Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Harmonious Days

On happier topics, I've learned a bit lately about vowel harmony. It's something that exists primarily in Altaic (Turkish, Mongolian, theoretically Korean) and Uralic (Finnish, Hungarian, Samoyedic) languages. It's fun, and part of what makes Finnish in particular such a sonorous, melodious language. Only a small part, mind you; if that's all it took, clearly Turkish and Hungarian would sound a lot better.

The idea is that in any given word (in the case of Finnish and similarly agglutinative languages, this counts words as portions of compounds, Kahvi and Kuppi, as opposed to entire compounds, Kahvikuppi), all the vowels must be in harmony with each other. That is, front vowels and back vowels cannot be in the same word.* Since base words already fit these rules in (keeping the previous example) Finnish, this primarily is an effect on suffixes. Take, for example, the ending -lainen (in English phonetics, lie-nen), meaning "from." For words like Suomi (Swo-me) or Turku (Tour-ku), where the initial syllables have back vowels, the back voweled ending is left unchanged, so we get Suomalainen, "from Finland," and Turkulainen, "from Turku." On the other hand, we have Jyväskylä (Yü**-va***-skü-la***). All front vowels. So, we get Jyväskyläläinen, "from Jyväskylä." Further, for words that have back vowels, but none in the initial syllables, when endings are added back vowels in the ending AND in the non-initial syllables mutate to front vowels. For example, Espoo (es-po); Espööläinen (Es-per-la***ee-nen).

Speaking of Uralic and Altaic languages, two musical things I've been all about lately: Tuvan throat singing (I REALLY want to make some metal with a throat singer) and the new Korpiklaani album Tervaskanto. The first album they've done where most of it is in Finnish. I'm in love.

*In Finnish, there eight vowels. Ä, Ö, and Y are front, A, O, and U are back, and I and E are neutral.
**Ü has no real English equivalent. It's sort of like an "oo" sound if you purse your lips.
***These a's are short, as in "hat".

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I know that a large portion of what I blog about anymore is politics, but it's the main thing I get worked up about these days. And it's so easy to do.

Bush today made a statement directed at world leaders asking for support in "bring[ing] freedom" to Cuba. My immediate thought upon hearing this was that if there is one person in this world who should not be taking on the task of spreading freedom anywhere, it is George W. Bush. He is pretty obviously not too good about it. And, while I am not one to spend too much of my time agreeing with Fidel Castro, the guy did issue a letter to Bush stating much the same. So there you go.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ideal for WHAT!?

Sadly, No! links to this amazing piece of future Americana. I've got to say, while my first and second thoughts regarded the general ridiculousness of it and the completely batshit insane slogan they have chosen respectively (seriously seriously wow wow wow), my third thought was that the white-cross-on-blue looks remarkably like the Scottish flag. One nation, (no) underwear.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Best Potential Gay Bar Name Ever: The Rum and Cock

I chose the title because I felt it needed to be said, and I couldn't think of a good relavent title.

It's always struck me as pretty strange that mainstream conservatives don't at least publicly disavow people as completely unhinged as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.* But, I think I might have figured out why it is.

Modern Conservatism is a very conflicted ideology. It relies upon reactionary fundamentalist Christians for political power, but it does not necessarily embrace fundamentalist Christianity. And yet, vestiges of older conservative ideas (usually bigotry against women, minorities, gays) rest in their head, and sometimes peak out through their chosen mouthpieces (this conflicts very directly, of course, with those members of the movement who are gay themselves, as we see in cases like Larry Craig and that guy who gives blow jobs because of how scared he is of black men).

Because modern conservatives can't decide if they agree with Coulter and Limbaugh or if they think they are horrible, they have created a compromise solution: they treat them as humorists. This is also because conservatism mixes very poorly with humor, and as such there are very few actual humorists who use conservative politics in their work. Of course, in their respective ways Coulter and Limbaugh really do have humorous aspects to them. Limbaugh uses a fair amount of attempts at humor in his programs, usually in a style that is aggressively bigoted or misogynist (surely we have not forgotten "Barack the Magic Negro"). Coulter is a little trickier, because while everything she says is delivered as if it were a joke, and indeed she says things that are so ridiculous that they really ought to be jokes, she has never given any confirmation that she is joking (unless she gets in trouble; see John Edwards = faggot).

In both cases, for those on the mainstream right, it is much more comfortable to assume, since they feel strangely drawn to these people, that they are joking. Conservatives need to think of reasons to label these zealots as their spokespeople without openly embracing their ideologies, so they add a subtext of joking to their messages (in the case of Coulter, it could also be argued that they are adding the subtext of "See, conservative women can also be 'hot'"). Granted, this is entirely hypothetical, but I feel like there isn't much else that explains people who seem reasonable on the surface even sort of embracing Coulter and Limbaugh.

*I know that people on the right often say much the same thing about far-left people like Michael Moore, but they also say it about such "radical" liberals as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, so this piece will take as a given that they are wrong.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Makes sense to me.

Right wing crazies are hilarious. On the one hand, Shakespeare is not appropriate material for our schools, and would give children nasty ideas. Imagine the weird soups children would try to make if they saw MacBeth! At the same time, if students aren't taught Shakespeare as part of literary studies, they might become murderous communists.

Good to be alive.

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