Tuesday, May 31, 2005
A mother and child are looking at a picture book. The child points at a page. The mother says, "that's a chicken." The child points to the next page. "That's a horse," says the mother. The child points at something else and the mother responds, "That's a pig."
N and H are drawing items on the chalkboard for little B to see. N draws a large bird with with wings outstretched, the wind fluttering the feathers, and large round eyes on the head. "That's an owl," says H. H draws a couple big round circles with two ovals in the front, and N says, "That's a pig?"
So intonation is basically the ways the ways that rhythm, pitch, and loudness are used to convey meaning in language. It can be a very subtle emotional tone added to the color of a sentence, or a very basic piece of the sentence, where if you do not understand the intonation, you miss what the person is even trying to say. If you start studying intonation, you discover that it is used in languages all over the world, very likely all languages, but that the way intonation is used is different. It is language-specific. In English, if you raise your pitch at the end of a sentence, the sentence is a question. In Hungarian, it is a statement. All of these things are learned by children as they grow. There are lots of interesting sociological facts about intonation. Intonation is a way that gender roles are defined. So, Spanish males spend more of their time in the lower part of their speaking range than speakers of English or French. Japanese women speak in the highest part of their range. I remember an account of a bilingual Japanese and English speaker - totally fluent, native speaker of both languages. She always spoke much higher in her range when speaking Japanese, than when speaking English. The point - intonation is used to define masculinity, positions of authority, and more.
So what was my project on intonation? Most, almost all in fact, studies of intonation look at very small chunks of language one at a time - individual phrases in fact. And there are a million things to say about how we control the way we utter particular phrases. Each language has its own way of structuring the intonation of phrases, how words are marked, how they break, and how they are grouped within the phrase. I became interested, however, in how these phrases fit together. When someone tells a story, or gives a speech, is intonation used to group these phrases in any particular way? I found an online bank of speeches- speechbank.org i think - with hundreds of speeches. I eventually decided to take a close look at a speech that Malcolm X gave in 1964 called the Ballot or the Bullet. His speech was useful, because he used many rhetorical devices, so there was clearly something to study, and there were very different tones in different parts, so it was not all the same.
My job was to transcribe this speech into an intonational transcription system called ToBI. I used some freeware called Praat, which does acoustic analysis of wav files, and displays the frequency of Malcolm X's voice as it moves up and down. Doing a transcription in ToBI means marking each word, phrase by phrase, marking each accented or prominent word in the phrase, as well as the category of accent, marking the boundary tone for each phrase, and making other comments. It takes about 30 minutes per 10 seconds of speech to transcribe. The hard part then comes with the analysis of a couple hundred separate transcription files. I did notice some repeating patterns. Malcolm X would often repeat the same accent tone sequence, when he wanted to group phrases together. He also would use different boundary tones. If a phrase depends on another, the tone is not one of completion, but a supended tone instead. There were other markers such as this. In the end, based on intonation alone, you could construct a tree of small portions of the speech, showing how they all fit together. Part of this could be considered the art of rhetoric. Part of it is also very basic to understanding the speech. It is important for the audience to know how to interpret the words they hear. When Malcolm X says that his religious views are personal, the intonation lets us know that it is to be opposed to his political view of black nationalism. When Malcolm X lists imperial powers of history, and keeps suspending the phrase, we know to expect more, and this expectation is fulfilled when he adds the US to the list. Intonation works hand in hand with the content and grammar of the speech to let us know how to interpret what we hear.
So my paper last semester were just some preliminary findings on this topic. I suspect that a more comprehensive view would be a publishable article, and that was the possible doing for this summer.
So there you go. An example of what I do.
To llama, sr, and anonymous, thank you very much for your thoughts on my summer fun. I agree almost entirely with all of them. I just left an interview for a summer teaching job, which sounds cool. It would be teaching middle school kids English and Math, or SAT prep, over the summer. And while the idea of middle school kids is frightening, and the whole idea is frightening, it sounds fun as well. Maybe I will discover I like teaching, and if this whole linguistics thing doesnt work out, I could teach in middle or high school. Or maybe I will discover the exact opposite, and wouldn't that be nice to know as well? They say they will let me know by tomorrow actually. I am one of the latter interviews. We will see. They asked me questions which are totally obvious in hindsight like what is my teaching philosophy. I mean that sort of question - or how to handle discipline problems - are totally obvious, but I was a dumb one going in and hadn't thought about them. I think I came across as a competent, well-meaning person, who has some limited teaching background. This is what I am afterall.
