A blog about the arts, books, flora and fauna, vittles, and whatever comes to mind!

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Fashionista - NOT!

This has been a strange week for me.  In many ways, but particularly as a writer.

I have been invited to three different fashion websites to (1) blog; (2) help out with Q&A; and (3) upload suggested outfits using their special software.  This is pretty funny considering I am the Anti-Fashionista.

When I was in college, my best friend, Kyle, and his live-in boyfriend were always trying to dress me up.  They always looked like they just stepped out of GQ.  I always looked like I stepped out of HQ (for the Dollar Store, but never like those Walmartians that seem to be viral.)  Once, when they were at my house and we were going out to dinner, they decided they would choose my outfit.  “What?  Don’t you have anything that isn’t black or purple?  Whenever they gifted me, it was something very expensive and girly – way too fou-fou for me to ever wear.  I would exchange it and buy something comfortable.  Kyle finally showed up at my house one day, walked into my bedroom and taped a “Handicapped” placard over my closet.

It’s not that I dislike fashion, or some of it anyway.  But I have one fashion rule:  nothing can itch.  I can go for the classic black thing – it never goes out of style, and you can accessorize to change the look.  I like accessorizing with cat hairs myself – with six different cats to choose from, there isn’t an event I can’t appropriately dress for.

Most of my fashion advice has come from Miss Piggy.  Her Guide to Life is my fashion bible.  Who can argue against her commonsense rule:  Don’t wear yellow lipstick?  And talk about diet tips!  “Never eat more than you can lift,” is one of my strictest rules.  Three times a day I do her aerobics routine:  “Deep breathe.  Take a bite.  Chew, chew, chew, chew.  Swallow.  Deep Breathe.  Take a bite.  Chew, chew, chew, chew.”

Lest you think this is frivolous, just try and argue with her calorie-counting logic.  First, you take a menu and tally up the items and their calories of all the things you would eat if calories weren’t an issue.  Then you choose a sensible meal, say, a sandwich, fries, shake, soda, and a teensy-weensy dessert.  Tally up those calories, then subtract them from the mega-meal.  Voila!  You no doubt have shaved off a serious amount of calories, and times that by five (adding two daily snacks) and what a deal!  Genius!  And now while my thighs still lightly brush against each other, they no longer fight to see who goes first.

Actually, Emma Peel is my fashion goddess, and has been for decades.  Classic black, again, and easy to move around in, in case you need to use your martial arts skills.  (I don’t have any, but at least I can dress like I do.)

So, much as I appreciate the compliment of being asked to join these fashion websites, I have to be honest and say no.  If I had my druthers, I would walk the earth rocking nothing but a tattooed body suit and a shaved head.  But I value anonymity and inconspicuousness too much.  Good thing for the rest of the world!   ;-)


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Louie, Louie

When I was a lass, my dad took me one Saturday to a local supermarket opening (this dates me, but remember when store openings were a big thing with huge revolving searchlights?) so I could enter a hula hoop contest.  (Something else that also dates me, but perhaps not as much as the Oscar Mayer weenie whistle I got from Oscar himself that same night, when I stood in line at his weenie mobile.)  I didn't win, which may explain a lot of things, but there's one thing that stood out.  They had a sound system but only one record:  Louie, Louie.

I remember standing there with my dad after the hula contest waiting for them to give away "doorprizes" for everyone in attendance.  The adults around us were all trying to figure out the lyrics.  My dad just said, "Crazy," like he was a Maynard G. Krebs-wannabe.  I always think of that time whenever I hear that song.

A friend and cohort jokingly suggested I blog on the song, and with a smirk on my face I was going to do it.  Then I started researching it.  Holy Moly!

Ranked No. 55 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", Louie, Louie was written by Richard Berry in 1955.  Berry was big into doo-wop, but this song he wrote, about a lovesick and homesick Jamaican sailor, not only is the second most recorded song next to McCartney's Yesterday, but became the subject of an intense FBI investigation into the lyrics.  Your tax dollars at work, Folks!

There are some excellent sites covering the song, so I'm just going to supply you with the links:

Don't go to this site unless you are prepared for some X-rated lingual stuff.

This site also comes with a X-rated warning for some of it, but it is a labor of love by Eric Predoehl, the ultimate Louie, Louie/Berry fan.  There's some really good stuff on this site, especially the Zappa interview.  Predoehl is trying to fund a documentary on Louie, Louie and I fully expect my friend to donate her next paycheck.

