Archive vom November, 2008

Following a week's stay at the North Sea, I feel this blog should become quadrilingual. But  where to find the time?

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During that weird state between sleep and waking, the mind is in a very special state. Especially heavy and sluggish, I often think. But sometimes, it is also capable of surprising insights. Unfortunately, these often vanish before one can use them. It helps to hold on to them immediately, but the heavy and sluggish part is not really helpful there.
However, sometimes it works. This morning, various Old English words tumbled around in my head. This was probably a result of reading David Crystal's By Hook or By Crook yesterday night. One of the words was sælig, that is sad. Suddenly, I noticed the similarity to Finnish sääli, that is pity (also as in what a pity).
I do not really know what to make of this, but English and Finnish are not related, so this is either an astonishing coincidence, or one of the languages has, at some point, imported the word.
Finnish has lots of indoeuropean (and especially germanic) roots, but I know of only one finnish word to make it into English: sauna.
Once I am home, I will consult my library.
[Postscript:]I am home again and have looked it up. Now this story has a tiny problem: sælig means happy (compare German selig). There goes the theory of immense brain power during half-sleep.

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I had intended to write a blog entry or two tonight. But somehow the words will not come. All I managed to create is a (fourth) draft with a handful of catch words.

The problem is not even that I was sitting in front of an empty sheet editor window: I cannot even bring myself to open the editor.

But then, there is always tomorrow.

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Today, I have heard for the first time about Improv Everywhere and mp3 experiments. The idea sounds a bit like flash mob 2.0: utilising mp3 files, the mob's action can be much longer while still being well-coordinated (in Berlin, it lasted 45 minutes).

However, the directions for participants are pretty frightening (to me) in two places: listening to the provided mp3 files before the experiment starts is discouraged, as is photographing the event. This is supposed to enhance the fun of it all. But bystanders are addressed as well: press cameras are not allowed.

From my point of view, this gives the whole thing a pretty sinister and Orwellian aspect.

[via 40something]

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In my experience, reviews have to be written shortly after finishing a book, or not at all. Otherwise, I lose the close relationship to the text. It is almost as if I have not, in fact, read it myself; but rather as if I had talked to someone who has read it.

It has been several weeks that I have finished Bromeliad, the Nome trilogy. Nevertheless, I will try and commit to paper the thoughts I encountered while reading it.

A space ship lands on a distant platen, but the crew are unable to leave: for good or evil, they have to prepare for a permanent stay. In reality, their survival would be quite unlikely; in fiction, many a civilisation has been founded in this way. Personally, I will always think of this theme as that of  Bradley's Darkover series.

I digress, but the history of Pratchett's Bromeliad is quite similar, but backwards: the extraterrestrial Nomes are stranded on Earth, and over the course of a few millennia, they devolve from a star-faring people to a pre-technological one. Knowing the author's sense of humour, it is hardly surprising to see their only surviving artefact being passed on to a lonesome group of hillbillies that will die out presently. Communication with the indigenous populace (us) has failed, too, and the Nomes soon discover caricatures of themselves as, well, garden gnomes.

If everything ends well, they may thank Luck, but also a several people among their own who show courage and perseverance. In the meantime, the reader may enjoy Pratchett's typical jokes and puns; and just as typically, the author holds a mirror up to our society -- in fact, he does so twice: we may take a look at ourselves through the eyes of the Nomes, lurking beneath the floorboards and discussing whether humans are intelligent; and we have the Nomes themselves and their very human ways. It may be in the eye of the beholder, but I get the impression that Pratchett is especially poking fun at (Christian) religion and its rituals.

If you like Pratchett and would like to look beyond the Disc, I can recommend the trilogy; it may be a good starting point for those who do not yet know him, and who have been put off by the Discworld hype so far.

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