As for which of these various things I would do, of course, earning a living is number 1. And then I really need to study French. All the French I do not take over the summer, I will have to take during the year as a class, because I need a 3rd language for my degree. (Chinese was lang 2, and English lang 1, so thanks to all of you who helped me learn English. By the way, I still stumble over my words periodically, but I don't really mumble anymore. At least people dont ask me to repeat myself over and over like when I was a kid. That might be just because they have figured out that I have nothing to say though.) So, if I am a logical person that will be the next task after working and breathing. The test is very specific. It is the standard grad school language test, which is to be able to translate, with a dictionary, scholarly articles in your field. So I will need to be able to translate articles about linguistics in French.
After that, the research with the profs is a given, at the very least because there is a chance of getting funding next semester for doing it, so, well, money talks. After all this, it gets very fuzzy. I will keep people updated.
Monday, May 30, 2005
1) Write a complete novel and start sending query letters to agents. The novel is essentially about a woman running an underground railroad in a sort of fantasy setting.
2) Form a band, including teaching myself to play bass, so that I can be the bottom anchor for said band. The band has serious Polynesian style rhythm underneath a type of power-pop guitar.
3) Write a web site called Tonal Research, which gathers information about various ways pitch is used by the brain - so this is linguistics, music cognition, auditory scene analysis, audiology, etc.
4) Learn the French language well enough to pass a test in October.
5) Work at least 30 hours helping to keep a roof over my family's head.
6) Write a publishable article on intonational groupings in English rhetoric.
7) Do the research to help design a music/lang experiment that I am assisting a couple profs on in the fall.
So which do I do? Even I realize I cannot do them all. Sigh....
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Monday, May 23, 2005
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Anyway, I think it is fun to compare the things that our current administration is responsible for and those they are not - according to them, of course:
Responsible for: GDP growth - due to wise tax cuts!
Not responsible for: job losses and mcJobs - just the economy, we cant control everything!
Responsible: doing everything possible to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis
Not: torture of prisoners in Cuba, Iraq, or Afghanistan - those are isolated cases, isolated to three separate continents.
Resp: tax relief
Not: Ballooning deficit - it's ok to take a revenue cut (taxes) without an expense cut (spending)
Resp: Invading and liberating Iraq
Not: Everything after
Resp: good stuff - so re-elect us!
Not: bad stuff - so re-elect us so we can fix it!
One thing I learned from the last election is that most votes arent really about differences of opinion on particular issues as they are about differences on what is a voting issue. By voting issue I mean the issue that decides how you will vote. So, sure there are real differences of opinion. I believe all American citizens should get to legally marry the individual of their choice; others believe strongly that they get to vote on who marries whom. Some people think it is right and proper to take money from some to keep all people fed; others think it is each individual's sole responsibility to take care of themselves, and the govt has no right to compel saving others. These and a million others are differences of opinion. But there is also the issues where you might agree on something, but one person really cares about it and another doesnt. So for me the Iraq war was a voting issue. I was strongly inclined to vote one way because of this issue. What I didnt get is that this just wasnt a big deal to many. They had other things they cared about. For some it was same-sex marriage; for others it was gun control; for others it was business regulations. To put it negatively, there are people out there for whom reducing small business regulation is more important to them than unnecessary wars. This was a good thing for me to learn.
