). He draws a complete blank -- he's a doctor, after all, not a historian. He waffles about, trying to figure it out, then lands on a definitive historical landmark: "have the black ships arrived?" Ah, she answers, that was ten years ago. Ahaha, do the math, it's 1862.

The show's full of nice little touches like that, like when the young lady offers to run back and get the medicines she'd missed. The doctor -- with patient at hand, needing attention -- asks how long that'll take. She replies, "a moment." How long, he asks, is a moment? She says, indignant, "a moment is a moment." Frustrated, he finally asks, "how much of the day will pass?" We take "hours" and "minutes" for granted now. It's almost incomprehensible to think of a time in which there's no knowledge of the passage of time, even when we don't have a clock right there on our wrist.

Well, incomprehensible... but not nearly as much as trying to fathom a disease that took out one person in every twenty.

(Incidentally, some of the epidemiology articles I've found suggest that Japan's deathrate was lower due to the Japanese habit of boiling water prior to drinking.)
kaigou: (1 Toph)
Man, the gender!fail on some of the stuff I've been watching recently... it's like, it's great as long as I just forget that any character has any gender at all, and then I can enjoy the pretty pictures and not have to think about the constant message that girls are weak, that power makes girls crazy, that the only agency it's okay for a girl to have is in the act of choosing her lover (of the opposite sex, natch).

Seeking a break, I went to see what anime's now available since the last time I checked, and wah, two more episodes of Break Blade (sometimes translated as Broken Blade). Yay!

Yes. It's mecha. (What did you expect? This is me, after all.) It's SF with a slight edge of the extra F, at least in terminology (people can operate quartz as a power-source or power-channel; the very rare souls unable to manipulate quartz are known as non-sorcerers). It's political, in that several countries are embroiled in a current war that seems to be heightened due to little-mentioned history (low-key on the exposition, which is actually rather nice). And, being mecha, it's unsurprisingly running about 7:1 on the fanservice, with one of the main female characters getting plenty of screen time in a gauzy cropped (and open) jacket with artfully placed long hair just so.

[Have you ever known anyone with long hair who drapes the hair just so, and for whom the hair will then actually stay like that, instead of falling to either side? Mangakas: it's called gravity and it don't work the way you're drawing. Just sayin'.]

Fine, it's the usual shonen-mecha, but for once the boys don't take up quite so much space. )

When I look at all that... I'm willing to forgive the superfluous fan service. Still wish the mangaka would up the male-character fan service, but 1 is better than 0, I suppose. As long as I keep getting so many moments of crowning kick-ass from female characters, I can live with 7:1 of panty-shots and cleavage vs bare chest.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (1 iguana)
I recall that when Sita Sings the Blues came out, there were some rumblings (might've been louder, but I only noticed rumblings) about the issue of appropriation. The story retells Sita's story, contrasting it with a Westerner/American's story of heartbreak, and mixes it up with songs from a now-less-known blues singer. The story doesn't entirely cast Sita as a feminist -- I don't think you can do that without really butchering the original -- but it does call out the assumptions that Rama is such a great guy, seeing the way he treats the alleged love of his life (and the mother of his children). To me, what saves the story from being complete appropriation is that the bulk of the narration is provided by three Indian expats discussing the legend, the characters, the stories around them, colored by their own take on things, sort of like a gentle critique within a critique.

cross-cultural critique: Sita Sings the Blues, and (yes, really) D.Gray-man )
kaigou: sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness. (2 flamethrowers)
I don't even know why I snagged a copy of this movie in the first place (except that I snagged the Korean version because the J-version has no English subtitles), but in some ways, it worked well, because I'm still thinking about it, a few weeks later.

The film, Fly Daddy Fly, is ostensibly about a middle-aged salaryman's attempt to find justice for his daughter. When the story starts, we get a litany of the salaryman's life: he still smokes (despite promising his wife and daughter he'd quit, repeatedly), he has seven years left until his condo is paid off, and he's middle-management. A rather fuddy-duddy, if good-natured, existence, but hardly anything to write home about. Anyway, the salaryman introduces himself as once having the nickname "Jjang," which I seem to recall is also a mafia term adopted by high schoolers to indicate who's basically Big Man on Campus (but with gang/boss overtones). No one calls him that now, though, he admits.

