Wednesday, June 27, 2007

iPhone and the Pride of Taiwan

I just noticed something while watching the "Watered Down" commercial for the iPhone. Here's a screenshot from about 12 seconds in:

It's a bunch of Taiwanese waving flags and holding a sign reading "Light of Taiwan: Wang Chien-ming." It's just a random picture from the NYTimes site, but hey, Taiwan takes international attention when it can get it.
(And yeah, he officially spells his name "ming" instead of "min.")

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cameron Diaz, Serving the People

So Cameron Diaz made a bad choice of accessories and showed up in Peru with a bag that had a red star and said "To Serve the People" (為人民服務) in Chinese. You know, Peru--land of the Shining Path guerrilla group that was supposedly responsible for the deaths of 70,000 people. The international press went into an uproar and started writing stories about how she'd offended the nation. Dinesh D'Souza, who is apparently now blogging for AOL (who knew?) chimed in with a post called "Sorry Cameron Diaz, but Mass Murder Isn't Cool." Do actual Peruvians care? Not so much, apparently.

I remember D'Souza from the mid-90s PC culture wars and his book Illiberal Education. It seems since then he's moved on to writing about how the "Cultural Left" is responsible for 9/11 and the "liberal Fascism" of Mussolini and, um, Hillary Clinton. Better not wear that Ho Chi Minh shirt around him. (Hey, it was a gift.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dramatic Chipmunk... Japanese!

OK so surely you have seen the "Dramatic Chipmunk" video by now--the "best 5 seconds on the internet." (You've probably also heard that it's not really a chipmunk but a prairie dog.) But did you know that the footage was from a Japanese variety show? The show is called "Hello! Morning" and it features members of the J-pop group Morning Musume.

Take a look:

As one comment on YouTube said, why isn't that girl in the video an internet meme? Listen to that noise!
(And as another comment says, "The cameraman is a guinness!")

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Kanji Remains the Same

Some weird news articles about Japan.

First, from the International Herald Tribune:
TOKYO: About 100 Japanese governing party lawmakers denounced the Nanjing Massacre as a fabrication on Tuesday, contesting Chinese claims that Japanese soldiers killed hundreds of thousands of people after seizing the Chinese city in 1937.

The members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party said there was no evidence to prove mass killings by Japanese soldiers in the captured Nationalist capital, then known as Nanking. They accused Beijing of using the alleged incident as a "political advertisement."
I think the reporter and editor should be aware that "Nanking" and "Nanjing" are the same thing. The city had the same name then as it does now--it wasn't "known as" anything different. And what is a "political advertisement"? Is that in scare quotes because it doesn't make any sense? Surely that's a translation of senden 宣伝, which could be "advertisement" or "propaganda," and in this case is clearly the latter.

The second article is from the AP, and concerns Iwojima's decision to change the reading of their island's name back to an older one, "Iwoto":

Before the war, the isolated spit of land was called Iwo To — pronounced "ee-woh-toh" — by the 1,000 or so people who lived there. In Japanese, that name looks and means the same as Iwo Jima — Sulfur Island — but it has a different sound.
It "looks the same" but has a "different sound"? Couldn't the reporter have written that the characters used in the name remain the same but their reading is changing? I think even those of us with no Japanese can handle that.

When I see something I know a little about represented in this way in the news, it just makes me wonder how absurdly misrepresented other things I don't know about are. Frightening.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Presenting... the tPhone!

Who needs to wait another week or so for an iPhone when you can get a tPhone now!

Guess where it was made?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Monkey: The Opera

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, creators of the "cartoon pop band" Gorillaz, have been working on an opera based on Journey to the West. A preview of a documentary about it is available on the Gorillaz fan site.
One of the best things about the Journey to the West story (aka Monkey: Folk Novel of China) is all the different versions it has appeared in. Being British and of a certain age, Hewlett mentions the famous Monkey Magic TV show so popular in the UK and Commonwealth countries as an inspiration.

Anyone looking for an introduction to the Journey to the West story would do well to start off with the newly published The Monkey and the Monk, the abridged version of Anthony Yu's complete translation.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

OpenOffice for Mac

The good news: for Mac has been released!
The bad news: It's an alpha release with many features not yet functioning. From the website:

This is an alpha test version so that developers and users can find out what works and not, and make comments on how to improve it.

There are a number of things that do not work in this version including, but not limited to:

  • You cannot print
  • PDF export does not properly work as thetext won't show on the page right
  • Starting from a shared folder does not work
  • Copy and paste does not fully work
  • will crash after quitting
  • Some text is not drawn in places like Impress
  • Impress will not recognise multiple monitors

If you want to lend a hand in testing or developing, download it from

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More Words That Mean Their Own Opposites

I posted about words that mean their own opposites in Chinese before. Words like this are called contronyms or Janus words. Here are some in English:

Bill: invoice, money
Dust (v): add fine particles, remove fine particles
Model: archetype, copy
Custom: usual, special
Trim: cut off, add ("trim the Christmas tree")
Sanction: approve, boycott

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Can't Master Mandarin's Tones? Blame Your Genes!

Even though this is in the Scientific American, I still think this is fishy. Some Scottish linguists claim to have found a correlation between certain genes and populations speaking tonal languages:
During a study of linguistic and genetic data from 49 distinct populations, the authors discovered a striking correlation between two genes involved in brain development and language tonality. Populations that speak nontonal languages (where the pitch of a spoken word does not affect its meaning) have newer versions of the genes, with mutations that began to appear roughly 37 thousand years ago.

If you're not ethnically Chinese, don't quit those Chinese classes just yet. The authors of the study admit it could be coincidental.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Japanese Star Wars Theme

Here's a good way for Star Wars nerds to practice Japanese listening comprehension--the Star Wars theme with lyrics in Japanese! Via Tokyomango (and my favorite Japanese TV show)

See also: No-sword's post on the lyrics to the Imperial March.