I think killer llama is the only person reading this blog, but he can testify that all this politics is a new thing for me. I never really sat around talking about politics before. I have various writings on a hundred topics but before the last year, none of them were about political doings. The last election was my political awakening - where for the first time I realized I had real opinions on what was right for our nation, and moreover, that I, just as one more citizen, could not sit back and watch, or others will take our nation off in a horrible direction. I spent several days after the election in a depression, because I knew things were going wrong, but I had no idea how to change it. I felt completely impotent. I confess that I haven't solved this problem. I don't know how to make things better. For the first time in my life, I volunteered to help a political party, the Hawaii Democrats. But that has been unsatisfying as 1) they have not yet asked me to do a single thing and 2) what they will have me do is something like put out a mailing before a local election here. The latter is worthy, but at the same time not too exciting as Democrats killed here last year in local elections, so helping the dominant party isnt exactly turning the ship of state around. If anyone can solve this for me, send me an email.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
This research has also gotten into emotion, so when you hear the sentence "John is happy" some of the same neural structures that are the emotion of being happy are engaged. It looks like I will be, with a couple other grads, doing some research on this topic next fall in relation to musical emotions. The general idea is to play music for a research participant which will make them happy. We will then present happy-leaning sentences and sad-leaning sentences. If being happy from music and reading happy sentences both create a happy simulation in the brain, then participants should react faster to happy sentences than they do to sad sentences. Similarly, if already sad from music, they would react to sad sentences faster.
This is all a very powerful idea and would seem to tell us a lot about why art works. Here I am thinking about reading fiction. If reading a happy story engages the very neurons which make us happy, then it makes sense that books have the effect they do. It is also useful for personal Emotional Intelligence for lack of a better term. Namely, it explains why people can get in a cycle of sulking. They start off thinking about some bad experience; this then starts a sad simulation; if not completely blocked, you start feeling sad; then you think more sad things; etc and you go off on a spiral of sulkiness that you have a hard time breaking out of.
I got on one of these earlier today about this silly judicial nominee thing. Here is how it went: 1) Democrats declare intention to filibuster; 2) Republicans follow through with killing the filibuster; 3) Democrats follow through slowing all business to a crawl; 4) Republicans say that's fine and start doing business with no minority party representation at all; 5) This continues such that the Republicans contentedly create a one party rule where opposition has no role whatsoever in the judicial process; 6) you end up with a one-party dictatorship lecturing the world about how to implement a vibrant democracy.
I think the nominee debate is important, but it is unlikely to end in one-party rule the likes of which we have in China or the old USSR.
Friday, May 20, 2005
I also could not help thinking along the same lines as my Sith preview review down below, meaning that movies always have the future looking like the current technology. In this case, basically the Hitchhiker's Guide looked pretty much like the Flash or Shockwave web sites of today, complete with the little expanding bars and all. But what can you do? You have to make the tech of tomorrow with something.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
John Stewart videos Be sure to check out specifically the Robert Novack and Conventional Wisdom videos.
Then check out the Schiavo Controversy and Sunday Justice Segments from here.
As they say... good stuff.
1) The most likely candidate: This is really about Roe V Wade and the Supreme Court positions that are expected to open up in the next couple years. The Republican Senate wants to overturn Roe V Wade, and so they need to eventually get an obviously anti-abortion judge on the bench. They know that if they choose someone who has an obvious position, and that is the only sure-fire way to get what they want, then the Democrats will try to prevent the nomination with all the parliamentary tactics available to the minority, including the right to filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end. So you trump this current issue up so that the filibuster is removed and isn't done too obviously right when the Supreme Court vacancy comes up. So, basically, the issue of abortion is so important to the Republican party that they risk overturning the minotiry rights that they will need themselves again one day in order to push this through. It is very possible that almost all legislation wil come to a halt if they go through with this, but it is worth it to them.
2) This is just about Frist making a name for himself so he can run for Pres in 2008. This is less likely the fundamental issue, though I am sure it is a small part of it. I just don't think the rest of the Republicans would jump on board so vociferously if this was all there was to it.
3) This is more likely. The current Republican party idenitifies democracy with a tyranny of the majority. In other words, they believe that they should have absolute power over all things because they hold 55 votes. I think this is very likely true, but will not go over all the evidence for it here.
It is hard to separate forward-thinking thoughts on this topic from history, and how disingenous the Republican party is being on this. Let's count the ways that they have no moral platform from which to preach:
1) They claim that the Democratic use of the filibuster is an unprecendented break with 200 years of tradition. This is simply untrue. In the past 25 years, both Republicans and Democrats have used the filibuster on judicial nominees. As recently as 2000, Republican Senator Bob Smith declared the intention to filibuster two Clinton nominees and cited several other precedents showing how the filibuster was a way for a minority to express itself. See this report for a wonderful history that was presented to a congressional panel quite recently.