Then he's called to the emergency room: his daughter has been beaten brutally.

It shouldn't be a surprise that of course the explanation becomes -- in the mouth of the school principal who attends in lieu of the "too busy, highly-ranked state-related parents" -- something along the lines of what kind of girl would go for karaoke with a guy she'd just met? What eventually comes out, though, is that the high school senior in question, Kang Tae Shik, is also a boxing champion, and he apparently had no qualms using her as a punching bag. Because, as the principal implies with a shrug, she probably caused a fuss, and, well, things got out of hand.

Too subtle for a wink, but the nod is there: of course the boy would get angry. No mention is made of the fact that as a trained fighter, he'd have weight and muscle to spare, yet he took it all out on a girl who couldn't possibly defend herself. Jjang is just plain in shock; the principal is only marginally apologetic, and most of his apologies seem to amount to, "I'm sorry you had to discover you have such a bad daughter."

When you finally get to see the girl... well, they didn't cut any corners on showing that a lot of the damage she took was to the face. (Also a quiet visual implication that the anger was very personal, too.) What the k-version doesn't say was whether there was sexual assault, but I'm not sure whether this is because the Korean film industry is too squeamish to mention such explicitly, or if culturally it's supposed to be obvious whether "things were done", or if lack of explicit mention really means she was only beaten. Or maybe it's to side-step audience members who might judge the daughter unfairly (as in, "she deserved it") too quickly, if the explanation was too concrete.

...and when Jjang makes a mistake that costs him his daughter's respect, he realizes he can't just accept the hush money and do nothing, and so begins the story. )

Any way I look at it, though, the race against the bus in the third-quarter of the film is still an awesome thing.
kaigou: I am zen. I am BUDDHA. I am totally chill, y'all. (2 totally chill)
Sometimes I think the best thing about the internet is the edit button. Sometimes I think it's the worst thing.

Awhile back, I remember someone making the suggestion on DW's suggestion-comm that edited posts get a notation of some sort. This post was edited on ___. Either in the original suggestion or the comments, someone had the idea that wouldn't it be better to have a notation for every edit? This put the absolute fear of the intarwebs into me, and not because I'm all that bothered if people know I edit, but because no one would ever read my posts again. The pages would never load, because the last quarter of any page would be nothing but:

post edited: day/month/year
post edited: day/month/year
post edited: day/month/year
post edited: day/month/year

...for like twenty lines, probably concluding with:

this post has been edited so many times the database has run out of rows and now the INTERNETS ARE BROKEN and you know EXACTLY WHO TO BLAME.

Okay, that's a rather tongue-in-cheek poke at myself (because while I do edit, I'm not quite that bad, err, I think), but the issue of editing missives is one that I've tangled over privately many, many times. Read more... )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 omg fanfic)
Came across a thought-provoking (okay, given that linoleum can make me think deep thoughts, this may not be saying much) philosophical essay, ostensibly discussing whether or not Dumbledore is gay. But in the midst of tackling that question, Tamar Szabó Gendler had this to say:
...a number of leading critics of authorial intent [point out] that language is a social creation, and that authors do not have the power simply to make words mean what they choose. By this reasoning, it’s not up to Rowling to say whether Dumbledore is gay: her texts need to be allowed to speak for themselves, and each of her readers is a qualified listener.

By contrast, “intentionalist” literary theorists such as E.D. Hirsch Jr. argue that authorial intent is what fixes a text’s correct interpretation. Without such a constraint, Hirsch contends, one uses the text “merely as grist for one’s own mill.” And, at least to the extent that readers’ primary concern is with understanding what an author meant to communicate, intention is obviously central.