A last caveat:  We've all been fooled.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Iko Iko

Over fifty years ago a song of seemingly nonsense scat in Creole patois became an international hit, and the subject of several lawsuits claiming authorship.  Known as Iko Iko, it was originally named Choc-o-mo by the author, James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, in the early 50s.  His record company misspelled it as Jock-a-mo. 

The song tells a story about two warring tribes of Mardi Gras parade Native Americans.  These parades have a tradition going back to the early 19th century.  There were about 38 different tribes in the New Orleans area and they fought brutally and often.  As they became more involved in the parades, they channeled their energies and hostilities into outdoing each other in costumes, songs and dances.  The song tells of a chance meeting between a "Spy Boy", who ran ahead of the tribe, and a "Flag Boy", who was in the middle of the tribe and waved communications to the chief.

The most interesting theory regarding the lyrics is that they came from an extinct Native American language used for trading, called Mobilian Jargon, that was largely composed of Chickasaw and Choctaw, and used in the Gulf Coast region by the tribes, African-Americans, and European settlers.  In Mobilian Jargon "jock-a-mo feeno" meant "very good".  

However, others think the lyrics were influenced by West African languages.  "Ayeko" is a popular chant still used today in West African meaning "well done".  These peoples were part of the slave trade and ended up in Haiti, which for many was a way station to Louisiana (they also brought voodoo culture).  The fact that "Yaquimo" was a common Taino name helps this theory.

James Crawford's recording was a local hit, but didn't do well nationally.  In 1965, a girl group called The Dixie Cups were in a studio recording in New York City.  During a break, and just killing time, they sang a song they remembered their grandmother singing, while beating ashtrays with drumsticks.  They were unaware that the recording tapes were running, and once bass and drums were added, the song was released as a 45 rpm single.  Iko Iko reached No. 20 on the Billboard charts.

Since the girls didn't know the origins of their grandmother's song, they were given songwriting credits.  James Crawford sued, and in 1967 they settled out of court.  Crawford was denied ownership and authorship of Iko Iko, but was awarded 50% royalty for public performances, including radio.

In the 1990s, The Dixie Cups found another group of people claiming ownership.  Their ex-manager filed a copyright registration in 1991, and successfully licensed the song outside of North America.  The Dixie Cups sued their ex-manager and won by a unanimous verdict in 2002.

The song has been performed by artists all over the world, including the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, and Buckwheat Zydeco, as expected of New Orleans-based performers.  Even the Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon, Cyndi Lauper, and other diverse artists have recorded it.

Here's the original words as written by James Crawford:

My grandma and your grandma were sittin' by the fire.
My grandma said to your grandma, I'm gonna set your flag on fire."

Talkin' 'bout, hey now! Hey now!
Iko, iko un day
Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-ne,
Jock-a-mo fee na-ne.

Look at my king all dressed in red
Iko, iko, un day
I betcha five dollars he'll kill you dead,
Jock-a-mo fee na-ne


My flag boy and your flag boy were sittin' by the fire.
My flag boy said to your flag boy, "I'm gonna set your flag on fire."


See that guy all dressed in green
Iko, iko, un day
He's not a man, he's a loving machine
Jock-a-mo fee na-ne



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The World's Largest Book

Measuring 5 feet by 7 feet, and weighing 133 pounds, Bhutan:  A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom has been deemed by Guinness World Records to be the world’s largest book.

Michael Hawley is a scientist at Massachusettes Institute of Technology who dreamed up the idea, after leading four separate student expeditions to Bhutan.  He and his American students, along with Bhutanese students, took photographs with state-of-the-art equipment. 

Hawley had experimented with very large digital images on a complex digital printer.  He thought the photographs taken in Bhutan were really awesome with their colorful scenes.  He wanted viewers to be able to step into the scenes.  Stymied by the permanence and lack of portability of wall murals, he decided to make a really large book.  Like John James Audubon, who made his paintings of birds life-size, Hawley wanted viewers to appreciate the fullness and expanse of his subject.

The resulting efforts took special equipment.  Processing, printing and the vast amount of computing power required were augment by contributions from Apple, Dell, and Kodak.  That left one problem:  how do you bind a book this size?

A special assembly line was designed, and an accordion method of binding used.  Each copy of the book used more than a gallon of ink, and took twenty-four hours to print.  The photographs are about two gigabytes.  The book is printed on a roll of paper bigger than a football field.

Each copy costs $2,000 to produce, and sells for $10,000.  All proceeds are donated to Friendly Planet, a charity begun by Hawley, whose mission is to build schools in Bhutan and Cambodia.