2) Even ignoring the filibuster, the Senate is full of ways for the minority to express itself, the most common of which is never letting something out of committee. The Judicial Committee simply never schedules a hearing or the floor leaders never schedule a vote, and voila, the nominee never gets the straight up or down vote that Frist and other are now saying is so sacred.
3) The Senate cannot stall all the nominees from confirmation - they have work that needs to be done! This is also a bogus claim. The Democrats have blocked 7 nominees and let 200 others get through. That means that, get this, 99.3% of Bush's nominees have been confirmed and are in their positions. 99.3%. This is not a tactic which is shutting down the judiciary. It is extremely targeted. This must be compared to the fate of Clinton's nominees, where a full, now get ready, 35% of his appointees were never even given hearings by the Republican controlled Senate. So the same party who are devastated that they cannot get every last one of their candidates confirmed denied a full third of the last presidents. Senator Hatch was on NPR today saying how all senators should show the president basic respect by voting on his nominees. Well, Senator Hatch, please speak to your own party first and then come back to us.
After all this, so what though? We can lay moral blame on whoever we wish, but what should we do now? And I have to turn it around, to make myself honest. If these were the nominees of President Kerry and the Republicans would not even allow a vote on them, which side would I be on? That is a hard question because in the end people like to take sides. We all know that had a Republican President had sex with Monica Lewinsky, all the impeachment votes would have just switched parties, and all the Democrats who voted not to impeach would vote to impeach, and vice versa for the Republicans. So I know I am human and perhaps I would fail, but I have to think that the Democrats are in the right here. The entire purpose of the Senate is for minority rights. If it was based on simple up/down majority rule on everything, there would be no need for it, and we could just have the House and close the Senate doors. Can this go too far? Of course. If the minority party indeed was preventing the Judicial branch from funtioning, you would have to do something. But that simply isnt the case. In the end, the Republicans might just have to acknowledge that the 44 million Americans who voted for Kerry exist and might be allowed to have some say in their own government, even if it is the pitiable say of blocking a mere .7% of judicial nominees. That the Republicans fear even this says much about their leadership.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
1) Bush nominates the guy who wrote memos saying torture could be legal to be the primary legal enforcement officer in the land.
2) He nominates the person who was critical in implementing the policy on Iraq, which brought relations between the US and much of the world to a decade-long low, to be the Secretary of State, whose main job is to repair those very relations.
3) He nominates the guy who despises the UN and alienates many he works with to be the chief diplomat to the UN.
If there is a greater sign that Bush values only those with whom he agrees, and views all others as mere obstacles, I don't know what it is.
Narnia was one of my favorite books growing up. I have read the entire series several times, and it is fair to say they have shaped the person I am. In fact, I am something of a C.S. Lewis fan. Read much of his Christian apologetics and philosophy, his essay on criticism, science fiction trilogy, and especially, oh especially his stand-alone novel, Till we Have Faces which is a top 5 novel in my life period. Anyway, I was very happy to see the trailer with the movies being done seriously. Like tears in my eyes as Lucy reaches for the wardrobe. In book 4, Jill and Eustace open a door to run away from some bullies and suddenly tumble into Narnia. I think it is only recently that I stopped wondering some times what would be behind a strange door. If perhaps this time....
On the negative side of things, these movies seem to be a huge mushing of Lord of the Rings with Harry Potter. It is hard to describe until you see the clip. Nut the influences are huge in the style of movie-making, and it makes me worry that the movie will be rather derivative.
But then at least they are doing it and taking the money at least to do it right. I will be their day one, and we will see.
In some ways people should not expect too much. I mean these are childrens books. They are not the works of adult myth making that Rings is, and they were never meant to be. They were jotted off in a few years, and Lewis borrowed so directly from existing mythology that literally Father Christmas shows up. But at the same time that is sort of their charm. Kind of like something a child would imagine, and yet the moral meat is so much more. And that is always what Lewis was best at - a sort of direct, honest morality that made u think, even if you did not agree.
I will end this by recommending Till We Have Faces to any and all. It is a retelling of the Cupid Psyche myth and so much more. In the end, it is a reflection on the nature of divinity and humankind's relationship therein. It is a more mature Lewis. This is most obvious in his treatment of women in here, which is a world more developed or nuanced than in many of his earlier works.
