Happy Feast of the Epiphany

The twelve days of Christmas officially end tomorrow, so take down those holiday decorations, people.  I didn’t get what I really wanted for Christmas, but hardly anyone ever does.

Anyway, during Christmastide I watched the latest round of the Ultimate Fighting tournament at some dude’s house.  I’m back in northern Ontario now and it’s interesting seeing how stuff is different here than in Halifax, especially the casual codeswitching.  There are quite a few francophones here and even a dialect of French peculiar to the region, so bilingualism in French and English is common among locals.  Many people from here switch back and forth between English and French quite easily, although I noticed that they do it intersententially instead of intrasententially (meaning that they switch the language of their sentences, but not within the sentence itself, i.e., no “Do you wanna coucher avec moi?”).  Still, this intersentential codeswitching happened at a gathering where the speakers couldn’t be sure that everyone spoke French, although they knew everyone spoke English, so the codeswitching would probably be different if the audience was entirely bilingual.

Still, one of the more peculiar parts of the evening (I guess besides the part where people gathered to watch savage beatings on tv) was in the waiting period before the fighting started, when one of the guys there invited everyone to watch Saddam Hussein’s hanging on his laptop.  From the excitement in the way he talked about it, the video sounded rather graphic.  I declined to see it, but most everyone else saw the recording.  Apparently the video quality was rather poor, especially with the shakiness of the cellphone camera.  “That was it?” seemed to be the prevailing sentiment among the viewers.  Still, I wonder what exactly they expected.  Perhaps an execution like on film, with a dramatic speech and bloody climax?  Maybe with the prisoner shouting “Freedom!” until his voice fades away?

The banal nature of the execution seems to be the kicker, added to by the very method used to capture the proceedings.  Surely the execution of the greatest monster of contemporary times (or so we have been told), surely that execution couldn’t have been so ordinary?  Shouldn’t there have been more of a spectacle befitting this most extraordinary death?  Shouldn’t a tumbril have at least been involved, or maybe a bulletproof Popemobile?  But a secret hanging recorded on a cameraphone?  Where’s the drama, the blood?  I can imagine it was a disappointing video to see.  I suppose the videos of various beheadings floating around will have to do until the next important execution.

Languages I wish I spoke better

It’s pretty much all languages besides English.  By order of my level of fluency:

  1. Tagalog (a.k.a. Filipino).  This one I have native fluency in, but my vocabulary is for crap.  Even in the Philippines, I mostly spoke in the dialect known as Taglish (Tagalog-English), and I’ve been losing little-used words.  Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly comfortable in it, but it can be hard for me to avoid codeswitching in my speech (codeswitching is the technical term in linguistics for switching between languages inter- or intrasententially).
  2. Spanish.  This one I almost achieved fluency in after five weeks in Peru for an ethnographic field school.  I was so close I could feel it, and had I stayed just a bit longer in South America I think I could have gotten it.  Funny story,  I actually only took a year of Spanish back in undergrad (I think I got a B) and that was three years before the field school.  I’d half-assedly been reviewing my Spanish in preparation, but I was hoping to be able to get the help of other people in my group who were better speakers.  When I arrived at the airport, though, I couldn’t find the person I was supposed to meet and couldn’t remember the name or number of the hotel I was supposed to be staying in.  There was a taxi driver talking to me in Spanish trying to get me to take his cab, and out of desperation I managed to start producing sentences in Spanish.  I got the guy to take me to a decent hotel, then I managed to get a room and make a long-distance call back home to sort out the whole mess.  I hooked up with the rest of the field school the next day.  After that I was fine talking in Spanish for the rest of my time in Peru.
  3. French.  Canada is officially bilingual in French and English, and what that means for English-speaking children is that they must study French.  I resisted learning French, partly because I thought it was unfair to expect me to study it at the same level as my classmates when I’d never encountered it before (the educational system made no concessions to immigrant children in this regard), and partly because I’d begun taking up the attitudes of my Anglophone classmates regarding French (mainly, that it was stupid).  By the time I got to high school I started making an effort and actually got an A in French, despite me not knowing how to count past ten (by that level, you’re assumed to have already learned the basics, so you don’t get tested on them).  However, that was only for one year, the last year of mandatory French study, and after that I dropped French like a hot potato.  In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t, since there are all kinds of direct advantages to be enjoyed from French fluency, such as the greater number of scholarships one becomes eligible for and the greater number of job opportunities.  And I wouldn’t mind living in Montreal sometime, despite it being the dirties Canadian city I’ve ever seen (which is still rather clean compared to the Philippines).  I can still kind of get the gist of written French, though, and sometimes in Chinese restaurants I read the French side of the fortunes in my fortune cookies first just to see how much I still understand.
  4. Bahasa Indonesian.  I had this idea for doing ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia and Indonesia for my Masters and I bought myself a Teach Yourself Indonesian book in preparation (the proposed project turned out to be too big for a one year Masters program like mine).  I only got a quarter of the way in and I haven’t cracked the book in over a year, so all I can remember is yes, no, and counting to ten.  Still, I’m hoping to do fieldwork in Southeast Asia for my proposed PhD project, so the book could still be useful in the future.  I’ll have to start doing the exercises again sometime.
  5. German.  This one I’ve never studied at all, but I could have.  After reading Heidegger in my high school philosophy class, I suddenly got the hankering to study German and signed up for it.  However, I was the only one interested in a school of (I think) 5 000 students.  My school offered to have me bussed to another school for my German lessons, but I decided I didn’t like Heidegger enough to put up with this inconvenience.  Again, in retrospect I wish I’d stuck with it, since it’s never a bad thing to have more languages under one’s belt.

