12 April 2007

The end

" ' An end!' she announced with ambivalence,
then blathered and burbled with rivulence,
so I swallowed her blog," said the fly to the toad.
"Now, The end!" said the toad to the fly, since.

And so it is rumoured
"That poem was in terrible taste," said the donkey, swallowing a snigger.
"Not as bad as the fly," said the toad, licking his eye.

To bray or not to bray
"Musth you do that?" said the donkey, giving the toad (who'd agreed to navigate) an inspiration as to direction.

And together,
they set off, later than they'd planned, but earlier than never.

So it is said
they've explored the Vastlands, been caught and condemned to be boiled in oil for Punning, escaped by disguising themselves as phasmids; followed the spoor of bletted medlar comfits till they reached—, but of Truth this blog can no more tell, than fly. As to whether it will rise again, that only happens in fantasies, cooking, and indigestion.

"I don't know why
I swallowed the blog,"
rumbled the stomach
of the toad.

"Take a tisane," said the donkey. "Don't say a word!"
Under liquorice skies
they bided time . . . and heard:
the trumpeting of bull chocoootaxonomists,
and sighs.

10 April 2007

Kept cookbooks vs. virtuous cookbooks

It is with joy that I announce the results of an independent, sloppy-as-unset yogurt, but nevertheless done-as-I'm-going-to-do-it survey of cookbooks that are kept and loved vs. cookbooks that sit as piles in used bookstores.

Excluding books that are outdated almost as soon as they come out such as guides to wines, here is a list that I've compiled without fear or favour, from a used book emporium in Sydney. The list is not of all the books, as there is a mountain of them, but this shows the flavour of the musty piles.

New Guide to Intelligent Reducing
The Miracle of Fasting
The Bristol Diet
The Magic of Tofu
The Super Soya Cookbook
Entertaining on a Budget
The Interior Ecology Cookbook
Natural Fibre Cookbook
Recipes for a Small Planet
Desserts to Lower Your Fat Thermostat
Fiber & Bran Better Health Cookbook
Nutrition for Life

As for the kept cookbooks, what do YOU keep?

09 April 2007

That hypothesis of Darwin and Wallace

An excerpt from a typical, cheap then and even cheaper now ($5) little pocket book written when evolution was called 'evolution':

" What is a bird? The text-books tell us that it is a warm-blooded, egg-laying, feathered biped, whose fore limbs take the form of wings, and whose jaws are encased in a horny sheath to form a beak.

Such a definition will suffice for most of us, but not for all. A few there be who would know more; who are curious concerning origins, and will not be satisfied by any such cut and dried definition; for a definition is not an explanation . . .

From the evidence which we have collected so far, we gather that what we now know as a bird has reached its present form by a slow process of change from some other, which was probably more or less, like what we designate to-day a reptile, e.g. lizard. We say more or less, advisedly; for the lizard, in its turn, has an equally mysterious origin. One reason then for thinking the bird in some way reptilian is because it shares many things in common with this group, things which occur nowhere else outside, things that are shared by both, probably by virtue of descent from a common stock.

The bird has risen in the world so as to rank, by common consent of men of science—who fill the part of Nature's Herald's Office—higher than the reptiles. These represent, to-day, its poor relations.

This gradual change of form, from a more or less like and uniform beginning, the ancestral stock, and the division of this stock into two great classes reptiles and birds, we call evolution. Exactly how this evolution has come about even those best qualified to speak do not entirely agree.

The hypothesis most generally in favour at the present day is that of Darwin and Wallace, and known as 'Natural Selection.' According to this hypothesis the interaction of living organisms, one upon another, involves a 'struggle for existence' in which the 'fittest' survive, and the unfit are eliminated—the unfit representing those who cannot respond, or adapt themselves to changes in their surroundings or environment.

Although much abused, and generally misunderstood and misrepresented, this is nevertheless for the most part admitted to be the best and most satisfactory of any hypothesis yet offered us.

What answer will this give us to the question, How did the pigeons, ducks, geese, and songbirds, come to be?

Well, it would first of all draw our attention to the fact that 'like begets like'. That though the pigeon, the lizard and the snake all lay eggs, yet the pigeon's egg will never bring forth anything but another pigeon.