Insert tagline here.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Now that I've said it, it doesnt feel so burdensome anymore. So who or what is Puffy Amiyumi? Well, they are indeed my new guilty pleasure. They are a Japanese singing duo, which if you believe them were the biggest thing since sliced bread. Or maybe fried gyoza. Would you take sashimi? Anyway, they made their way here through cartoons. You may have heard them singing the Teen Titans theme song - T E E N T-I-T A-N-S! Teen Titans! Let's go! - or maybe on their own cartoon show Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi. I've never seen their own cartoon, but I learned of them through it, trying to find something for Brannon one day. Here you are - a link Puffy at Cartoon Network Be sure to check out the Teen Titans theme, as well as the K2G song in the Concert section. But dont check out Planet Tokyo, which I usually love, but somehow comes out sucking there.
Anyway, these people have no shame. I mean on Asia no Junshin, they actually come out with the evil Roboto voice. You can't do that anymore! No way! What's next?! Female choruses on top of synth pop the likes of which haven't been seen since Bananarama? Well, yes exactly! Those show up 2 songs later. And what's this?! A direct Beatles Twist and Shout quote? You know "ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhhh!" heck yeah - that's right down the road. And here is surf guitar! And here is omg, it's 90s Power Chords with the little grunge like interlude! And here is a beach vacation song like Frankie and Annette woulda sung if they were Japanese and cool. Well, somehow it all works. I don't know how they do it. You can listen to snippets from all the cartoon soundtrack songs at official puffy .
Thursday, May 12, 2005
In other news, did I mention I have been done with school now for....27 hours? woohoo. Not that it didnt stop me from reading about some experimental procedures in eliciting emotional responses to music. There is some chance I will be working with a prof and others doing some research on this next fall, so I might as well start learning what's up. Are u thinking? He's happy to be out of school but the very next day he is prepping for the next semester? Well, if you aren't thinking that, you should be. I am off now to see how much I can do this summer. I appear to have 38 lessons in French that I want to teach myself by mid-August. That aint gonna work. Night.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
So like today I uh like got up, u know? It was a little late cause I've been studying a lot. and umm then I went to school. Cool.
I do hope to use this to explain to people what I do, cause the truth is no one knows. I dont think N really knows. It seems to be a little better than the old philosophy degree, which was met with open derision by many. Linguistics gets less derision because no one knows what it is. So Linguistics is the study of language. Who cares about such things? Let's put it this way. Time or Newsweek or someone not long ago chose the most important event of the last 1000 years. They selected the printing press. Let's think of it another way. Every human being on this earth, who gets to hear or see some language, or even has anyone to interact with, learns to speak. That's quite an instinct. People use language to learn, to cry, to seduce, to control. Some say to think - which is true, but not as strongly as people often take it.
And I should also post pics of the family and stuff, so everyone can see B. So I will. But not today, cause I ain't got pics of the family in my Government and Binding folder.
And I should post something witty, but not today as I have no wits. All out. But Long's says they will be in on Tuesday. And so with that I get to introduce my first piece of Hawaiian life to all - Long's Drugs. There are no CVSs, no Eckerds, and stunningly, unexpectedly, no Walgreens. No here we have Long's - a seeming California chain. And it is pretty much the same as all those other places, except we have the food aisle that includes dried squid snacks. Take that Tennessee! Hah hah hah hahhhhh! Ok, not a big dried squid man; I like my squid wet. But mochi! yummm! Mochi by the way is well I think it is various sweets made with sweet mochi rice flour. Japanese in origin.
Tonight's plan is, thanks to my lovely N who is watching B despite her being sick so I can study, is to continue studying Chinese for tomorrow morning's exam. It is waaaaay too late to learn all the characters I am supposed to know, so I am just going to concentrate on grammar, and let the rest take care of itself. People dont believe me cause I get As on everything nowadays, but it is true. Last semester I got the great C- on the Chinese exam, but had a good enough grade going in that it didnt matter. Then at 10:00 I get to switch over to grammar of a different kind - Chomsky's Universal Grammar or the intro Government and Binding course. I can explain it, but not now, not after thanking N for letting me study. But I hope I am still a decent husband even though I took 15 to do this. Bye.