Oppressor vs. oppressed, collaboration in wartime, immigration, and a few other maybe-unexpected systemic corollaries to the dynamics, but mostly just slightly rambly pondering. )
kaigou: sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness. (2 flamethrowers)
From a Salon essay about the English-language translation of The Ringbearer, a satirical/parodic take on The Lord of the Rings. First, tying into both myth-making and a broader pop culture application, per the issue of fantasies in re women's roles, this food for thought:
"The Lord of the Rings" wouldn't be as popular as it is if the pastoral idyll of the Shire and the sureties of a virtuous, mystically ordained monarchy as embodied in Aragorn didn't speak to widespread longing for a simpler way of life. There's nothing wrong with enjoying such narratives -- we'd be obliged to jettison the entire Arthurian mythos and huge chunks of American popular culture if there were -- but it never hurts to remind ourselves that it's not just their magical motifs that makes them fantasies.

And an intriguing reaction from the reviewer, too, in the final paragraph:
Yeskov's "parody" -- for "The Last Ringbearer," with its often sardonic twists on familiar Tolkien characters and events, comes a lot closer to being a parody than "Wind Done Gone" ever did -- is just such a reminder. If it is fan fiction (and I'm not sure I'm in a position to pronounce on that), then it may be the most persuasive example yet of the artistic potential of the form.

And since translations and language have been on my brain, this paragraph from an interview with Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things:
To be able to express yourself, to be able to close the gap—inasmuch as it is possible—between thought and expression is just such a relief. It’s like having the ability to draw or paint what you see, the way you see it. Behind the speed and confidence of a beautiful line in a line drawing there’s years of—usually—discipline, obsession, practice that builds on a foundation of natural talent or inclination of course. It’s like sport. A sentence can be like that. Language is like that. It takes a while to become yours, to listen to you, to obey you, and for you to obey it. I have a clear memory of language swimming towards me. Of my willing it out of the water. Of it being blurred, inaccessible, inchoate… and then of it emerging. Sharply outlined, custom-made.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 life is pain)
One of the other threads in Where the Girls Are was a discussion of one of Bette Davis' earlier melodramas (co-starring a young Humphrey Bogart), Marked Woman. Loosely based on real-life case, Bogart's character convinces Davis' call-girl ("hostess" for censorship purposes) character to testify against a big mob boss. Over the course of the film, it becomes apparent that there's a strong attraction between Davis' low-class character and Bogart's upper-class prosecutor character. Yet at the end, when Bogart's character obliquely suggests that they try and make a go of it, Davis' call-girl turns him down.

The book's assessment of this was that the introduction of reality -- that there was no future in a relationship that crossed such class barriers -- actually turned the film into a subversive work. By showing all the potential of such a relationship, and then reminding the audience of the reality (and thereby removing any chance of a Cinderella-like unrealistic happy ending for the sympathetic female lead)... it actually pissed women-audiences off. It made them say, "why must it be like that? why can't she finally get a decent guy?"

I was reading that book while also working my way through one of the kdramas -- can't recall now which -- but not like it matters; many of them run together when it comes to the Cinderella themes. (Per my previous post, especially when it's poor-girl-who-works-hard manages to snag the chaebol/rich-boy prince. Hell, if you watched kdramas and mistook them for reality, you'd think chaebol-boys grow on freaking trees.) Over and over, the dimwitted but hard-working and well-meaning poor girl gets chosen instead of the highly educated, cultivated, and ambitious rich girl.

The reality of that is... well, it can happen, but it's so rare as to rival hen's teeth. )

Which is better? To watch the fantasy and have it fire you up to believe the world could be like that? Or to see the reality and get really freaking pissed off because you hate living through that yourself, and want to work for a day when that onscreen misery is nothing but a distant memory?
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 break out of prison)
Back when I was reading the book on women in media (Douglas, I think it was), I recall a chapter that discussed Charlie's Angels in-depth. I'm pretty sure I quoted that section at length, but one part I didn't quote but has stuck in my head was how Charlie's Angels -- the show, not the characters -- attempted to have its feminist cake and eat it, too. Or maybe I should say: to eat the cake while denying the cake existed.

