babel blog


Reading Sneakily
September 9, 2008, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In a similar vein (but slightly higher class) to the old facebook favourite ‘safe for work porn’, allow me to present ‘safe for work literature’. If you can’t get through the day without a fix of DBC Pierre or Jonathan Swift this is the site for you. Classic works of fiction are presented in a pseudo-windows format which makes it look as though you’re hard at work on that all important presentation, when in fact you’re escaping into some of the best English-language literature around. Fucken genius.

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Subterranean Temple
August 31, 2008, 6:02 pm
Filed under: photography, Uncategorized
The Dread Portal

The Dread Portal

“Through me the road to the city of desolation; Through me the road to sorrows diuturnal; Through me the road among the lost creation

… Lay down all hope, you that go in by me …”

Dante, tr. D. L. Sayers

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The Sons of Light

The Sons of Light

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“And thence came forth to look once more upon the stars”

Ibid.

I found these excellent photographs of familiar locations at Tourista de Mancunia’s Flickr



Algeciras Border Crossing
August 25, 2008, 2:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have it on good authority that the beaches in Algeciras are made of cocaine. No wonder there are so many people trying to get there. Those in need of some instruction or inspiration for their border hopping activities might like to watch this little film to see how an arcade videogame can be used as a training exercise …

Estrecho Adventure

Estrecho Adventure

You follow Abdul on his adventures crossing the ocean from Morocco, stealing vegetables to survive, getting arrested, fighting and eventually winning Spanish citizenship.

<spoiler>

I now have to spoil the the end of the film because when I first found this it was in an online exhibition of videoart which is now unavailable 😦 At the end of the screenshots is a film clip of Moroccan schoolboys playing the videogame avidly – which is when I realised it was piss-take and not really a video game at all! I was a bit disappointed (I wanted to play!) but mostly amused. Conversely, when I heard about the Super Columbine Massacre RPG I thought it had to be a joke, but as it turns out, it’s a fully functional RPG,  which you can download for free and simulate your own high-school shoot out. Most amusing.



Doing Engrish Fun Good!
August 3, 2008, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Onion recently made an amusing broadcast about some fundamental changes to English grammar: Rules grammar change!

I find that the most interesting thing about such examples of mixed-up English is that they are fairly readily comprehensible despite some quite serious violations of expected word-order. I suppose it’s because, for less complex sentence structures in English, we also get lots of grammatical information from inflectional morophology rather than word-order. Often in deliberately mixed-up examples of speech, people tend to vary the position of the words which carry meaningful content but stick to the typical position rules for words which have grammatical content – e.g. keeping determiners next to nouns and tense inflections attached to verbs.

When people lose grammatical ability due to brain-injury (called agrammatism) they usually produce simple sentences with typical word-order but minus critical grammatical function words/inflections. More complex structures (e.g. passives) which depend upon word-order for interpretation are often entirely absent from spoken language and not likely to be understood correctly either.

Pathology aside, many people appreciate the amusing effects of not-quite-right English. Engrish.com is dedicated to that variety of English which pops up in Japanese adverts or design:

There’s quite a good FAQ section on there which explains the term Engrish and argues that the function of English in this context is often more about design than communication. I don’t know much about Japanese culture so I’m not sure to what extent this is true. There are equivalent sites which show misuse of kanji/hanzi in English designs and tattoos.

Finally, there’s a nice little essay here in wired magazine which points out that Engrish/Chinglish are varieties of language in their own right and probably represent the future of the English language.



July 30, 2008, 11:01 pm
Filed under: art, Uncategorized
Public Harm Announcements

Public Harm Announcements

Worth1000.com runs excellent Photoshop competitions. A new topic is chosen daily and users vote for their favourite items. The Public Harm Announcements category is most amusing, also see corrupt your children:

Learning the Alphabet

Learning the Alphabet



Anti Book-Crossing Diatribe
July 28, 2008, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here’s the theory: You register a book with bookcrossing.com and are issued with a unique tagging code. You then write the tag into your book, together with an instruction for finders to log on to book-crossing.com. The next step is to abandon your book in a public place and hope that some obliging member of the public will find it and register its new location via the website. It’s supposed to a be fun, ecologically sound, way of feeding the literature-starved masses whilst earning oneself a few karma points.

It’s an outrage! I can’t imagine defacing my precious books and abandoning them to an uncaring world. Unthinkable to leave them to a fate of being chewed by curious dogs or cut up to make wraps for crack dealers.  I’m afraid I’m unashamedly avaricious when it comes to books. Sometimes I can’t constrain myself and I’m compelled buy a copy of something I already own because I love it so much.

Haven’t these do-gooders heard of public libraries? I believe that’s where the commoners go when they yearn for something a little more substantial than the Metro News. If the book-crossers were really so concerned about consumerism they’d support their local libraries instead. It was with more than a little glee that I read that the book-crossing website developers have sold out and now users have to pay a monthly fee to use all the previously free features and have the right to comment in the forums there. Serves ’em right for besmirching books, killing dogs, supporting crack dealers and being generally patronising.