Although the book is impressive for its size, the graphic, visual quality of the photographs is the real star.  Human subjects are almost life size, and the views are breathtaking.  Turning the pages, though, is not for the faint-hearted.

A smaller version of the book was published in 2004.  It is only 17.2 x 12.5 inches, and weighs in at 6.8 pounds.  This edition sells for $100.

The University of Washington, University of Texas at El Paso, and Miami University in Ohio all have copies.
Images courtesy of University of Washington

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Express Your Deepest Thoughts...

How many times have you wanted to express this deep, philosophical thought in other than plain old, slow, English, and were unable to?

“As our vehicle leaves the ground and plunges over the edge of the cliff toward the
 valley floor, I ponder whether it is possible that one might allege I am guilty of an
act of moral failure, having failed to maintain a proper course along the roadway.”

Well, now you can!

[ˈpʊ̃lː ʊˈɪ́qɪ̀ʃx ˈʔʟɡ ɛʁjɑʊfɤˈnɪ́ɛ́n ˈpǽθwɯ̀ç
aʊˈxɤ́ʔɬt xnɛʔwiɬˈʔʂʊɪ̀ tʊ́à kɪ̂t œlˈːǎ jaˈqázmʊɪ̀v
lɪʔjɯɾˈzɪ́ʂʔ pʼǎmː aɪlɔˈwɤ́tʃːà ʃʊʔˈjɛ́htàʂ]

What?  You don’t know Ithkuil?

Ithkuil is what happens when an a priori philosophical language (one whose vocabulary is not based on existing languages) and a logical language spawn, according to its inventor, John Quijada.  Introduced in January 2004, it was designed to be a purer, cleaner if you will, mode of expression.  A meaningful phrase or sentence can be conveyed in Ithkuil with less sounds or “lexically distinct” speech-elements than in any of the languages we normally use.  So if you have something highly intelligent to say, you can say it in Ithkuil in much fewer syllables, with less ambiguities and vagueness.  In other words, it was designed to be very efficient.

Quijada admits his language is too complex to have developed naturally, but maintains it is entirely suitable for conversation.  However, no known person is fluent in it, not even Quijada.

The grammar is complex.  (Pass the Tylenol.)  On the official Ithkuil site, there are twelve chapters for the grammar including the number system and script.  The number system uses a base 100 structure with a superbase of 10,000. (Boink!  Boink!)   There is no “0” in the number system, or a stand-alone one at any rate.

The script is called Ictail, which is the Ithkuil word for “hypothetical writing system”.  Its use is tied closely to the grammar, which allows some elements of the words to be inferred rather than stated.  Any part of a word that is predictable is left unwritten, since the characters used to indicate the unpredictable parts of the word also transmit grammatical information that will allow one to reconstruct the missing parts.  Got that?

Quijada claims he was influenced by the “consonantal phonology and verbal morphology of Ubykh and Abkhaz, certain Amerindian verbal moods, Niger-Kordofanian aspectual systems, Basque and Dagestanian nominal case systems, Wakashan enclitic systems, the Tzeltal and Guugu Yimidhirr positional orientation systems, the Semitic triliteral root morphology, the evidential and possessive categories of Suzette Elgin's Láadan, and the schematic word-formation principles of WilkinsAnalytical Language and Sudre’s Solresol”.  ‘Nuff said.

It is posited that a fluent speaker of Ithkuil could think 5-6 times faster, not to mention more abstractly.  The Russians are very interested in this language, and a writer of the Russian popular science magazine Computerra, Stanislav Kozlovsky, compared Ithkuil to both Robert Heinlein’s Speedtalk and George Orwell’s Newspeak.  However Quijada contends that Speedtalk is about the rapid brevity of thought and speech, while Ithkuil focuses on maximal communication most efficiently mastered, brevity be damned.

But wait!  There’s more! 

If you find Ikthkuil to be rather daunting, well, others did, too.  So in June of 2007, Quijada introduced Ilaksh, which features a complete revision of the phonology and morpho-phonology (geektalk for sound system) to help wannaspeaks to be able to so.

Hurry, don’t hesitate!  Learn Ikthuil or Ilaksh and you can begin using phrases like this:

Andmùt  žiëlùimäv  asavéwöc  ukšu’ŭs  ujgălärň  žö’äàcërb.

The incompetent tailor began crying after finding
out about the clowns’ new directive on nakedness.

As for me, my Klingon lessons begin on Thursday.
All images courtesy of the official Ithkuil site, including logo at top.