Le mission civilatrice

Stages of sociocultural evolution

Finally, finally, I have cable tv and high-speed Internet at home. I have now passed from late savagery and skipped straight into middle barbarism. I don’t have a tv remote, so I’m still not civilized and bourgeois, but now I have a goal in my life. After a year of no tv, I can feel my brain rotting just from being in the same room as the infernal device.

UPDATE: Sweet Jesus, there’s nothing on. Bonanza? The Young and the Restless? I thought I got cable so I wouldn’t have to watch this. Oh look, it’s old episodes of The Weakest Link. My, it’s been a while since I’ve shouted at idiots on the tv, it feels so nostalgic. Lets see,

In Dante’s “Inferno,” which of these is not one of the three men being devoured in the lowest level of hell?’

A: Judas, B: Brutus, C:Nero, D:Cassius

Good thing I wasn’t playing, I thought it was Cassius. The answer was Nero by the way.

What is the meaning of this?

So, you know what I hate? When bloggers stop updating their blogs. Actually, I don’t hate it, I just get mildly disappointed. I have a massive post in the works, but it’s so massive that it scares me. So that will be next week. For now, I thought I’d explain what the cryptic titles of my posts mean. They’re mostly just allusions to various works of media.

1. Hello world

This is a standard thing run by programmers. It’s probably the simplest test of a program: make it display the words “Hello world”.

2. I am the Gatekeeper

This is me quoting from the movie Ghostbusters. It’s set in New York, which is why I thought it was appropriate, given that the post was about me getting rejected for a travel grant to the city.

3. Hoy pare, pakinggan niyo ko (also, my hands are deadly weapons)

The first part is Tagalog, it means “Hey man, listen to me.” It’s from the Black Eyed Peas song Bebot, sung by the Filipino American Apl. The next line is “Ito na ang tunay na Filipino” (Here is the real Filipino). I was presenting myself and my daily routine in that post, which is why I thought the line was appropriate. The second part — about my hands being deadly weapons — is actually from an old cartoon show I used to watch, Karate Kat. That may not be the ultimate origin of the quote, but it’s where it came from in this particular case. I said that because I mentioned going to a karate class in the post.

4. Nationalism and its discontents

This title originally comes from Sigmund Freud’s book, Civilization and its Discontents. I’ve never read it. The book that I was actually alluding to was Sasskia Sassen’s Globalization and its Discontents, which I actually have read. But I think she got her title from Freud’s book.