Here's the logic: patriarchy is, in simplistic television terms, when men as a sex, a gender, and as a rule, strive to keep women in the position of second-class citizens. Okay. Demonstrating/illustrating the patriarchy in television, therefore, is showing men being male chauvinist asshats. So far, I'm still with the logic.

But here's what Charlie's Angels was arguing, by having the consistent villain of the piece be a sexist asshat: they were reducing -- Douglas argued -- the concept of 'patriarchy' as 'something all men buy into and intentionally (or unconsciously) support, engender, propagate, and generally make sure men stay the only sex with any significant rights or privileges' to 'here are some guys who are asshats". In short, the reduction subtly undermined the feminist argument that the patriarchy is a problem with men as a self reinforcing whole, by positing that if you could just get rid of these (specific, bad) men, there'd be no patriarchy. Rainbows and puppies for everyone!

Which is where the having the cake -- men are sexist! -- and denying it -- but only certain bad men! -- comes into play: and thus into commentary on women-in-media of kdramas, jdramas, and tw-dramas. )
kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
It's crazy, the things you never realize about language, when it comes to translations. How do brains work on two tracks at once? What lies in the heads of all those people at the UN who can listen, real-time, to one language and simultaneously speak the same meaning in a different language?

Hell, I can barely manage it for a word, maybe a single phrase, and then my brain breaks. But more than that, slowly working my way through corrections is really making me think (which, okay, is a something I like) about what words and phrases mean.

For instance, the phrase: I feel bad when... In French, this has been translated as je compatis -- which really means, "I sympathize."

Immediately, I recall the phrase a lawyer/linguist friend used to tell me: "I empathize but I do not sympathize." In other words: I feel your pain, but I don't feel sorry on your behalf. What does it mean to say, "I feel bad"? Does it mean sympathy -- as in, a feeling of shared pain/upset? Or does it include an element of regret, as though one is responsible for it: I'm sorry this happened to you.

You feel bad on someone's behalf without actually feeling responsible for the situation, which is what I'd consider empathy -- but the distinction between the two words (sympathy and empathy) is one that's frequently lost on many readers. Both are mentally translated (it seems to me) as "I feel bad", hence the ambiguity.

Talking it over with CP, and I suggested "I'm bothered when..." but as he pointed out, "bother" has a connotation of annoyance. In other words, "I'm inconvenienced when..." and that's not the same at all. Then we thought of "I take it personally", but that implies that the situation is causing one to be on the defensive. Just what are you taking personally? If it's "I take it personally when a friend is upset," does this mean you're feeling yourself guilty for their upset, or are your personal feelings because you're upset on your friend's behalf?

So perhaps simply, "I get upset when my friend is upset." I suppose most people would say that's sympathy (it's actually empathy), and then we're back to the beginning. Though CP suggested taking it down to the actual meaning: do you share the upset, or are you upset only by extension?

Perhaps "I share my friend's reaction..." is less ambiguous. Hm. I wonder what that is in Spanish.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
Japan's Cinderella Motif- Beauty Industry and Mass Culture Interpretations of a Popular Icon — Laura Miller

Too much evo-psych but still important observation, from Psychology Behind The Cinderella Complex:
...there is also a division between the smart and the pretty girl. “We can’t do both, evidently,” Fraser said. “And if you are both, then you’re universally hated by both men and women; women because they’re jealous of you, and men because they don’t know what to do with you.” She said that a woman “who is living up to her potential is often cast aside or becomes a social outcast.”

From Wiki's entry on prestige (sociolinguistics):
Some instances of contact between languages with different prestige levels have resulted in diglossia, a phenomenon in which a community uses a high prestige language or dialect in certain situations—usually for newspapers, in literature, on university campuses, for religious ceremonies, and on television and the radio—but uses a low prestige language or dialect for other situations—often in conversation in the home or in letters, comic strips, and in popular culture. Linguist Charles A. Ferguson's 1959 article "Diglossia" listed the following examples of diglossic societies: in Switzerland, Swiss Standard German and Swiss German; in the Middle East and North Africa, Standard Arabic and vernacular Arabic; in Haiti, Standard French and Kréyòl; in Greece, Katharevousa and Dhimotiki; and in Norway, Bokmål and Nynorsk.