It will next point out a much less familiar fact that

'No being on this earthly ball
Is like another, all in all.'

Now that is a most important observation. Just as all the children of a family differ one from another, so do all the birds of the same nest, though, perhaps, not so markedly to our eyes. Let us follow this up.

The children of this family intermarry with those of some other, and their children yet again with another, and so on. If a census was taken of the population of, say a village, and careful measurements and observations taken as to the height, sight, and hearing, colour of the hair and eyes, freedom from disease, and so on, we should find that half of the whole number would fall below, and half would rise above a common mean. The mean, of course, would be different for each test. Thus a large number of those who were included as above the average in height might find themselves bracketed as below the average in power of endurance, and so on.

In this tendency to vary we have the raw material used in Nature's workshop in the manufacture of new types.

Man long ago seized upon this fact and turned it to his own advantage, as witness our garden flowers and vegetables, and our domestic cattle. These have only reached their present form by slow degrees, each stage improving upon the last. The result of such a series of progressive changes must be to remove slowly from, and obliterate in, the individuals concerned, the traces of their original likeness.

In the case of domestic animals we can constantly compare the latest variety with the original stock from which it was derived. For instance, all the domestic pigeons are descended from our common rock dove. Selective breeding—that is to say, breeding with a definite end in view—has resulted in numerous varieties so unlike one another, and the original, that did they exist in a wild state, we should regard each as a separate 'species'. When it was desired, for instance, to obtain birds with enormous fleshy lobes or wattles round the beak and eyes, those young, in chish this feature was most developed were selected to breed from, the rest went to supply the table. The offspring of the selected were similarly treated, in this way the character grew more and more marked till the present somewhat unsightly forms came into being . . . A similar process of selective breeding seems to be going on around us, amongst wild animals and wild plants. It has given us the hare and rabbit, wolf and fox, lion and tiger, and so on . . .

We find certain birds fitted apparently to live only upon certain spots on the earth's surface or upon certain food. We say these are highly specialised . . . .

Specialisation may be carried to such a degree of perfection that any considerable change in the environment of an animal may cause its extinction . . . Let us take (an illustration) from ourselves. The labourer corresponds to what we call a generalised type. He can earn his living in many ways; the watchmaker, or woodcarver, or artist, only in one. If the latter are prevented from carrying on their trade, starvation and death stare them in the face—they are too specialised to turn to some new mode of earning a livelihood. "

W.P. Pycraft, The Story of Bird Life, George Newnes Limited, London, 1900
excerpt from Chapter I,"What is a bird?—Its form and structure"

05 April 2007

A circus of common language?

The tent is unfolding (in my imagination) and it covers the world.

Modern English is so much richer than 'Standard English', bro. I applaud the OED
and the Collins English Dictionary's inclusion of some Hinglish words in latest editions as a beginning, but the words they are including are those that TV and movies have put into the commons. That's language passed by boardrooms. What about the anarchists?

As I complained the other day, there are people who are who are having too much fun with English.

'Nearly everyone in Singapore speaks more than one language, with many people speaking three or four. Most children grow up bilingual from infancy and learn more languages as they grow up. Naturally the presence of other languages (especially various varieties of Malay and of Chinese) has influenced the English of Singapore. The influence is especially apparent in a kind of English that is used informally, which is popularly called Singlish. Singlish is a badge of identity for many Singaporeans, and, as you can see from Talkingcock.com, there are some websites that are written in it. Many bloggers use a good deal of Singlish in their writing too. As is the case with many contact varieties, however, Singapore English is often seen as wrong. In 1999 an official campaign began to encourage Singaporeans to use Standard English rather than Singlish.'
- Anthea Fraser Gupta, School of English, University of Leeds, Singapore English

The Singapore Government's Speak Good English Movement is a wonderful resource. See their Glossary of Common Singlish Items and Their 'Good English' Equivalents
(They put the 'Good English' in quotes.)

This is the logo for Talking Cock, a Singlish site. Tellingly, the name for this graphic that I've pasted to copy here is TCShutup.

See their Coxford Singlish Dictionary.