5. In which I prove that I actually work

I originally thought this “In which . . .” construction was from Alice in Wonderland. I really did. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve never fully read anything by Lewis Carroll. I tried to read Alice in Wonderland when I was little and it made no sense, so I stopped. I’ve never seen any of the movies, either. I think it’s also in the movie Benny & Joon, another work of fiction that I’m only vaguely familiar with. I think I actually did see it, but I don’t remember anything from it except Johnny Depp dressed up as Charlie Chaplin in The Little Tramp (I think that was what the movie was called). I like to pretend he was actually dressed up as Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

6. I’ll go a little later

This is from the Simpsons. It’s a line from the episode where Homer becomes an astronaut. He’s describing to Marge the time he missed the chance to meet Mr. T at an appearance in a shopping mall: “I said, I’ll go a little later, I’ll go a little later. But when I went later, Mr. T was already gone. And when I asked the man at the stall if Mr. T was coming back, he said he didn’t know.” Since the post was about me briefly overcoming my own laziness, I hope you can see why I quoted this line.

7. On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog

This is from a cartoon in the New Yorker which shows a dog using a computer and saying that line to another dog looking on. I got it from Lisa Nakamura’s book Cybertypes, which I mentioned before. She discusses the cartoon according to the idea that bodies don’t matter online, and so being a dog doesn’t matter when you’re on the Internet. She disagrees with this idea and goes on at length about how and why bodies matter online.

8. Adventures in babysitting

I believe this is or was a book series for girls. Or was that The Babysitters’ Club? The closest I ever got to girls’ literature was when I read a crossover book between Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. It was kind of disappointing because Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys already knew each other at the beginning of the story. Wait, it was actually a bunch of stories. Anyway, the teen detectives were supposedly already friends with each other. I think it would have been more interesting if Nancy Drew and Joe and Frank stumbled upon each other while investigating the same case. Maybe they think the other party is working with the bad guys at first. Then you get the scene where everyone figures out they’re on the same side, and then the cool part comes when they’re working together. Maybe put some sexual tension in there. Sure, Joe and Frank had girlfriends, but we’ll pretend they were on a break or something. I think Nancy Drew also had a man friend, but I can’t be sure. Maybe she was tired of him and was looking for an intellectual equal (or two). Oh hang on, Google reveals that Adventures in Babysitting was apparently a movie from 1987. I was only six years old when it came out, so don’t blame me for not knowing about it. I apparently came across the title at some point in my life, though.

Oh, and speaking of teen detectives, weekend fun from the satirical website McSweeney’s (I actually got the link from the blog of danah boyd, who is a fairly prominent blog researcher): Publisher’s response to a Hardy Boys manuscript submission

First and foremost, we are unpersuaded that the subject matter of The Case of the Secret Meth Lab is appropriate for our readers. We understand that the manufacturing of narcotics in otherwise bucolic towns has indeed become a problem. That said, we ask you whether Joe Hardy would realistically go undercover and turn into what his brother repeatedly refers to as a “crankhead.”

. . .

Page 60: We encourage including Nancy Drew in the adventure as it represents great cross-marketing with our other adventure series. We would think it goes without saying, however, that she would not have, nor even contemplate, surgical enhancement. Please delete all references to her “killer rack.”

Hoy pare, pakinggan niyo ko (also, my hands are deadly weapons)

I know that I don’t post too, too often. I haven’t been reading the blogs that I used to read obsessively, either, and I’m not too great at checking some of my email accounts. I find that one of the side effects of doing Internet-based research is that I’ve started trying to find excuses not to use my computer. Sunny outside? The wireless doesn’t work so great with that weather, guess it’s time to read in the park. Work out tomorrow morning, you say? Sure, I’ve been getting lazy lately. I have to catalogue and code all these blogs, but I have to go to the Farmer’s Market first since I need fresh ginger for the Ma Po tofu I’m making for dinner.

Actually, I’m getting kind of hungry right now. I got up at 11 AM, had brunch, went to the library, and have been catching up on my email and the various LiveJournal communities I’m part of (I got a headsup on some more theory). And I’ve been writing these posts. That’s enough work for one day, right? I can’t seriously be expected to work with an empty stomach, and after my merienda it’ll be time for karate. When I get back, I may make some chili or just heat up some leftovers. Toss some salad, wash the dishes, do my laundry, and whoops, no time left to work at my computer if I want to get up early tomorrow to go to the gym. And I hate working at home anyway.

So there you go, a day in the life of an Internet researcher. Just to remind you that the person behind the blog you’re reading also eats, sleeps, and occassionally works when he feels like it.

And if you know what I was getting at with the title of this post, I will congratulate you on your taste in music.