Although those (I gather) are significant linguistic differences between prestige and standard, couldn't a situation like Southern/non-Southern be considered a kind of diglossia? My understanding is that code-switching is when you mix two languages (dialects?) in the same sentence/breath, like a kind of maladapted or hyper loanword use. Diglossia sounds more like a complete switch, like what I do when speaking with relatives versus the way I speak at work. It also sounds like what people are talking about for Black Americans, who switch easily from Standard American at work to Black American while with friends/family or non-work situations. As others mentioned on earlier threads, that as long as you use those structures and expressions, you're still speaking "Southern" even if your accent is soft (or non-existent), the accent of Southern American, like Black American, is not the key feature. It's the significant differences in the grammatical structure as well as the idiomatic expressions.

Now I am reminded of that segment from Airplane: "Oh stewardess! I speak jive."

Tangential note: out of curiosity, I just looked up jive, wondering where the name itself (jive) originated. Still no idea on that one, but I did just learn that linguistically, African-American Vernacular English (AAVE, or what I was calling Black American) is a creole. The bit about prestige dialects remains at the forefront of my lizard brain right now, so that popped back in as I got to the section about Ebonics... and I gotta say, I loathe that term. The political ramifications aren't helped by a strange kind of verbal synesthesia, where the capital E + the bon looks... I don't know how to put it. Like something you'd call a child's music toy, or something. Not quite plastic-cheap, but that kind of reaction. Hard to qualify/express.

However, it seems to me there's a prestige, of a sort, when a dialect is known as a creole, probably in part because of the association with "creole" and "New Orleans" (in terms of cultural import/impact). New Orleans is, and hopefully will continue to be, a huge cultural value for America. So maybe we have an association, thanks to that, that lends prestige to "creole", regardless of whether the listener understands the linguistic differentiation. I think maybe it's also because most people are aware that "creole" (unlike the maligned notion of 'pidgin') is a dialect-into-language. Credibility, perhaps, that isn't granted by a bizarre and frankly stupid invented-word like Ebonics?

Strange, to be reminded yet again (as though I could forget) that words really do make all the difference. Instead of Ebonics and its ridiculous assumption that the non-Standard English is a sign of Black American childrens' lesser communication skills (oh please)... by emphasizing the creole aspect, the truth becomes: Black American children are actually gaining a skill many Standard-American speaking children don't gain: multilingualism. There are huge benefits to having that kind of multi-linguistic exposure as small children, not the least of which is a facility to learn other languages, because the brain is already used to switching back and forth -- and we've got more than just American-English vs non-English languages, we've also got computer languages, these days.

Too bad I'm never a hiring manager, or I think this would be a valuable trait in potential developers. Someone who can code-switch (or use diglossia) between a creole and Standard American is possibly also someone who can do the same with computer-language syntax. It's just one more way of adapting and working with language, and long experience in code-switching gives you the tools to apply the same in a new area. I think that'd be incredibly valuable (especially in industries like mine, which are always stumbling over and into new developments that then need to be integrated with the old).

Then again, I'm not a hiring manager... nor has any hiring manager ever given even a moment's notice to the languages I've studied. Or maybe it's just that as far as I know, I've never had a direct manager who isn't mono-lingual. Maybe you only recognize the value when you're multi-lingual yourself, or spend most of your time in multi-lingual environments, enough to realize that mono-lingual is... well, it's a drawback. It's not something to be proud of.

Also, awesome quote: "A language is just a dialect with an army."
kaigou: I'm going with head-explodey on this one. (3 head-explodey)
Recently, [personal profile] sevilemar left a comment on the posts I did on the dynamics of fandom. One part of the comment leapt out at me:
I think preserving earlier posts (or texts) and naming your sources like you did with obsession_inc's post are tremendously helpful when a reader wants to know more about the thing discussed. It creates a sense of tradition, and tradition is a tool of organization ... Also, earlier posts, texts and discussions can be used to demonstrate patterns or recurring themes, structures etc. if one is so inclined.