So, you unruly speakers, writers and thinkers, you who have seized English, corrupted it, and are adding so much more — do you think it's worthwhile to promote an enriched flexible international common language, with an enlarging of expressions to suit the purpose, and a flexibility that is recognised as legitimate? In the USA , the 1967 Israel/Egypt 6-Day-War made being Jewish cool, and using Yiddish words and syntax even cooler. As "A reader" wrote in a customer review in Amazon for Leo Rosten's Hooray for Yiddish: A book about Yiddish, Even though Yiddish has not replaced English, it definitely contributed a lot.

Do you think that there's a chance that people the world over could adopt a rich common, fluid language that spans informal expression and more formal ways of communicating — synonymous with, say, food? What's happened to food could happen to our common language, as it's ironic that people in Anglo countries have expanded beyond our shores in what we put in our mouths, while what comes out of their mouths is as limited as a McDonald's menu. In every Anglo country, the number of words used in contemporary expression is shrinking, and that shrinks thoughts. Since English is the world's common language, is it time to have fun expanding the common usage of words that express the world?

An example

When Indira of 'Mahanandi' started a Food Blog Event and called it Jivha for Ingredients, she tossed a word into the international pot. Nothing expresses, in the English of Cromwell and Snoop Dog, plum duff and wowserism, burgers and 24/7 convenience stores, the complex and sensual meaning she gave to this word: Jihvā the Sanskrit word means taste, desire and deep longing. This powerful word also represents tongue and taste buds.

This Food Blog Event she started is, by the way, uh . . . I don't want to say 'to die for', but (you supply the exclamatory word)! it makes me salivate, especially the JFI Dal Event hosted by Sailu. Dal is a metaphor for what I'm seeking — you don't have to grow up eating dal to learn that, when you crave comfort food, dals can be juuuust right.

Sailu, by the way, is not only a cook's cook, but explains recipes wonderfully to people who have taste but no feel. Her homemade corn chips, homemade tomato salsa, and homemade sour cream are thought up and produced in the spirit of the commons that I mean with language itself.

So should there be a Circus of Common Language? Could there be a Jivha for Communication? Is anyone out there who would like to contribute? Would this enrich expression, or in some respects flatten natural local expression, dudes?

04 April 2007

Post-justice justice

It's a good thing that The Guardian made the distinction between justice and US justice, but this judgment doesn't even make sense in British justice.

"Mr McKinnon's conduct was intentional and calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion," Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Goldring wrote, "As a result of his conduct, damage was caused to computers by impairing their integrity, availability and operation of programmes, systems, information and data on the computers, rendering them unreliable."
Intentional Yes

Influence and affect Yes. But did he do enough to truly influence and affect? Americans should hope so, but unless there are people like him, they must live in hope and trust.

By intimidation and coercion What intimidation? What coercion? Unless there is something that has not been written, there wasn't a skerrick of either on the part of this hacker who was probably amazed to find the system as easy to get into and as sloppily maintained as it proved to be.

As a result of his conduct, damage was caused to computers by impairing their integrity, availability and operation of programmes, systems, information and data on the computers, rendering them unreliable. If the reaction to this hacking weren't so serious, this statement would be laughably false instead of just creepily, we-make-our-own-reality false. The integrity was dangerously impaired already, which is what the hacking of this rank amateur showed. As for damage, he did the USA a service that was worth more than the whole of the budget and staff that Americans put their faith in and paid their taxes for: to protect them. The systems were a joke, the information and data (if there is indeed, a difference) were as unprotected as the Pope likes sex, and the result of that state of affairs was unreliability on a scale that was mindbogglingly D-movie incredible. This lone amateur just showed the disgustingly low level of unreliability, which makes his crime: to have exposed the sham of 'secure' US military computer systems. The 'damage' he did took, supposedly, $700,000 to fix. Shocking! At US military contractor rates, that expenditure equals, well, you can get an idea here.

If the USA is really worried about its defence being breached, they should prosecute the One they put their trust in. Make him fry for this Deluge.

. And the cost to repair this most expensive 'shield' Man has ever wielded isn't a military pack of peanuts.

. . . the Project on Government Oversight, or POGO -- a non-government U.S. watchdog body founded in 1981 -- reported that several of the key interceptors could never even have been launched, not because of North Korea sabotage, or sabotage by anyone else, but because of rain.
I'm for extradition. I can just see the judgment.

God's conduct was intentional and calculated to influence and affect . . .