28 January 2010

Duchamp's lego giraffe

From Mr Heising

You can meet him »here.

Modern-day Sisyphus

Doing penance in front of the Reichstag.

Mr Beer Belly, Mrs Boobs and friends

snowman festival
Near Alexander Platz in Berlin. I think the festival was a statement about global warming.  (Presumably because it is a leap of faith during a Berlin winter, to believe that global warming is actually happening .)

for bigger version.

19 January 2010

The poverty of morality

I came across this when proofreading Ms F's personal statement the other day. She worried about the poverty of morality in our age, about our children who would grow up to be gifted scientists, brilliant bankers and powerful businessmen without a moral compass.

It is an issue I had I alluded to »previously and which occupies my mind every so often. In the notebook that I carry around, I had the following scribbled:

"These days, it has become fashionable to be blasé. To reduce everything to: 'Oh, it's all relative.' It is the one evergreen balm for our conscience if it is ever pricked by something we do. It has  become politically incorrect, even bigoted to suggest that someone is wrong.  For how can anyone be wrong?"

I was recently propositioned to write essays for an essay mill (i.e. to do someone's homework) for £100 per essay. I was tempted, but eventually I said no.

Perhaps this is why I will remain poor. Or in fact, maybe I am not poor enough, because as someone remarked earlier this afternoon, "We are all prostitutes. It is all a matter of price."

*    *    *
I now return to my half-watched Episode One of the Harvard Justice series: http://www.justiceharvard.org/. Do yourself a favour and watch it too (at least the trailer bit on the homepage). Michael Sandel is very provocative and it's interesting to hear how the students' comments on the moral dilemma.

Ms F: One small step that Harvard is taking to assuage your worry.

10 January 2010

Snow prints

Instructions on how to comb the hair

So. The man will comb his hair without a mirror, working his open hand through it. The woman will make her reflection into a tower or treetop, whatever peak, where the lines of storm and the blue mark of the broody kingsfisher can be found. She'll know how to stem sweetly that flow from tenuous high tides, how to light the fires of remembrance without smoke. To comb the hair will be to take auguries for the rising day, give shape to the lover's secret thought, instruct from the blood the son not yet born.

When it comes to children, let the air comb them.

- Julio Cortázar, 'Historias de Cronopios y de Famas'
The parents of this boy are the lovely folks who invited me to share their New Year's Eve.  He has exactly the same tousled hair as his father, it's amusing to watch.

09 January 2010

Brilliantly translated names

I first noticed it last May in a Hong Kong newspaper article on their top judges. Reading the (Chinese) text gave me the impression that all of the judges were local, so I was surprised to see non-Chinese faces in the photos on the facing page. Delving into the captions, I realized that it was because the foreign judges have all been given very authentic Chinese names. Superb translators they have in Hong Kong, I thought to myself.

Today. I was poring over a judgment of Lord Hoffmann when I clicked on »a wiki link of him and chanced upon his wonderfully translated Chinese name: 贺辅明. (Lord Hoffmann is one of the non-permanent judges in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.) It prompted me to look up the Chinese names of the other non-Chinese judges in Hong Kong.

These are some of my other favourites (I'll let the Lords appear first out of deference):
  • Sir Anthony MASON - 梅师贤爵士
  • Lord MILLETT - 苗礼治勋爵
  • Lord SCOTT - 施广智勋爵
  • Justice MACKINTOSH - 麦健涛法官  (Very nice, especially in Cantonese.)
  • Justice ROGERS - 罗杰志法官
  • Justice STONE - 石仲廉法官   
  • Justice STOCK - 司徒敬法官 (Probably my top pick.  Absolutely brilliant incorporation of a double-word surname.  The Cantonese also sounds exactly like 'Stock'.)
  • Mr Justice BOKHARY - 包致金法官 (This is not particularly eye-catching, but wait.)
  • Mrs Justice BOKHARY - 包钟倩薇法官 (They incorporated her husband's Chinese surname in front of her maiden name - the way we do!)
  • Mr CASEWELL - 祁士伟先生 
  • Mr DUFTON David John - 杜大卫先生  (Note to self: Make use of both the first and the last names.)
I have often been asked to translate names of my non-Chinese friends on the spot and I have always been reluctant to do it for good reasons.  This reinforces my belief: a Chinese name should sound Chinese and have a proper meaning.

03 January 2010

A shrimp paste and salted vegetable life

To describe a hard life, you liken it in my country to the lowest of everyday food, i.e. belachan (Malay for shrimp paste) and 咸菜 (Chinese for salted vegetables).

Hence, nasib belachan and 咸菜命 (typically pronounced as 'giam chai mya' in the Hokkien dialect as salted vegetables is common to Hokkien dishes.)

Both are delicious by the way. Ooo, I am just six weeks away from them!

Credit to the very funny Ms A for sharing her phrase.

01 January 2010

British daffodils

british daffodils
It's a priceless feeling to wake up to blooming daffodils on a wintry 1st Jan.