All very true, and the internet-casual "I was reading __ and it made me think of __" or the more direct, "this is in response to __'s post on __" definitely act as shorthand citations. I await the day when we develop a pattern, or an assumption of, inline notations ([personal profile] journalname, 2010). Unlike the footnotes and endnotes in printed text -- highly annoying, if you ask me, because of the requirement of skipping to the end of the book and searching minuscule text for that one line, only to have it say ibid (and who the hell is ibid anyway and can I shoot him now?) -- but I digress.

What that comment-bit actually made me think of was this: there have been times, many more times than I think I'd even like to admit, where I have not linked to, nor identified, who or what prompted the post. And that's because of one reason: because the text can be searched, found, and wanked.

As I've discussed before, discussions are digressive in their organic form, going this way, and back again. When I was in college, it would be a handful or so of us, at the local bar, covering all the permutations of a topic. Between us, we'd move from here, to there, and back again, sometimes arguing against ourselves as a way to make sure we'd left no conversational stone unturned. (Yes, it's called Being A Philosophy Major.) In the internet discussions, past and current, it's the same thing, except multiple voices are doing that digression, all at the same time. Hyper, I'll give you hyper -- compared to the rather languid pace of pre-internet.

However, that overlapping means the digression may no longer be organic, but cacophonous. The various link-roundups and link-spams on any given hot topic definitely give the impression of chaos, and someone out there is gonna want to force it into Proper Order. The link-roundups and link-spams (especially when accompanied by editorial commentary such as "privilege in comments" or "triggers for __") act as forces of order against a chaotic, near-post-modern discussion frenzy. And where you have the drive for organization, for order, you're going to have to determine what's in, and what's out, and as I've mentioned before, that's where you get the Proper Order's private wish that everyone would speak in turn, because all this talking out of turn is giving some folks the chance to derail -- or just digress, which is sometimes bad enough anyway -- and that, we just can't have.

Hence, wank -- and wank, when you think about it, is pretty damn meta in a bizarre way. A lot of the worst wank in the various fails isn't always only and entirely because someone was privileged; that's usually just the starting-point. The rest of the wank is wank over whether or not that critical-post was wank: in this chaotic crazy everyone-talks-at-once discussion, it's pretty much inevitable in that any decent-sized fail, there'll be an argument over the unspoken community rules of how one goes about having an argument.

Citing any of that, linking to any of that -- no matter how thought-provoking -- means getting dragged into it. Internet discussions as the ultimate tarbaby: you link, you are connected, you can be found, and your citation can be used against you. While this would be true regardless of whether link-roundups existed -- no matter how useful, overall, as historical records of a discussion's progress -- a link-roundup still creates an easy path for others to follow to your door, and thence to holler at you.

While I'm certainly not going to advocate Civility Lessons for everyone -- there are still people writing in all-caps, for crying out loud, and such advocacy would just be another opportunity for wank, anyway -- I do think that any metatastic discussions of internet conversations must take into account the pressures created by those link round-ups and their very public dispersal. From an academic or historical point, couldn't this potentially warp one's perception of a discussion, in one direction or another, if many are speaking but only in an undertone, unlinked? Or many are speaking but with self-censored neutrality when linking?

If fear of wank -- public shaming, really -- overrides the OP's investment in the actual topic, how do you know you've actually collected the discussion? What if your introduction is an unlinked post, giving the impression it starts and stops here, what does that do to how we see the post? Is a post more valuable -- or more credible -- if it risks the wank by linking? Or is it more valuable (to those within its discussion-borders) if its unlinked state means it's a safe space for the conversation-participants? Wouldn't that, in turn, make it as valuable and valid as any public, wank-risking posts, if for different reasons?

Sometimes I hate my brain.
kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
If you haven't heard of the Bechdel Test (where have you been), here are the requirements for a movie, television show, book, play, etc to get a passing grade.
  1. It has to have at least two women in it.
  2. Who talk to each other.
  3. About something besides a man.
Given the plethora of dramas, movies, anime, and manga/manhwa I've watched or read in the past six months, I'm starting to think this just isn't enough. For instance, a lot of the k-dramas pass the Bechdel Test... on total technicalities. Women discuss: what they'll wear out that night; what make-up they use or their nightly moisturizing routine; doing housework; what kind of food to make or how to make it; how their current diet-fad works and whether it's working. It's a lot of women-are-talking ... about things that are stereotypically "okay" for women to discuss: all the things that, in one way or another, are part and parcel of the requirements society pushes onto women for being women.

Shorter version: there's a lot of Bechdel-Test-passing in which #3 is satisfied by conversations that, basically, revolve around the trappings of femininity. The resulting message is that if women aren't focused on men, then they're focused on what could make them attractive to men.

Thus, I suggest we need multiple levels of Bechdel. )

ETA: as usual, see comments for further discussion.
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 never get to work on time)
Awhile back I posted about damselfied action girls, and several comments protested my exclusion of non-fighting female characters in the cited animanga. The counter-argument was that although the female characters were not as strong as the male characters (physically, martially), the female characters contributed in other ways. Then, and now, I don't disagree, but I still think such an argument borders on disingenuous if taken in light of a story's embedded standards.

The majority of stories -- in any format, from nearly every culture, at least from what I've seen, read, and researched -- revolve around male characters. It takes a pickax and night goggles to find the exceptions that pass the Bechdel Test, and that's not exactly a really high standard. It's just taken as a given that the center of a story will be the male protagonist. Either he's the hero, right-up, to get the focus, or he's the woman's objective (and therefore becomes the focus) -- even if, in the latter case, the story is predominantly through the woman's point of view. Her perspective is, more likely than not, going to be fixed on the male character/love interest, and that means the male character remains effectively in the center of the viewing screen. Hell, he'll probably be her main topic of conversation even when he's not on-screen.

That's a duh to most women viewers, I think (and if it's not a duh, or comes as a surprise, you may be reading the wrong journal) but it means that the default is to judge secondary/female characters within a framework, or against a standard, of that main male protagonist. Thus while it may be true that women in Naruto or Bleach do contribute in some way to plot, development, or general support, they're still inferior when measured against what makes the hero so great.

If the hero's main qualification (to be declared/considered the hero) is that he's a strong fighter, the women around him may be savvy, sharp, and wildly successful at whatever they do... but they're inferior when measured against the story's criteria for "what makes the main character be the main character". For a story that posits the hero (or love interest) is worthy of this singular attention -- from the narrative or from the main female protagonist -- by virtue of some quality, more likely than not, the female character will have less of that quality in comparison, and in some cases, may even lack it altogether.

I only just realized this as I've begun watching more East Asian dramas, where there is a greater likelihood (especially in Taiwanese, Thai, and Chinese dramas, at least what I've seen so far) that the female lead will have some ass-kicking skills. In some cases, she's actually a better fighter than the male lead. It's when I analyze what's supposed to set the hero apart that I realize: the more a story emphasizes the woman's fighting skills, the more likely it is that what sets the hero apart isn't his fighting prowess but his mental prowess.

Thus, it's the flip side of Naruto and its "smart girls, bad fighters". Where the hero/male prowess is predominantly defined by intelligence, knowledge, or worldly experience, either the narrative or the other characters (possibly including the male lead) considers the female characters as less-intelligent, even outright stupid. The story sets its value-priority on the hero's brain, not his brawn... which means there's plenty of room to be brawny, for the female, but little room to be brainy. The hero's already gotten first and second shares of that quality.

Read more... )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (4 oh em gee)
Class-passing: Social Mobility in Film and Popular CultureGwendolyn Audrey Foster

The first 6 pages are available as a google books preview. I'd quote more, but I'm not really up to sitting here typing in an excerpt from the book, so instead I'll just run a few review-excerpts past you. ) One of the points Foster makes is that class is a self-constructed (or socially-constructed) identity that can flux the way modern media/society will also flux gender. Although she doesn't say it explicitly (or maybe she does; I'm still working my way through the book), there are tells or signals that identify cross-classing in the same way that certain details will signify or indicate cross-gendering.

For some reason, in the middle of reading, I was reminded of the k-dramas I've seen that depict upper-class characters. Setting aside the culturally-loaded (or culturally-specifics) whistles of whether one eats with a fork and knife or eats with chopsticks, what one eats, and how one acts around the dinner table... in nearly every instance of a western-styled dinner table, I've had a strange knee-jerk reaction to the actors behind the characters.

The actors bite their forks.

You can hear the distinct clink of teeth on metal tines, and I can't help but be distantly amused at how this both annoys me to no end, even as it reveals (in me) a certain set of assumptions of what it means to bite a utensil. It's a major signifier -- or so I was taught -- of bad manners, hence, lower-class or less-class. Yet these are actors portraying supposedly top-of-the-heap (wealth-wise) characters, and in many ways, they have all the other trappings of class around them: cloth napkins, complex tableware, multiple courses delivered/eaten separately, and so on... and at the same time, they're displaying (apparently unconsciously) a complete lack of class (that is, table etiquette).

I don't think that double-meaning is intended in the original text, to be honest. I think I'm supposed to see the characters are being the ultimate in cosmopolitan, genteel, upper-class crust; at least, that's what the context appears to be saying. But just as I find myself recoiling whenever a supposedly upper-class character sticks his napkin in his collar (a bib? at the dinner table? are you kidding me?), I do the same when someone lets teeth come down hard on a fork or spoon.

As a result, I find myself reading into the text the sense that these characters are all falsehoods. They're duplicitous, attempting to pass themselves off as classy, when in fact a little detail like this reveals their overall failure to pass as upper-class... even as I intellectually am aware that it's more likely it's the actors playing a role of being wealthy characters (a kind of faux or temporary 'passing' in itself). It's a good chance I'm seeing a signal from the actor's personal backstory that indicates the actor was not raised with these little [western] etiquette rules; this lack of background/personal knowledge means the actor probably isn't aware s/he is signifying clearly the lack. I get that, but it's still hard to avoid making a connection/conclusion per the characters enacted.

Still. Untangling my own upbringing from my reactions to an onscreen story just reminds me all over again that I don't think we can underestimate just how much, as an audience, we infer into and out of a story... even when we're not consciously aware of what's driving our response. The reaction exists all the same.
kaigou: I knew it! not in the sense of knowing it, but I knew there was something I didn't know. (3 knew it but didn't know it)
[If you haven't read the other posts in this ongoing conversation-with-myself, you'll probably find it helpful to do so, to get some of the context before reading this post.]

The first, and maybe most important, thing to keep in mind (even if it did take me awhile to figure this out) is that absence of a thing does not automatically indicate presence of something else. I know, that's basic logic, but still. It's easy to forget.

The second is that if what you're about to read strikes you at any point as wrong, or wrong-headed, or simply not-okay to think... I get that. Chances are, I agree with you. But I also think that sometimes, you have to say the stupid thing out loud to fully grasp the depth of stupidity. Yes, there's that whole thing about needing to pull up your pants, but I think sometimes that reminder/colloquialism is misinterpreted (willfully or no) as a message to simply not speak of this. To cram the reaction or statements down somewhere, hide that ignorance away lest everyone see clearly that we retain some ingrained ignorance.

But this is something I can tell I need to work out, to understand what's going on in my brain, before I can understand what it means, let alone what to do about it. If saying it aloud (typing it aloud?) here gets me farther along to see any wrongness, then I'm willing to take the chance of looking like an idiot. If the alternative is denying a possible flaw, I'd rather look like an idiot. At least the second can be fixed, but the first never would be.

The reversal of recognition, single ethnicity-markers, what it means to lose them, and the problem with faces in dramas. )


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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